Lesson Plan

Those Fabulous Fjords!

Enormous tidewater glacier, with a piece of glacier calving, or falling, into the ocean.
Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Lesson Duration:
90 Minutes
Additional Standards:
National Standards: Science A 1, C 4, F 2-4;
Geography 1-4, 7,8, 17
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts.

Essential Question

What is a fjord? Where and why do they occur?


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



Teacher Resource Guide

Download Teacher Resource Guide


Collect the fjord story assignment. Review the KWL chart and determine what students have learned. Ask for volunteers to read their story to the class.
As a class, go through the vocabulary list and have students volunteer their answers.

Using your vocabulary sheet and what you now know about fjords, write a story that takes place in a fjord. Be as creative as you like but be sure to use every vocabulary word in the story. (Note: Let the students know they will have several days to complete this homework assignment. Ideally, if the lesson plan begins on a Monday and you assign this homework on a Tuesday, they would have until the following Monday to complete the assignment.)
Begin the class session by breaking students up into small groups. Use the number of maps (6-8 maps, one group per map) to determine the number of groups.

Ask the groups to look at their maps for a few minutes and find the fjords on each of the maps. Have students look for the word ‘fjord,’ and after they get a feel for what a fjord is see if they can point them out from map to map.

Pass out the Finding Fjords worksheet and have students complete the map portion of the assignment in class. Give the groups about 5 minutes with each map and then have all the groups move at once to the next map table.

After the groups have completed the map section of the worksheet bring the group together and go through the questions. Have groups share their answers and discuss any topics that are unclear. This discussion should focus on the location of fjords (found in northern and southern hemispheres, found in coastal regions, found in mountainous regions, not found near equator), the features of fjords (long narrow inlets, often have islands associated with them, deep water compared to nearby bays) the climate in fjord locations can also be brought up (areas of heavy precipitation, areas that don’t have extremely hot summers.)
During the next class period have the same groups spend their time examining the available photographs from the "Materials" section, above.

Give the student groups about 5-8 minutes with each photograph. Ask them to use what they’ve learned about fjords so far to answer questions about the pictures.

Spend the following day reviewing the photograph section of the worksheet. Remind students that their fjord stories are due on the next classroom day. If there is still time at the end of this day, allow them time to work on the stories.

Collect the fjord story assignment. Review the KWL chart and determine what students have learned. Ask for volunteers to read their story to the class.



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

Assessment Materials

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.


Additional Resources

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.

Contact Information

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Last updated: March 8, 2019