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Whither Arctic Sea Ice?

Betsy Youngman, Earth Exploration Toolbook Chapter

In this activity students work with real datasets to investigate a real situation regarding disappearing Arctic sea ice. The case study has students working side-by-side with a scientist from the National Snow and Ice Data Center and an Inuit community in Manitoba.

Activity could take a week's class time to do all parts adequately but can be considerably shortened. Requires computer and internet access for each small team of students.

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

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
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A) Processes that shape the Earth.

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

  • Be sure to use the "real scientist" context to hook students.
  • Create small groups of students to work through the activity; each group needs at least one technically advanced student to support others who may struggle.
  • Activity might be a good candidate for a science project or science fair given the scope of the chapter and the time it takes to do it thoroughly.
  • Educator might also be able to "chunk the chapter" and do some as a demo to reduce the overall time required.
  • Educator needs to invest time required to determine extent to which the chapter can be used in class.

About the Science

  • High quality activity with robust science.
  • Lots of links and necessary background information especially on sea ice research for educators and students.

About the Pedagogy

  • The activity provides a hands-on case study that illustrates changes in Arctic sea ice cover and its relationship to surface temperature data. The activity is well-motivated, clearly organized and interesting. It should provide students with a deeper appreciation for ongoing changes in the arctic system and how scientists use a variety of data sources, including remote sensing model reanalysis, etc., to understand these changes. It also provides interesting context on how the changes identified and discussed through this activity may have other repercussions for wildlife and people in the region.
  • Structure of activity involves many detailed steps to access, download, display and analyze data - may be engaging for some students and overwhelm others.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Extensive technical requirements, but all instructions are available and clear, and troubleshooting suggestions are included.
  • Procedure is detailed and requires time and patience to work through it.

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Whither Arctic Sea Ice? --Discussion  

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