Melting Mountains

By Geraldine Black,2014-05-07 19:28
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Melting Mountains

    Melting Mountains:

    Climate Change and Glaciers

    Ashley Schopieray


In this lesson, students will learn how increases in CO production influence climate change and 2

    increase Earth‟s temperature. They will also gain an understanding of how glaciers are affected by rising temperatures through a case study of Glacier National Park in Montana, USA. A basic

    understanding of climate change and the greenhouse effect would be helpful to students before

    starting this lesson.


Grade Level and Subject: Grades 5-8: Science

Length: 1-2 class periods: Day 1: Warm-up through Activity Two

     Day 2: Activity Three through Wrap-up


    After completing this lesson, students will be able to:

    ? Explain the “greenhouse effect,” where CO comes from and what effect it has on the Earth 2

    ? Explain the effect of increased temperatures on mountaintop glaciers

    ? Describe the effects of increased glacial melting in the mountains

    National Standards Addressed: 1This lesson addresses the following National Science Education Standards:

    ? Content Standard: NS.5-8.4 EARTH AND SPACE SCIENCE

     As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop

    ? Structure of the earth system

    ? Earth’s history

    ? Earth in the solar system


    As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop

    ? Personal health

    ? Populations, resources, and environments

     1 Education World (2008) U.S. National Education Standards. Retrieved February 12, 2009, from

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    ? Natural Hazards

    ? Risks and benefits

    ? Science and technology in society

    ? Content Standard: NL-ENG.K-12.1 READING FOR PERSPECTIVE

    ? Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of

    texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to

    acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the

    workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction,

    classic and contemporary works.

Materials Needed:

    ? A hat, scarf, jacket, sweatpants, blanket, and gloves for each group of 4-6 students. Ask

    students to bring some in from home.

    ? Whiteboard, chalkboard, flipchart, etc. and markers

    ? Overhead projector or equivalent

    ? Access to a computer that can project onto a screen

    ? Reproducible #1- Earth as a Greenhouse

     Emission Cards ? Reproducible #2- CO2

    ? Reproducible#3- “Melting Away” Article

    ? Reproducible #4- “Melting Away” Reflection Questions

Assessment: Students will be assessed through the following activities:

    ? Participation in class discussion and group work

    ? Completion of Reproducible #4- “Melting Away” Reflection Questions


Relevant Vocabulary:

    ? Glacier: a large body of ice slowly flowing over the landscape.

    ? Global Climate Change: current increase in the earth‟s temperature due to human-caused

    pollution and an increase in the greenhouse effect.

    ? Carbon Dioxide: A molecule made from 1 carbon and 2 oxygen atoms. Carbon Dioxide

    (CO) is a greenhouse gas, helping to block the sun‟s rays from leaving the atmosphere. 2

    ? Greenhouse Effect: Earth‟s natural process for keeping warm by trapping the sun‟s rays in

    the atmosphere.

    ? Greenhouse Gas: Gases that add to the greenhouse effect by increasing the ability of

    earth‟s atmosphere to trap the sun‟s rays.


    The greenhouse effect helps to keep the Earth warm by using carbon dioxide to trap the sun‟s rays

    inside the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is produced naturally by Earth to keep its temperature in

    balance, but recent human actions, such as industry, automobiles, and deforestation, have increased

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     being added into the atmosphere. This has caused the Earth‟s temperature to the amount of CO2

    increase, as the extra CO allows more heat to be trapped, which in turn has caused many other 2

    changes to the Earth.

For instance, rising temperatures have begun to melt the glaciers and ice caps of the world. This is

    important because glaciers and ice caps are a huge source for fresh water, making them an important

    natural resource. Glaciers in the western United States are melting earlier in the spring than usual,

    making it hard for dams to catch all the water, and the excess flows out into the ocean to become

    salt water. This also contributes to rising sea-levels, changes to oceanic temperatures and disruption

    of ocean current patterns.


    ? Information on greenhouse gases:

    ? Information on global climate change:


    ? Greenhouse effect: ? Basics on climate change: ? Link to article in Reproducible #3:

    ? Slideshow of glaciers melting at Glacier National Park:



Warm Up: Thinking about CO 2

    1. Start the lesson by dividing a chalkboard, whiteboard, flipchart, etc. into two columns.

    2. Label one side of the column with what do we know about CO? and ask students to tell 2

    you what they already know about the molecule (for example, it stands for Carbon Dioxide, we

    exhale CO,trees and plants convert CO to Oxygen, it is a greenhouse gas, etc.) 22

    3. When students are done, label the other side of the chart what do we NOT know about

    CO? and have them ask questions they have about CO (for example, is CO good or bad? 222

    Where does CO come from? What is a greenhouse gas and why is it called that? Etc.) 2

    4. Tell students to keep the chart in mind as they work through the lesson

Activity One: What makes the Earth sweat?

