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How Permanent is Permafrost?

Marian Grogan, et. al., Earth Exploration Toolbook/TERC

In this activity, students use Google Earth and team up with fictional students in Chersky, Russia to investigate possible causes of thawing permafrost in Siberia and other Arctic regions. Students explore the nature of permafrost and what the effects of thawing permafrost mean both locally and globally. Next, students use a spreadsheet to explore soil temperature data from permafrost boreholes and surface air temperature datasets from in and around the Chersky region for a 50-year time span.

Activity takes about three to five 45-minute class periods. Computer access is required.

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Climate Literacy
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Changes in climate is normal but varies over times/ space
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Evidence is that human impacts are playing an increasing role in climate change
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Global warming and especially arctic warming is recorded in natural geological and historic records
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Ecosystems on land and in the ocean have been and will continue to be disturbed by climate change
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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

  • Moving the initial reading to after part 1 or 2 would be a more active way to engage students in the activity.
  • Good to pair students doing this investigation.
  • Pre-load Google Earth and associated files on computers.

About the Science

  • Activity provides a rich collection of print and media resources about scientists studying permafrost in Alaska and Siberia.
  • Data sources are NSIDC, NCAR, NOAA, and NASA, in addition to unique historical permafrost dataset from Siberian Russia.
  • Excellent use and application of science data with a problem-based scenario.
  • Suggested resources for further study are current and good for given grade level.
  • Comments from expert scientist: This is a very good interactive course material for students to learn the topic with an example introduced.

About the Pedagogy

  • Activity begins with a case study to engage students' interest in the problem of thawing permafrost.
  • Step-by-step structure of the data access and analysis parts of activity might be difficult for some students to follow easily.
  • Show/hide feature allows students to compare their graphs with a model.
  • Good organization of learning materials and a logical learning sequence leads students to analysis and understanding of complex data sets.
  • Instructions are clear, thorough, and well-written.
  • The case study provides good background information for students (and teachers).
  • Excellent going further activities for advanced students.
  • Activity begins with a lengthy reading, which may be a challenge for some students.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The "show me" feature that helps students through problems and procedures using software is exemplary.
  • Some students will need support guidance with data access and analysis steps.
  • Entire activity online. Students just need to follow the steps.

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

Google Earth online tutorial: http://www.google.com/earth/learn/beginner.html. SERC Google Earth user's guide: http://serc.carleton.edu/sp/library/google_earth/UserGuide.html.

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