Lesson 205: Ice, Rock and Water: The Sierra Nevada

California’s Sierra Nevada is the largest and highest mountain range in the continental United States and, until recently, a geological puzzle. The source of colossal wealth in the form of gold and now, water, it was a formidable roadblock to settlement of the state. We visit the range with renowned tectonic specialist Eldridge Moores.

Learning Objective

Students will learn about the Sierra Nevada mountain range and its geology.

Social Studies Standards

People, Places & Environments E, F, G

Discussion Prompts

  • Compare the land, weather, and climate to that of your own home. What factors influence the environment in both places?
  • Describe Mona Lake. What chemical reaction makes the appearance of the lake so unusual looking? What other aspects of the lake are unique?
  • Why is the park service limiting access to the Sequoia tree? Do you agree with this? Do you think it will be effective?
  • What do you think it would be like to walk through the enormous Sequoia tree? How long would you estimate it took before it died and was large enough to walk through?

Lesson Activities

  • Research the Sierra Nevada mountain range and describe the physical characteristics that make it special and unique.
  • Create a 3-way Venn diagram that compares John Muir, Ansel Adams and Josiah Whitney. List their similarities and differences.
  • Write a sales pitch about visiting the Sierra Nevada and the Sequoia groves highlighting the natural beauty.
  • Create a poster or PowerPoint about the landscape and geology of the Sierra Nevada from the perspective of a natural historian.


  • colossal
  • composition
  • ecology
  • eerie
  • disintegrate
  • formidable
  • impervious
  • panorama
  • preserved
  • topography