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Exploring Polar Oceanography

Alan Sills, PBS

This activity utilizes labs, online resources, and student ideas to build an understanding of polar climates, how changes in polar oceans can affect coastal climates, and how changes in polar regions affect climates elsewhere on Earth.

Activity takes four to five 45-minute lesson periods. Computer with internet access required.

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Ocean as climate control, oceanic conveyor belt; abrupt changes in thermohaline circulation
About Teaching Principle 2
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Climate is complex
About Teaching Climate Literacy
Other materials addressing Climate is complex

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.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:B) Changes in matter
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B) Changes in matter.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:C) Energy
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C) Energy.

Benchmarks for Science Literacy
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Thermal energy carried by ocean currents has a strong influence on climates around the world. Areas near oceans tend to have more moderate temperatures than they would if they were farther inland but at the same latitude because water in the oceans can hold a large amount of thermal energy.
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Transfer of thermal energy between the atmosphere and the land or oceans produces temperature gradients in the atmosphere and the oceans. Regions at different temperatures rise or sink or mix, resulting in winds and ocean currents. These winds and ocean currents, which are also affected by the earth's rotation and the shape of the land, carry thermal energy from warm to cool areas.
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Climatic conditions result from latitude, altitude, and from the position of mountain ranges, oceans, and lakes. Dynamic processes such as cloud formation, ocean currents, and atmospheric circulation patterns influence climates as well.
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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

  • Consider adding one of the excellent extension activities as a final performance assessment.
  • One of the worksheets has a data link for 2009 data but worksheet says 2007 data.
  • There are a few International Polar Year references that should be hyperlinked to the IPY website http://ipy.arcticportal.org/
  • Teachers are referred to http://www.worldclimate.com more data.

About the Science

  • Students analyze data related to polar climate and polar climate change.
  • Students conduct two experiments to learn about convection and density currents.
  • Many high-quality references and extension activities provided.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • Lesson effectively builds student understanding, beginning with an opportunity for students to write about their background knowledge about polar climates.
  • Good balance between writing, discussion, and hands-on activities.
  • Teacher keys and suggested answers are provided for much of the lesson.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Good data resources, easy to access, and well-integrated with the rest of the learning experiences.
  • Labs will take time to prepare but are well-designed with pictures for students to reference.

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

Also see Educapoles from the International Polar Foundation: http://www.educapoles.org/

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