Explaining Glaciers, Accurately by: Mary Faw, Nancy Scott, and Mari Tate

Journal ArticleDigital resources are stored online in your NSTA Library.

What happens when a geology graduate student and two fourth-grade teachers collaborate on lessons for the classroom? They discover interesting and practical ways to explore geology and other scientific concepts, that's what! Here they share the glacial erosion lessons that grew out of the geologist’s frustration at finding glacial erosion labs erroneously showing glaciers eroding by pushing rocks. Their goal was to find a way to show and explain glacial erosion more accurately and in a way that elementary age students could understand.

  • Elementary
Publication Date

Community ActivitySaved in 1842 Libraries

Reviews (4)
  • on Thu Dec 04, 2014 10:10 PM

This article is an excellent resource for providing teachers with information and tools to help students learn about glaciers and their affect on the earth. After completing the activities in this lesson, students should be able to explain the processes of glacial plucking and abrasion and describe how they change the shape of the Earth’s surface. One of the great things about this resource is that it not only provides information about the topic but also includes ideas to introduce the topic, to include discovery questions to benchmark the student’s beginning level of understanding. The authors anticipate the potential needs of the teacher and outlines the general flow of the lesson, which includes glacier basics, the two mechanisms by which glaciers erode the earth, and hi-lights several activities and visual aids to bring clarity to the instruction. Overall, this is a great resource to aid in putting a lesson plan together.

Shamekia Smith  (Wichita Falls, TX)
Shamekia Smith (Wichita Falls, TX)

  • on Wed Apr 27, 2011 6:42 PM

Faw, a geologist, and Scott and Tate, fourth-grade teachers, created a lesson that would allow students to discover how glaciers change Earth's landscape. Most people think that glaciers move rocks like a bulldozer would. That, we learn, is not true. Glaciers move rock by plucking and abrasion. The lessons use potting soil, rocks of various kinds, water, and ice frozen overnight to help students see the action of a glacier, instead of imagining it. This lesson would not be difficult to do, and students would be engaged by the hands-on nature of it.

Allison Cooke
Allison Cooke

  • on Sat Mar 13, 2010 5:11 PM

I found this article especially intriguing because my husband & I just had a conversation about glacial deposits as we drove through northern Wisconson. I like that students make predictions based on what they think will happen to the glacier model. For our region, the topic of how glaciers sculpted the land is relevent. It is important to represent "plucking" and "abrasion" accurately, so students to not develop or strengthen their misconceptions.

Christina B
Christina B

  • on Wed Dec 29, 2010 10:02 PM

As a geologist and someone who grew up on the edge of glaciated area of Wisconsin, I found this article to be an interesting approach for younger students (perhaps through middle school with modifications) of the actions that cause erosion. Most of us cannot imagine how ice could move most of the soil from Canada, and drop it in the US midwest, and this activity will provide an excellent introduction. I would like to see this activity extended to demonstrate some of the land forms that might result from this type of movement - if you were to come to Wisconsin and actually find a farmfield, you would notice that we have some excellent soil, but that soil is studded with gravel, cobbles, and boulders. Each year, stones are removed from fields. The debris from glaciers is typically not sorted unless it results from fluvial action. There are many different landforms that result; some, such as drumlins have not been fully explained, and having students consider the conditions for format

Jennifer Rahn  (Delafield, WI)
Jennifer Rahn (Delafield, WI)

Free - NSTA Members

$1.29 - Nonmembers

Login or Create a Free Account to add this resource to your library.