    1. Talk with students about the Greenhouse Effect and how it works. Explain that it is Earth‟s

    natural process of keeping warm, and that CO in the atmosphere helps to form a blanket 2

    around the earth so that all living things can survive. This effect allows for life to exist on

    Earth; otherwise, Earth would have no protection from the coldness of outer space. This is

    similar to how the glass of a greenhouse allows sunlight to enter but helps hold it in, keeping

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    the inside air warmer than the outside air. Put Reproducible #1- Earth as a Greenhouse

    on the overhead and discuss with students.

2. Break students into small groups of about 4-6. Have one student from each group volunteer

    to be “Earth.” Let them know that they will have to be dressed up in layers of clothing, so

    choose a student who is comfortable with this. Ensure that each group has a scarf, hat,

    jacket, sweatpants, gloves, and a blanket. (Note- this could be done as a whole class with only one

    student being the “earth”).

     Emission Cards, have a student pick a card out of the deck 3. Using Reproducible #2- CO2

    and read what it says. Have groups follow the directions as listed on the card for which layer

    of clothing to add to “Earth.

    4. Continue with the next card until all cards have been chosen and the “Earth” is covered in


5. Discuss with students how adding layers to their classmate was a representation of adding

    CO to Earth‟s atmosphere. Explain that the greenhouse effect is natural on Earth and 2

    needed to support life, just as we need a couple of layers of clothing to stay warm, but too

    much warmth can be a bad thing. Mention that the Earth‟s temperature has historically

    fluctuated, but it is the rate at which its temperature is currently warming that is an issue.

    Have students think about what happens when they have too many layers on (they sweat).

    The same process happens with the Earth, but the Earth sweats by melting glaciers!

    Activity Two: Thinking about Glaciers

    1. Introduce the concept of glaciers to students to prepare them for the next day‟s lesson. Ask

    questions such as:

    a) What do you already know about glaciers?

    b) Have you ever seen or been to a glacier?

    c) What types of animals and vegetation use glaciers as a habitat?

    d) Where are glaciers located?

    e) How do glaciers help to form landscapes?

    Activity Three: Melting Mountains in Glacier National Park 1. On day two, introduce students to Glacier National Park. (Located in Montana, shares a border thwith Canada, part of US Parks System, designated in 1910 as the 10 national park, preserved federal

    land because of its beauty and importance as a resource and ecosystem). Point out Montana on a map

    and discuss how near or far it is to your school. Have you or any of your students been to

    Glacier National Park? Have them share their impressions and experiences.

    2. Access the slideshow “Glaciers Before and After” to view glaciers melting at Glacier

    National Park:


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    3. As you are going through the slide show with students, talk with them about how much the

    glaciers have shrunk and why that is a problem (Glaciers are a top fresh water resource, and they

    melt each spring to replenish our water supply. However, with rising temperatures they are melting faster and

    earlier, making it harder to contain all that water in our dams; therefore a lot of it flows into the ocean. This

    interferes with sea levels and ocean currents. Glaciers also provide habitats for animals, help to regulate

    Earth’s temperature, are important to the water cycle etc.)

    4. Ask students how they think the ocean is affected by the extra water flowing into it from

    glaciers? What types of problems does this cause? (Water from glaciers increases sea levels in the

    ocean and many coastal areas are already under water. Sea levels will continue to rise and destroy coastal

    areas as more water flows into the ocean).

    Reading About Climate Change Activity Three:

    1. Either as a class or individually, have students read Reproducible #3- “Melting Away”

    2. When finished, have students break into groups and discuss the reflection questions on

    Reproducible #4- “Melting Away” Reflection Questions.

    3. Bring the class all together and have them share what they discussed in their groups.

Wrap Up: Connecting CO Production and Water Resources 2

    1. Ask students the following questions to ensure understanding of the main concepts:

    a. What does CO do for the Earth? Is this a natural process? How do humans 2

    contribute to this process, and what are the repercussions?

    b. How are glaciers affected by adding CO into the atmosphere? Why is this 2


    2. Have them look at the side of the flip chart where they asked questions about CO - have 2

    those questions been answered?

Extension: Measuring Your Carbon Footprint

    Have students visit the interactive measuring tool at

    to determine how much CO they produce and what they can do to reduce their impact. Ask them 2

    to come up with some goals for how they are going to reduce their emissions, and have them write

    out a plan for how they are going to accomplish those goals.


At the end of this lesson, students should be able to explain the “greenhouse effect” and what role

    CO plays in the process. They should also be able to explain where CO comes from, how humans 22are affecting the process, and how warmer temperatures are having an effect on glaciers.

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    Earth as a Greenhouse

    Source: Accessed February 12, 2009

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You Bought Some You Turned On the Heat You Bought a New

    Groceries at a in Your House Video Game that You’ve

    Supermarket Always Wanted

    Add a scarf to “Earth” Add a jacket or heavy Add a hat to “Earth”

     sweater to “Earth”

    12% of total greenhouse The average household Anything you buy from a gases come from growing produced 12.4 tons of store took energy, and the and shipping food. carbon dioxide from release of CO

    , to produce household operations in 2

    it and get it there. 2003.

