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Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
Indigenous Knowledge Systems
Indigenous Education Worldwide

Observing Snow

sponsored by
The Denali Foundation
The Alaska Rural
Systemic Initiative


A curriculum that challenges young minds to make connections between academics and traditional native knowledge


"Observing Snow" was published by the Denali Foundation with the generous sponsorship of The Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative.

Written and Compiled by:

Leslie Adams

Leslie Adams is a mother of two, holds a MS in Natural Resource Management, and teaches natural history for the Denali Foundation. She instructed the science portion of the pilot programs and assembled the curriculum.

John Busch

John Busch holds a MA in Anthropology. He did extensive interviews with the Elders of Minto. John is a student of Athabascan languages and documented the native terminology found throughout the curriculum.

Patty Craw

Patty Craw is a geologist for the State of Alaska, holds a BS in Geology and specializes in science education projects. She developed the original "Denali on the Road" curriculum and directed the first pilot programs.

The Denali Foundation Mission:

"To benefit the Denali National Park bioregion, the State of Alaska and our planet, through the development and implementation of research, education and communication programs."

Deanli Foundation Logo

Table of Contents

The Four Corners of Life
Water: the Stuff that Makes Snowflakes
Snow on the Ground Changes Through Time
Exploring Native Snow Terms
Glacier Investigations
Open Note Review
Bibliography & Resources





The Observing Snow curriculum could not be possible without the help and contributions of many people. The communities of Minto, McGrath, Galena, and Cantwell helped make this project a success.

This program was sponsored by the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative (ARSI). The guidance of Ray Barnhardt, and the technical assistance of the Alaska Native Knowledge Network were key in bringing the project to completion.

We would especially like to thank the Elders of Minto, namely Neal and Geraldine Charlie and Evelyn Alexander who did wonderful activities with the students. They and Wilson Titus spent many hours talking with us about the traditional native lifestyle and winter skills. Marie Dimenteff and Jim Dimentoff and Lena Petruska, Elders of McGrath shared winter skills such as making snow shoe bindings, fire building and other outdoor skills. Mary Jane Derendorff was invaluable as our liaison to the community and made the entire collaboration of Elders and schools in McGrath possible.

Robert Charlie, CHEI Executive Director, was instrumental in encouraging the Elders of Minto to participate in the Observing Snow program.

Howard Luke, Elder of Fairbanks spent time teaching our staff appropriate ways of operating within the Native community and among Elders. He reminds us, "you can't go against nature."

Cindy Reigle was instumental in developing the concept of Denali on the Road. Her work helped make the initial contact with the ARSI.

Linda Paganelli, Kim Fleuth, and Patty Craw developed the first "snow science" program that was used in schools on the road system. Patty Craw directed the first pilot program that went into the village of Minto and invited Elders into the classroom. The Glaciology Chapter and many of the science activities are her work.

Jeff Jakobson of North Pole Middle School was an early evaluator of the curriculum, providing constructive comments based on years of teaching experience. He helped us avoid many pitfalls from the beginning.

Matthew Strum of CRREL shared many wonderful activity ideas.

Dennis Trabant of USGS and Keith Echelmeyer of the UAF Geophysical Institute generously shared their slides, aerial photographs and ideas for activities.

Edward LaChapelle, who is responsible for much of the definitive research in the snow science field, kindly allowed us to reproduce graphics and information from his classic work, "A Field Guide to Snow Crystals."

We would also like to offer kind thanks to all the wonderful teachers, parents, community members, students, and child care providers who gave their time and energy to make this program a success.



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Alaska Native Knowledge Network
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks  AK 99775-6730
Phone (907) 474.1902
Fax (907) 474.1957
Questions or comments?
Last modified August 17, 2006