Lesson Plan

Glacial Detectives

A glacier, gray rock and blue sky.
Exit Glacier, at Kenai Fjords National Park

NPS Photo

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Grade Level:
Third Grade-Fifth Grade
45 - 60 minutes
Group Size:
8 or fewer
National/State Standards:
glaciers, Kenai Fjords National Park, Harding Icefield, lesson plan, alaska


Students will learn basic glacial concepts in preparation for a trip to Exit Glacier or deeper exploration of the site online.


Students will learn about glacial features by examining real photographs from Kenai Fjords National Park. In small groups, students will study photos and learn how glaciers move, how they affect the lands around them, and what clues they leave when they have been in an area.


Teachers need to read the Glaciers (pg 69) and Harding Icefield (pg 73) sections of the Forging Connections resource.

Together as a class, read chapters 3, 4 and 5 of Frozen in Motion.


All of the readings and worksheet can be found in the resource: Forging Connections - An Educational Resource For Kenai Fjords National Park.

  • Lesson plan is found on page 87.
  • "Glaciers" reading is found on page 69.
  • "Harding Icefield" reading is found on page 73.
  • Worksheet is found on page 92. 



At the end of 30 minutes gather the groups together and discuss each of the stations. Students should be able to grasp these concepts in the group discussion:

  • How are glaciers formed
  • Do glaciers move? If so, what causes them to move?
  • What are some signs of movement you may have seen in the photographs?
  • Do glaciers affect the land around them? In what ways?
  • Does the land or do people affect glaciers? In what ways?
  • Are there different kinds of glaciers? Can you say what makes them different?
  • Why do we have a national park with glaciers in it?
  • Do you think there are any history lessons in Kenai Fjords National Park?

Park Connections

To help students understand the concept of national parks spend some discussion time on station 7 and the bonus question. The four reasons we have national parks are:

  1. Conservation—Parks help preserve the animals and the ecosystem that supports them.
  2. Education—So that anyone can visit parks and learn more about the geology, biology, and cultural history that are a part of the park.
  3. Enjoyment—So people can come and just appreciate the beauty and wonders.
  4. Inspiration—Hopefully, once you’ve seen a national park you’ll leave feeling different, perhaps wanting to draw or paint or write. Inspiration is the feeling that drives many artists to create.


For older groups, spend some time talking about the Harding Ice field. What is an icefi eld? How does it form? When did this one form? What conditions make Seward a place where icefields and glaciers can exist? Plan a field trip to Kenai Fjords National Park, or perhaps a distance learning visit? 

Additional Resources

Alaska’s Glaciers: Frozen in Motion by Katherine Hocker, Alaska Geographic, Anchorage, 2005.


Braided Stream, Calving, Cirque, Glacier, Crevasse, Fjord, Glacial Advance, Glacial Recession, Glacier, Iceberg, Icefield, Moraine, Morphology, Outwash Plain, Serac, Striation, Tidewater, Glacier, Valley Glacier.

Last updated: March 30, 2018