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Land Ice/Sea Ice/Grounded Ice: How does melting ice affect sea level?

Louise Huffman, Ice Drilling Program

Students create a model of sea level rise based on the melting of land ice, sea ice, or grounded ice. Student predictions are recorded and models are run. Making explanations based on data, cause and effect, and asking questions are emphasized in this activity.

This activity takes one 60 minute class period

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • This demonstration is easy to set up and run, student data is easy to collect, analyze and is visibly dramatic.
  • Can be modified somewhat for age level or available time.
  • Includes a short list of supplemental resources.
  • It is necessary to plan ahead to freeze the correct amount of ice.
  • Setting up and obtaining results from the model may take longer than 50 minutes. Instructor could divide the lesson between the beginning and end of the day, or from one day to the next to allow time for ice to melt.

About the Science

  • Simple but effective hands-on experimental activity that demonstrates the different effects land ice, sea (floating) ice and grounded ice will have on sea level rise.
  • The introduction clearly establishes why understanding sea level rise is important, and provides context for the exercise.
  • Simple language and concepts that could be explored in more depth for older students.
  • Comments from expert scientist: This resource provides a great hands-on example of how different types of ice impact sea level rise that makes it easy for the students to see the affect of melting ice. The instructions for the grounded ice experiment/description of grounded ice in the table are not as clear as they could be; what is meant by an ice shelf (grounded ice) and how the ice should be placed in the grounded ice experiment could be better clarified.

About the Pedagogy

  • Hands-on (or demo) experiment.
  • Good, simple, easy-to-follow activity for a range of ages, with some clearly listed, inexpensive supplies needed.
  • No technical skills needed.
  • The worksheet has clear directions and learning goals, as well as a short list of additional resources.
  • The exercise would appeal to visual and logical learners; if conducted in small groups, it would also appeal to kinesthetic and social learners.
  • No assessment is offered as this is meant as a demo.

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