Rapid changes in Greenland outlet glaciers

Leigh Stearns
University of Maine / Climate Change Institute
Author Profile

I've designed a website to educate students and teachers about how glaciers flow, how they are changing, and why these changes are important to us.
Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications



This sequence of activities is probably best used in middle and high school science classes, or undergraduate courses on Earth system processes. There is a fair amount of data embedded in the website that can be used for more advanced analysis as well.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered:

Students should be able to do basic unit conversions. Students should also know some basic facts about glaciers (where they are found, that they flow downhill, etc.) before the lesson begins.

How the activity is situated in the course:

This website is a culmination of different activities that I have used to teach students about glaciers. The lessons can be used as stand-alone project sets, or the data can be used as the basis for a larger research project.

National or State Education Standards addressed by this activity?:

I am not quite sure, sorry.


Content/concepts goals for this activity:

Glaciers can undergo rapid changes in the way that they flow. These rapid changes can affect other Earth systems (e.g. ocean dynamics, radiation balance, global sea level).

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity:

These activities rely on real data, derived from satellite imagery. Students will get the opportunity to analyze data and work with satellite imagery.

Other skills goals for this activity:

I have provided sample worksheets, discussion questions, and reference articles for each of the lesson plans posted on this website. Teachers can choose how much of the lesson they want to use, but there are plenty of opportunities for further research and writing projects.

Description of the activity/assignment

Several outlet glaciers in Greenland are undergoing large changes in flow dynamics. These changes are more rapid and extensive than scientists anticipated. The aim of this lab exercise is to educate students about changes in Greenland glaciers: why do rapid changes occur, and how do scientists measure these changes? To address these questions, we have developed a website containing satellite images, raw data and worksheet exercises.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Evaluation is based on worksheet exercises and assessing student understanding through discussions.

Download teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs