Subject area: 
Social Studies, Literacy

Experiences and Outcomes:
Lit 3 – 05a, Lit 3 – 09a,
Soc 3 – 07a, Soc 4 – 07a,
Soc 3 – 14a, Soc 4 – 14a,
Soc 3 – 12a, Soc 4 – 12b

The aim of this lesson is to discover how the Scottish landscape has been shaped.

John Muir was one of the first people to conclude that the major landforms in Yosemite Valley, California were created by glaciers and not a major catastrophic event. During the Ice Age glaciers and ice sheets covered much of Scotland and carved out deep u-shaped valleys with steep sides containing ribbon lakes.

Before you begin ask your class to look through the John Muir graphic novel and read the section The Wild Man Who Changed the World that describes John Muir’s firsthand experience of glaciers.

‘And I was certain now that ancient glaciers really had carved out the Yosemite Valley and the Sierras, like giant ice-cutters. No one else believed this new theory so I went back to my mountains, determined to find proof...

Man: Twaddle! Silly sheep-herder!
Woman: God made the mountains and valleys – not glaciers!

John Muir: These grooves and markings show that rivers of ice gouged out vast paths as they moved through the bedrock. The glaciers of the last Ice Age made this valley!

Man: By Jove, he’s right!’

Show your class this presentation created by Creative Scotland called key glacial features. The slides show photographs of a glacier, an arête, a pyramid peak, a deep u-shaped valley, a corrie and a lochan (or tarn). Explanations can be found about how these features were formed on the information sheet Glacial features explained which you can use as you go through the slides.

Now split your pupils into pairs and provide them with copies of the Discovering Glaciers Pupil Activity Worksheet and ask them to think about the meaning of the word ‘glaciation’ and then get them to write down their own definition of this word on their worksheet.

Answers to ‘Glaciation’ could include:

A glacier is a large, slow-moving river of ice, formed from compacted layers of snow that slowly deforms and flows in response to gravity. The processes and landforms caused by glaciers and related to them are glacial (adjective); this term should not be confounded with glacial (noun), a cold period in the glacial period. The process of glacier growth and establishment is called ‘glaciation’.

Source: Dictionary definition

Write the above answer onto the board and ask your class to amend their answers to fit with the dictionary definition.

Get your pairs of pupils to join together to form a group of four and then give each group a particular glacial feature, instruct them to prepare a presentation that will explain to the rest of the class, how it was formed.

They should discuss together how their feature was formed then allocate a pupil to prepare notes, another to draw supporting illustrations, another to label these illustrations and the remaining pupils in the group to present their findings to the class.

Reflecting on learning

Had learners considered how their natural landscape had been created?

Learners can:

  • Work co-operatively to come up with a consensus on the meaning of “glaciation”
  • Generate a list of glacial features in Scotland
  • Describe how these features are formed

All of the information covered in this section has been provided by Education Scotland.

Further work/useful resources

Research a current glacier that is retreating e.g. the Muir Glacier. Calculate how much it has changed with time. Consider why this is happening and introduce Climate Change. Show this Youtube clip: Yosemite National Park ‘Glaciation’ – John Muir