Weekly Warm-Up: Visualizing Climate Change

Climate change is a difficult subject for adults as well as children to wrap their brains around. Of course, there are political, cultural, and even neurological reasons for that. But there may be a simpler explanation, too.

The results of climate change are incredibly vast and varied. It can be a challenge to think of climate change as a singular concept when its manifestations range from rising sea levels to species decline to intense storms.

Consider focusing on a small part of climate change impact as an entryway to understanding. Check out this video that shows the difference in outcomes between melting land and sea ice. Using two medium-sized plastic containers, water, blue food coloring, clay, pushpins, and ice cubes, the experiment demonstrates how melting land ice raises sea levels and deteriorates coasts while melting sea ice has a much lesser effect.

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Click the image to watch a video experiment on melting land and sea ice. Then let your students try it themselves!

Just have a few moments? Show the video to your students to get them thinking. Have a bit longer? Encourage your class to take on the experiment themselves.

Before the video or experiment:
Ask the class to predict what they think happens when large amounts of natural ice melt. Do they imagine there would be a difference between melting land and sea ice? Why or why not? How do they think melting ice may someday affect the area they live (or not)?

After the video or experiment:
Challenge your students to use their reasoning skills to explain why the two outcomes were so different. Then, let them explore this interactive Nat Geo map that shows how the Earth would change if all its land ice melted into the sea.


What other experiments and activities have you used in your class to help students visualize climate change? Let us know in comments or by emailing education@ngs.org!


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