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On the Rise

Lunar and Planetary Institute, Universities Space Research Association

In this 60-minute interactive demonstration, students use ice blocks and heat lamps to model what will happen to coastlines around the world as glaciers melt. They explore why glaciers are melting as a consequence of global warming and how human activity has added to the amount of warming.

This activity takes approximately one 60 minute class period. Additional materials are required.

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 consider letting students set up their own models in groups to make this lesson more hands-on.
  • An instructor could easily incorporate more connections to the scientific process within this activity.
  • The educator should be cautious about connecting this activity with too much discussion around the problems associated with sea level rise to avoid overwhelming students with problems they have no control over (at this age). See CLEAN's Tips for Talking About Climate Change With Kids for more guidance.
  • Catching a Heat Wave may be incorporated into this activity.

About the Content

  • Students participate in an interactive demonstration of what happens to the coastline and water level when heat is added to glaciers and ice sheets.
  • Through observation of an aquarium model of water, land, ice and a heat lamp to represent the sun, the students learn that our temperatures are rising due the addition of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causing the temperature to rise.
  • The rise in carbon dioxide melts our global ice and causes the seas to rise and impacts anything living along the coastline.
  • The lesson provides connections with greenhouse gases, but without very explicit connections, could lead to a misconception that it is the sun that is causing sea-level to rise (and has nothing to do with greenhouse gases).
  • The lesson suggests running a second activity with the students that teaches them more about greenhouse gases.
  • Though not stated in the teaching instructions, the outcome "When ice that is located above the sea melts, the water is added to the sea, and sea levels rise, flooding the coastline" could lead to misconceptions, as it is only ice on land that will contribute to sea-level rise. An iceberg could be perceived as being "above the sea" by many students, and this would not cause sea level to rise.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • This inquiry-based demonstration uses a simplified model to help students understand what causes sea-level to rise. It incorporates strong discussion questions to elicit prior knowledge and to check for understanding, and encourages students to explain what they are observing.
  • If teachers have the materials, this lesson could be done in groups to allow children to set up their own models, which would make it more appealing to kinesthetic learners.
  • The age range stated for the activity is 8-13, but will likely appeal to the younger ages within this range. Older learners will likely know what will happen if you put a heat lamp over a block of ice, and may not have the patience to find out what happens when the ice melts.
  • The lesson plan suggests running an additional lesson to teach students that carbon dioxide levels are rising, which could help prevent students from gaining the misconception that it is the sun that is solely responsible for sea-level rise, but educators should be cautious in how they approach this subject to ensure the science does not become too complex for younger learners.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The lesson plan is short, concise, and easy to understand, though does not include a link to the other activities mentioned in the lesson, so instructor will need to find those from the main website.
  • A link to a comprehensive background information section is provided.

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

This links to other activities and resources that are referenced in the lesson.
Entered the Collection: August 2020 Last Reviewed: June 2020

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