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Changing Planet: Permafrost Gas Leak

Missy Holzer, Jennifer Bergman, Roberta Johnson, NESTA/Windows to the Universe

This is a multi-faceted activity that offers students a variety of opportunities to learn about permafrost through an important sink and source of greenhouse gas (methane), about which most students living in lower latitudes know little.

Activity takes about four 45 min lessons (3-part activity and 30 min discussion).

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Climate Literacy
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Equilibrium and feedback loops in climate system
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Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
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Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
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C) Collecting information.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:E) Organizing information
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2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:A) Processes that shape the Earth
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2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.2 The Living Environment:D) Flow of matter and energy
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D) Flow of matter and energy.

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

  • Educators will need to familiarize themselves with websites associated with the various parts of the activity ahead of time, in addition to the worksheets and various data sets.

About the Science

  • As permafrost thaws, the land, atmosphere, water resources, ecosystems, and human communities are affected.
  • Background and data sources are National Snow and Ice Data Center and the U of Alaska, Fairbanks.
  • Comments from expert scientist: The activity sheet and teacher reference do not have much information themselves, and instead refers students to websites with a strong reputation such as the National Snow and Ice Data Centre, University of Alaska at Fairbanks, NOAA and Arctic Portal. In terms of handling, exploring and displaying primary data, this activity is excellent.

About the Pedagogy

  • Activity can be done in parts or as a whole; components include a video, background reading, demos, map analysis, and borehole data analysis.
  • Students learn about composition of permafrost, identify the spatial distribution of permafrost, interpret borehole data and recognize trends in data, and analyze methane data and correlate it to the permafrost data.
  • There are a lot of support materials for teachers, including multiple suggestions for extensions.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • A number of links to data sources and tools: accessing websites for data - The Arctic Portal Mapping tool, Permafrost Laboratory Site, and the Google Earth files on the NSIDC site.

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