Lesson Plan

Those Fabulous Fjords!

Enormous tidewater glacier, with a piece of a glacier calving, or falling, into the ocean.
Many fjords in Alaska culminate in massive tidewater glaciers.

NPS Photo

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Grade Level:
Sixth Grade-Eighth Grade
Earth Science, Geography, Geology, Glaciers, Hydrology, Wilderness
National/State Standards:
National Standards: Science A 1, C 4, F 2-4;
Geography 1-4, 7,8, 17
fjord, glacier, ice age, estuary, sediment, Kenai Fjords, alaska, lesson plan


Students will become fluent in the vocabulary and physical geography of fjords. They will understand where fjords occur and why.


Students will use maps and photographs to learn where the fjords of the world are located and to reach conclusions about fjord formation and other glacial processes.


Teachers need to read the Fjord Estuary Ecosystem (pg 79) section of the Forging Connections resource.


Students will need access to the internet to do additional research as part of the homework. All of the readings, worksheet, and photos can be found in the resource: Forging Connections - An Educational Resource For Kenai Fjords National Park.

  • Lesson plan is found on page 87.
  • "Fjord Estuary Ecosystem" reading is found on page 79.
  • Finding Fjords worksheet is found on page 98. 

The following maps are available for loan to teachers who are conducting this lesson - email us if you'd like to borrow our maps. If you would like to obtain your own maps, consider using a web map or ordering maps online.

  • Map of Kenai Fjords National Park
  • Map of Glacier Bay National Park
  • Map of Scandinavia
  • Map of Antarctica
  • Map of New Zealand Coast
  • Map of Chile Coast 
  • Map of Greenland Coast
  • Map of the World 

Several pictures are necessary for this lesson, and are available in the Forging Connections resource (pgs 100-101). Picture list for the lesson plan:

  • Picture of a glacier at the head of a fjord. 
  • Picture of a fjord with no glacier. 
  • Picture of Aialik Bay from above, showing sediment outflow. 
  • Picture of waterfalls associated with glacial ice melt, fl owing into saltwater 
  • Aerial picture of Kenai Fjords showing multiple fingers of the sea. 
  • Picture of a bay and a fjord showing extent, depth, width, and height of each. 
  • Picture of a hanging valley 
  • Picture of a V-shaped valley



Review student’s answers on their Finding Fjords worksheet to create assessment. Students should have ample time to complete the work both in class with their groups and to correct the work at home between classes. Look for these points to be made:

Map Questions

  • Fjords are found in both hemispheres but tend to be near the poles.
  • Fjords are not found near the equator.
  • Oceans and mountains are always associated with fjords, long fi ngers of the sea reaching into the land. Sometimes there are still glaciers in fjords.
  • A fjord is a place where there once was a glacier, when the glacier melted the sea took its place.

Photograph Questions

  • There is a glacier at the edge of the ocean. The rock around it is steep. The glacier may have had an affect on the rock. There are not many plants in the picture near the glacier.
  • This could be a fjord but the glacier is gone.
  • The water is oddly colored, looks like the regular ocean water on one side but its very grey/brown on the other. A river brought the dirty water into the bay.
  • Waterfalls are running down a mountain side from a glacier. The water could erode the rock. The water from the ice is fresh water and it’s fl owing into the ocean water, which is salty.
  • It’s a picture of a fjord. The areas of water were once valleys carved out by glaciers. Now the glaciers are gone.
  • A fjord has to be carved by a glacier. For this reason, it is deeper than a bay that is not a fjord. But a fjord can be called a bay, and a bay can’t be called a fjord unless a glacier created it. Bays and fjords are similar because they are both surrounded by land on 3 sides.
  • This is a ‘hanging valley’ carved by ice when the surrounding ice was this far up the mountain. It is also a U-shaped valley
  • This is a V-shaped valley or river valley.

Grade vocabulary homework and the fjord story homework.

Park Connections

After students have handed in their worksheets, ask the class if they can imagine why Congress created Kenai Fjords National Park. Pass around the map of Kenai Fjords to help with ideas. Try to generate some of these reasons:

  • There aren’t many fjords in the world, but in the Kenai Fjords National Park there are many great ones.
  • Kenai Fjords National Park can teach us a lot about the past, since they were created by the glaciers expanding during the Ice Age.
  • Kenai Fjords National Park boasts Harding Icefield, which is the largest icefield completely within the United States.
  • Fjords are unique environments and home to many species of animals. By protecting Kenai Fjords National Park we protect the homes of these animals.
  • Natural places provide us with laboratories to study the process of nature. Kenai Fjords National park is one of these great laboratories.



Arête, Bay, Calving, Erosion, Estuary, Fjord, Glacier, Hanging Valley, Horn, Ice
Age, Salinity, Sediment, U-Shaped Valley, V-Shaped Valley

Last updated: March 30, 2018