Activity Introduction

Activity details: In this activity, students learn about the different causes of sea level rise. Students conduct experiments that demonstrate how ice shelf melting may not directly affect sea levels, but how ice cap melting would. Students use maps and geometry to estimate the volume of the Greenland ice cap and then, after doing some examples, they calculate the rise in sea level that would result if the entire ice cap were to melt. Students may then conduct further research to investigate the consequences of the sea cap melting for humans and other elements of our environment.

Key lessons and understandings of activity:

  • Students demonstrate that sea level rises can occur via different effects. 
  • Students understand that the size of these rises can be calculated by well planned calculations.

General capabilities: Critical and creative thinking

Australian Curriculum content descriptions:  

Science Year 7:

  • Water is an important resource that cycles through the environment (ACSSU116) 

Science Year 8:

  • Energy appears in different forms including movement (kinetic energy), heat and potential energy, and causes change within systems (ACSSU155)

Syllabus OutcomesSC4-10PW, SC4-12ES

Topic: Climate Change

Time required: 45 mins

Level of teacher scaffolding: Low – oversee activity

Resources required: Internet access, printed worksheets, writing materials, ice, bucket or fish tank, other items depending upon student inquiry choices.

Digital technology opportunities: Digital sharing capabilities.

Homework and extension opportunities: None.

Keywords: Greenhouse effect, climate change, ice shelf, ice cap.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher preparation:

Overarching learning goal: Students demonstrate that sea level rises can occur via different effects, such as melting sea ice or melting land ice. Students understand that the size of these rises can be calculated by well planned calculations.


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. It was created to:

  • provide policymakers (governments) with regular scientific updates about climate change;
  • highlight the impact climate change will have on the planet in the future; and,
  • offer some ideas about how to tackle the challenges of climate change's potential effects on the planet.

In 2021-22, the IPCC released their sixth assessment report. This is the most up-to-date physical understanding of the climate system and climate change.

The report makes a number of important points:

  • It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land
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Student Worksheet

Activity 1: Modelling the effects of ice melting experiment 

Aim: To observe the effects of melting ice on the Earth's oceans.

What you need:

  • A large plastic tub or fish tank
  • A smaller tub (such as an ice-cream container)
  • A ruler
  • Some ice
  • Some warm water

Instructions - Part A: Modelling an ice shelf.

 Step 1. Pour some warm water (about 5cm deep) into your large tub. This represents the ocean.

Step 2. Add some ice to the water. Make sure all the ice is floating (not in a big pile that sits on the bottom of the ocean). This ice represents the ice shelf. There are ice shelves at the north pole and the south pole. An ice shelf is made up of a thick layer of ice that floats on the surface of the ocean. This is the ice that breaks off to form icebergs.

Step 3. Measure with the ruler the depth of the water (make sure that you are measuring to the surface of the water, not the top of the ice blocks.

Step 4. Results: Come back and check the depth of the water every fiv

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