Winter Ecology Field Trip (Grades 3 to 5)

A ranger and two students use a scale to measure cups of snow and water.
Taking snow measurements

NPS/Shepherd Waldenberger

Non-living things in Glacier provide the foundation for all the plant and animal life which lives here. Students will explore the physical properties of snow completing tasks at snow stations. They will then investigate how those physical properties impact organisms in winter by participating in a snowshoe hike. The park provides all the snowshoes for students and chaperones free of charge.

Grades: 3–5
Locations: Apgar Village and St. Mary
Duration: 4.5 hours, view our Winter Ecology Field Trip Schedule to see a basic outline for the day
Group Size: 46 students, 2 groups of 23 students
Skills: Observe, compare and contrast, identify, classify
National and State Standards:
Montana Science Standard
MT.SCI. 5th Grade 3.2.1. Demonstrate how food chains/webs show flow of energy in an ecosystem.

Next Generation Science Standard
5-ps3-1. Use models to describe that energy in animals’ food was once energy from the sun.



(Depending on grade level and weather conditions)
Students will be able to:

  • Tell what national parks protect and one reason Glacier National Park was established.
  • Assemble a puzzle-map of the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem and explain why it is important that neighbors work together toward shared goals.
  • Hike independently on snowshoes, while following safety procedures for a snowshoe hike in Glacier National Park.
  • Describe, draw or act out, the 3 strategies animals use to survive winter.
  • Correctly point to or touch an evergreen tree and a deciduous tree.
  • Describe (or draw) an outside activity that includes one way a tree or a plant might change in winter. v Classify pictures of Glacier animals into groups according to which adaptation they use to survive winter: migration, hibernation, or resistance.
  • Organize animal pictures by whether they are predators or prey and build a Glacier food chain and web.
  • Correctly identify living and non-living objects on the snowshoe hike and give an example of a cause and effect relationship between them.
  • Relate the basic needs animals must have in their habitats to why there are endangered and threatened species in Glacier National Park.
  • Predict if/how the mass and volume of snow will change when brought indoors.
  • Use their body to increase heat (running, huddling, putting on more insulation).
  • Describe the relationship between the sun, heat, light, energy, and food.
  • Correctly measure and explain the existence of varying snow depths at different points along the trail.
  • Measure and compare temperatures at different depths in the snow or at different places along the trail.
  • Examine layers of snow, describe the differences, and infer what caused the layers.
  • Explain the importance of snow as a natural resource and its role in the water cycle.
  • Participate in stations to measure and record snow characteristics.
  • Name the snow structure that has been used by different cultures as a temporary shelter (quinzhee), describe how to build it, and explain why it is warmer inside than outside one.

Field Trip Logistics

Maximum group size for snowshoe hikes is 40 students. Students will stay together as one group for the introductory and closing activities. Large groups will be divided into 2 smaller groups (one class each) for the ranger-led hikes, with one ranger leading each group.


Reserve Your Trip

Visit the Scheduling & Guidelines page to find the reservation form as well as tips for a successful day in the park.

If you have questions, email or call the Education Specialist at 406-888-5837.


Preparing for Your Trip

Students that spend time preparing for their visit get more out of a field trip to the park. Activities post-visit also help to reinforce information learned during the trip.

MUST READ! This Preparing for your 3rd-5th Grade Winter Field Trip (pdf) packet contains everything you need to get ready for your field trip.

These SmartBoard Lessons are a great tool to supplement your preparations.

Suggested activities and supplementary materials:

Last updated: April 13, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 128
West Glacier, MT 59936


(406) 888-7800

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