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Getting to the Core of Climate Change
http://tea.armadaproject.org/activity/leppik/gettingtothecoreofclimatechange_main.html

Mara Carey, Judy Filkins, Karin Leppik, Rolf Tremblay, Teachers Experiencing Antarctica and the Arctic (TEA)

This is a lab about evidence for past climate change as captured in ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica. Students investigate climate changes going back thousands of years by graphing and analyzing ice core data from both Greenland and Antarctica. They use information about natural and human-caused changes in the atmosphere to formulate predictions about Earth's climate.

Activity takes about four to five class periods. Some additional materials are needed for hands-on piece of activity.

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Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Changes in climate is normal but varies over times/ space
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4d
Global warming and especially arctic warming is recorded in natural geological and historic records
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4e
Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5b

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
Other materials addressing:
C) Collecting information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:A) Processes that shape the Earth
Other materials addressing:
A) Processes that shape the Earth.

Benchmarks for Science Literacy
Learn more about the Benchmarks

Scientific investigations usually involve the collection of relevant data, the use of logical reasoning, and the application of imagination in devising hypotheses and explanations to make sense of the collected data.
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The earth's climates have changed in the past, are currently changing, and are expected to change in the future, primarily due to changes in the amount of light reaching places on the earth and the composition of the atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels in the last century has increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which has contributed to Earth's warming.
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Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • The title of the activity is misleading because it really only addresses past climates, the leap to future climates is not well enough supported in this activity and should not be taken.
  • Educator should not be doing the leap from the paleoclimatic data to the future predictions, however, they might ask, "Based on the trends you saw in the past, how would you anticipate the future climate to be at a certain CO2 ppm level".
  • Intro to greenhouse gas dynamics and the different greenhouse gases addressed in this activity should precede this lesson.
  • Analogy of clay layers versus ice layers has to be made very explicit - ideally educator could bring ice cores in straws or orange juice concentrate container can that were made through multiple freezing cycles in the freezer (tip: color the water).
  • Educator needs to explain to students that gases get trapped in bubbles that are enclosed in the ice.
  • Data should be copied into an Excel spreadsheet so that students can work with it.

About the Science

  • Activity uses well-referenced data sets that are ready to be used by students.
  • Educator needs to have a thorough understanding of past climate change as well as to the human impact on global warming since not much background material is given in the activity.
  • If educator wanted to update the activity, more extensive records from more recently retrieved ice cores are available in the scientific literature, but presented data is sufficient for activity.
  • No guidance for educators is given on leading the discussion for the lead and lag of climate change in Antarctica versus Greenland. If a educator doesn't know the "seasaw concept" of ocean circulation, this discussion on synchronicity between Antarctic and Greenland climate signals should be avoided so as to not confuse the students. More info available at http://depts.washington.edu/isolab/papers/SteigAlley.pdf.

About the Pedagogy

  • Uses real data from Greenland and Antarctic ice cores to engage students in the understanding of past climate change and the methods that are used to study it.
  • Well-crafted activity that includes hands-on component (modeling ice cores) as well as data graphing and interpretation and discussion.
  • Multiple assessment strategies available.
  • Introducing the topic by using a physical model of a layered ice sheet is a nice way to introduce the activity.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Some of the links to the reference sites don't work.

Performance Expectations

MS-LS4-1: Analyze and interpret data for patterns in the fossil record that document the existence, diversity, extinction, and change of life forms throughout the history of life on Earth under the assumption that natural laws operate today as in the past

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.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

MS-LS4.A1: The collection of fossils and their placement in chronological order (e.g., through the location of the sedimentary layers in which they are found or through radioactive dating) is known as the fossil record. It documents the existence, diversity, extinction, and change of many life forms throughout the history of life on Earth.

HS-ESS2.A3: The geological record shows that changes to global and regional climate can be caused by interactions among changes in the sun’s energy output or Earth’s orbit, tectonic events, ocean circulation, volcanic activity, glaciers, vegetation, and human activities. These changes can occur on a variety of time scales from sudden (e.g., volcanic ash clouds) to intermediate (ice ages) to very long-term tectonic cycles.

HS-LS4.C4: Changes in the physical environment, whether naturally occurring or human induced, have thus contributed to the expansion of some species, the emergence of new distinct species as populations diverge under different conditions, and the decline–and sometimes the extinction–of some species.

Science and Engineering Practices

MS-P4.1: Construct, analyze, and/or interpret graphical displays of data and/or large data sets to identify linear and nonlinear relationships.

MS-P4.4: Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for phenomena.

MS-P5.1: Use digital tools (e.g., computers) to analyze very large data sets for patterns and trends.

MS-P6.1: Construct an explanation that includes qualitative or quantitative relationships between variables that predict(s) and/or describe(s) phenomena.

MS-P8.1: Critically read scientific texts adapted for classroom use to determine the central ideas and/or obtain scientific and/or technical information to describe patterns in and/or evidence about the natural and designed world(s).

MS-P1.6: Ask questions that can be investigated within the scope of the classroom, outdoor environment, and museums and other public facilities with available resources and, when appropriate, frame a hypothesis based on observations and scientific principles.

HS-P1.3: ask questions to determine relationships, including quantitative relationships, between independent and dependent variables

HS-P3.5: Make directional hypotheses that specify what happens to a dependent variable when an independent variable is manipulated.

HS-P4.4: Compare and contrast various types of data sets (e.g., self-generated, archival) to examine consistency of measurements and observations.

HS-P5.2: Use mathematical, computational, and/or algorithmic representations of phenomena or design solutions to describe and/or support claims and/or explanations.

HS-P6.4: Apply scientific reasoning, theory, and/or models to link evidence to the claims to assess the extent to which the reasoning and data support the explanation or conclusion.

HS-P8.5: Communicate scientific and/or technical information or ideas (e.g. about phenomena and/or the process of development and the design and performance of a proposed process or system) in multiple formats (i.e., orally, graphically, textually, mathematically).

Cross-Cutting Concepts

MS-C4.1: Systems may interact with other systems; they may have sub-systems and be a part of larger complex systems.

MS-C7.1: Explanations of stability and change in natural or designed systems can be constructed by examining the changes over time and forces at different scales, including the atomic scale.

MS-C1.2: Patterns in rates of change and other numerical relationships can provide information about natural and human designed systems

MS-C2.1: Relationships can be classified as causal or correlational, and correlation does not necessarily imply causation.

MS-C3.2: The observed function of natural and designed systems may change with scale.

HS-C1.1: Different patterns may be observed at each of the scales at which a system is studied and can provide evidence for causality in explanations of phenomena

HS-C2.1: Empirical evidence is required to differentiate between cause and correlation and make claims about specific causes and effects.

HS-C7.2: Change and rates of change can be quantified and modeled over very short or very long periods of time. Some system changes are irreversible.

HS-C7.3: Feedback (negative or positive) can stabilize or destabilize a system.


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