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Classroom Discussion Activity

Moving Mountains

One paradox of geology is that weathering a mountain down can actually make it rise higher. Scientists have learned of this peculiar feedback process only in recent years, and the St. Elias Erosion/Tectonics Project (STEEP) team is at the forefront of understanding how climate and the movements of Earth’s crust interact to build towering peaks. In this feature video, meet geologists of every stripe collaborating on STEEP in Alaska’s St. Elias Range, one of the most rapidly growing mountain ranges in the world.

Class Discussion

Establish Prior Knowledge
Review with students how mountains form. Discuss some of the factors that cause mountains to erode. Tell students that in the video they are about to see, scientists are collaborating to collect data that will help them understand how weathering and erosion can actually contribute to mountain building.

Before watching the video have students read the synopsis and use the interactive to explore the St. Elias Range. Ask students to take notes while they are watching the video, noting the names of the scientists involved in the project and what kind of data each is collecting. Have students view the Feature. Use the following to guide a class discussion.

  1. What is the St. Elias Erosion/Tectonics Project project investigating?
  2. Why was the St. Elias range chosen for this study?
  3. What tectonic processes cause the uplifting of the St. Elias range?
  4. What weathering processes cause erosion of the St. Elias range?
  5. What kinds of data are each of the following groups collecting?
    • Structural geologists
    • Geophysicists
    • Sedimentologists
    • Glaciologists


Use the following question to wrap up your discussion:
How do scientists think erosion can aid in mountain building?