Classroom Activities

Children gather around a drill in front of a school

High school students drill into frozen ground outside of their school in Alaska.
Credit: Kenji Yoshikawa

The following activities were located with the help of a science teacher. These activities were not created by NSIDC, and the links will take you away from the NSIDC Web site. To find other educational resources and links to advanced information, see the Further Readings Web page.

Permafrost and Frozen Ground

How Permanent is Permafrost?
This activity explores the relationship between surface air temperature and permafrost (soil) temperature. Data from boreholes at five locations in Russia are provided in Excel spreadsheets. The data can also be viewed in Google Earth.

Hot Times in Alaska: Permafrost (PDF, 46 KB)
This activity from the PBS television series Scientific American Frontiers was designed for grades 5 through 12. It includes an introduction to permafrost, the opportunity to create and examine frozen soil, and a hands-on activity in quantifying the effects of frozen soil on water percolation. Visit the PBS Hot Times in Alaska Web site.

Polar Land and Life: Educational Activity on Permafrost
Create samples of different frozen soils, complete with ice wedges, and observe changes in the soils from permafrost forming and then thawing. 

Newton's Apple Permafrost Activity
Try this activity to see how structures can melt the permafrost around them.  A supplementary activity (Permafrost Try Its) simulates ice wedging in soil. 

Alaska's Cold Desert: Permafrost and Tundra Activities
Explore how temperature and freezing affects decomposition of organic matter, and experiment with heaving and thawing frozen soils.

Forest and Tundra Ecology
Find a variety of activities for all primary and secondary grade levels. Although the activities were designed for Alaska students, access to a boreal forest or tundra is not necessary.
 

Climate and Carbon

The Greenhouse Effect
Find background information on the greenhouse effect and solar radiation on this University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR)-produced page.  Then try activities to explore albedo and the greenhouse effect.

The Carbon Cycle
This UCAR page provides background information about the carbon cycle and links to an interactive online carbon game.

UCAR Activity on Climate Variability
This page includes background information and an activity to simulate variability of global temperatures.

Climate and CO2: Analyzing Their Relationship
This National Geographic Expeditions activity, a research project on greenhouse gases and climate, is best suited for high school students.

Teaching Tips

Children's Misconceptions about Weather: A Review of the Literature
This article reviews the academic literature concerning children's weather misconceptions.