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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»

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 Content

  • 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.

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

The varve data is the work of Jack Ridge, out of Tufts University, Massachusetts. The original publication can be found by searching for Ridge et al., 2012, "The New North American Varve Chronology", The American Journal of Science. Additional information about this varve series (and general information about glacial varves) can be found on the following website: https://eos.tufts.edu/varves/default.asp
Entered the Collection: October 2012 Last Reviewed: April 2016

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