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Having such close proximity to the Wasatch Range makes outdoor adventuring almost a given in Northern Utah – especially during the winter ski season. But these picturesque, snow capped mountains can also turn dangerous, especially when the “greatest snow on earth” dislodges and slides down the mountain at top speed and force. Second grade students at WSD are learning all about these massive slides, or avalanches, in an immersive project they call “Saving Avalanche Town.”

The central problem to solve in this project is how to save the town during an avalanche. Students in groups of 3-4 collaborate in creating a system they believe will save the town from being destroyed. Then they simulate an avalanche and see how well their system works. Along the way, students learn about environmental factors and how to measure them; ways avalanches can be triggered; avalanche safety; checking for avalanche zones; what local communities do to mitigate the dangers; jobs associated with avalanches; and even how to do a cost analysis on their economic impact.

The moment students are waiting for, of course, is when an avalanche of snow – a mixture of flour and sugar in this case – is poured on the town to test the students’ systems. If a system fails, then the student team goes back to the drawing board. Through the “Saving Avalanche Town” project, students integrate a variety of subjects to learn about this natural phenomenon. It is a fun and engaging experience that gives their learning a real-world perspective – without the risk!