EarthLabs for Educators > Climate Detectives > Lab Overviews

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. In Part C, students learn where their voyage will take them and why the sites for drilling cores were chosen.

Time required: 150 minutes

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.

Time required: 60 minutes

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
  • clay or Playdoh to use as additional weight
  • 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.

    Time Required: 100 minutes

    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, students use a model to explore how sediments are deposited in ocean basins by icebergs.

    Time required: 100 minutes

    Tools Needed: None

    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 their observational skills to work to analyze core features to uncover clues about what Earth's climate was in the past. In Part A, they use an online glossary to investigate the nature of different core features and what the presence of these features means in terms of climate and climate change. In Part B, they use"The Core Lab" visualization to examine sedimentary features of core U1417B. In Part C, students gather evidence to support their predictions about what changes in climate have occurred in the southern Alaska region.Then in Part D they continue to assemble evidence by examining microfossils found at different points in the sediment column, again using the "The Core Lab" visualization. Finally, in Part E, they assemble their data and evidence to draw some conclusions about climate changes in the S. Alaska region during the time the sediments were deposited.

    Students end the module by preparing a short presentation of their groups' findings. Their report will use the point of view, and the evidence collected by, four types of scientists:

    • The Sedimentologist: What clues did you find in the core?
    • The Paleomagnetist: What does the earth's magnetic field reveal about the age of the sediments?
    • The Paleontologist: What do the microfossils reveal about the age, and environmental conditions during the time of sediment deposition?
    • The Chief Scientist: What does the evidence reveal about the earth's climate at the time these sediments were deposited in the Gulf of Alaska? How does it compare to the global climate record (evidenced from the delta 18O record)?

    Tools Needed: Internet browser

  • None

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