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What if the Ice Shelves Melted?

LuAnn Dahlman, ANDRILL

This activity is a hands-on guided inquiry activity designed to highlight the role of an ice shelf on slowing the movement of continental ice sheets in Antarctica. Students build a model of Antarctica and both continental glaciers and ice shelves using paper models of the land and slime for glaciers and ice. Students use their model to explore the impact of recent and potential ice shelf melting and break-up.

Activity takes one to two hours.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 6 Cross Cutting Concepts, 5 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 5 Cross Cutting Concepts, 5 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5b
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

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:E) Organizing information
Other materials addressing:
E) Organizing 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.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.3 Humans and Their Societies:D) Global Connections
Other materials addressing:
D) Global Connections.

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

About the Science

  • The model is simple but the results are dramatic.
  • Comment from expert scientist: The activity provides a way to see the impact of the ice shelves on ice flow on the continent.

About the Pedagogy

  • The illustrated directions for students are exceptionally well done and each step is accompanied by excellent images to guide students.
  • An excellent use of models to illustrate how scientists determine past climate history. Students present results to visitors in a kind of science exhibit/presentation format. Learning objectives are listed in Leader Notes.
  • Lovely, squishy slime simulates ice.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

MS-PS3.B2:The amount of energy transfer needed to change the temperature of a matter sample by a given amount depends on the nature of the matter, the size of the sample, and the environment.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 6

Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Stability and Change, Patterns, Cause and effect

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-C7.2: Small changes in one part of a system might cause large changes in another part.

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

Science and Engineering Practices: 5

Developing and Using Models, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information, Asking Questions and Defining Problems

MS-P2.2:Develop or modify a model— based on evidence – to match what happens if a variable or component of a system is changed.

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-P6.2:Construct an explanation using models or representations.

MS-P8.5:Communicate scientific and/or technical information (e.g. about a proposed object, tool, process, system) in writing and/or through oral presentations.

MS-P1.1:Ask questions that arise from careful observation of phenomena, models, or unexpected results, to clarify and/or seek additional information.

High School

Cross Cutting Concepts: 5

Cause and effect, Systems and System Models, Stability and Change

HS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships can be suggested and predicted for complex natural and human designed systems by examining what is known about smaller scale mechanisms within the system.

HS-C2.4:Changes in systems may have various causes that may not have equal effects.

HS-C4.3:Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows—within and between systems at different scales.

HS-C4.4:Models can be used to predict the behavior of a system, but these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in models.

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.

Science and Engineering Practices: 5

Asking Questions and Defining Problems, Developing and Using Models, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

HS-P1.2:ask questions that arise from examining models or a theory, to clarify and/or seek additional information and relationships.

HS-P2.3:Develop, revise, and/or use a model based on evidence to illustrate and/or predict the relationships between systems or between components of a system

HS-P4.5:Evaluate the impact of new data on a working explanation and/or model of a proposed process or system.

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).

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