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Impacts of Topography on Sea Level Change

Lise Whitfield, Bill McMillon, Judy Scotchmoor, Phil Stoffer, DLESE (Digital Library for Earth System Education)

This lesson is comprised of three activities (three class periods). Students use web-based animations to explore the impacts of ice melt and changes to sea level. Students are introduced to topographic maps by doing a hands-on activity to model the contours of an island. Students examine the relationship between topography and sea level change by mapping changing shorelines using a topographic map.

Activity takes three 50-minute class periods. Additional materials are needed for one part of the activity.

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Sea level rise and resulting impacts is due to melting ice and thermal expansion and increases the risk
About Teaching Principle 7
Other materials addressing 7a

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

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.

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 animation of the increased sea level needs directions for use. Also, it should be called an "interactive" not an "animation." Directions for use are as follows: A click and hold will change the sea level when the mouse is moved up and down. Click, hold, and move left to right rotates the globe to view different continents. There is a command on the interactive toolbar that converts the mouse clicks and holds to zoom and lateral movement.
  • Great extension activity in supplement lessons is the one on fresh water availability and how it will be affected by sea level rise and economic impact.
  • Educator should try to discuss the homework from "Activity 3: Mapping Shorelines" to ensure student consideration of the impacts of ice melt and sea level rise. A class discussion may suffice.
  • Activity 3 needs more explicit directions for the worksheet students fill out.
  • The second activity should include safety precautions for working with sharp instruments.
  • Educators should check links and test computer simulation (segment 1) before teaching.

About the Science

  • Activity covers how sea level rise will affect humans, especially fresh water availability and tourism. Students follow multiple exercises that relate to the concept of sea level rise and its impacts.
  • Activity offers great insight on how the landforms will change due to sea level rise.
  • Google Earth offers some animations that can be used to simulate sea level rise http://services.google.com/earth/kmz/changing_sea_level_n.kmz.
  • Comment from the scientist: Sea level rise is a very complex issue, which is heavily based on Earth’s gravity field. The ocean will, therefore, not rise equally in all locations. This should not be the highlight, but may be noted by the educator.

About the Pedagogy

  • Lead-ins to activities are very engaging and well organized.
  • Lesson is active and integrates thoughtful discussion questions.
  • Working in groups and using visualizations and hands-on activities helps to accommodate a variety of learning styles.
  • Contains list of linked resources, which are strong and could be incorporated in the lessons.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The link to the topographic map is filled with ads; bypass these by clicking (again) on "topofinder" tab. You should not need to register for "trails.com" to gain access to topographic maps.
  • List of needed materials is very California-centric (e.g. grocery store names).

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN

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