The ice is melting – How can we investigate the effects of melting ice?

Brief description
In this set of four activities, pupils will explore the impacts of global warming and melting ice on the Earth. They will learn the difference between land ice and sea ice, and will investigate the respective effects of these melting. They will then design their own experiment to examine how melting ice changes the temperature of the atmosphere. Pupils will finish by learning about glaciers, and by looking at satellite images of a glacier to consider how much it has melted over a period of time.
Subject Geography, Science
Learning Objectives
  • To investigate where ice can be found on Earth
  • To understand that the amount of ice on Earth is decreasing
  • To learn the difference between land ice and sea ice and their effects on rising sea level
  • To understand that it is colder on areas of ice (white) than on land and water (dark)
  • To strengthen experimental skills
  • To work in a group
  • To plan an experiment
  • To describe and explain physical effects that they see
Age range
8 – 12 years old
approximately 30 minutes per activity
Resource available in:
Activity 1: Introducing Ice
In this activity, pupils will be introduced to ice, including the difference between land ice and sea ice. They can either use information sources to answer the questions on their activity sheets, or use this activity as a way to record their base knowledge of the topic before carrying out practical investigations in later activities. Therefore Activity 1 forms a nice introduction to the lesson.
Activity 2: Will Sea Levels change?
In this activity, pupils will build on the knowledge they gained in Activity 1 by practically investigating the effect on sea levels when sea ice and land ice melts. Students will work in groups of four and carry out a practical experiment to explore the different effects of melting land and sea ice.
Equipment (per group)
  • 2 small plastic cups
  • 2 small plastic plates
  • 2 ice cubes
  • Enough water to fill the two cups
  • Modelling clay
Activity 3: Will the Temperature change?
In this activity, pupils will design their own experiment to investigate whether the temperature of the Earth will rise if the ice melts. Pupils are invited to design their experiment with the given equipment by dividing the shoebox in half using the piece of stiff card. They should cover one half with white paper and the other half with black paper to investigate the effect of ice surfaces on temperature on Earth. 
Equipment (per group)

• Shoebox
• One A4 piece of stiff card
• Two A4 pieces of black paper
• Two A4 pieces of white paper
• Glue
• Clingfilm
• 2 thermometers
• Sunlight or bright lamp

Activity 4: Watching a Glacier
n this activity, pupils will look at images of a glacier to understand why satellite images are useful for monitoring the Earth. They will describe and analyse three satellite images from different years showing the Columbia glacier in Alaska. Each image was taken at the same time each year. Pupils can even calculate what area the glacier shrank by.

Did you know?

A glacier is a huge slowly moving block of ice. ESA Earth Observation  satellites, such as Sentinel-1A, can produce useful images of glaciers. These images often look a bit strange because scientists falsely colour them to highlight certain points. Look at the Sentinel-1A image on the right, showing Pine Island glacier in Alaska. The colours show the amount of movement of the ice in 12 days. The blue areas have moved 0 m, whereas the pink areas have moved 100 m. This tells us that the pink area is the moving glacier.

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