Cutting Edge > Develop Program-Wide Abilities > Geoscience in the Field > Designing Field Experiences > Activities > Snow Pit Stratigraphy

Snow Pit Stratigraphy

Stephan (Steve) G. Custer
,
Earth Sciences, Montana State University
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This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process.

This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
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This page first made public: Dec 8, 2011

Summary

This is the first exercise in a course titled Snow Dynamics and Accumulation. It asks student groups to describe snow pits and the variability in those snow pits in space. It can be used to understand the temporal variation of snow stratigraphy if it is repeated through a snow season.

PLEASE do not be dissuaded from this exercise because it is written for a specific location. The ideas can be translated anywhere there is snow and the snow does not have to be exceptionally deep.

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Context

Audience

Undergraduate required upper division, capstone, research course in the Snow Science Option in Earth Sciences at Montana State University.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Snow observation, snow description, snow measurement. This exercise is normally preceded by at least two hours of lecture on how to observe, measure and describe snow and one hour discussion of equipment.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a stand alone exercise. It is the first exercise. As described earlier it is, in one way or another repeated numerous times during the semester (each time with a different objective and different tests. In a sense it is the beginning of a sequence that culminates in a field project, but this is the first exercise.

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity

Material below is taken from the exercise.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment


The student understands that snow leads to avalanches, but is often very inexperienced in the observation of the snow pack. This exercise provides the opportunity to learn about snow stratigraphy, observation, and measurement from a detailed observational perspective. The students work in small groups in 3-6 pits (depends on the class size). By working on a transect from the trees out into the opening, they discover (usually) that the snow depth is different and that the descriptions in the pits differ as one proceeds out from the trees into the opening. (Different stratigraphic units, different thickness, different temperature, different density, different crystals.)

Determining whether students have met the goals

A grading rubric (Excel 17kB May17 10) is used for assessment.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs


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