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The environment desk at Aspen Public Radio covers issues in the Roaring Fork Valley and throughout the state of Colorado including water use and quality, impact of recreation, population growth and oil and gas development. APR’s Environment Reporter is Elizabeth Stewart-Severy.

‘Newcomers’ study new environment

Elizabeth Stewart-Severy/Aspen Public Radio News

Immigrants who are new to Roaring Fork Valley schools often come from warm, tropical countries. A partnership between Basalt High School and the Roaring Fork Conservancy aims to help students understand their new environment.


Liza Mitchell from the Roaring Fork Conservancy met 25 students from Basalt High School near the Campground Lift at Snowmass Ski Area. It was unseasonably warm, and windy enough to shut down the Elk Camp Gondola. The high schoolers pile off the bus in jeans and sneakers.

Credit Elizabeth Stewart-Severy/Aspen Public Radio News
Liza Mitchell with Roaring Fork Conservancy helps a student measure snow as part of a day studying water content in the snowpack.

These students are part of Basalt’s “Newcomers” program, which provides sheltered instruction to kids who have only recently arrived in the United States. Only two of the 25 students have been to a ski area before. They are there to study snow science, as part of a year-long class focused on climate.

The students race into the snow, veering off trail and sinking to their hips, laughing and playing. This introduction to a totally new, high-alpine environment is a major part of the day’s goal.

“Today is about a little of the science to see that what we’re doing in the classroom has real-world application,” said teacher Eric Vozick. “The laughter is always a key. And that they can have exposure to this world.”


Mitchell and Vozick showed the kids how to dig snow pits, and with their principal and teachers working right alongside them, students experimented with snow density and water content.

Credit Elizabeth Stewart-Severy/Aspen Public Radio News
Teacher Eric Vozick helps students measure the water content of snow at the base of Snowmass.

According to Mitchell, the common language of science can serve double duty. On one hand, it’s about concepts like climate, snowpack and water supply. She said science can also help bridge a cultural divide.

“A hundred milliliters is a hundred milliliters, and a density calculation is a density calculation, whether it’s in English or in Spanish,” Mitchell said.

Aspen native Elizabeth Stewart-Severy is excited to be making a return to both the Red Brick, where she attended kindergarten, and the field of journalism. She has spent her entire life playing in the mountains and rivers around Aspen, and is thrilled to be reporting about all things environmental in this special place. She attended the University of Colorado with a Boettcher Scholarship, and graduated as the top student from the School of Journalism in 2006. Her lifelong love of hockey lead to a stint working for the Colorado Avalanche, and she still plays in local leagues and coaches the Aspen Junior Hockey U-19 girls.
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