Lesson Plan

Exploring Climate Science (Snow Course Field Trip)

Ranger Led Snowshoe Hike


In “Exploring Climate Science (Snow Course Field Trip),” students will learn about the process of collecting snow course data. Our extensive “Exploring Climate Science” curricula unit is broken into eight lessons, each taking 40 minutes to complete. Designed around the 5th grade Next Generation Science Standards, it is a unit easily adapted up for middle or high school use. Teach the entire unit or pull out particular activities. This is lesson 4 of the unit.


Students will be able to:

1. Explain the process of setting up a snow course and collecting the snow water equivalent (SWE)

2. State at least two ways in which snow impacts their community



Water is essential for life on Earth. Relative water availability is a major factor in designating habitats for different living organisms. In the United States, things like agriculture and water rights are hot topics. Current models predict that average global temperatures are going to continue to rise even if regional climate changes remain complex and varied. These changes will have an impact on all of Earth's systems.

Studies have shown that climate change is driven not only by natural effects but also by human activities. Knowledge of the factors that affect climate, coupled with responsible management of natural resources are required for sustaining these Earth systems. Long-term change can be anticipated using science-based predictive models making science and engineering essential to understanding global climate change and its possible impacts.

National Parks can serve as benchmarks for climate science trends and effects over time because they are protected areas void of human influence. Understanding current climate trends will help set students up to be successful in interpreting and engaging in discussions about climate change, which will lead to informed decision making.

Option 1Schedule a field trip with Devils Postpile National Monument or your local NPS site to bring students on a snow science snowshoeing program. Visit www.nps.gov to find sites in your area.

Option 2: Take students out into the school yard or other natural area for a teacher led lesson on snow science following procedure 4.1. EMAIL US for information on having the equipment mailed to you.

Option 3:  Schedule a ranger from Devils Postpile National Monument to come into your classroom to demonstrate snow science.

Option 4: Set up a virtual lesson with Devils Postpile National Monument or another NPS site to bring a lesson on snow science into the classroom. Contact Devils Postpile National Monument for further information.


Day 1- Climate Change

Day 2- Weather vs Climate

Day 3- Snowpack

Day 4- Snow Course Field Trip

Day 5- Watersheds

Day 6- Streamflow Data

Day 7- NPS Connections 

Day 8- Research Projects 


Most of the materials for this unit are provided in the Snow Study Trunk and as downloadable files.



Step 1

Review: In order for scientists and communities to make recommendations about how to help the environment they must do the research and collect data. Today they are going to be scientists helping to collect snow water equivalent data. The data that we collect will go to their local NPS site to provide additional information on the current state of the snowpack.


Step 2

1. Using snowshoes or winter boots, take students out into an open area with a lot of snow. Use procedure 4.1.

2. Set up a snow pit following procedure on 4.1 to collect the data and perform the calculations on worksheet 4.1. Assist students with collecting the data and doing the calculations.

3. Brainstorm reasons why snow is so important to animals and humans.


Exit ticket question: Describe at least two reasons why snow is important to your town and two reasons why it's important to the region/state.


Density, depth, volume, snow water equivalent, snow pack, adaptation, camouflage (these words to be taught in context during the lesson)