    A Parent Drove You to You Are a Citizen of the School United States You Walk into an Air Conditioned Store Add sweat pants to Wrap “Earth” in a warm “Earth” blanket Add gloves to “Earth”

     The average household The United States emits

    produced 11.7 tons of about 25% of the Earth‟s emissions still occur in CO2carbon dioxide from total COour daily lives, even if we

    automobile emissions in aren‟t the ones directly . 22003. emitting them. Source: Hinkle Charitable Foundation. How Do We Contribute Individually to Global Warming? Retrieved February

    11, 2009 from

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Melting Away

    Temperatures are rising worldwide. That's causing weather to change. It is also affecting


    Glacier National Park in Montana is a place of beauty. It has towering cliffs, jagged ridges, and

    deep valleys. All these features were made by ice.

    That's right: Ice carved the rocks. Of course, small pieces of ice could not do all that. But giant

    ice sheets could and did. Ice still covers some parts of the park.


    Ice sheets form when more snow falls in winter than can melt in summer. Year after year, the

    snow piles up. Huge mounds cover the land. The bottom layers of snow slowly turn into ice.

    When the ice grows heavy enough, it starts to move downhill. That's when a sheet of ice

    becomes a glacier. People often describe glaciers as "rivers of ice." Some glaciers were once

    more than a mile thick. Only the highest mountains poked through the giant ice sheets.

    This has been happening at Glacier National Park for millions of years. Glaciers have slowly

    moved across the land, changing the landscape. They plowed away the soil. They ground down

    mountains. They carved out valleys.

    Glaciers don't last forever, though. If the weather heats up, they melt. That happened at Glacier

    National Park about ten thousand years ago. And it is happening again today.


    Today, 26 glaciers cover parts of the park. Those glaciers are still changing the land.

    The park's glaciers, however, are in danger of melting away. Take Grinnell Glacier, for instance.

    It's the most famous one in the park.

    In 1910, Grinnell Glacier covered almost 440 acres. By 1931, it had shrunk to 290 acres. In 1998,

    only 180 acres remained. Water from the glacier has formed a new lake in the park.

    At this rate, the once mighty Grinnell Glacier could soon vanish completely. So could the park's

    25 other glaciers.


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Why is Grinnell Glacier wasting away? It's simple: The park is getting warmer. Since 1910, the

    average summer temperature there has risen more than three degrees Fahrenheit (F).

    The park isn't the only place that's warming up. Most scientists agree that the rest of Earth is

    slowly warming up too.

    The rising surface temperature is called global warming. Since 1850, Earth has warmed by about one degree F. Some places, such as Glacier National Park, have warmed up more. Some

    have warmed up less.


    One degree may seem small. But it is causing big changes worldwide. In the Antarctic and Arctic,

    sea ice is melting. The meltdown forms clouds that can make more snowfall than usual. More

    snow can harm wildlife.

    Penguins in Antarctica are having a hard time finding a place to lay eggs. They normally lay

    eggs on dry ground in the spring. But more snow is falling today. The penguins have to lay their

    eggs in the snow. When the snow melts, the water rots many of the eggs. That's causing the

    number of penguins to drop.


    Earth's warmer areas are also affected. Tiny animals called coral polyps build huge reefs in

    warm ocean water. Reefs come in many different colors. Fish dart around the reefs. Lots of other

    creatures call coral reefs home. But many coral reefs are in trouble.

    Because of global warming, ocean water is heating up. If the water near a reef gets too warm, the

    polyps die. Then the once colorful reef turns white. When a reef dies, fish and other creatures

    have to find new homes, or they die too.


    No one is sure what is causing the worldwide warm-up. Most scientists blame some gases in

    Earth's atmosphere. They point to one gas in particularcarbon dioxide. That gas keeps our planet warm by trapping heat from the sun. If there isn't enough of the gas,

    temperatures go down. If too much of the gas builds up, temperatures rise.

    Many things make carbon dioxide. For example, erupting volcanoes make it. Cars, trucks,

    factories, and power plants also make it. All these things combined may be causing the gas to

    build up in Earth's atmosphere.

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Some scientists blame the sun. They say its temperature can change. Right now, it is warming.

    This also happened 1,000 to 500 years ago. Then the sun cooled. Now the sun and Earth are

    warming again.


    If the warming continues, glaciers in Glacier National Park will continue to melt. Of course, the

    park will still be there. Only the glaciers will be gone.

    The melting glaciers could push wildlife out of the area. Grizzly bears are one example. They

    often move into the park's meadows to eat berries and other favorite snack foods.

    Huge avalanches make the meadows. An avalanche happens when lots of snow suddenly

    crashes down a mountainside. The crashing snow tears down trees, giving berry bushes a place

    to grow. Without avalanches, there will be fewer berries. That means fewer bears. And bears are

    just one of the many animals affected by global warming.

    The warming trend could affect many plants and animals because it is happening very fast. Some

    plants and animals might have to find new homes. Others might die out, or become extinct. To

    survive, they will all have to find ways to beat the heat.

    Article by Glen Phelan. Online Extra and Links by Brian LaFleur. "Melting Away" appears on

    pages 4-9 of the January-February 2005 issue. Accessed February 11, 2009 from

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