Quantitative Skills > Teaching Resources > Activities > Glacial Retreat

Investigation: When will there no longer be glaciers in Glacier National Park?

An Investigation Question activity developed by Carol Ormand, Wittenberg University.

This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection

Resources in this top level collection a) must have scored Exemplary or Very Good in all five review categories, and must also rate as “Exemplary” in at least three of the five categories. The five categories included in the peer review 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 http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Jun 22, 2004


In this activity, students use historical data on the extent of the Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park to estimate when the glacier will melt completely.

Learning Goals

Context for Use

This activity is meant to follow a discussion of glaciers and their effects on alpine landscapes.

Teaching Notes and Tips

For more recent data on the Grinnell Glacier, students can use Google Earth imagery, USGS repeat photographs, or images from the Glaciers of the American West. Integrating data from various sources and deriving quantitative data from imagery can add to the skills students will develop in this exercise.

Teaching Materials

Student handout for Grinnell Glacier investigation (Microsoft Word 31kB Mar17 04)
This exercise also requires glacier imagery, and several sources of imagery are provided in the references section.


The activity report can be completed individually or as a group and should be a summary of the Investigation Question, the process for answering it and what that answer was. The report should be concise (less than 2 pages, typed) and should answer each of the major questions asked in the activity sheet.

References and Resources

Image of the extent of the Grinnell Glacier from 1850 to 1993. Click on the image to view a larger version. Image from the USGS.

Quantiative Skills Addressed

Writing, Problem solving, Models

Geoscience Topics Covered

Climate, cryosphere

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Controlled Vocabulary Terms

Subject: Geoscience:Atmospheric Science:Climate Change, Climate Change:Impacts of climate change, Geoscience:Geology:Geomorphology:Landforms/Processes:Glacial/Periglacial, Geoscience:Hydrology, Environmental Science:Global Change and Climate:Climate Change:Impacts of climate change, Geoscience:Atmospheric Science:Climate Change:Global change modeling, Environmental Science:Global Change and Climate:Climate Change:Global change modeling
Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity, Lab Activity
Special Interest: Quantitative
Grade Level: College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level
Quantitative Skills: Problem Solving, Models and Modeling
Ready for Use: Ready to Use
Earth System Topics: Surface Processes, Climate, Atmosphere, Hydrology
Topics: Hydrosphere/Cryosphere
Theme: Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Environmental Science, Teach the Earth:Teaching Topics:Water, Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:Intro Geoscience, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Atmospheric Science, Teach the Earth:Incorporating Societal Issues:Climate Change, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Geomorphology, Hydrology/Hydrogeology

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