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Human Energy Systems | Activity 1.3

Activity 1.3: Activity 1.3: Graphing Arctic Sea Ice (45 min)

Students compare images of arctic sea ice cover and data about arctic sea ice over time. They construct a line graph using data points and discuss how different representations of data allow them to see different patterns and trends.

Materials You Provide

  • pencil (1 per student)

Resources Provided


Print one copy of the 1.3 Graphing Arctic Sea Ice Worksheet for each student. Prepare a computer and projector to display the PPT. If you plan on having students retrieve data themselves, prepare a computer with an Internet connection for each student or pair of students.


1. Discuss the problem with data.

Remind students that in this unit we will be examining systems at larger spatial and temporal scales than in previous units. This presents a problem: How do we know when we’ve looked at ENOUGH data to see a different that is important? How do we know which data to pay attention to? In this lesson we will explore these ideas.


Look at students’ arctic sea ice graphs before the next activity. Note the axis titles chosen by the students and use this to gauge how well they understand the information in the graph. Use the 1.3 Grading the Graphing Arctic Sea Ice Worksheet for a model version of the graph. If students had trouble constructing the graph you may need to revisit this activity before moving on.


Have students practice inputting one data point into the graph as a group and let them ask clarifying questions before completing the entire graph.

Extending the Learning

  • Assign students an independent or group research project to research patterns in arctic or Antarctic ice prior to 1979.
  • Have students use the same website to graph the data from Antarctica.