Demonstration of Effects of Glaciers
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Grade: 4th - 12th grades
Class: Science
Author: Ginger Storey-Welch
Colton-Pierrepont Central School
NYS Content Area Standard:
Math, Science & Technology:
Standard 4: Science
NYS Interdisciplinary Standard:
Adirondack Curriculum Content Area:
Natural History
Keywords: glacier
The Challenge:
Investigative Question or Issue: What effects did glaciers have on the Adirondack Mountains?

This challenge was written for 4th graders - it can easily be adapted to higher grade levels.

The Challenge:

Working cooperatively in a small group of 4 students, and using the ideas illustrated on your "What three things did glaciers do?" concept map (Teacher version, Blank version), you will demonstrate the effects of glaciers in the sandbox.  Then you will draw a picture of the mountains, both before and after the glaciers were there. 

  • Begin by burying in sand three large (approximately 7-8 inches across) rocks, creating a high mountain range with high pointed peaks that will stand for the ancient Adirondacks when they were young.  The rocks should be buried deep in the mountains, so that they are the "roots" of these ancient mountains.  Using your compass, lay fist-sized rocks and pebble sized rocks north of the mountain range. 
  • Your hands will be the glaciers.  Keep in mind that your "glacier hands" will be moving in "fast motion."  Keep in mind that the actual effects of glaciers occurred over thousands of years.  Also, keep in mind that glaciers did not fly----they only moved across land!
  • 1. Slide your "glacier hands" over the land.  Pick up "glacial erratics" (fist sized rocks that stand for big boulders) and "glacial till" (pebbles that stand for smaller rocks) and "deposit" (leave) them somewhere south.
  • 2. Using your hands, erode the tops of the mountain peaks, rounding them and exposing the bare "bedrock" that was once the roots of your original mountains.  Notice how the soil is thinner.  The mountains will be much lower than before.
  • 3. Carve lakes and U-shaped valleys.
  • 4. Push your hand over the land like a bulldozer and stop.  Imagine that your glacier has melted and lift your hand and see the moraine left behind where your glacier stopped.
  • Once your group has practiced these ideas, decide who will do and explain each of the 4 steps above.  Call the teacher to your group and perform your demonstration.
  • Folding a large piece of poster paper in half, illustrate the Adirondack Mountains when they were young, much higher, and pointed on left side of the paper.  Then illustrate the Adirondack Mountains after the glaciers had been there on the right side of the paper.  These mountains should be rounded, show some bare rock, and be much lower than the original mountains.  (The original mountains were 4-5 miles higher than the present mountains.)
Quality Standards:

Work cooperatively, staying on task.

Create a scene that shows the high, pointed, young Adirondack Mountains from ancient times.

Use hands to move as glaciers, staying on the land and moving north to south.

Each student demonstrates and explains one of the following, using "glacier hands":

  • How glaciers deposited (left) glacial erratics and till behind
  • How glaciers eroded mountain tops so they are rounded, the soil is thin, and the roots of the ancient mountains are now visible on the top of the mountain
  • How glaciers carved lakes and U-shaped valleys
  • How glaciers left moraines where they stopped

Illustrate the ancient Adirondack Mountains with high, pointed tops and the present Adirondack Mountains with lower, rounded, eroded tops.

Product Quality Checklist
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Standard/Criteria: Points Possible: Points Awarded:

Worked cooperatively with group and stayed on task

Created a scene that shows the high, pointed young ADK mtns.

Used hands to move glaciers

Demonstrated one of the following:

  • How glaciers deposited glacial erratics and till
  • How glaciers eroded mountain tops
  • How glaciers carved lakes and U-shaped valleys
  • How glaciers left moraines where they sto

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