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Real Ice Ages Longer Than Movie Ice Ages



  • Arts & Humanities
  • Science
    --Physical Science
    ----Earth Science
    --Natural History


Grades 2-up

News Content

Clear up some misconceptions that the movie Ice Age 2 might give kids.

Anticipation Guide

Ice Age 2:
The Meltdown

A Synopsis
Manny, Sid, and Diego return in an incredible follow-up adventure to the movie Ice Age. In Ice Age 2, the Ice Age is coming to an end, and the animals are delighting in their new world: a melting paradise of water parks, geysers, and tar pits. But when Manny, Sid, and Diego discover that the miles of melted ice will flood their valley, they must warn everyone and somehow figure out a way to escape the coming deluge.

Before introducing this week's News for KIDS story, ask students to share facts they know about the period of time known as the "Ice Age." Write their statements on a board or chart. For many students, their knowledge of the Ice Age might be limited to what they have seen in the blockbuster movie cartoon Ice Age. They might share information such as

  • Earth was covered with ice.
  • animals that are extinct today -- like the wooly mammoth -- were around during the Ice Age.
  • the Ice Age lasted for many years.
They might not know that there have been several ice ages in Earth's history; or that the lakes they see might have been formed by ice-age glaciers. Those are some of the facts they'll learn from reading this week's New for KIDS feature story.

News Words

Introduce these words from the News Word box on the students' printable page:

wooly mammoth, period, normal,
survive, carved, temperature
Ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences.
  • Our next-door neighbor _____ a bear from a small piece of wood. (carved)
  • In the move Ice Age, Manny is a _____. (Most students will know that Manny is a wooly mammoth; many might also know that he is voiced in the cartoon by Ray Romano, the star of the TV show Everybody Loves Raymond.)
  • Uncle Joe will be staying at our house for a short _____ of time. (period)
  • The lowest _____ ever recorded in Antarctica was 129 degrees below zero. (temperature)
  • Unlike many other animals, camels are well suited to _____ the desert heat. (survive)
  • My _____ bedtime is 9:30. (normal)

Read the News

Click for a printable version of this week's news story Real Ice Ages Longer Than Movie Ice Ages.

Reading the News

You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

* Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

* Students might first read the news story to themselves; then call on individual students to read the news aloud for the class.

* Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write a note in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

More Facts to Share

You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this week's news story.

  • An ice age is a long-term downturn in Earth's temperatures. During this time, the low temperatures cause ice to cover more of Earth.
  • Over the last few million years, there have been many periods when ice covered parts of North America and Europe. Many scientists agree that there have been four major "ice age" periods, and that the last one ended about 10,000 years ago.
  • Ice age eras, also called glacial eras, are separated by periods of millions of years of more moderate climate known as interglacial eras. Earth is in the midst of an interglacial period right now.
  • The most severe ice age probably occurred about 600 to 800 million years ago; at that time, scientists believe that ice nearly reached the equator!
  • Scientists' theories about the ice ages are based on their examination of layers or rock and earth that cover our planet.
  • There is disagreement about the causes for ice ages. Generally, it is believed the causes include the amount of CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere [a reduction in CO2 causes cooling], changes in Earth's orbit, and the movement of the continents.
  • If there were not large landmasses near the North and South Poles we might not have ice ages. That's because earth covered by ice reflects more of sun's light than earth covered by land. Light that is absorbed by land helps keep earth warmer. Light reflected back into space by ice can cause even more cooling and an expansion of ice cover.

Comprehension Check

Revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson; ask students to share what new information they have learned about Earth's past ice ages. Add those facts to the chart begun during the Anticipation phase of the lesson. If any statements made earlier prove to be misconceptions, cross them off the chart.

You might follow-up that activity by asking some of these questions:

Recalling Detail

  • How long does an ice age last? (The length can vary greatly; an ice age can last thousands, or millions, of years.)
  • What is a glacier? (It is a mass or mountain of ice.)
  • How many ice ages has Earth experienced? (Many scientists think Earth has been through four ice ages.)
  • How have glaciers played a role in the formation of some lakes? (Glaciers are very heavy. The weight of them carved holes in Earth. As the glaciers melted, the holes filled with water and became lakes.)

Think About the News

Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students' news page. Also ask,
  • In what ways are the movies Ice Age and Ice Age 2 not an accurate depiction of a true ice age? (Students might offer that the two movies have the same characters in them; that would be impossible during a true ice age because the same animals would not have been around at the start of an ice age and millions of years later at its end. What other thoughtful responses do students present?)
  • If Earth is warming up today and causing ice surfaces to melt, how might that impact people? (Students might offer that melting ice might cause oceans to rise; some people who live along the ocean might lose their homes. What other thoughtful responses do your students offer?)

Follow-Up Activities

Science. Take students on a Virtual Tour of Ice Age Mammals from the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. Meet the giant ground sloth, saber-toothed cat, big-horned bison, and American mastodon. Find more info on the Web site of the Illinois State Museum. Want students to learn more about some other unusual animals of the time? Have them research these species: Coelodonta, Glyptodon, Megaceros, and Smilodon.

Geography. Introduce students to the animated map on the Web site of the Illinois State Museum. (See Note that the abbreviation on the map, kya, is a common scientific abbreviation that stands for "thousand years ago." So the map note 10 kya simply means "10 thousand years ago." Provide students with an outline map of North America [alternate source] and have them color the map to show the amount of land that was covered by ice year-round during the most recent glacial peak about 14 kya (14,000 years ago). If you copy the map on white paper, have students color icy land masses in blue; if you can copy the map onto blue paper, students can use dampened white chalk to color the land regions covered by ice.


Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News questions on the news story page or in the Comprehension Check section.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

National Standards

NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

NS.K-4.2 Physical Science
NS.K-4.4 Earth and Space Science
GRADES 5 - 8
NS.5-8.2 Physical Science
NS.5-8.4 Earth and Space Science
GRADES 9 - 12
NS.9-12.2 Physical Science
NS.9-12.4 Earth and Space Science

NSS-G.K-12.1 The World in Spatial Terms
NSS-G.K-12.2 Places and Regions
NSS-G.K-12.5 Environment and Society

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Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World®
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