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Examining Sea Level Rise and Differential Shoreline Response

Dana Haine, Jana Tasich, Joe Moss, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

In this activity, students make and manipulate physical shoreline models to discover the features of resilient shorelines and to critically evaluate the impacts of rising seas. Students will use NOAA's Sea Level Rise Viewer to observe a coastal area of interest and predict the consequences of sea level rise on people, the environment, and the economy. Though the curriculum references North Carolina, this lesson will work for all coastal areas.

This learning activity takes one 90 minute class period. Additional materials required.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Short Demonstration/Experiment supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
High School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 3 Cross Cutting Concepts, 3 Science and Engineering Practices

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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Teachers will note some set up and clean up time will be involved. Space and adequate materials will be needed for student groups and dry materials will be needed for each period.
  • Ensuring time is carved out for students to research/learn about different types of shorelines before or at the beginning of this activity will be key in student's understandings of application to the real world.
  • Extension activities are excellent, and encourage application of what students have learned.
  • Note that the Sea Level Rise Viewer does not currently contain data for Alaska, and if interested in exploring the Great Lakes: use the Lake Level Viewer

About the Science

  • In this activity, students learn about sea level rise and its associated risks through a physical shoreline model.
  • This experiment outline provides students with a hands-on experience to learn about the repercussions of sea level rise due to Climate Change.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • Creativity in construction of the shoreline is encouraged as well as individual observation, data collection and conclusions. Investigation components are done in small groups encouraging cooperation and group discussions.
  • There are opportunities to encourage more open-ended inquiry in this lesson: having students research their own shorelines and select their own materials to build their shorelines with; having student groups build and experiment with multiple types of shorelines (vs. one as suggested in the lesson plan); and encouraging students to build the most resilient shoreline they can (as suggested in the extension activities).
  • Instructors living in land-locked areas may want to place more emphasis on how the impacts of sea level rise will impact food supplies, the economy, and other impacts that will affect inland areas.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Instructions are clear, easy to follow. The technical quality of the document and supplementary materials are robust.
  • This lesson may take more than 90 minutes or two class periods if taught in its entirety.
  • Additional materials include: transparent container, beaker, gravel, sand, paper towels, water, sponges, block of wood, hair dryer, permanent marker, colored pencils, and scissors.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Short Demonstration/Experiment supports:

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