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Glaciers on the Move

Alaska is filled with natural wonders. None are more magnificent than glaciers. Discover how these enormous mountains of ice form, move, drop into the ocean, and change the face of the Earth.

  • Grade 3
    Grade 4
    Grade 5
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Glaciers are made of fallen snow that, over many years, weighs itself down into a huge mass of ice. Because they are so huge, glaciers flow like very slow rivers. Find out more about glaciers and their effects on the Earth’s surface. Research the impact of global warming. Study pictures and then sculpt a replica of a "river of ice."
    2. To make a free-form base for the glacier, press out a ball of Crayola Air-Dry Clay on a clean, dry paper plate. Leave the edges rough if you like or smooth them with a dampened finger. To create a flat base, roll out clay with a rolling pin and cut it with a clay tool or plastic knife.
    3. These are some sculpting ideas to try. Mix and match them to form a own unique glacier. Dampen the surface before pressing two pieces of clay together. Make a gift plaque like the sample. Or make a labeled replica suitable for a science fair display.
    4. Roll or press and cut slabs of clay to form rugged snow-capped mountains in the background. Form moving glaciers with irregular slabs of clay. Use textured items such as shells or rocks to impress the surface. Embed small pebbles in the glacier for a realistic look.
    5. Use modeling tools to create a ripple effect on the ocean in the foreground. Add bits of clay to show the glacier calving into the water. If the glacier is for a science fair display, embed toothpicks to attach paper labels to identify the glacier’s parts.
    6. To make a plaque, roll coils and twist them to create a border. Cut out letters or use coils of clay to create words such as Alaska, which is where most glaciers are found. While the clay is wet, use a large paper clip to poke two holes in the top of the plaque to hang it.
    7. Paint the glacier when it is still wet with Washable Watercolors. Fill a brush with paint and gently wash the color on the clay. Air-dry the glacier for at least 3 days.
    8. Thread heavy cord or ribbon through the holes to tie and hang. Students display their plaques to help understand the impact of global warming.
  • Standards

    LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

    LA: Conduct short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

    LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade level topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.

    SCI: Analyze and interpret data about changes in the environment of different areas and describe how the changes may affect the organisms that live in the areas.

    SCI: Analyze maps showing a variety of Earth’s features and the occurrence of geologic hazards to determine the geographic patterns that emerge.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    SS: Describe and speculate about physical system changes, such as seasons, climate and weather, and the water cycle.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Black Wolf of the Glacier: Alaska's Romeo by Deb Vanasse; Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska by Mark Kelley; The Inside Passage to Alaska by Art Wolfe

    Students investigate how glaciers form, move, and change Earth's landscape.

    What are the effects of global warming on glaciers? What are the effects of the environment when glaciers begin to melt? Students research these questions and then ponder what would happen in the state of Alaska if global warming continues.

    Students research Alaska's history as a territory and state in The United States. How and when did the US come to possess this land? Who negotiated the land deal? Did the American people approve of the annexation of Alaska to the Union?

    Students work in small groups to create a chart illustrating all ways the glaciers might be a valuable natural and economic resource. Provide a place in the classroom to post their work.

    What are icebergs? What are the dangers of icebergs in the oceans? Students read Sinking the Titanic by Matt Doeden or I Was There: On Board the Titanic by Shelley Tanaka to find out about some of the dangers of icebergs in the ocean.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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