Lesson Plan

Exploring Climate Science (Snowpack)

Students Studying in a Snow Pit


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Grade Level:
Fifth Grade
Climate, Climate Change, Earth Science, Science and Technology
40 minutes
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
5-ESS2-2. 5-ESS3-1.


In “Exploring Climate Science (Snowpack),” students will define snow water equivalent and make predictions on the effects warming climates could have on snowpack. 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 3 of the unit.


The students will be able to:
1.   Define the snow water equivalent (SWE)
2.  Make two predictions about the affects warming climates could have on snowpack


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.

By the end of the unit, students will be able to interpret and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the environment. This curricula unit is broken into eight lessons that require 40 minutes to complete. 

Day 3- Snowpack
Day 5- Watersheds


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

Video Ca Dept of Water Resources Snow Surveying [Note: wmv format]



1. How can climate change influence snowpack? If more precipitation falls as rain instead of snow, what will happen to animals like the weasel that go through a morphological change in the winter to have a white coat instead of brown? Show students example summer and winter pelts of weasel.
2. Exit ticket question: What is snow water equivalent? How can climate change affect snowpack? 


Snow water equivalent (SWE), snowpack (pre-teach vocabulary words)

Last updated: February 28, 2015