Village Science - Teacher Edition



Teacher Edition Contents

Skill, Tools, & Craftsmanship

Cutting & Drying Fish
Nails, Pegs, & Lashings
Falling Trees &
     Small-Scale Logging
Chainsaw Clutch & Chain
Ice Pick


Wood Stoves
Wall Tents
Insulation & Vapor Barriers
Gas Lamps & Gas Stoves


Piloting A Boat
Boat Design
Magnetos & Spark Plugs
Outboard Motor Lower Unit

Outboard Motor Cooling System
Snowmachine Tracks
Snowmachine Clutch
Winter Trails


  1. Time someone walking a given distance in deep snow without snowshoes. Then time the same person with snowshoes.

  2. Try different kinds of available snowshoes (trail, bear paw) on different snow conditions. Which is easier and why? Which is easier in the brush? On a snowmachine trail? On windswept snow? In powder?

  3. Try different kinds of bindings. Which seem better to you? This test is invalid unless you walk under many different conditions: packed trail, in the brush, up hills, in deep powder, etc. Which bindings and snowshoes are the quietest?

  4. Compute the psi of individuals wearing winter boots and again with a pair of snowshoes (their weight divided by the area of the boots or snowshoes).

  5. Ask some of the oldtimers in your village what kinds of snowshoes they used and why. What did they do to the rawhide (oil, varnish, etc) to make it waterproof?

  6. Ask an oldtimer how to pick a good birch tree for snowshoes. How could they tell the grain of the wood and the toughness of the fiber?

  7. Take two pieces of birch from the same tree. They should be carved about the same size, similar to the frame of a snowshoe. Cut them two to three feet long for this test. Steam one. Bend them both. Which bends easier? Which breaks first? (An easy steamer is made from a coffee can with two inches of water in the bottom with stovepipes extending to the desired length.)

  8. How did they make rawhide in your village? How was the skin cleaned and how was it split into thin strips? Does anyone still know how to do this? Try to learn if there is a skin available.

  9. If a pair of homemade snowshoes is available, try to discover the pattern followed to lash the webbing. What did oldtimers do to protect it from wearing?

    A glancing blow with an axe or abrasion on the outside of the frame can sever the webbing, so many oldtimers made an effort to embed the webbing into the frame for protection.

  10. Study the different kinds of snowshoes described in catalogs and resource materials. What kinds of traditional snowshoes were used in other regions of the North? Can you guess their winter weather by the design? Look at the following picture. What kind of snow conditions do you think this snowshoe was designed for?

    Deep powder. It is a trail model snowshoe with fine webbing.

  11. What kind of snowshoes do you think are best for walking home on a snowmachine trail? Time someone walking with these snowshoes for a mile. Time someone without snowshoes. Who walks faster?

    Bearpaw snowshoes are good because they are light and easy to carry, and there is a little bounce in the step.

  12. Some oldtimers knew how to make emergency snowshoes. Ask the old people in your village if they ever used that kind.

Student Response

  1. What is the idea behind snowshoes? Use the term “psi”.

    To increase the surface area so the psi is decreased and the individual doesn’t penetrate the snow too deeply.

  2. With the same snowshoes, who will sink more deeply into the snow: a person eighty pounds or someone one hundred and ten pounds?

    Someone 110 lbs. The psi is greater

  3. Which is better for hard packed snow: bear paw or trail snowshoes?

    Bear paws

  4. Which is better for powder snow: bear paw or trail snowshoes?


  5. Why would someone want smaller snowshoes even if the snow is soft, deep powder?

    Break trail for dogs or other people following.

  6. What purpose does the tail of the snowshoe have?

    It acts like a keel keeping the snowshoe from swinging from side to side.

  7. Why aren’t commercially-made snowshoe frames strong?

    There is little quality ash and hickory left in the country and most commercially-made frames are sawed from a tree rather than split.

  8. What kind of skin was the toughest to use for traditional lashing? What is the disadvantage of this kind of lashing?

    Spring cow. It is illegal.

  9. Why did oldtimers oil their snowshoes?

    Quiet walking, keep dogs from eating the webbing, and keeping the frames from rotting.


  1. What is the psi of a person weighing 175 lbs on snowshoes that have 400 square inches.


  2. What is the psi of the same person wearing boots with 48 square inches? Snowshoes increase the surface area the person is exerting force upon by how many times?

    3.64, 8.34 times

  3. On a trail snowshoe, measure the surface area in front of the individual’s toe. Measure the surface area behind the individual’s heel. Which is greater?

    In the front.

  4. Compute the psi of the smallest person in the class if they have a standard pair of 10” x 56” snowshoes. How big would the snowshoes have to be for the largest person in the class to have the same psi therefore sinking the same distance into the snow? You will have to figure the area of the snowshoes out in several different parts, circles, squares and triangles.

    Answers will vary

  5. A homemade snowshoe weighs 2.2 lbs. Another one made by the Army is 3.0 lbs. If someone’s step is 2’ and there are 5,280 feet in a mile, how many extra pounds are lifted in a mile? How many extra pounds are lifted on a hunting trip where the person walks 7.4 miles?

    2,112 pounds in one mile. 15,628.8 pounds

Questions or comments?
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