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Glaciers: Teachers

Glacier Essentials For Educators

The National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC) is a great place to learn more about glaciers. Explore the life cycle of a glacier, review the components and types of glaciers, take a look at current glacier data, and browse through the extensive image gallery. You may want to share this resource with your students.

Cirque 3

National Geographic has a series of resources for educators to help you prepare to teach about glaciers. These resources include articles, videos, infographics and truly amazing photographs to share with your students. You'll want to take a look at Glacier, Glaciation, Moving Rivers of Ice, Ice Sheets, Iceberg, Moraine, Climate 101:Glaciers, or the full Cryosphere collection.

How Glaciers Work provides a concise overview of the formation, anatomy, effects and future of glaciers.

Resources from the National Park Service will give you a strong foundation for teaching about glaciers. Glacier Basics comes from Rocky Mountain National Park. From Glacier National Park, Overview of Glaciers shares facts about glaciers and Glacial Geology provides photos clearly showing glacially carved landscapes in the park. Data from A Closer Look at Glacier National Park reveals changes in glacial surface area. From Kenai Fjords National Park, Glaciers and Glacier Features describes a unique park where over 50 percent of the land is covered in ice.


The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has informative sections on Glaciers and Icecaps and Glaciers and the Water Cycle as part of its Water Science School. The USGS is particularly useful for answering students' questions that come up as they study about glaciers, and for correcting misconceptions about glaciers that students may have.

Crash Course: Glaciers is a fast-paced video with helpful animations that cover the basics of glaciers, the processes of glaciation, and the benefits of glaciers to Earth's systems.

Because glaciers are so sensitive to environmental changes, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated glaciers as a key climate indicator related to the effects of climate change. Take a look at the EPA's data regarding changes in glaciers and ice sheets.

PBS LearningMedia

PBS LearningMedia's glacier resources are designed to be used by educators in the classroom and include video, interactives, discussion questions, lesson plan, or background reading.

Glaciers: Educators Guide from Dragonfly TV features hands-on classroom experiments for grades 3-5.

Climate and Ice offers a full lesson plan exploring the ways that glaciers are a window into past climates for grades 4-8.

All About Glaciers: The Great Lakes is a full lesson plan introducing 4th-8th graders to the ways that glaciers form, move, and shape the land.

Documenting Glacial Change is a terrific interactive resource for grades 5 and up, with an excellent collection of side-by-side glacier images showing change over time.


Glaciers: The Role of Water in Earth's Systems, a complete lesson plan for grades 6 & up, uses interactives and models to teach about the processes of glaciation.

Glaciers is an interactive feature full of essential information about glacier composition, location and movement, for grades 6 and up.

Investigating Glacier Flow is full lesson plan for grades 6 and up, where students analyze radar data to determine how glaciers shape Earth's systems.

High Altitude Glaciers in the Tropics takes students to the Andes Mountains to explore glaciers in tropical latitudes and learn how they help scientists study climate.

Be Smart: How Do Glaciers Move? is an engaging video explaining glacial movement for grades 6 & up.

Lesson Plans and Classroom Activities

NASA has several resources for glacier lessons. Check out the Resources for Educators at NASA Climate Kids: Glaciers. You'll find hands-on lessons and activities including Melting Ice Experiment, How Melting Ice Causes Sea Level Rise, and What's Causing Sea Level Rise? Land Ice vs Sea Ice.

Perito Moreno Glacier

My NASA Data lessons immerse upper-elementary and middle-school students in using real data, maps and satellite imagery to discover patterns and form hypotheses. Check out the lesson plans and mini-lesson activities relating to the changes in the cryosphere. Here are a few that you may want to use: Glacier Retreat, Changes in Glacier Cover Over Time, Analyzing Ice and Snow Extent, Greenland Ice, Ice Flow in Antarctica, and What Happens If Glaciers and Ice Caps Melt?

From Ohio State University, Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears is a great glacier resource for teachers. You'll find background content, unit plans, lessons and activities, hands-on experiments, and leveled reading selections for classroom use.

Glacier Power is a terrific middle-school curriculum produced by the Alaska Satellite Facility. There are ten lessons, each with vocabulary, worksheets, discussion questions and hands-on projects. An additional lesson answers the question Why Do Scientists Study Glaciers?

The National Park Service has developed several glacier lessons for classroom use. The Ice Spirits, a lesson plan for grades 4-6, includes hands-on activities such as Breaking It Down, Carving Mountains, and Model Glaciers. Glacial Detectives (grades 3-5) focuses on the clues glaciers leave behind. The Fire and Ice lesson (grades 6-8) explores how earth systems work together.

