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Graphing Sea-Level Trends

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Students use long term sea-level rise data set to create models and compare short-term trends to long-term trends. They then determine whether sea-level rise is occurring based on the data.

This learning activity takes two 45 minute class periods.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Teachers using graphing/spreadsheet software will want to do this themselves in advance to ensure they know the steps students should take.
  • Activity relies on the computer manipulation of a large data set. Lesson can be easily adapted for use without the data manipulation piece to reduce instructional time or for classrooms without access to multiple computers.
  • Topically relevant companion activities will enhance the deeper understanding of the learning objective.
  • Data only goes up to 2009. It may be more engaging if instructors are able to add more current data to the data set as well. However, what is there still conveys the general concept and trend, so the activity is still usable as is.
  • Students may need assistance with using Excel and Google Sheets. This includes using the programs and understanding trendlines (and which ones to use).

About the Content

  • In this activity, students graph sea-level rise data and compare short-term trends to long-term trends. They determine whether sea-level rise is occurring based on the data and have discussions about how sea-level rise is a consequence of climate change.
  • Comments from expert scientist:
  • Scientific strengths: This resource allows students to work with actual data-sets. It clearly explains the difference between natural tides and SLR. It also outlines the causes of SLR from thermal expansion, land ice and sea ice.
  • Concerns: The satellite images did not load and I could not find sources for the data-sets.
  • Suggestions: The first graph should be updated as it only goes until 2013. On the student worksheet, "trendline" should be defined for students and some examples should be shown.

About the Pedagogy

  • This activity allows students a chance to learn about sea-level rise while also enhancing their graphing skills. Discussion questions and extension activities allow students to also explore how sea-level rise is connected to climate change.
  • Students use pre-existing data to make their observations and conclusions about sea level rise. Activity emphasizes computer manipulation of data which may require added instructional time and/or be beyond the scope of some classrooms. Interactive graphs within the webpage activity could be used as an alternative. Small group discussion, data manipulation, reasoning through observation and transfer of knowledge to global issues are emphasized.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • This activity is well scaffolded for teachers. If planning to use spreadsheet software for graphing, there may be more technical difficulties with that, but the instructions are fairly easy to follow and shouldn't be very complicated for those familiar with the software.
  • Activity emphasizes the computer manipulation of large and small sets of data requiring increased instructional time and technical support by the instructor. Student frustration and time restraints may overshadow the learning objective.
Entered the Collection: November 2019 Last Reviewed: June 2019

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