In BAESI’s new “Albedo, Melting Ice, and Feedback Loops Lesson Plan” lesson, students gain experience with the scientific method while they do two experiments to learn about how changing the reflectivity of Earth’s surface materials and feedback loops impact Earth’s systems: Students gain experience with the scientific method while they do two experiments to learn about how changing the reflectivity of Earth’s surface materials and feedback loops impact Earth’s systems:
- Albedo (differences in reflectivity of surfaces)
- Melting of ice on land and sea
- Feedback loops
First, the class goes outside to observe the phenomenon of albedo first-hand. Then they design experiments to test the important role albedo plays in determining how much incoming solar radiation is absorbed by a substance. They create diagrams to illustrate the process and the concept of feedback loops.
In Part II of the lesson, students investigate two ways that the melting of ice impacts Earth’s systems. They test how floating ice in a container (representing sea ice) and ice melting from outside a container (representing ice on land) affect the container’s water level.
- Students discover that melting land ice (glaciers) raises sea level, but the melting of sea ice does not.
- Melting sea ice does, however, reduce albedo and thus lead to more absorption of solar radiation and more warming.
They connect their results to the concept of a positive feedback loop and how it can greatly magnify the impact of an initial change in a system, in this case how warming leads to melting ice, lowered albedo, and more warming. Enrich / Extend activities are listed to help you meet the needs of all learners.
- How does the reflectivity (albedo) of different substances affect the amount of energy they absorb?
- How does melting of ice in the sea and on land affect Earth systems
- How can feedback loops impact Earth’s systems?
- How can changes in albedo and the amount of ice impact Earth’s climate and vice versa?
- Students will plan an experiment to:
- Test the effect of albedo on the temperature of different substances.
- Help them understand how the reflectivity of different types of planetary surfaces can have enormous impact on Earth’s systems.
- Students will create models of sea ice and glaciers in two containers, testing how the melting of each affects water levels.
- Students will form hypotheses about the possible connections between albedo, melting ice, and sea level and communicate their ideas orally and in writing.
- Students will be able to explain the connections among albedo, melting ice, sea level, feedback loops, and climate change orally and in writing.
The lesson is aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) & Common Core State Standards, as well as California’s Environmental Principles and Concepts. We hope you and your students enjoy the simulation and other activities and we’d love to hear your feedback!