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Paleoclimate Reconstruction Lab

Environmental Literacy and Inquiry Working Group at Lehigh University

In this activity, students reconstruct past climates using lake varves as a proxy to interpret long-term climate patterns. Students use data from sediment cores to understand annual sediment deposition and how it relates to weather and climate patterns.

Activity takes one to two lesson periods.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Performance Expectation, 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 5 Cross Cutting Concepts, 6 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 1 Performance Expectation, 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 4 Cross Cutting Concepts, 5 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4c
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4d
Climate is variable
About Teaching Climate Literacy
Other materials addressing Climate is variable
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5b
Our understanding of climate
About Teaching Climate Literacy
Other materials addressing Our understanding of climate

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

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.

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

  • Instructors may want to do the lab exercise before showing the PowerPoint.
  • Access to the assessment can easily requested via an email from the developers.

About the Science

  • Students are introduced to examples of paleoclimate proxies.
  • Students use data from lake sediment cores to understand seasonal climate changes and environmental conditions.
  • Students learn about varves, which are seasonal layers in lake sediments.
  • Students use scientific data, and teacher notes contain the relevant diagrams of ice extent; however, the actual data source is not cited.
  • Comments from expert scientist: Activity is based on real data and involves measuring and graphing, which are important skills students need.

About the Pedagogy

  • The activity uses PowerPoint slides, handouts, and supplemental reading documents.
  • Educators can use this lesson to help students learn how scientists use proxies to interpret past climate.
  • PowerPoint file gives a great overview with lots of images on varve chronology.
  • Good background materials for teachers.
  • Student handouts are complete and available in pdf and Word format, which allows a teacher to tweak them to the needs of each class.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The supporting materials for educators provided within this lesson facilitate use in any middle school classroom.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

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