Resource Type
Completion Time
About 1 period
High school and Up
Download, Share, and Remix
Mark Buesing
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Attached activity worksheet
Earth Science
General Earth Science
Snow and Ice Science
Physical Science
General Physical Science
General Engineering


NASA's Operation IceBridge images Earth's polar ice in unprecedented detail to better understand processes that connect the Polar Regions with the global climate system. IceBridge uses a specialized fleet of aircraft and the most sophisticated suite of science instruments ever assembled to gather data on sea ice, glaciers, and ice sheets. The data gathered today will allow future scientists to better understand and model climate change. It is no exaggeration to say that teachers, those who work in support of teachers, and parents are literally raising the next generation of scientists for whom this data will be critical.

One of the places Operation IceBridge gathers data is Greenland, an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark. This lesson/activity starts with figuring the area of an irregular figure – Greenland. From there the lesson can be extended to different map projections, comparisons, cartography, limits, and history.


  • Estimate the area of an irregular figure
  • Compare geometric areas
  • Understand map projections
  • Understand the importance of a 3D model

Lesson Preparation

Watch the video "Is Greenland Really THAT big?" http://


Students should trace Greenland onto a piece of paper from their screens, then complete the attached worksheet activity.


Use Polar, Van der Grinten, or the Winkel tripel projections with similar questions.


See Lesson Materials


Mark Buesing, 2013 PolarTREC Teacher Libertyville High School Libertyville, IL mark.buesing [at]


9-12 Content Standard A: Science As Inquiry: Content Standard G: History and Nature of Science: a. Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry a. Science as a human endeavor b. Nature of scientific knowledge c. Historical perspectives

Standards Other

Common Core State Standards

Mathematics CCSS: HSG-GMD.B.4 Identify the shapes of two-dimensional cross-sections of three-dimensional objects, and identify three-dimensional objects generated by rotations of two-dimensional objects.

HSG-MG.A.3 Apply geometric methods to solve design problems (e.g. designing an object or structure to satisfy physical constraints or minimize cost; working with typographic grid systems based on ratios).

HSN-Q.A.3 Choose a level of accuracy appropriate to limitations on measurement when reporting quantities. G-MG.1 Use geometric shapes, their measures, and their properties to describe objects (e.g., modeling a tree trunk or a human torso as a cylinder).

8.EE.3 Use numbers expressed in the form of a single digit times an integer power of 10 to estimate very large or very small quantities, and to express how many times as much one is than the other. For example, estimate the population of the United States as 3x108 and the population of the world as 7x109, and determine that the world population is more than 20 times larger.

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.