4-6, Unit Seven, Activity 5: "Village Research"

An on-site field trip activity
Students will utilize the process skills (observing, measuring, interpreting data, formulating hypotheses) and consider the importance of holistic thinking as it relates to the global warming issue. They will split into teams to collect data in the Waterton Townsite, Apgar Village area or St Mary area and then join forces to interpret the data and formulate hypotheses.

Grade: 6
Time: Two 1-hour sessions with research time between
Subjects: Social studies, language arts, scientific method

Teacher Background:
In their effort to understand the “whole” of our global climate system, scientists are collecting data on many of it’s different parts. Here are a few examples of the parts that Waterton Glacier International Peace Park scientists are studying: transpiration of trees, amount of nutrients in streams, flow rates of glaciers, species movement, temperature variations in the lakes, depth of snow, and reflectivity of snow. Individual scientists choose a particular aspect of the global climate system to research and devote their energy to collecting and interpreting data. Through this process we end up with several individuals, each a specialist in some facet of climate change research, coming together to share their work with each other and to arrive at a synthesis of their various understandings. Trying to create a comprehensive whole out of many small pieces of data is the most challenging part of the global climate change scientists’ work. Since the whole system is greater than the sum of its parts, they have to use holistic thinking to uncover the intangible.


  • Five clipboards
  • Pencils
  • Paper
  • A few thermometers
  • Yardstick

1. Tell the students that they’ve been asked to find out what the “Village” is all about, what makes it tick. They are going to split into study teams to gather data on some aspects of the area and then they are going to try to put their data together to understand the whole.
2. Split the students into five groups and provide each group with a clipboard, pencil, and paper. Each group is a team of scientists assigned to collect data on a specific aspect of the area. Each team of scientists will design their own data sheets. The group assignments are as follows:

Group A: Temperature.
This group will use the thermometers to take readings at five sites around the area--sunny pavement, shaded pavement, under the trees, on the lakeshore, and in the meadow. They may take readings for several different heights at each site with the aid of the yardstick.
Group B: Animal Species Sample and Count.
This group will list all the different animal species they observe during the allotted time. How many of each and where they are spotted. Remember to include humans and insects in the sample.
Group C: Tree Sample.
This group will list all the tree types that they observe in the village. Where is each type found and are there any unusual configurations.
Group D: Soil.
This group will take soil readings at five sites around the area--on the lakeshore, at the intersection outside the visitor center, in the center of the cabin area, in the meadow, and on the non-paved drive by the creek. They will describe the soil makeup (gravel, needles, stones, etc...), the moisture level at the site, and what is growing or living at the site.
Group E: Building Survey.
This group will count the buildings in the area, noting their purpose (residential, commercial, educational, etc...) and their distribution. They might decide to draw a map.
3. When the students have completed their data collection, give each group a few minutes to discuss their findings and decide if an hypothesis can be formulated.
4. Bring the groups back together to share their findings with one another and explore the question of how these findings might combine to describe the area in a comprehensive way, e.g. - a group hypothesis. What pieces of data could be added to create a clearer picture?

It is usually easier to collect data than it is to interpret it. When you share it with others, they may view it from a different perspective and argue your interpretation. How do you determine which is right? It could be either, both, or a blend of the two. Most of us already know what the jigsaw puzzle is supposed to look like before we start putting the pieces together. What do you do when you haven’t seen the picture or the pieces are all one color? (You depend on intuition and holistic thinking.) Do you know anyone whose everyday job is to put other’s puzzles together for them? If you were asked to describe the relationship between Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and the surrounding area, where would you start gathering data?

Last updated: November 8, 2017

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