Jump to this Activity »
How Permanent is Permafrost?
http://serc.carleton.edu/eet/permafrost/index.html

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.

Discuss this Resource»
Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Changes in climate is normal but varies over times/ space
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4d
Evidence is that human impacts are playing an increasing role in climate change
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4f
Global warming and especially arctic warming is recorded in natural geological and historic records
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4e
Ecosystems on land and in the ocean have been and will continue to be disturbed by climate change
About Teaching Principle 7
Other materials addressing 7e

Benchmarks for Science Literacy
Learn more about the Benchmarks

The earth's climates have changed in the past, are currently changing, and are expected to change in the future, primarily due to changes in the amount of light reaching places on the earth and the composition of the atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels in the last century has increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which has contributed to Earth's warming.
Explore the map of concepts related to this benchmark
Changes in environmental conditions can affect the survival of individual organisms and entire species.
Explore the map of concepts related to this benchmark

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.

Performance Expectations

MS-ESS3-2: Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects.

HS-ESS3-6: Use a computational representation to illustrate the relationships among Earth systems and how those relationships are being modified due to human activity.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

MS-ESS3.B1: Mapping the history of natural hazards in a region, combined with an understanding of related geologic forces can help forecast the locations and likelihoods of future events.

HS-ESS3.D2: Through computer simulations and other studies, important discoveries are still being made about how the ocean, the atmosphere, and the biosphere interact and are modified in response to human activities.

Science and Engineering Practices

MS-P2.4: Develop and/or revise a model to show the relationships among variables, including those that are not observable but predict observable phenomena.

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-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.

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

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-P3.5: Make directional hypotheses that specify what happens to a dependent variable when an independent variable is manipulated.

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-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-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

HS-C1.1: Different patterns may be observed at each of the scales at which a system is studied and can provide evidence for causality in explanations of phenomena

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-C3.1: The significance of a phenomenon is dependent on the scale, proportion, and quantity at which it occurs.

HS-C5.2: Changes of energy and matter in a system can be described in terms of energy and matter flows into, out of, and within that system.

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


Jump to this Activity »



Have you used these materials with your students? Do you have insights to share with other educators about their use? Please share with the community by adding a comment below.

Please use this space only for discussion about teaching with these particular materials.
For more general discussion about teaching climate literacy please use our general discussion boards.
To report a problem or direct a comment to the CLEAN project team please use our feedback form (or the feedback link at the bottom of every page).
Off-topic posts will be deleted.

Join the Discussion


Log in to reply