Graphing the Extent of Sea Ice in the Arctic and Antarctic

In this activity, students learn about sea ice extent in both polar regions (Arctic and Antarctic). They start out by forming a hypothesis on the variability of sea ice, testing the hypothesis by graphing real data from a recent 3-year period to learn about seasonal variations and over a 25-year period to learn about longer-term trends, and finish with a discussion of their results and predictions.

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Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips

Intro to activity: Ideally educator would start activity by introducing how lesson fits into climate science (albedo, ocean circulations, migration patterns).

Wrapping up the activity: "Why do we care about sea ice extent? How does this affect life on Earth?"

Information on sea ice and sea ice formation should be provided by the educator as well as information on what the role of sea ice is for global warming and the thermohaline circulation.

Educators might want to copy and paste data into Excel format to include a technology piece.

Up-to-date data and imagery is available from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) site and can augment this activity.