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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
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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.

Benchmarks for Science Literacy
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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

  • 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.

Performance Expectations

MS-ESS3-5: Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.

HS-ESS3-5: Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth systems.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

MS-ESS2.D1: Weather and climate are influenced by interactions involving sunlight, the ocean, the atmosphere, ice, landforms, and living things. These interactions vary with latitude, altitude, and local and regional geography, all of which can affect oceanic and atmospheric flow patterns.

HS-ESS2.D1: The foundation for Earth’s global climate systems is the electromagnetic radiation from the sun, as well as its reflection, absorption, storage, and redistribution among the atmosphere, ocean, and land systems, and this energy’s re-radiation into space.

Science and Engineering Practices

MS-P3.2: Conduct an investigation and/or evaluate and/or revise the experimental design to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence that meet the goals of the investigation

MS-P4.2: Use graphical displays (e.g., maps, charts, graphs, and/or tables) of large data sets to identify temporal and spatial relationships.

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

MS-P6.3: Construct a scientific explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from sources (including the students’ own experiments) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

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-P1.6: Ask questions that can be investigated within the scope of the school laboratory, research facilities, or field (e.g., outdoor environment) with available resources and, when appropriate, frame a hypothesis based on a model or theory.

HS-P2.6: Develop and/or use a model (including mathematical and computational) to generate data to support explanations, predict phenomena, analyze systems, and/or solve problems.

HS-P3.2: Plan and conduct an investigation individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, and in the design: decide on types, how much, and accuracy of data needed to produce reliable measurements and consider limitations on the precision of the data (e.g., number of trials, cost, risk, time), and refine the design accordingly.

HS-P4.1: Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution.

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-P6.2: Construct and revise an explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from a variety of sources (including students’ own investigations, models, theories, simulations, peer review) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

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-C4.2: Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy, matter, and information flows within systems.

MS-C5.2: Within a natural or designed system, the transfer of energy drives the motion and/or cycling of matter.

MS-C7.4: Systems in dynamic equilibrium are stable due to a balance of feedback mechanisms.

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

MS-C1.4: Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data.

MS-C2.2: Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

MS-C3.4: Scientific relationships can be represented through the use of algebraic expressions and equations.

HS-C1.4: Mathematical representations are needed to identify some patterns.

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

HS-C3.5: Algebraic thinking is used to examine scientific data and predict the effect of a change in one variable on another (e.g., linear growth vs. exponential growth).

HS-C4.2: When investigating or describing a system, the boundaries and initial conditions of the system need to be defined and their inputs and outputs analyzed and described using models.

HS-C5.4: Energy drives the cycling of matter within and between systems.

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

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