7-12, Unit Four: "Land of the Giants"

Introduction & Teacher Background

The West Side of the Continental Divide in Waterton – Glacier International Peace Park (W-GIPP) is as different from the East as night and day, or in this case, wet and dry. The McDonald Creek Valley is nestled in the middle of the West Side, the east end of a Pacific moisture funnel. Clouds from far out in the Pacific Ocean are wrung out by the Cascades in Washington, Oregon and British Colombia, but from there, they build up again relatively unimpeded until the Continental Divide forces them upward into condensation altitudes. Although the Waterton part of the W-GIPP is not in this zone, it is a unique enough part of the "Peace Park" to include in this Guide. Just as Americans need to visit Waterton to get the full picture of diversity in the W-GIPP, Canadians and residents of the East Side need to visit this valley to understand its impact on their homes.

The McDonald Valley is a story of huge old trees never subjected to fire, and other trees surrounding those which haven’t seen fire in almost 500 years. It is a story of “old growth”, of single two-ton fungi occupying 10 acres underground, and of specialized plants and animals which weave a tangled web of forest tapestry. A slice of Pacific rainforest was transported here by the nuances of weather and seed transport. It tells stories bigger than its mind-boggling trees – stories metaphorical to the politics and economics of our human world.


Activity 3: The Secret of Life
Grades: 7-12
Methods: A first-hand examination of the recycling of dead trees back into live trees, and a writing exercise on the role death plays in natural systems.
Time: 2 – 3 hours
Subjects: Life science, social studies, language arts, visual arts

Activity 4: Fitting In
Grades: 7-12
Methods: A scavenging game illustrating interspecies cooperative feeding, and an examination of specialization among animals in the old growth forest.
Time: 1 hour
Subjects: Life science, social studies

Last updated: November 8, 2017

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West Glacier, MT 59936

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