Google Earth Tours of Glacier Change

Mauri Pelto
Nichols College
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  1. This activity has been selected for inclusion in the CLEAN collection.

    This activity has been extensively reviewed for inclusion in the Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network's collection of educational resources. For information the process and the collection, see

  2. This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

    This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

    • Scientific Accuracy
    • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
    • Pedagogic Effectiveness
    • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
    • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

    For more information about the peer review process itself, please see

This page first made public: Nov 27, 2007


A detailed Google Earth tour of glacier change over the last 50 years is given in class as an introduction. Students are then asked to select from a group of glaciers and create their own Google Earth tour exploring key characteristics and evident changes in that glacier.

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This activity part of an introductory-level required environmental geology course. The tours of glaciers uploaded here also provide a great means to illustrate glacier changes due to climate change. However, this is best learned by the students exploring a glacier for themselves.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students must be able to look at glaciers in Google Earth and understand what they are seeing. This is covered in the lecture section and can be reinforced in lab.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is about a third of the way through the semester, after students are already practiced in general use of Google Earth.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

To have the students make their own observations and identify the consequences of climate change on an alpine glacier, not to just read about it.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

The students will need to be able to visually analyze the geographic characteristics of glaciers and glacial landforms. This means understanding the basic behavior of a glacier. For example, students need to be able to visually identify what would cause an increase or decrease in crevassing in a particular area.

Other skills goals for this activity

To learn how to utilize Google Earth to both learn from and teach with.

Description of the activity/assignment

To prepare for this assignment students have already used Google Earth to examine beach erosion, but they have not yet created any new content with Google Earth. Students are already competent navigators and are accustomed to the perspective views used in Google Earth. In this assignment students first go through a prepared Google Earth tour on Juneau Icefield glaciers, and answer questions about glacier features. Then students create their own Google Earth tour, using placemarks to identify key features of their glacier.

Determining whether students have met the goals

1) That technically they put together the Google Earth file correctly
2) I examine the accuracy of their interpretation.
3) I determine the level of insight that their placemarks offer.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Juneau Icefield material description:
North Cascade Glacier Background data

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