How Do Glaciers Change the Shape of the Land?

Jeri Faber, educator
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Lesson/Lesson Plan
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



Teachers engage students in an investigation to create a model of a glacier using ice cubes. Students use the glacier model to observe, diagram, and document glacier movement as they move the ice cube across clay.  

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 2
  • Elementary School
Access Restrictions

Free access with user action - The right to view and/or download material without financial barriers but users are required to register or experience some other low-barrier to use.

Performance Expectations

2-ESS1-1 Use information from several sources to provide evidence that Earth events can occur quickly or slowly.

Clarification Statement: Examples of events and timescales could include volcanic explosions and earthquakes, which happen quickly and erosion of rocks, which occurs slowly.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include quantitative measurements of timescales.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This lesson is one of many in a series of lessons created by Jeri Faber to assist students in discovering that Earth events can occur slowly or quickly. See: for more information on Earth events like wind and water erosion.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
In this lesson, students conduct an investigation to explain how glaciers change the land. Have the students make predictions and record them in their journals. Allow students to share their thinking and record initial thoughts before investigating. Remind students to give detailed accounts of their investigation. Provide guiding questions for students to help them document their observations.What happened to the land?... the ice?...the sand and pebbles?... Why did that happen?.. How did it happen?

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
To make sure students grasp how drastically the glaciers change the Earth and to connect this learning to the investigation, the teacher needs to probe with questions. Examples: What do you notice happening? What do you observe being left behind? Why do you think that is happening? What happens to the surface of the land? How can you tell? What would eventually happen to the rocks at the bottom of the glacier if you repeated this investigation for a longer amount of time? How do you think this model helps you to understand what you are learning? Student ideas, questions, and connections could be posted on an anchor chart in the room.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Be sure to use the videos and web sites included in the "explanation" section. The students made a model of a glacier in their investigation. The videos and websites help students compare the glacier model to the true impact made by glaciers on the earth's surface. This is one of a series of lessons developed by Jeri Faber on the changing Earth. Each lesson from builds towards the Performance Expectation of using information from several sources to provide evidence that Earth events can occur quickly or slowly

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The three dimensions work together to support students to make sense of Earth events that occur slowly or quickly.

  • Instructional Supports: The context motivates students to engage in three dimensional learning. The author includes video clips and pictures of the investigation to support teachers and students. The lesson develops deeper understanding of the three dimensions as it builds on prior knowledge from previous lessons if used from

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Anecdotal notes could be taken while the students are completing the investigation to determine student learning. The student's glacier movement sheet also offers the teacher another tool to assess the student's learning of vocabulary or of the erosion process. Formative or summative assessments would need to be made to address three dimensional learning.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: Although the websites and videos are not interactive, they provide a wealth of information about how glaciers change the Earth and the careers involved in studying glaciers.