EarthLabs for Educators > Climate Detectives > Lab Overviews
1. Preparing for the Voyage

In Part A of this activity,students learn about the ship they will board for their journey to the Alaskan coast: the JOIDES Resolution. How is it equipped to drill into the ocean floor and find clues about past climate? In Part B, students meet the crew of scientists who will gather the core data for your final project. They play a matching game by viewing videos of scientists and then attempting to match the correct career card based on the description in the video.

Tools Needed: Internet browser, Media player plugin such as QuickTime

2. Coring is Not Boring!

In this activity, students use the engineering design process to build a simple model of the Joides Resolution coring apparatus.Their goal is to recover a core sample from a model of the ocean floor composed of different layers of clay.

Tools Needed: Internet browser with Flash, Excel or other spreadsheet program, RealPlayer media player plugin, materials for the core model experiment


  • popsicle sticks
  • Small binder clamps
  • Spool of thread
  • Clear straws
  • Transparent tape
  • Rubber bands
  • Lead weights
  • A model of sediments on the ocean floor (see teacher guide for this activity)

  • 3. Mountains of Ice

    In Part A of this activity, students investigate how massive ice sheets can alter the landscape and deposit their sediments in the ocean. In Part B, students examine the phenomena that trigger the onset of ice building and subsequent periods of ice melting—Milankovich Cycles.

    Tools Needed:Internet browser with Flash, RealPlayer media player plugin

    4. Climate Clues from Sand and Mud

    In the first part of this activity, students learn how particle size affects the rate of sediment deposition, and how sediment layers form. In Part B, they build a physical model that shows how sediments are deposited at ocean margins during periods of glaciation. In Part C, students use an interactive to investigate how deposition by icebergs affects the sedimentation rate, and how the rate leads to clues about past climate.

    Tools Needed: Internet browser with Flash

    Part B:

  • play sand
  • aquarium gravel
  • ice cube tray
  • plastic container (shoebox size)
  • white paper
  • bricks

  • 5. (Geologic) Timing is Everything!

    In Part A of this activity, students investigate the scope of geologic time by creating a timeline that marks major geologic and biological events over the 4.6 billion year history of planet Earth. In Part B, they make another timeline that encompasses the 23 million year span of time that the IODP expedition will focus on in terms of sedimentation and climate change.

    Tools Needed: None

    Parts A and B:

  • string
  • Earth history timeline cards
  • Miocene timeline cards
  • paper clips
  • timeline organizer handout for Part A
  • timeline organizer handout for Part B

  • 6. Analyzing Sediment Cores
    In this culminating activity, students put your observational skills to work they work in collaborative groups to take on the role of sedimentologists in the core description lab. In addition to visual descriptive information, they use actual core data from Expedition 341, proxy data, including microfossils and the earth's paleomagnetic record, to determine the age of the sediments to build evidence and interpret the earth's past climate in S. Alaska.

    Tools Needed: Internet browser with Flash, Materials for sea level experiment

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