My best lesson - The coolest way to bring glaciation to life

27th February 2015 at 00:00

As long as you have a freezer, this lesson is simple to prepare and gives students a great visual representation of how a glacier can change a V-shaped valley into a U-shaped one. It also allows you to get out of the classroom, use technology and bring geography to life in a relatively easy way.

The night before the lesson, I went to the school kitchen with a terrine lined with a layer of small pebbles. I filled the pot with water and left it to freeze overnight. By morning I had the perfect glacier, complete with sediment and crevasses on top.

In a large cooking tray and using some grit provided by the school's estates department (sand also works), I crafted a simple V-shaped valley.

When the glacier was "released" from the terrine I gave the pupils the opportunity to run their hands across the bottom of it. This helped them to realise how rough the base of a glacier really is and how much damage it can do to the landscape.

Next, I slowly moved the glacier down the grit valley from top to bottom. This shows how the abrasion process occurs. The bulldozing motion carves out a U-shaped valley and a terminal moraine build-up is left at the bottom.

Leaving the glacier in the model for a few moments before removing it will leave erratics (pieces of rock that differ from the size and type of rocks native to the area) dotted throughout the newly formed U-shaped valley.

My pupils took photos on their mobile phones throughout the process for a homework task in which they annotated the steps it takes to get from a V-shaped to a U-shaped valley.

Making models is always the best way to show how physical geography processes take place. I know my students find it the most interesting and memorable way to learn.

Tim Parker teaches at the independent Yarm School in Stockton-on-Tees. He tweets at @ParkerGeog

Download the plan for this lesson

Tell us about your best lesson



The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now