Lunar and Planetary Institute

Explore! Ice Worlds


All About Ice
The All About Ice suite of activities sets the stage for Explore! Ice Worlds! Ice in the Solar System and Ice on Earth. Children investigate ice, learn about its properties, and explore how it can change states to a liquid or a gas. Through hands-on experiences, they observe ice, find its melting and freezing point, and learn about some of its unique properties, including that ice, the solid phase of water, is less dense than the liquid!

Ice Bingo: An Icebreaker Activity
Ice Bingo is a 15-minute icebreaker activity for children ages 8 to 13 that introduces ice and its properties and sets the stage for further explorations and activities in Explore! Ice Worlds! Children are given cards that contain squares with different types of ice experiences — like getting their tongues stuck on ice! — interspersed with ice facts and information about ice in our solar system. Children have five minutes to find as many participants as they can who have had experiences described on the card.

States of Water: A Snow Mobile (Getting Started)
To introduce the properties and states of water, children ages 8 to 13 prepare the materials for a mobile. As they undertake the activities in the module, the children discuss the questions posed by the mobile and questions or ideas they may have about ice, water, and water vapor. At the close of the module, they complete the mobile.

An Ice Magic Show
In this 20-minute activity, cool magician, I.C. Melton (the facilitator) demonstrates the amazing State Change Trick for children ages 8 to 10. Based on what they have observed in I.C.'s performance, the children brainstorm what it really takes to make a state change happen!

Around the Block: An Ice Tour
In Around the Block: An Ice Tour children ages 8 to 13 spend 20 minutes investigating the basic properties of ice. Using common tools such as magnifying glasses and magnets, along with their own senses of sight, touch, and smell, they examine a large block of ice and then discuss and record their observations as a team.

The Melting Point!
In this 15-minute companion activity to That's a (N)ice Temperature!, teams of children ages 8 to 13 predict which ice cube will melt faster, one sprinkled with salt or one without salt. After making their predictions, the children pour salt on one ice cube and leave the other untouched, then observe for 2 minutes to see if their predictions were correct. Children learn that salt — and other substances — lowers the melting point of ice. Finally, they put their knowledge to the test by making ice cream!

That's A N(ice) Temperature
In this 30-minute companion activity to The Melting Point, teams of children ages 8 to 13 experiment to find the melting and freezing points of water and ice.

Amazing Expanding Ice
Children experiment with freezing water to observe another special property of ice — that it is less dense as a solid (ice) than it is as a liquid (water). Amazing, Expanding Ice! is an "overnight" activity requiring 20 minutes of preparation, overnight freezing of the experiment, and 10 minutes of follow up discussion.

The Tip of the Iceberg
Children ages 8 to 13 observe an ice cube in water and — literally — draw conclusions about properties of ice based on their observations!

Flubber Flows
Flubber Flows is a 30-minute activity in which teams of four to five children ages 8 to 13 experiment with Flubber and investigate how a solid can flow! They predict and model the properties of glaciers, view images of advancing glaciers, and create their own Flubber flow!

States of Water: A Snow Mobile (Wrapping Up)
After answering questions and recording their discoveries about water in its solid, liquid, and gas states on their Snow Mobile pieces, the children assemble their mobiles!

Ice in the Solar System

Part Two of Explore! Ice Worlds Ice in the Solar System investigates the who, what, where, why, and how of exploring ice in the solar system. Children ages 8 to 13 examine different types of ices, discover where these different ices occur in the solar system, how scientists determine what ice is where, meet some of the scientists who are exploring these ice worlds, and explore why their work is so important!

Ice and Seek: What is Ice?
In this two-part, 60-minute activity, children ages 8 to 13 begin explorations of ice on planets and moons in our solar system by building an understanding that there are different types of ice. As teams, the children examine three types of ice — dry ice, alcohol ice, and water ice. They identify the ices based on clues and then match the type of ice to the planet or moon on which it occurs.

