Six Interactive Lessons to Explore the Changing Earth

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These interactive maps and visualizations can engage students with the changing world. Find more media resources for teaching and learning at PBS LearningMedia. Sign up for a free account here.

Examine Global Surface Currents
This visualization from McDougal Littell/TERC visualizes the relationship between global wind directions and the direction of ocean. When most people think about the movement of ocean water, they think of waves or tides. Less visible are ocean surface currents that can move water as much as 100 kilometers (62 miles) per day and distribute everything they contain to distant oceans and seas. This visualization from McDougal Littell/TERC illustrates the patterns of ocean currents and the global wind patterns that drive them.

Mountain of Ice: If the Ice Melts
This interactive adapted from NOVA portrays what might happen to world coastlines if entire sections of the Antarctic Ice Sheet were to melt. By comparing present-day coastline positions with those from the peak glacial advance 20,000 years ago, you can begin to appreciate how much water is contained in glaciers, the importance of monitoring their condition, and the impact accelerated global warming could one day have on sea level.

Climate Connections Interactive Map
This interactive map of a year-long expedition around the world explores how climate changes people and how people change climate. North American topics include: carbon power, warming seas, thawing ice and extreme weather.

Climate Change and Human Health
Learn how human health is impacted by changes in the environment in this interactive activity adapted from "A Human Health Perspective: On Climate Change" by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Explore how global climate change affects health issues such as airway diseases, developmental disorders, mental health disorders, vectorborne diseases, and waterborne diseases. In addition, consider possible ways to reduce health risks.


Observing Antarctica
In this interactive activity adapted from NASA, students are invited to view Antarctica in unsurpassed detail using a compilation of high-resolution images called the Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica (LIMA). Students can choose to investigate Antarctica's moving ice; get closeup views of icebergs, snow dunes, and other land and seascape features; learn how cracks in a glacier can be used to gauge its speed; see how ridges and troughs in the ice help scientists determine glacier flow patterns; and take a flying tour of the area surrounding McMurdo Station, a scientific research center operated by the United States.

Earth’s Albedo and Global Warming
This interactive activity adapted from NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey illustrates the concept of albedo—the measure of how much solar radiation is reflected from Earth's surface. The balance between the amount of solar radiation reflected and absorbed by Earth's surface plays an important role in regulating global temperature. Learn about how Earth materials, such as snow, ice, and water, differ in their ability to reflect and absorb the Sun's energy and how melting polar ice creates a positive feedback loop that accelerates global warming. Investigate how the presence of pollution, such as soot, lowers the albedo of ice and further increases melting. In addition, observe the decline in Arctic sea ice cover from 1979–2007 and the effect of melting ice on sea levels.