Glacial geology of Arlee Valley, Montana - trip for HS teachers

Marc Hendrix
The University of Montana

Author Profile

Intended Audience

HS science teachers with little or no formal geoscience training


Field trip starts in Missoula, MT and moves north about 25 miles to the area around Arlee, MT


This field trip, which is designed for HS science teachers with little or no formal training in geosciences specifically, is designed to acquaint participants with the glacial geologic record of a small topographic basin in western Montana. The trip focuses on the landforms and sedimentologic character of various glacial and glacially-influenced deposits.


Field trip and ancillary activities were part of the 2010 Big Sky Science Partnership


Lead participants to make connections between landform shape, sedimentologic character of the deposit comprising the landform, and the physical characteristics of the fluid flow medium in which the sediment was transported (i.e., ice vs. water)


Participants were asked to study clast textures (form, roundness, surface texture), sorting, packing, and sedimentary structures

Notes and Tips

The field trip seemed to work pretty well; I would recommend adopting it for field sites elsewhere where ice-contact deposits and landforms can be compared directly to outwash stream deposits. It would be nice would be to incorporate an eolian deposit (e.g., loess) so the participants could consider air as a transport medium, but we did not have easily-accessible loess deposits in the field area.

Assessment and Evaluation

Admittedly, I didn't do much assessment in conjunction with this exercise. In addition to looking over and scoring the responses to the various questions, one possible assessment technique that could be deployed would be to have the participants to keep detailed field notes in addition to addressing the requested responses.

Materials and Handouts

I developed two handouts for this field trip/exercise: 1) a field trip guide and 2) an assignment for participants to complete while in the field. Both files are included here.