Resource Type
Completion Time
About 1 period
Middle School and Up
Download, Share, and Remix
Lollie Garay
Containers of various sizes and thicknesses
Crushed ice
Block ice
Large plastic container to simulate the sea
Computer with Internet access
Modeling clay
Water Cycle, Weather, and Climate
Snow and Ice Science
General Environmental Studies
General Polar Science

Students will undertake three different activities to help them identify a variety of Antarctic ice types.


To provide sensory experiences that will move students toward conceptual understanding of the types of sea ice found in Antarctica.


It is suggested that teachers survey the Resources section before beginning this series of three classroom activities for background information.

Preparation for Activity I: Use different sizes of containers to freeze ice into different thicknesses and shapes, as well as packaged ice. I used Styrofoam meat trays and bowls, crushed ice, and block ice. You may have to experiment well ahead of time to find what works best.


Activity I.

Observations of ice in the classroom. (Adapted activity from MESSENGER Exploring Ice in the Solar System)

All ice is put into a large plastic container with 3-5 cm of water to represent the sea. The amount of water will depend on the size of the container you use. Students are given ample time to observe the ice and record observations about size, shape, thickness, the feel of the ice etc. I had students use their science journals to record observations and make drawings about what they saw. A sample data sheet is attached if preferred. After observations are complete, discuss what they recorded. Observations should initiate commentary and raise questions about the experience.

Activity II.

Introduce The AsPect Sea Ice Observation program of SCAR GLOCHANT (Global Change and the Antarctic). See the Resources section.

Discuss how this program ground truths what satellites are seeing from space. Explain how this was used in the Antarctic expeditions to collect data about the characteristics and distribution of sea ice around Antarctica. Use the tutorial and image library to show the students the different types of sea ice found in Antarctica. Images are also available in the downloadable PowerPoint presentation available with this lesson. The images are great for stimulating discussion and raising questions about how each different type forms. The ASPect program has considerable information on sea ice processes. As you move through the images, ask them if there was anything like the photo examples in their classroom "sea". After this class discussion, assign individuals or teams to research particular sea ice types.

Activity III.

Creating Models of Sea Ice

Crayola Modeling clay works really well for this activity because it is easily molded and dries quickly, however, any molding clay or material can work. (Be creative!) Students or teams will build models of their ice type. (My students told me that this part was very important in helping them understand and remember the different types of ice. It moved them from a concrete experience to conceptual understanding!) When models are completed, allow them to air dry overnight, or as long as needed, depending on materials used. Students will use their research and models to explain the different types of sea ice.


ASPect Antarctic Sea Ice Processes and Climate, .html Antarctic Expeditions,


Students are given photographs of sea ice from the expedition to identify the primary, secondary, and tertiary types; and to estimate the percentage of the photo that the sea ice covers. On-going assessment included communicated knowledge, journal work (or data sheet completion), accuracy of models, written summary of research on sea ice types, and presentation.


Lollie Garay, lolgaray [at]


5-8 Content Standard A: Science As Inquiry: a. Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry b. Understandings about scientific inquiry Content Standard B: Physical Science: a. Properties and changes of properties in matter Content Standard G: History and Nature of Science: a. Science as a human endeavor
Attachment Size
Download Lesson (PDF - 217 KB)217.24 KB 217.24 KB
Download Identifying Sea Ice (PPT - 6.4 MB)6.44 MB 6.44 MB

This program is supported by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed by this program are those of the PIs and coordinating team, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.