Windows to the World, a website of National Earth Science Teachers Association, offers full lesson plans including Glaciers: Then and Now, Changing Planet: Melting Glaciers, and Glaciers and Ice Sheets.

Ice Ice Baby is a complete unit of lesson plans and activities about glacier dynamics, icebergs, sea level change and more. This site provides a wealth of great resources for teachers.

Arête (above) and erratic (below) – USGS

From the University of Oregon, glacier education resources and lesson plans are available for grades K-5 and grades 6-8.

TeachEngineering invites students to learn about glaciers as agents of erosion in the upper-elementary lesson Glaciers, Water and Wind, Oh My!

Baylor University's K-5 Science Resources offers a lesson on the effects of ice and glaciation on Earth's surface.

From the Minnesota Science Teachers Education Project (MnSTEP), take a look at lesson plans A Connection with Glaciers, Ocean Current and Weather and Ice Cream Model: How Glaciers Formed the Landscape. Land Ice: Glaciers on the Move and Land Ice: Mass Balance are designed for middle school students.

The Glaciers Are Melting!, a fiction book for primary-grade children, has an accompanying Teaching Activity Guide with many classroom activities as well as worksheets and games.

Rock Paper Glacier!, a site for kids and teachers, offers 18 hands-on classroom activities designed for K-12 students. Each experiment includes discussion questions and extension ideas.

From UCAR's Center for Science Education, Melting Glaciers resources for middle-school classes include Glaciers Then and Now, Model a Moving Glacier, and Glacier Interactive where students use mathematical and physical models to explore how glaciers grow, move and shrink.

Teacher Planet offers a collection of glacier lesson plans, printables, worksheets and experiments. Worksheets are also available at 3D Geography.


At NeoK12, you'll find classroom glacier resources including lesson plans, videos and slide presentations.

Geography All The Way has a series of glacier lesson plans with helpful diagrams and photos illustrating alpine glacial processes and erosional and depositional landforms. For older students, the lesson plan Where Have All The Glaciers Gone? includes links for further exploration.

This teacher-created interactive glacier quiz is useful as a self-correcting practice or assessment tool.

Hands-on projects can help students understand glacier concepts in a tactile, engaging way. Take a look at these project ideas for the classroom:

More Resources for Teachers

An excellent source for photos and images of glaciers of all types, as well as glacial landforms and location maps, is the USGS's comprehensive Glossary of Glacial Terminology. Each term is accompanied by photos. Another good source is the Glacier Photo Gallery at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Photo courtesy Gilhem Vellut, CC BY-SA 2.0, Kiddle Ency.

In time-lapse videos, satellite images from NASA show the movement of Earth's glaciers and ice sheets as seen from space.

There are many good resources for students who are doing class assignments or who want to learn more about glaciers. General glacier articles written specifically for young learners include Brittanica Kids (grades 2-5), Brittanica Students (grades 6-8), National Geographic (grades 5-8), Kiddle Encyclopedia and Alaska's DGGS Kids' Page.

One Geology Kids: Glaciers is an image-rich interactive site for your students to learn more about glaciers.

3DGeography: Glaciers is designed for grades 4-6 and has glacier facts, diagrams, vocabulary and images for classroom use.

Other informative glacier sites for elementary children include Rock Paper Glacier!, DK Find Out: Glaciers, and Wonderopolis.

How Glaciers Change the World is a fun introductory video for primary-grade students from Sci Show Kids. For older students, How Glaciers Move is an engaging video explaining glacial formation and movement.

Grinnell Glacier – USGS

If your students are interested in the work of glaciologists, you may want to direct them to profiles of glacier scientists at National Geographic and NASA Kids, or to the work of young students currently helping with glacier research.

The Learning Zone from UCAR'S Center for Science Education features student-friendly discussions on glaciers and climate change. See Parts of the Cryosphere, Greenland's Melting Ice, Rising Sea Levels, Warming in Antarctica, Effects on Ocean Currents and more.

For older students, the University of Colorado's glacier simulation explores the impact of environmental variables on whether glaciers advance, retreat, or stay at equilibrium. Another good resource for secondary students, Antarctic Glaciers, contains photos and facts on glacial mass balance, ice cores, landforms, ice streams and more.

One of the most effective ways for students to see how glaciers have changed in the last 50-100 years is by observing side-by-side image pairs. You may want to show your class the repeat photos from these sources:

Muir Glacier 1941 and 2004 – UCAR Center for Science Education

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