As a high school or undergraduate Geography or Earth Sciences teacher, you can use this set of computer-based tools to help you in teaching about glaciers, the cryosphere, and related topics such as the impact of temperature and precipitation on glacial mass, glacial budgets, and glacial advance and retreat.

This lesson plan helps students learn about glaciers, and the factors that affect the movement and size of glaciers. The activity will also enable students to understand the possible impacts of climate change on glaciers and the climate-cryosphere link.
Thus, the use of this lesson plan allows you to integrate the teaching of a climate science topic with a core topic in Earth Science or Geography.

Questions

Use this lesson plan to help your students find answers to:

  • • What climatic and environmental factors affect the size and motion of glaciers?
  • • How has an increase in global temperatures led to the shrinking of some glaciers?
  • • What is the relationship between climate and the cryosphere?
  • • How do glaciers provide evidence of climate change?

About Lesson Plan

Grade Level High School, Undergraduate
Discipline Geography, Earth Sciences
Topic(s) in Discipline • Glaciers
•  Cryosphere
Climate Topic Climate and the Cryosphere
Location Global (region-specific activities also provided)
Languages English (Visualization tool available in multiple languages)
Access Online
Approximate Time Required minimum 120 min (can vary)

Contents

Reading (20-30 min) A reading that introduces the topic of glaciers and their formation.
https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/glaciers/questions/what.html
https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/glaciers/questions/formed.html
https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/glaciers/questions/components.html
Visualization and associated activity (~30 min) An interactive visualization and associated activity to visualize the shrinking and growing of a glacier as a result of changes in snowfall and temperature.
Interactive Visualization:
https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/legacy/glaciers
Associated Activity:
https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/4484?
Classroom/Laboratory
Activity

(minimum 1 hr,
can vary)

A classroom/laboratory activity that uses Google Earth imagery and analysis of historical data to predict
the complete melting of a glacier.

https://serc.carleton.edu/quantskills/activities/glacial_retreat.html

Step-by-Step User Guide
Questions/Assignments
Learning Outcomes
Additional Resources
Credits
Here is a step-by-step guide to using this lesson plan in the classroom/laboratory. We have suggested these steps as a possible plan of action. You may customize the lesson plan according to your preferences and requirements.
1. Introduce the topic through an online reading
2. Explore the topic further through an interactive visualization and associated activity Now, conduct an activity using an interactive visualization tool to help your students learn about the effects of changes in snowfall and temperature on glaciers.
  • • Download PhET’s interactive visualization tool, “Glaciers”, from https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/legacy/glaciers.
  • • Download the associated activity, “Investigating Glaciers” developed by John Judkins (Rio Rancho High School), from https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/4484?.
  • • Conduct the activity and discuss how glaciers are affected by changes in temperature and snowfall.
  • • Discuss how temperature changes caused by climate change may impact glaciers globally.
  • • Discuss how the study of glaciers can help in drawing inferences about the Earth’s changing climate.
3. Conduct a classroom/laboratory activity Next, help your students investigate the melting of glaciers through a classroom/laboratory activity, “When will there no longer be glaciers in Glacier National Park” from SERC Carleton, developed by Carol Ormand, Wittenberg University. In this activity, students will analyze and interpret historical data for the Grinnell Glacier to predict when the glacier might completely melt.
 

Use the tools and the concepts learned so far to discuss and determine answers to the following questions:

  • •  What climatic and environmental factors affect the size and motion of glaciers?
  • • How has an increase in global temperatures led to the shrinking of some glaciers?
  • • What is the relationship between climate and the cryosphere?
  • • How do glaciers provide evidence of climate change?

The tools in this lesson plan will enable students to:

  • •  describe glaciers and their formation
  • • discuss the factors affecting the shrinking and growing of a glacier
  • • determine how climate change-related temperature variations may impact glaciers
If you or your students would like to explore the topic further, these additional resources will be useful.
Video, Visualization Future of Glaciers – The Module https://imaginary.org/program/future-of-glaciers-the-module
Reading Global Glacier Changes: facts and figures http://www.grid.unep.ch/glaciers/
Mobile App wgms Glacier App https://wgms.ch/glacierapp/
1 Reading, “All About Glaciers” National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC)
2 Visualization Tool, “Glaciers”  and Associated Activity, “Investigating Glaciers” PhET Interactive Simulations at the University of Colorado Boulder and  John Judkins (Rio Rancho High School)
3 Classroom/Laboratory Activity, “When will there no longer be glaciers in Glacier National Park?” From SERC Carleton, developed by Carol Ormand, Wittenberg University
4 Additional Resources Guillaume Jouvet, Chantal Landry, Antonia Mey, available on IMAGINARY’s website
United Nations Environment Programme
World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) and the University of Zurich
5 Images http://www.shannontech.com/ParkVision/Glacier/Glacier.html

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/glacier/
Photograph by James P. Blair

All the teaching tools and images  in our collated list are owned by the corresponding creators/authors/organizations as  listed on their websites. Please view the individual copyright and ownership details for each tool by following the individual links provided. We have selected and analyzed the tools that align with the overall objective of our project and have provided the corresponding links. We do not claim ownership of or responsibility/liability for any of the listed tools.