Teaching Notes

Example Output

Example Output
My World GIS project map of Greenland with Ice Sheet and Glacier Velocity Data on the map.

A visualization of the Greenland Ice Sheet thickness and the regions of fastest glacial movement across the continent.

Grade Level

This chapter is appropriate for students in grades 7-14.

Learning Goals

After completing this chapter, students will be able to:


This chapter offers the opportunity to make connections between an observable change in the cryosphere and its potential impact in the hydrosphere and atmosphere. As such, it provides a model for system-level exploration and inquiry, following the observed results of changes in one sphere to their consequence in other spheres.

Background Information

A large variety of background information for this chapter is available on the internet. Teachers may decide to read these articles ahead of class or may direct their students to review the information as homework. The following are just several of the many articles available online:

Greenland Melting - Feature Articles

Key Terms and Prerequisite Knowledge

Students who use this lesson will need to be familiar with the following key terms. The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) hosts an excellent primer on glaciers (All About Glaciers) for students who are new to the cryosphere.

Other important terms listed below can be can be found in the NSIDC Glacier Glossary.

Instructional Strategies

Introduce the mystery: What impacts has global warming had on the Greenland Ice Sheet?

As a whole class, begin with an open-ended discussion about the following questions and others you deem necessary to set the stage. Do not feel the need to answer all of the students questions at this point as these questions are meant to pique the interest of the students before the lesson. Adjust these questions based on the background knowledge and level of your students.

In order to engage students in the excitement about Greenland's changing ice sheet and the potential impacts, choose one or more of the introductory options listed below.

Other Teaching Suggestions

Demonstrate how to open the My World project file. Allow students to work through the lesson at their own pace. They will discover the tools as they work though the lesson. Advanced students may be able to invent their own methods for solving the questions.

If you are using this project file with multiple students, either remind students not to save changes when they quit the program, or have them rename the file when they save, so that they do not overwrite the original project file.

Learning Contexts

This chapter engages students in the measurement and analysis of the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet. From this starting point students may decide to investigate the causes and/or consequences of this melting.

This lesson is well suited for students in AP Environmental Science or Earth Science classes. It can also be used as an introduction to remote sensing or glaciology.

Science Standards

The following National Science Education Standards are supported by this chapter:

Grades 5-8

Grades 9-12

Geography Standards

The following U.S. National Geography Standards are supported by this chapter:

Other Standards

The following National Technology Foundation Standards are supported by this chapter:

Time Required

Three to five 45-minute periods will be needed to fully complete the case study and all exercises. Times will vary depending on prior knowledge and skills.

Other Resources

Web Links

Background Articles and Materials for Teachers:


Books and Articles

Alley, R. B. (2002). The Two Mile Ice Time Machine. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press.

Angier, J. (2005). Hot Planet - Cold Comfort. On Scientific American Frontiers [VHS]: PBS.

Kolbert, E, (2005) The Climate of Man - Part I, New Yorker Magazine.

A link to the full text of the New Yorker article (above) is on the Steffen Research website

Kolbert, E. (2006). Field Notes from a Catastrophe. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Parkinson, C. L. & Comiso, J. C. (2004). Tracking the Changing Arctic. Physics Today, Retrieved August 2004, http://www.physicstoday.org/vol-57/iss-8/p38.html

Steffen, K. & Huff, R. (2002). Greenland Maximum Melt Extent: a record maximum melt extent on the Greenland ice sheet in 2002. Retrieved March 2005, from http://cires.colorado.edu/steffen/melt/index.html

Steffen, K., Huff R., & Nuemann, G. (2004). The melt anomaly of 2002 on the Greenland ice sheet from active and passive microwave satellite observations. Geophysical Research Letters, 31.

R. Thomas, et al. (2000). Mass Balance of the Greenland Ice Sheet at High Elevations (Acrobat (PDF) 267kB Nov22 07),(in PDF) Science 289, 426

Teaching Resources

Handouts and additional materials for this lesson are listed below.

These guides can be downloaded to help with the use of the program:

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