Teach the Earth > Geodesy > Teaching Activities > Glacial Isostatic Adjustment

Glacial Isostatic Adjustment

Aida Awad
Maine East High School
Author Profile

This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Dec 6, 2011


The activity begins with a hands-on lab students design to consider the relationship between increasing masses loaded on a viscous medium. Students then investigate the Antarctic ice sheet and Pleistocene glacial maximums using ArcGIS Explorer. The activity is wrapped up by considering glacial isostatic adjustment of rebound centers in Canada over the past 6000 years. Throughout the activity, students are coached to practice their scientific writing skills with through a series of guiding questions.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications



This activity is designed for use in an introductory level physical geology course for majors or non-majors.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

How the activity is situated in the course

The activity is used during the introduction to climate change.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Learning objectives include:

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students will be required to write discussion sections for each of the three parts of the activity that require synthesis of data and observations. Students will develop visualization skills.

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

To prepare for this activity students should be familiar with basic vocabulary associated with ice age glaciations. In the case of this course, they should have read the chapter on glaciation in Tarbuck & Lutgens, Earth, 8th edition. Their task begins with designing a hands-on lab to investigate the relationship between depressions in a surface caused by adding mass to a compressible medium such as a sponge. Students then use ArcGIS Explorer to investigate the Antarctic ice sheet and the Pleistocene ice sheet. The activity wraps up with students collecting data related to glacial isostatic adjustment in rebound centers around Canada over the past 6,000 years.

Determining whether students have met the goals

The three discussion sections that students write are graded with a rubric that students are given prior to the activity.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Download teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Download ArcGIS Explorer:

See more Teaching Activities »