The issue of Arctic ice

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Lesson overview

An introduction to the issue of Arctic sea ice, this lesson uses a combination of satellite imagery, Google Earth, video and online research to examine what is happening to sea ice extent in the Arctic. Students will continue by investigating the potential environmental, political and economic impacts of a reduction in Arctic sea ice.

Learning outcomes

  • Understand that summer sea ice coverage is decreasing in the Arctic
  • Understand the climate-related and habitat-related impacts of Arctic sea ice loss
  • Understand the political and economic impacts of Arctic sea ice loss
  • Demonstrate understanding of interrelated impacts of environmental change

Lesson steps

  1. What is happening to Arctic sea ice? (15 mins)
    Show pupils images relating to the decline in summer sea ice coverage. If using Google Earth, downloads from the NSIDC show the trends well: http://nsidc.org/data/google_earth/
    Current models have failed to predict the rate of summer sea ice loss in recent years.
  2. Potential impact of sea ice loss in the Arctic – climate (15 mins)
    Hand out Student Sheet 5a Arctic Ice Impacts, for pupils to make notes on the various potential impacts of sea ice loss in the Arctic. Sea ice loss could have an impact on the global ocean circulation system. Show the video on Ocean currents to the class.
  3. Potential impact of sea ice loss in the Arctic – habitat and biodiversity (10 mins)
    Continuing with Student Sheet 5a, use materials from WWF on threats to habitat and biodiversity in the Arctic: http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/where_we_work/arctic/
  4. Potential impact of sea ice loss in the Arctic – political and economic (10 mins)
    Continuing with Student Sheet 5a, use materials to show how the sea ice loss could open up the Arctic to further commercial exploitation. What would the total loss of Arctic sea ice in the summer mean for shipping and commerce in the region? Use the Guardian article for more context: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/17/arctic-exploitation-battleground
  5. Extended writing (10 mins)
    Pupils answer the question on the impacts of Arctic sea ice shrinking as an extended writing exercise. (use Student Sheet 5a)
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