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PhET Team, University of Colorado at Boulder


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Physics, Earth and Space Sciences, World Languages, Spanish, French, Chinese, Other

Resource Types

  • Interactive Media
  • Lesson Plan
  • Activity - Classroom

Regional Focus

Polar Regions


PDF, Microsoft Word

Glaciers Interactive Simulation


  • In this interactive simulation, students will learn about how certain conditions such as snowfall and temperature impact glaciers. 
  • The simulation is available in many languages. 
  • Teachers can access activities and lessons to go with the simulation. 


  • The simulation will help students understand glacier mass balances and the effects of climate change on glaciers because students can manipulate different parameters to see the effect on the glacier over time.
  • Tools are provided in the animation to measure glacial thickness, glacier velocity, and glacial budget.
  • The simulation is available in 35 languages. To view the simulation in another language, click on the Translations tab in the header.

Additional Prerequisites

  • The activity page has labs, lessons, and activities that go with the simulation, but you must register for a free account to access them.
  • The simulation is not self-explanatory. Teachers will need to practice using the tool before showing students how to use it.
  • The simulation does not work on iPads or phones.
  • Some Mac/OS users may have trouble running the simulation.


  • The simulation has two different levels, introduction and advanced, for middle school and high school students.
  • After working with the simulation, students could write a paragraph explaining what they learned about glaciers from the simulation.
  • Other resources on this topic include this TED-Ed video on natural and artificial glaciers, this Vox video about an important glacier that is disappearing, and this activity on how sea level rise affects polar regions.
This web-based simulator allows students to see how rainfall rate and average sea level temperature can affect the growth of a glacier. These two factors are critical to the development of glaciers. This resource is recommended for teaching.

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • MS-ESS2-1 Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth's materials and the flow of energy that drives this process.
      • MS-ESS2-4 Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth's systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity.
      • HS-ESS2-2 Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.
      • HS-ESS2-5 Plan and conduct an investigation of the properties of water and its effects on Earth materials and surface processes.
  • World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages (ACTFL)
    • Communication: Communicate effectively in more than one language in order to function in a variety of situations and for multiple purposes.
      • 1.2 Interpretive Communication: Learners understand,interpret, and analyze what is heard, read, or viewed on a variety of topics.
    • Connections: Connect with other disciplines and acquire information and diverse perspectives in order to use the language to function in academic and career-related situations.
      • 3.1 Making Connections: Learners build, reinforce, and expand their knowledge of other disciplines while using the language to develop critical thinking and to solve problems creatively.
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