Reflections on Ice: How We Look for Ice
To build an understanding of how scientists study ice properties remotely, children ages 8 to 13, observe ice through different wavelengths of light. In this 60 minutes of exploration, teams of children travel to three ice stations and examine the ice with black lights, flashlights, and colored lenses to discover that there is more to ice than meets the eye!

Ice Zones: Where We Look for Ice
In this 30-minute activity, children ages 8 to 13 draw conclusions about where on a planetary body scientists might look for ice — and why. They learn that even planets and moons as close to the Sun and as hot as Mercury may have areas with ice!

Ice Quest!
In this 45-60-minute activity, children ages 8 to 13 take on the roles of NASA scientists! They seek information collected from remote locations to ultimately answer questions about ice on Earth and in our solar system and discover why ice is so important. Children work individually or in teams of three to four on a quest for ice! Each team rolls a die that directs them to one of six posters at each turn. They collect information that will help them construct solutions — or challenge their advancement — in the game.

Ice on Earth

Ice on Earth activities investigate where ice is found on Earth, how important ice is to our planet's climate, what changes in polar ice could mean for our future, and, finally, what children and their families can do to help mitigate those changes.

Know Your Poles!
In this 60-minute companion activity to Polar Bears or Penguins?, children ages 8 to 13 divide into Arctic and Antarctic teams to investigate Earth's polar regions. Each team reads, discusses, and records information about their region to share and to use in Polar Bears or Penguins?

Polar Bears or Penguins?
In this 60-minute companion activity to Know Your Poles, Arctic and Antarctic teams of children ages 8 to13 become familiar with the geography of, and amount of ice in, Earth's polar regions. Children create a "Polar Geographic Features Map" with an ice overlay. In teams, they play a fast-action matching game that challenges them to use their knowledge of North and South pole facts.

On the Rise
In this 60-minute interactive demonstration, children ages 8 to 13 use ice blocks and heat lamps to model what will happen to coastlines around the world as glaciers melt. They explore why glaciers are melting as a consequence of global warming and how human activity has added to the amount of warming. Catching a Heat Wave or Balancing Act may be incorporated into this activity.

Balancing Act
Children ages 8 to 13 construct a mobile that models the balance of warming and cooling influences, represented by craft materials, on the Earth's global temperatures. The children find that the Sun's energy alone leaves the mobile unbalanced and the Earth is too cold. They need to add additional warming and cooling factors to balance it and create Earth's moderate temperatures. Adding human sources of greenhouse gases, such as factories, power plants, cars, and farms, unbalance the mobile again, and Earth's temperatures become too warm.

Catching a Heat Wave
Children ages 10 to 13 model the effect of greenhouse gases on the Earth's atmosphere. Softballs represent the invisible infrared radiation emitted by the Earth as it is heated by sunlight. Armed with softball gloves and oven mitts representing greenhouse gases or embroidery hoops representing the inert gases nitrogen and oxygen, the children attempt to catch and throw the balls! They find that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane are uniquely shaped to catch and pass on infrared radiation, and so they are responsible for the warmth we enjoy on Earth. The children discuss how the addition of greenhouse gases by human activities leads to further warming and what steps we can take to slow it.

Flip-Flops or Boots
Children ages 9 to 13 undertake a long-term reading program to discover that, while weather is what helps you decide to wear flip-flops or boots on a given day, climate determines the ratio of the warm-weather shoe type over the cold within your closet. Children work in teams to research one of seven regions of the United States, collecting information about the climate, weather, crops, plants, and animals typical of the area. They share their findings on a regional map, and when assembled on the wall, the completed map of the United States indicates the key climate-related characteristics of each region. As a wrap-up, teams may put on a play or fashion show, create an exhibit for the library, or write a book showcasing their assigned region. The community can be invited to participate in a celebration showcasing regional foods and activities or in a photo contest.

Polar Bears Go With the Floes
In this 45-60-minute "high-stakes" board game, everyone wins or everyone loses! As they play, groups of three to four children ages 8 to 13 build an understanding of how human actions impact global change. As teams, children play a game in which chance and choice determine the fate of a lone polar bear on an ice floe!



Last updated
August 8, 2013

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