Built by Glaciers


Starting with the Block Island National Wildlife Preserve Quarter, students will learn how glaciers create landforms and demonstrate their knowledge in a hands-on way by making a video.

Coin Type(s)

  • Quarter

Coin Program(s)

  • America the Beautiful Quarters


Students will learn how glaciers create landforms and demonstrate their knowledge in a hands-on way by making a video.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Science

Minor/supporting Subject Area Connections

  • Social Studies


  • 9th
  • 10th
  • 11th
  • 12th

Class Time

  • Sessions: Three
  • Session Length: 45-60 minutes
  • Total Length: 121-150 minutes


  • Whole group
  • Small groups
  • Pairs
  • Individual work

Background Knowledge

  • Geography
  • Basic knowledge of Geology (landforms)

Terms and Concepts

  • Quarter
  • Reverse (back)
  • Obverse (front)
  • Glaciers
  • Landforms
  • Geology



  • Make copies of the following:
    • Built by Glaciers Rubric (1 per student)
  • Locate text, media, and web resources about glaciers (see "materials").
  • View example videos (see "materials").

Worksheets and Files

Lesson Steps

Session 1

  1. Display and examine the "Block Island National Wildlife Refuge Quarter" page. Locate this site on a class map. Note its position in relation to your school's location. As background information, explain to the students that the United States Mint began to issue the quarters in the America the Beautiful Quarters® Program in 2010. By the time the program ends in 2021, there will be a total of 56 designs. Each design will focus on a different national site—one from each state, territory, and the District of Columbia.
  2. Tell the students that the front of a coin is called the "obverse" and the back is called the "reverse." Tell students that Block Island National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1973 off the southern coast of Rhode Island. Explain that Block Island was formed by glaciers.
  3. Ask the class for the definition of a glacier. Confirm the definition of a glacier as snow that has compacted over time and turned into a mass of ice that can move across a landscape, changing the shape of the landscape as it moves.
  4. Explain that a moraine is a landform that develops when the debris carried by a glacier is deposited. Tell the class there are different types of moraines:
    1. Lateral moraines are found deposited along the sides of the glacier.
    2. Medial moraines are found at the junction between two glaciers.
    3. Ground moraines are disorganized piles of rocks of various shapes, sizes and of differing rock types.
    4. Terminal moraines are found at the end of a glacier.
  5. Tell the class that Block Island sits on a terminal moraine shaped by glacial till deposits, creating rolling dunes.
  6. Tell the students that they are going to be learning about glaciers and how those glaciers shape landforms and create places like Block Island and then demonstrate their understanding by making a video explaining this process.
  7. Have the class research glaciers. Suggest texts/media from the "materials" section, use classroom textbooks, or have students research on their own.
  8. Distribute the "Built by Glaciers Rubric." Allow students to work in assigned or self-chosen pairs or small groups to complete their project.

Sessions 2 and 3

  1. Have the pairs/groups present their videos to the class.


  • Have students research other natural phenomenon that changes the landscape.
  • Have students provide specific photographic examples of glacial landscapes on Block Island.


Use the rubric to assess whether the students have met the lesson objectives.

Common Core Standards

Discipline: English Language Arts
Domain: Science & Technical Subjects
Grade(s): 9–10
Cluster: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:


  • RST.9-10.7 Translate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text into visual form (e.g., a table or chart) and translate information expressed visually or mathematically (e.g., in an equation) into words.

Discipline: English Language Arts
Domain: Science & Technical Subjects
Grade(s): 11–12
Cluster: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:


  • RST.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

National Standards

Organization: International Society for Technology in Education
Domain: Science and Technology
Cluster: Creative Communicator 

Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.


  • 6a Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
  • 6b Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
  • 6c Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations.
  • 6d Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.