Preparing for sampling - Snowpack Project

Background for Teachers

Your students now have a hypothesis and a sampling plan; they have picked sampling dates, or windows of dates, or certain types of events for which they want to collect data, and therefore samples.

Now is the time to put words into action- gather protocols, equipment and troubleshoot before heading into the field. The first sampling event will be the most labor intensive. This is the one where all of the protocols are new and your students will be gathering site-specific data that they have chosen from the Table of Field Variables. In subsequent sampling events your students will be familiar with the protocols and will collect data specific to that sampling event--weather, snow temperature, air temperature, but will not have to characterize the site. It may even be possible to assign small groups to the subsequent samplings, reducing time needed for sampling by the whole class. Below are some general considerations:

Protocols and Equipment

Download and read:

Have the students download any and all protocols, read through the protocols and assemble the materials. Your class may not take all the types of samples – so be sure to look at the specific materials list and protocols for your class’ sample type(s).


Have students troubleshoot all of the protocols and the sampling events‐

  • How will we carry our gear to and from the field site?
  • What will we need that is not on any materials list (warm weather gear, water bottles with drinking water, rubber boots)?
  • Should we invite parents?
  • Are there materials that show up on multiple lists- we can double up on them?

Contact your scientist:

Do you need any equipment that your school does not own but that your sceintist might be able to loan you? Do you want to check your sampling plans before heading into the field? Contact your participating scientist.

Assemble and/or build gear and materials:

Build and assemble all of the field gear needed. Use the protocols as a guide for students to assemble their own field equipment kits.

Generalized list of equipment:

  • Snow corer
  • Sample bags (zipper bags for snow water equivalent samples)
  • Labels
  • Field data sheet
  • Sharpie marker for sample bag labeling
  • Field book and pencil or waterproof pen
  • Thermometer (alcohol)
  • Meter stick/CoCoRaHS snow stick or snowdepth gauge
  • Camera
  • Field guides or keys

(Note: the person taking the snow sample will have cold, wet hands. Most outdoor coats and pants are not great for drying off cold wet hands. Bringing a hand towel to dry off can be a fantastic idea.)

Data and Field Paperwork

Paperwork in the field:

Familiarize your students with the Acadia Learning field data sheet.

Data flow:

Make sure that students understand what happens to the data and the samples once you have returned to the classroom (what needs to get uploaded on to the website and what does not).

Decisions to make

Decide whether there will be one person taking notes for the entire class, or if students will work in groups. If working in groups, there need to be at least 3 people per group: one to collect, one to manage the sample equipment, and one to take notes and fill out field data sheets.

Choose a labeling system that you will be able to understand when you are back in the classroom. You have been asked to give all of your field sites unique IDs and names based on the CoCoRaHS ID and name, use those when putting information on the field data sheet and when labelling bags to bring snow water equivlanet samples back into the classroom.

Develop a sampling scheme for the whole season- during each sampling event where will you be sampling and for what parameters?

Health and Safety

Health and Safety Plan: Have students write a field Health and Safety plan- what should they bring into the field to stay warm, comfortable? How much hot cocoa should they pack?

After developing this plan one of our teachers writes up a list of personal requirements (lunch, boots, warm hat, etc.) and sends the list home in a note for parents to sign:

You may consider doing something similar.

Leave No Trace sampling plan: It is our goal to conduct sampling in a manner that does not adversely affect the environment. Discuss, or have students write, an action plan for Leave No Trace sampling.


  • Students recognize that field sampling to support their hypothesis requires forethought


  • Students will have protocols and materials, including personal gear, assembled for a successful field event
  • Students will understand that they need to consider the safety of themselves, their group, and the environment when conducting field work

Where does this lesson happen in the Project?

This is the second lesson in Unit 4: Field Sampling to Support Your Claim. It follows Classroom Activity 1: Experimental Design.

Getting Ready

Make sure student have their sampling plan from Unit 4, Activity 1.


Students will need to assemble:

  • From Unit 2: Topo maps, hydrographs, soil type and forest cover type, their predictions of maximum snowpack and peak stream flow.
  • From Unit 3: Their hypotheses, questions, “data shopping list” or what they need for data.

If the students have been to the field site then assemble any information already collected. If they have not been to the site then use Google Earth to look at satellite photos of the site (for which they will need: Computer with Internet access)

Handouts (see also Lesson Resources)

    Table of Field Variables
    Fieldwork assessment
    Field data sheet

Student Prerequisites

  • Students must have their hypotheses and/or have all of their material from previous Units

Time Needed

One to two classes, if you are preparing a note to go home then do this in advance to give students time to return the sheet.

Doing the Activity

Explain to your students:

  • That field sampling needs to be conducted efficiently and well and discuss the Rule of Five P’s (Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance)
  • Fieldwork is not only about using procedures and equipment for collecting high quality samples but is also about staying safe and keeping the environment as intact as is possible
  • The next one to two classes will be spent getting ready for field sampling- not just for the first field sampling event but for all field sampling events through the season

Students should:

  • Download the protocols that they will use for sampling
  • Review all protocols
  • Assemble or make all sampling equipment
  • Review the field data sheet
  • Make field sheet for any parameters that are not on the field data sheet

Initiate a discussion about personal and group safety- write all proposed, realistic suggestions on the board.

Initiate a discussion about Leave No Trace fieldwork- write all proposed, realistic suggestions on the board.



Troubleshoot with your students.


Collect your student’s fieldwork assessment form (they will have only filled out the preparatory section, you will have to give the form back to them).

Lesson Extensions and Supplements

  • Have your students run through "What if…” scenarios.
  • Review Leave No Trace sampling.




Planning and carrying out investigations
Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information
Analyzing and interpreting data

This Activity is included in: 


Field Protocols: 

Teacher Instructionals and Primers: