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Climate History and the Cryosphere

Erin Barder, TERC

This teaching activity is an introduction to how ice cores from the cryosphere are used as indicators and record-keepers of climate change as well as how climate change will affect the cryosphere. Students learn through a guided web exercise how scientists analyze ice cores to learn about past climate conditions, how melting sea and land ice will contribute to sea level rise, and what areas of the world would be at risk if Antarctic and/or Greenland ice sheets were to melt away.

Activity takes two 2-hour lab sessions.

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Changes in climate is normal but varies over times/ space
About Teaching Principle 4
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Global warming and especially arctic warming is recorded in natural geological and historic records
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4e
Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5b

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations
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G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:B) Designing investigations
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B) Designing investigations.
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
Other materials addressing:
A) Processes that shape the Earth.

Benchmarks for Science Literacy
Learn more about the Benchmarks

Scientific investigations usually involve the collection of relevant data, the use of logical reasoning, and the application of imagination in devising hypotheses and explanations to make sense of the collected data.
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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.
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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

  • Classroom discussion and collaboration among students will help implement the detailed activity.
  • The graph of CO2 and temperature from ice-cores could be used as a discussion point or a think-pair-share opportunity.

About the Science

  • This activity utilizes graphs and interactive Flash objects from reputable science organizations to guide students through an exploration of ideas surrounding the science of paleoclimatology.
  • Constructed graphs are used for interpretation of data concerning changing CO2 levels and global temperature. The graphs used are more than 12 years old but is effective at the scale of investigation.
  • This EarthLabs chapter is a part of a series of labs that progress though various parts of the cryosphere. The quality of the previous labs was not investigated in this annotation and it is noted that this activity is best used as a part of the series and not as a stand-alone activity.
  • The activity has links to other resources that augment the topics highlighted.
  • Comment from expert scientist: It shows how scientists are able measure data that can be interpreted to help understand past climate changes beyond our direct measurements.

About the Pedagogy

  • The learning objectives in this activity are aligned with the material in this activity.
  • This activity is a guided exploration utilizing interactive flash animations and graphs along with opportunities for stop and think questions.
  • This activity does not list any prerequisite and is part 7 in a series of 8 lab activities.
  • This simplified activity lacks structure that would lend to greater classroom engagement or utilization of data that would lead to student discovery.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The data relied upon in the activity are sound.
  • There are no technical barriers in this activity.
  • The preparation time for the implementation of this activity may be an important factor for a teacher to consider.

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


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