GETSI Teaching Materials >Ice and Sea Level Changes > Unit 1: Rising concerns over rising sea levels
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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested materials developed by GETSI. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
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Unit 1: Rising Concerns Over Rising Sea Levels

These materials have been reviewed for their alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards as detailed below. Visit InTeGrate and the NGSS to learn more.


Students compare how changing sea level affects developing countries, such as Bangladesh, to how it affects industrialized countries. Students use evidence to provide explanations of phenomena.

Science and Engineering Practices

Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information: Compare, integrate and evaluate sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a scientific question or solve a problem. HS-P8.2:

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions: Apply scientific ideas, principles, and/or evidence to provide an explanation of phenomena and solve design problems, taking into account possible unanticipated effects. HS-P6.3:

Cross Cutting Concepts

Cause and effect: Changes in systems may have various causes that may not have equal effects. HS-C2.4:

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Natural Hazards: Natural hazards and other geologic events have shaped the course of human history; [they] have significantly altered the sizes of human populations and have driven human migrations. HS-ESS3.B1:

Performance Expectations

Engineering Design: Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants. HS-ETS1-1:

  1. This material was developed and reviewed through the GETSI curricular materials development process. This rigorous, structured process includes:

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    • multiple iterative reviews and feedback cycles through the course of material development with input to the authoring team from both project editors and an external assessment team.
    • real in-class or field camp/course testing of materials in multiple courses with external review of student assessment data.
    • multiple reviews to ensure the materials meet the GETSI materials rubric which codifies best practices in curricular development, student assessment and pedagogic techniques.
    • created or reviewed by content experts for accuracy of the science content.

  2. This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection

    Resources in this top level collection a) must have scored Exemplary or Very Good in all five review categories, and must also rate as “Exemplary” in at least three of the five categories. The five categories included in the peer review process are

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This page first made public: Dec 14, 2015


How are rising sea levels already influencing the developing nation of Bangladesh, and what are the anticipated consequences of additional sea level rise in the next century? This introduction to the Ice and Sea Level Changes module is designed to prompt student consideration of the economic, social, political, and health impacts of sea level change. They will revisit the impacts of sea level change on society in Unit 5 when they investigate implications for New York City and Southern California.

Learning Goals

Unit 1 Learning Outcomes

Unit 1 Teaching Objectives

  • Affective: Encourage reflection about the potential outcomes of sea level change on an area's economy, infrastructure, and residents.

Context for Use

This introductory content is appropriate for introductory geology, oceanography, meteorology, and other geoscience courses; sophomore-level courses in which geodesy and/or climate studies are being introduced; or non-geoscience courses where climate studies and/or the nature and methods of science are being investigated. The introductory exercise can easily be adapted to serve small or large-enrollment classes and can be executed as a think-pair-share, small-group discussion, gallery walk, interactive lecture, or as part of a ~two-week investigation of the use of geodesy to understand cryosphere and sea level changes using the entire GETSI Ice Mass and Sea Level Change module. The Bangladesh case study introduces the Ice Mass and Sea Level Change module and precedes Unit 2: Temperature: a global trendsetter on air temperature and sea level projections.

Description and Teaching Materials

Before coming to class, students should have read the article titled "Rising Concerns Over Rising Sea Levels in Bangladesh" (or specific vignettes within the article—see below) on the impacts of sea level rise on storm surge hazards, freshwater contamination, land loss, commerce, agriculture, tourism, public health, fisheries, the salt industry, and national security. Depending on how faculty choose to implement this section (i.e., think-pair-share, small group discussion, gallery walk, or interactive lecture), they may decide that students should read all of the vignettes or assign specific vignettes to each student. Several sea level rise videos are also provided in the references and resources section below that faculty may wish students to view before coming to class or show during class as an introduction to the module.

During the class meeting, a series of discussion questions (provided at the end of the article) should be posed to students. They may answer the questions with a partner using a think-pair-share format; in small, stationary groups; or in small, mobile groups in the context of a gallery walk. After students have answered the questions, instructors may choose to have group report-outs or a whole-group discussion. Alternatively, instructors may choose to implement the entire exercise as a whole-group discussion, depending on time constraints.

Student Discussion Questions

Notes: Think-pair-share, small-group discussion, gallery walk, or whole-group discussion formats are equally appropriate. Faculty may choose to select a subset of these questions depending on time constraints, enrollment, etc.
  1. Greenhouse gas emissions are implicated as the major contributors to warming and sea level rise. Industrialized countries contribute significantly more greenhouse gases than poorer, developing countries like Bangladesh. For example, the United States is responsible for approximately 23% of global carbon dioxide emissions annually, while Bangladesh contributes approximately 0.06% (Sarwar, 2005.) What (if any) role should developed countries like the United States take in assisting Bangladesh with its problems related to sea level rise?
  2. Are there any positive impacts of sea level rise in Bangladesh? Do these positive impacts outweigh the negative consequences of sea level rise?
  3. Which two specific problems caused by sea level rise in Bangladesh do you consider the most important? Why do you consider these problems more important than the others?
  4. Give an example of how one problem caused by sea level rise in Bangladesh amplifies another problem.
  5. Which of the Bangladesh-specific issues could be a concern where you live?
  6. There are two major strategies proposed to address the effects of sea level rise on places like Bangladesh. "Mitigation" is a strategy by which steps are taken to stop or slow down sea level rise. In contrast, an "adaptation" strategy assumes that sea level rise is unavoidable and involves seeking out ways to adjust to sea level rise. Do you believe that mitigation or adaptation is a more feasible strategy for Bangladesh? Why? Do you believe that mitigation or adaptation would be a more feasible strategy for your community? Why?
  7. Loss of habitable land and forced relocation are consequences of sea level rise. What are the potential economic effects of the migration of people living in coastal areas in Bangladesh? What (if any) role should the government have in the relocation process?
  8. Which sea level-related problems are unique to developing countries like Bangladesh and would be of less concern for an industrialized nation?
  9. Describe several attributes that make Bangladesh particularly vulnerable to sea level rise-related consequences.

Teaching Notes and Tips

This unit really introduces students to the societal implications of sea level rise. Depending on the number of discussion questions and the method used to answer them, this unit can take 15–30 minutes. For efficiency of in-class implementation, you might consider assigning the article as preparatory reading for students. Students could be assigned the entire article or only specific sections. Instructors will also need to decide how to give students access during class to the figures that go along with the article: some options include printing hard copies of maps, figures, and tables for each group of students (hard copies of photographs are probably not necessary); printing large copies and displaying them on the wall; providing electronic copies of figures on school-owned iPads/laptops if they are available in the classroom; and requesting that students bring their own devices for viewing figures during class. During testing, having the images available in a PowerPoint presentation did not prove to be particularly useful since different groups of students needed to refer to different figures. For more teaching tips, refer to the Instructor Stories page.


This is an introduction to the Ice and Sea Level Changes module with no formal assessment. However, faculty may choose to conduct a summative assessment of Unit 1 by having a whole class report-out on the discussion questions or by collecting written responses to the discussion questions. It is helpful to have a written record of student responses to the discussion questions as a reminder to students during subsequent module units.

References and Resources

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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested materials developed by GETSI. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »