Consequences of Melting Arctic Sea Ice

Lesson Plan - Download

Primary Source Lesson Plan – Ice Cap Melting

The rubric to assess my students on the summative informative written response will be the Common Core Informative Rubric (linked below)

Download: TACCL Informative Rubric.docx

Primary Source Lesson Plan – Ice Cap Melting

Teacher(s):  Christine Sheffler


Subject: Biology

Grade Level(s): 9 – 12

Time to Complete (in periods):



Unit 10 - Ecology

Lesson Topic/Title/Focus:

Assessing Human Impact on the Environment

BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE necessary for students before engaging in this lesson:

Students will need to be able to interpret graphs to gather data.

Students will need to make connections between the text and real-world situations.

COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS to be addressed in this lesson:

School-wide initiatives:      Writing Anchor   2            Math SMP 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8   Science: NCES.Bio.2.2.1; NCES.Bio.2.2.2; NGSS.HS.LS.2.7

District-wide initiative:        X   Informational Text (Common Core)


ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS and LESSON ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS for this lesson. They are open-ended, thought-provoking questions that ask students to uncover ideas, problems, controversies, philosophical positions and/or adopt varying perspectives.

1.  Why is the Arctic sea ice melting at an exponential rate?

2.  What are the potential outcomes for the biosphere if the polar sea ice continues to melt?

3.  Is there an evidence-based relationship between the amounts of greenhouse gases to the annual temperature change?

OBJECTIVES of this Lesson (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely):

SWBAT examine the impact of the melting icecaps on the biosphere by completing research and a one-page reflection.

SWBAT relate greenhouse gases to global temperature by creating and analyzing carbon dioxide and temperature graphs.



Time: 5 min.

I will probe students with a picture of a car emitting gases.  I will ask them to predict the consequences of the increased car emissions on the biosphere and atmosphere.

Teacher Input (Introduction)

Time: 15 min.

We will watch the video provided above – a BBC clip on the seasonal melting of ice caps.  The video focuses on the change in rate of melting, depending on the temperature of the environment.  Students will do a turn and talk to respond to the following question:  What may be causing the ice caps to melt more now than previously?  We will share out & create a list.  Students will repeat a turn & talk: What are the potential consequences on increased melting of the arctic ice?  We will share out and add to the list.

Guided Practice

Time: 25 minutes

First, students will be asked to number the paragraphs in the article.  Students will use annotations while reading the text: ! = exciting, * = important, ? = generates question, ☹ disagree, ☺ agree.  I will start the article analysis by reading the “abstract” at the beginning of the article. Key questions to gather from text:  What factors play a role in the melting of Arctic sea ice? (paragraph 3) How is the amount of ice present directly to the Earth’s climate? (P4) Difference between “new ice” and “multi-year” (or old) ice? (P5)  Students will be asked to pay close attention to the impacts of disappearing ice, as these will lay the foundation for our task today.

Independent Practice

Time: 20 min.

Students will review the five impacts of disappearing sea ice noted in the article.  Students will utilize the article and online resources to research their specific impact.  Students will write a one page reflection based on the two main aspects of today’s lesson: 1) identifying causes of sea ice disappearance 2) specific description of their chosen impact of loss of sea ice – including the potential consequences if the sea ice continues to disappear.

2) Wrap-up discussion:  I will show the students the article “Did Climate Change Kill the Hoosier Butterfly?”  I will ask students who examined the impact on extinction to share out any discoveries they found during research.   I will probe students with the question – could climate change cause damage like the sea ice melting can?

Closure: Students will respond to an exit ticket:  1) Do you think that the ice caps will completely disappear?  If so, when?

Key Vocabulary

Polar ice caps, sea ice melt, exponential

FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT(S): Indicate how students will be assessed and how these assessments will be used to improve instruction.

Students will be assessed based on their one-page reflection on the specific impact of the decline in Arctic ice caps, along with their exit ticket.

POST-LESSON REFLECTION (What worked? What should be changed for the next implementation? How did students react to the lesson?)



Time: 5 min.

  1. Which types of organism are responsible for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converting it into glucose and oxygen?

  2. Predict the impact if the organisms identified in number 1 were to be eliminated from the biosphere.

Teacher Input (Introduction)

Time: 15 min.

I will introduce students to the relationship between the ozone layer and climate change.  I will explain the importance of the ozone layer acting as a blanket around our Earth, and how its depletion is causing changes in our climate. Students will write Cornell notes during instruction.

Guided Practice

Time: 35 minutes

1) As a class, we will visit the website - here student will look at the average CO2 emissions from each country in “real time.”  While the website is being viewed, I will ask students to have a conversation based on the question: what do you notice about the United States compared to other countries?


Students will use the website above to determine their own individual carbon footprint. Students will be asked to keep a thought log on ways they add to and take away from their own carbon footprint.  (These buy-ins will help students to create their assessment product).  Students will be responsible for documenting their carbon footprint anonymously via google docs.  I will share the data with the students, asking them to calculate the average and total carbon footprint we put out as a class.

Independent Practice

Time: 30 min.

  1. Students will create two graphs based on the data provided by

Graph one is based on the concentration of carbon dioxide (parts per million) in the atmosphere over a 250 year period; the second graph measures the change in annual temperature over the same period.  Students will be responsible for comparing the graphs and identifying any relationships.  Students will have 20 minutes to complete both graphs and discover key relationships. After the allotted time, we will come together as a group and identify key trends: both graphs have a positive trend and follow a very similar pattern.  Students will reflect on the following question in a written format under their graphs:  Does the data provided support the conclusion that carbon dioxide emissions are having an effect on the global temperature? Explain your reasoning, citing evidence from the graphs.  Students will reflect on the data provided in the primary text discussed yesterday – does the data analyzed today match the data described in the article?  

2) As a closure activity, we will complete a philosophical chairs activity – I will pose the question:  Do you think the United States should adapt policies to regulated greenhouse emissions? I will divide the classroom into three sections YES, NO, and MAYBE – students will move to the location that matches their initial opinion based on the questions.  Students will be allowed to share out opinions in each section of the classroom, and students are able to move from side to side based on the arguments presented.


Students will be assessed based on their exit ticket:  1) What are some proactive ways we as humans could reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we emit?  

Key Vocabulary

Greenhouse gases, ozone layer

FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT(S): Indicate how students will be assessed and how these assessments will be used to improve instruction.

Students will be assessed based on their graphs and the written reflection of the graphs.

POST-LESSON REFLECTION (What worked? What should be changed for the next implementation? How did students react to the lesson?)

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