Glacial Erosion

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SWBAT to identify and explain ice erosion.

Big Idea

Glacier is ice that can carry away sediments to other locations.

Setting the Stage

Next Generation Science Standards:

2.ESS1 "addresses using information from several sources to provide evidence that Earth events can occur quickly or slowly."  In this lesson students learn about glacial erosion. "Glaciers are giant rivers of ice that slowly move carving out valleys and shaping mountains." It is important that students learn glaciers create a force that can cause erosion.

Science and Engineering Practice: 

SP 2 addresses using and developing models (i.e., diagram, drawing, physical replica, diorama, dramatization, or storyboard) that represent concrete events or design solutions. In this lesson, students learn the effect that ice erosion has on the land through creating an interactive model. 

SP 8 addresses obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information in K–2. Students communicate information with others in oral and written form to discuss scientific ideas.  In this lesson, groups communicate with each other about how ice erosion effects the land.

Prior Knowledge:

Students have knowledge about erosion and weathering. They know that erosion can move the land through a slow process and weathering can break apart the land.

Junior Scientists:

In my class, the students are called Junior Scientists. They wear lab jackets that they created early in the school year, to be worn during their experiments. I call them Junior Scientists to encourage them to major in Science and Math related careers. I want them to develop a love for Science and Math. Also, we sing "It is Science Time" before each lesson.



10 minutes

At their desks, students sing a song  at the opening of each science lesson.  This song motivates and engages my Junior Scientists at the beginning of each science lesson. During Science lessons, I call my students scientists to empower them and encourage them to become dreamers and doers.

“I can” statement

I call on a student to read our "I Can" statement for the day. While using an over-sized microphone, a scientist says, "I can identify and explain glacial erosion." The "I Can" statement helps students take ownership of the lesson as they put standards into context. The other students praise the student that reads the "I Can" statement by clapping.  I encourage students to give each other praise to boost their self-esteem. Students are reminded of the safety rules, group rules, and scientific method. Also, I discuss the checklist to assist with completing and staying on task during the assignment. I remind the students to make sure that they stay on task. Also, it is important that they understand that scientists must follow safety rules in order to stay out of danger.


While students sit at their desks, they watch a glacial erosion video. The video helps my auditory and visual learners retain taught content. In this video, students learn about glacier erosion.

Stand and Deliver

After the video, I pose the following questions: What is glacial erosion? What causes glacial erosion?  How can glacial erosion affect the land? These questions are asked to check for students understanding. In the video, it discusses glacier movement and erosion.  I inform the students that today our experiment focuses on glacier erosion. 


20 minutes

While students are at their desks, I inform them that we are going to complete an investigation as a class. I provide all students with a lab sheet so they can follow along with the investigation.  Students are asked to observe and ask questions about the following items: clay, ice cubes, and sand. I show the students the science question stems to help them pose their questions. 

Then the students write a hypothesis, What effect does a glacier have on land? The students use an "If and then" statement to formulate the hypothesis.  

Then I call the students to the carpet, so they can observe the investigation. 

I call on a student to roll two pieces of clay flat in an aluminum plan. Then I call on another student to press an ice cube against the flat surface of modeling clay. I ask them to move the ice cube back and forth several times and observe. I ask: What happened to the ice cube when you wiped it against the clay? Students record their answer on the lab sheet. 

Then I call on a student to place a small pile of sand on the clay. Next, I direct a student to place the ice cube on top of the sand for 1 minute.  Another student is asked to set the timer for 1 minute. A different student is then asked to pick up the ice cube and observe the surface of the ice cube that was touching the sand.  I ask: What happened to the ice cube after it sat on the sand? Students can record their answer on the lab sheet. 

A call on another student to take the same side of the ice cube and place it  on the sandy part of the clay. The student moves it back and forth several times. The ice cube is removed from the sand.  The sand is wiped from the surface of the clay. I ask:  How does the surface's texture feel? I permit all students to touch the surface of the clay. Students can record their answer on the lab sheet. 

The students return to their desks to complete the draw conclusions section located on the lab sheet.  Then I collect the lab sheets up to make sure the students complete it accurately. 

Sand, Clay, and Ice Picture

Sand on Clay Picture

Rubbing Ice on Clay



10 minutes

Student Debriefing

While the students sit on the carpet, they discuss the effects ice has on land.

Then I inform the students that glacier erosion is ice that can pick up rocks. The ice can be small or big. Water and ice can work collectively to pick up sediment and create erosion. The more sediment that is picked up, the greater the erosion.