Earth Science Lab: Digital Glacier Lab

I am a huge fan of the Phet lab simulations.  I find that they are a great way to model real world situations and give students the ability to explore areas such as those with glaciers, digitally since it is virtually impossible for teachers to take such awesome field trips.  This lab is a compilation of other labs that I have found both on Phet and around the internet.  This Earth Science lab also allows students to use Google to find information about about glacial landforms and how they deposit their sediments.

Phet Glacier Science Lab

Materials required:

  • Access to the internet and computers.
  • The Phet lab is Java based so make sure your class computers can handle it before trying this lab.

Time to take for the lab:

  • This lab took about two days and spilled over into a third day, which was fine because on the third day while students who were not finished with the lab continued to work, those that had finished early watched the documentary, "Chasing Ice" which is really good video about filmers that recorded glaciers retreating over three years.  They also got to see and record the largest glacial calving event every recorded.  Very interesting and highly recommended.  There is one "F" word in the film, but I know where it is at and just skip one minute of the film.

Lab procedures:

  • I first discussed glaciers on day one.  What are they, what students might already know about them.  In fact I discoverd that most of my students did not know the difference between glaciers and icebergs.  I discussed with them the formation process of glaciers, types of glaciers (alpine and continental), and showed satellite images of glaciers.
  • Once I was satified that my students had a basic understanding of glaciers, gave them this link.  http://tinyurl.com/PhetGlacier .  This is the link to a shared Google document that has the lab instructions, lab worksheet, and directions.  Students were then able to create a copy of the document and share it back with me, so that I could grade their work later.
  • I did let me students partner up for this assigment.  I gave them instructions that they could divide and conquer the Google research section, but that they were to work on the lab portion of the assignment together.  One of them with a computer opened to the Google doc and the other one opened to the Phet lab, whose link is also found on the Google doc.
  • The instruction on the document are pretty self explanitory and very step by step, so as a teacher this allowed me to move around and give feedback or help where needed.

Teacher Reflection:

  • The lab went very well.  My students were able to understand the concept and for the most part work independently or together.  Like many science labs and other school activities, I did have some students who let their partner do most of the work.  I am still debating whether it was any better to let them work in partnerships or to have them do it themselves next year.

If you have any comments or would like to help make this lab better, then please register for an EducationalResource.org account for free.  There are many other shared resources for teachers.