6th Grade Winter Farm Trips: A Lesson in Snowshoes

By John McDaniel, Farm Director
Snowshoes, it’s believed, were invented in Central Asia more than six thousand years ago. As people migrated throughout the world, this transportation tool was shared and modified. Due to size, shape, and materials, some shoes worked better in open terrain, others in wooded areas, and still others in hilly environments. The evolution continued with different  species of wood for the frame and animal skins for the top decking being experimented with. Over the centuries snowshoes became a necessary tool for people in snowy regions of the world. 

Fast forward to the 21st century and you’ll find people hiking through snowy landscapes on snowshoes with similar shapes to the early models, but the materials have changed dramatically. Aluminum and polymers create lighter and more efficient shoes. Metal spikes on the bottom increase traction and stability. There is also essentially no maintenance to these snowshoes -  just hang them up when you're done. 

During the past two weeks 6th grade Oeste and Este students have learned this history, while hiking through the MCS Farm fields and forests. Wearing “Modified Bearpaw” and “Beaver Tail” shaped shoes, they followed and inspected wild animal prints along the way. They were excited to make the connection to the animals who were successful negotiating the snow, due to built-in snowshoes. The rabbits, squirrels, and coyotes whose paws allowed them to stay on top of the snow, while the heavier deer with their hooves clearly sank. Each class helped to break the trail a little more each time, creating a nice herd path through the woods. On one morning hike, one person stopped and said, “Shhh, it’s so quiet. It’s like I hear nothing and everything at the same time.” 
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