Education and
Public Engagement
at the Lunar and Planetary Institute
Explore Earth's Climate

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.

What's the Point?



For the group:

For the facilitator:



Heat Lamp


1. Introduce the activity by exploring the relationship the children have with the coast.

Our coastlines are important! Many people live and work there. Two-thirds of our Earth's population — about three and a half billion people in the world — live near the coastline. More than half of the people in the United States live in coastal communities along the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Gulf Coast, and Great Lakes.

2. Present the aquarium model to the children.

3. Share the ice block with the children. Place the ice block in the tank on the land.

4. Invite one of the children to carefully place a mark on the tank where the water level is. Have another child carefully mark on the foam where the water level is. Have a few other children verify that the marks are correctly placed.

5. Turn on the heat lamp and let the experiment run for 30 or more minutes.

6. Share with the children that our ice is melting all across the world. Each winter, less sea ice forms on the Arctic Ocean and it melts earlier in the spring. Glaciers in the mountains of New Zealand and Canada and Alaska are melting back. Glaciers in Glacier National Park are melting ... we may need to rename the park one day!

7. Facilitate an activity to demonstrate that carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere are rising, in part due to human activities, and is causing global temperatures to rise.
Balancing Act(for ages 8 to13)
Catching a Heat Wave (for ages 10 to 13)

8.  Return to the aquarium experiment.


Reiterate that our global temperatures are rising, at least in part due to our addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. These higher temperatures are causing glaciers and ice sheets on Earth to melt. The water from this melting will cause sea levels to increase, impacting people — and other organisms — who live in these coastal regions.