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Northwest Passage

Glenn A. Richard, Mineral Physics Institute Stony Brook University , SERC On The Cutting Edge Collection

In this activity, students use Google Earth and information from several websites to investigate some of the consequences of climate change in polar regions, including the shrinking of the ice cap at the North Pole, disintegration of ice shelves, melting of Greenland, opening of shipping routes, effects on polar bears, and possible secondary effects on climate in other regions due to changes in ocean currents. Students learn to use satellite and aerial imagery, maps, graphs, and statistics to interpret trends accompanying changes in the Earth system.

Activity takes about 80 minutes or multiple class periods with lots of room for variations. Computers with Internet access necessary.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
High School: 1 Performance Expectation, 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 6 Cross Cutting Concepts, 8 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Climate change has consequences
About Teaching Climate Literacy
Other materials addressing Climate change has consequences

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:B) Designing investigations
Other materials addressing:
B) Designing investigations.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
Other materials addressing:
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.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:E) Environmental Issues
Other materials addressing:
E) Environmental Issues.
3. Skills for Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues:3.1 Skills for Analyzing and Investigating Environmental Issues:A) Identifying and investigating issues
Other materials addressing:
A) Identifying and investigating issues.

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

  • Developed for undergraduates, this activity could also be effectively deployed in high school geography or other courses.
  • An educator might want to start this activity with a lesson on Google Earth.
  • This activity opens the opportunity to explore the economic, political, and international issues associated with an open Northwest Passage.

About the Science

  • Students use Google Earth and National Snow and Ice Data Center data to answer questions about global sea traffic and interference by sea ice.
  • All answers are generated by using real data.
  • Comment from expert scientist: Shows changes in the cryosphere, particularly Arctic sea ice. Begins with a case study of conditions in the Northwest Passage, which is a region of lore and whose changes in sea ice cover is impacting human activities.

About the Pedagogy

  • Students are guided through the activity by answering questions that require analysis of maps or data.
  • Google Earth component engages students in inquiry with visual images and accommodates different learning styles
  • Students and instructors may need to devote time to learning how to use Google Earth if they are unfamiliar with it. Substantial guidance for using Google Earth is provided.
  • Extensions can be made from this activity to address the Guiding Principle C (Impact of climate change may affect the security/commerce of nations.)

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • All links and information is available from the activity sheet.
  • Instruction sheet and handouts are provided.
  • Make sure you have enough computers and bandwidth to handle the data access.

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

Direct link to activity- Word format: http://serc.carleton.edu/files/sp/library/google_earth/examples/activity_handout_students.v10.doc - PDF format: http://serc.carleton.edu/files/sp/library/google_earth/examples/activity_sheet_northwest_passa.v7.pdf

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

High School

Performance Expectations: 1

HS-ESS2-2: Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth's surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

HS-ESS2.A1:Earth’s systems, being dynamic and interacting, cause feedback effects that can increase or decrease the original changes.

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.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 6

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

HS-C1.5:Empirical evidence is needed to identify patterns.

HS-C2.1:Empirical evidence is required to differentiate between cause and correlation and make claims about specific causes and effects.

HS-C3.2: Some systems can only be studied indirectly as they are too small, too large, too fast, or too slow to observe directly.

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-C5.4: Energy drives the cycling of matter within and between systems.

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: 8

Asking Questions and Defining Problems, Developing and Using Models, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Engaging in Argument from Evidence, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

HS-P1.6:Ask questions that can be investigated within the scope of the school laboratory, research facilities, or field (e.g., outdoor environment) with available resources and, when appropriate, frame a hypothesis based on a model or theory.

HS-P2.6:Develop and/or use a model (including mathematical and computational) to generate data to support explanations, predict phenomena, analyze systems, and/or solve problems.

HS-P3.2:Plan and conduct an investigation individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, and in the design: decide on types, how much, and accuracy of data needed to produce reliable measurements and consider limitations on the precision of the data (e.g., number of trials, cost, risk, time), and refine the design accordingly.

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-P5.5:Apply ratios, rates, percentages, and unit conversions in the context of complicated measurement problems involving quantities with derived or compound units (such as mg/mL, kg/m3, acre-feet, etc.).

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-P7.5:Make and defend a claim based on evidence about the natural world or the effectiveness of a design solution that reflects scientific knowledge and student-generated evidence.

HS-P8.2:Compare, integrate and evaluate sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a scientific question or solve a problem.

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