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Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
Indigenous Knowledge Systems
Indigenous Education Worldwide

Curriculum Resources for the Alaskan Environment

Subject Areas: physics, shop, community planning, local history

Timeline: winter

Grade Levels: 6-9

Purpose: to demonstrate the effects of insulation; to encourage environmental planning


T. Gillespie and Sharon Moore
Cardboard Boxes/
-Fenced Houses



Square bullet Activities

  • Experiment with insulated cardboard boxes:

    set up the boxes so that the bottom is open to the snow or ground; cut a hole in the top of each box; place a thermometer attached to a piece of wood or string inside each box, so that the bulb does not touch the ground

    insulate the boxes with different materials (newspaper, fabric scraps, other available materials); use one box with no insulation at all for a control

    paint the outside of some boxes black to absorb light; pile snow or dirt around some boxes; place larger boxes over others to make an air space for insulation

    chart temperatures in the different boxes for a week or more; record temperatures at least twice a day, once around midday and a second time when temperatures are lower

    discuss temperature differences; compare the boxes to houses; how does insulation affect the cost of heating a house?

  • Control natural snow drifts for home insulation:

    map the community; include a record of prevalent snow drifts; talk to the elders to gather information about the history of snow drifting

    build snow fences covered with turkey wire or wood lathing

    select four village houses which are in the same general area, the same general size, construction, with the same size family inhabiting the house, and choose two to be protected by snow fences

    follow weather forecasts; maintain the snow fences to provide protection from the wind on all sides

    compute the percent of change in fuel oil usage after the fences; discuss why the change occurred.

Square bullet Resources

  • Wyoming Department of Highways, for specifics on snow fences
  • scrap lumber and turkey wire
  • local history of drifting patterns
  • local weather station
  • state library for weather pattern histories 
  • Snow Ecology Guide, Ted Major and Home Ecological Institute, 4860 Riverbend Road, Boulder, CO 80301
  • Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • Weller, Gunter (Ed.). (1979). Alaska Weather and Climate. University of Alaska Fairbanks, Geophysical Institute


  • Use school trailers instead of village houses, or construct two small buildings or sheds; protect one with snow fencing and measure the temperature difference between the two over a period of times.
  • Consult with the city administration about areas with drift problems and erect fencing to direct the drifting.


Village Map and Directory

Land Selection

Local Weather Station

Star Mapping

6" Newtonian Reflecting Telescope Construction

Planetarium Construction

Investigation of Snow Melting

Insulation Experiments: Cardboard Boxes/Snow-Fenced Houses

Durable, Energy-Efficient Homes

Practical Application of Alternative Energy System

Solar Energy Uses

Construction of School/Community Facilities

Bush Shop or How to Learn Carpentry Without Wood

Basic Home Maintenance

Snowmachine Maintenance

Glider Construction (Aviation Shop)

Subsistence Tool Construction

Operating a Trapline, Subsistence Trapline, or Subsistence Net

Survival Skills

Heritage Campout

Netting Fish Efficiently

Natural History

Study of a Food Resource

Effects of Diet on Mice or Rats

Medicinal Plants

Farming the Sea

Summer Marine Science Program

Vegetable Gardening

Greenhouse Construction and Gardening

Chicken Farming

Water Usage Study

Garbage Disposal

Village Dogs

Fire Safety



Go to University of AlaskaThe University of Alaska Fairbanks is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and educational institution and is a part of the University of Alaska system.


Alaska Native Knowledge Network
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks  AK 99775-6730
Phone (907) 474.1902
Fax (907) 474.1957
Questions or comments?
Last modified August 17, 2006