MnSTEP Teaching Activity Collection > MnSTEP Activities > Glaciers in Our Own Backyard

Glaciers in Our Own Backyard

Rob Marohn, Bay View Elementary School, Duluth, MN (Proctor School District)
Author Profile


In this lesson students will gain experience in identifying glacial activity in their neighborhood and how those events shape the area. This lesson will involve spending time in the classroom preparing students for what to expect. After a list of possibilities have been compiled, the class will head to the Bay View School Forest where they will examine glacial events. Topics that can be discussed (but are not limited to): erratics, exposure of bedrock basalts, glacial scrapes in bedrock, and evidence of former beachheads of Glacial Lake Duluth.

Learning Goals

Students will become aware that prehistoric events are observable. Students will learn that our landscape has had several dramatic changes over time.

Terms: bedrock, erratics

Context for Use

This project will run over the course of two 45 minute lessons and a 90 minute field experience. Students should be experienced with using the outdoors as a classroom.

Although this project is designed to be used for a specific site, it is highly mobile. It would be up to the instructor to find a walking tour in their own neighborhood that could cover some differing vocabulary terms. The basic format of: presentation/discussion, field experience, and journal share would work for most applications.

Prior to instruction of this lesson, students will have an understanding that our area has been covered with glaciers several times throughout history.

Subject: Geoscience:Geology:Geomorphology
Resource Type: Activities:Field Activity
Special Interest: Field-Based Teaching and Learning
Grade Level: Intermediate (3-5)
Theme: Teach the Earth:Enhancing your Teaching:Teaching in the Field, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Geomorphology

Description and Teaching Materials


Day 1
1. An initial discussion should lead the class through their previous educational experiences with glaciers. Prior to this discussion students will have an understanding that glaciers were very large and slow moving masses of ice.
2. Instruction should then lead to the understanding that we should be able to observe glacial evidence. I would write on the board "In our school forest we can observe today's evidence of glaciers of the past."
3. In their science journals students will prepare a KWOL with this statement at the top.
4. First in small groups, then as a whole class, we will discuss what they already know and what they would hope to learn and what we think we will be able to observe.
Day 2
1. Students will bring their science journals to the field to record their observations.
2. As students locate features, each will be discussed.
3. On our hike the final feature will be the shores of Glacial Lake Duluth. Students will be asked to compose a picture of what sitting on the shores of this lake would look like.
Day 3
1. Students would form into small groups to compare notes from the field experience.
2. Small groups will finish up their KWOL. Each group will be asked to present a quick 5-point summary.
3. Pictures can be shared.

Teaching Notes and Tips

It is helpful on our trips to the field to bring other resources to help students answer questions. Although we are looking at glaciers, students are always curious about plants and animal signs. Also remember a good first aid kit and cell phone.


Students' knowledge will be collectively judged during the final group presentations.

Students journals are also reviewed on a bi-weekly basis.



References and Resources