Lesson 904: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park: Wilderness of Ice, Salmon, and Human History

It’s our largest national park—larger than New England–and one-third of it is ice. One glacier is 137 miles long. The park contains active volcanoes. Its rivers of icemelt are home to salmon runs that have supported native peoples for thousands of years. Yet the glaciers are melting, and forests are drying. The park has become an enormously important natural laboratory.

Learning Objective

Students will learn about Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska that is internationally known for its glaciers as well as its natural beauty.

Social Studies Standards

Time, Continuity, & Change: B, F

Discussion Prompts

  • When speaking of the rapid glacier melting, David Yetman states, “My recommendation is that you come and see them while you can.” How do you predict this area will change in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years? Do you think there will be a time in the future when the glaciers are completely gone?
  • Why do residents catch and release select salmon? What is the purpose of this and the laws that limit fishing. In what ways do you or people in your community protect the resources in your area through limited use? Do you believe that you should be looking out for future generations when making decisions?
  • What is the benefit of viewing the glaciers from plane rather than on the ground? How does the perspective change what you see?
  • You have met someone on an elevator who states that climate change is a myth. You have five floors to convince them otherwise. What would you say to this person, using the glaciers at Wrangell-St. Elias as an argument to demonstrate the long term trend of climate change.

Lesson Activities

  • Create a visitor’s guide for Wrangell-St. Elias National Park that features its full range of natural beauty. Highlight the elements that make it unique and special among national parks.
  • You are a naturalist in Alaska and have been asked to come up with a new method for catching salmon keeping in mind what you know from the video. Create a labeled drawing with notes.
  • Wrangell-St. Elias is the home to over 3,000 glaciers. Write a public speech announcement that is at least one page long and describes the glaciers, why they are important and how they’ve been affected by climate change.
  • Write a script or informercial about what life is like in this area of Alaska with the goal of bringing more tourism to the area. Showcase at least ten reasons why visitors will want to book their next vacation to Wrangell-St. Elias.


  • accessible
  • diorama
  • glacier
  • ingenious
  • retreated
  • stupendous
  • terminal
  • trend
  • unmatched
  • veneer


In the Americas Season 9 Lesson Episode 4