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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»

Climate Literacy

This Activity builds on the following concepts of Climate Literacy.

Click a topic below for supporting information, teaching ideas, and sample activities.

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 are 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
Science @ NASA: A Chilling Possibility updated link: https://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2004/05mar_arctic

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