Earth Science Field Trip

Grades: 5-8
Subject: Science
Skills: Observe, communicate, identify, classify
Duration: 5 hours
Group Size: 60 students total, 2 groups of 30 students.
Location: Avalanche Lake Hike or Lake McDonald at Apgar
Available Dates: Fall and Spring
Vocabulary: See the bolded words in the objectives below.

Summary: Students will either hike the Avalanche Lake Trail or combine a short hike along Lake McDonald with ranger-led activities in the Apgar Area. In both cases the ranger-led activities will highlight landform building, glaciation, rocks and minerals, erosion and soil formation.

How to Dress for the Avalanche Field Trip (Sample permission slip from J. Summerscales, Columbia Falls Jr. High)

Objectives: (These are examples of some of the objectives that can be achieved on an earth science program. Many others are possible depending on the teacher’s focus and the ranger.).

Students will be able to:

  • Tell what national parks protect and one reason Glacier National Park was established.
  • Find examples along the Avalanche Lake Hike or along Lake McDonald of glaciation.
  • Find examples along the Avalanche Lake Hike or Lake McDonald of erosion.
  • Do the “Glacier Shuffle” to model how many of the lakes in Glacier National Park were formed.
  • Write a “recipe” for soil.
  • Explain why some geologists say that “everything depends on rocks.”
  • Name the three main groups that rocks are classified into and explain how each type is formed.
  • Tell how the rock cycle works.
  • Give an example of how water can affect landform building and destruction.
  • Explain the difference between weathering and erosion.
  • Give the 4 main geologic events that shaped the landscape we see at Glacier National Park today.
  • Name one kind of evidence we have that Native Americans have been using this area (Glacier National Park) for thousands of years.

Montana Content and Performance Standards:

10.54.5010 Science Standard 1= “…design, conduct, evaluate, and communicate scientific investigations.”

10.54.5030 Science Standard 3= “…demonstrate knowledge of characteristics, structures and function of living things, the process and diversity of life, and how living organisms interact with each other and their environment.”

10.54.5040 Science Standard 4= “…demonstrate knowledge of the composition, structures, processes, and interactions of earth’s systems and other objects in space.”

Making Connections to Glacier National Park:

One of the reasons Glacier National Park was established was to preserve the unique geology of this region.

Field Trip Logistics:

Teachers wishing to have their students participate in the earth sciences field trip should plan to arrive in the park by 9:30 a.m. and stay until 2 p.m. Allowing adequate time (5 hours) inside the park will result in a less-rushed, more enjoyable experience. Everyone in the group must be prepared to be outside all day and ready to hike a trail that gains 500 ft of elevation over 2 miles (one way, for a total of 4 miles round-trip).

Example for a bus of 60 students, divided into 2 groups of 30 students each:

Each group will be assigned a ranger for the day and both groups will cover the same activities but at slightly different times or places along the trail.

students at Avalanche Lake

Last updated: February 24, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 128
West Glacier, MT 59936


(406) 888-7800

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