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Lessons in Sea-Level Rise

Jet Propulsion laboratory, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

This activity allows students to examine graphs of sea level rise data as well as global temperature data. They calculate amounts and rates of sea level rise for various time periods and answer questions discussing the data. They then compare the sea level rise trends to those in a graph of temperature data.

This learning activity takes one 45 minute class period.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 4 Cross Cutting Concepts, 3 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 2 Cross Cutting Concepts, 3 Science and Engineering Practices

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

  • Some vocabulary and math may be at a higher level than 5-6th grade; teacher should use best judgement based on student/class abilities and differentiate the activities accordingly.
  • The activity recommends viewing the graphs used in the activity online since these graphs are interactive and allow students to view the data with more precision. The background information and videos will help teachers facilitate discussions.
  • Definitely consider as a math lesson and not just a science lesson on sea-level rise. Excellent resource for teaching graphing, reading data and drawing conclusions. Main data could be collected during school time and conclusions drawn as homework using background links.

About the Science

  • Students analyze various graphs of sea level rise and temperature. The data used is credible, taken from satellite imagery and other NASA JPL data instruments/measures. Background links are provided and could be utilized as enhancements to this specific lesson. The graphing/graph interruption activities have rigor and could allow this lesson to be assigned/taught in both math and/or science classes.
  • Comments from expert scientist:
  • Scientific strengths: This excellent resource introduces students to satellite data and explains the three drivers of sea level rise, including the difference between land and sea ice.

About the Pedagogy

  • In this activity, students analyze various graphs of sea level rise and temperature. Students are asked to calculate differences to determine how much sea level rose over a period of time and then to calculate slopes to determine the rate of change in that time period. Students are then asked to compare with graphs of temperature and discuss reasons for any correlation or lack thereof. A discussion of global warming rounds out the activity. Several resources are provided for background information.
  • These activities could be assigned for individual, small group or whole-group (using a projector, especially if internet connection is not possible for each student). The activities are worksheet-based but are engaging for students since they are reviewing, interrupting and drawing their own conclusions based on the NASA JPL data sets. Three videos (each under 2 minutes) provide a visualization to sometimes perceived abstract concepts. A prerequisite skill of graphing would be necessary or this lesson could be used to teach graphing skills. Background information and resources are provided for the teacher, they are just not labeled as "teacher's guide".

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The graphs used in this activity are best viewed online, because they allow for precise data gathering and zooming in to see the graphs more closely. These can be downloaded for students but the online version allows them to explore the data more effectively.
  • Ideally, each student should have an internet connection; however, a pdf worksheet is provided for the teacher to run off copies for each student and the imagery/data and 3 videos can be viewed as a whole class via a projector.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

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