Sea Level Rise STEM


Sea Level Rise STEM introduces students to the concept of global warming and its effects on the rise of ocean water levels. Students will learn what causes this to happen and what effects it has on the environment. They will also get to create a campaign to raise awareness of the problem.

In the “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page, you will find a few suggestions of additional ideas to add to the lesson plan. One option for instance is to have an environmental group speak with the class about the dangers of global warming and answer students’ questions.

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What our Sea Level Rise STEM lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Sea Level Rise STEM explores the relationship between climate change and rising water levels. Students will explore its negative consequences as well as possible solutions to counteract rising sea levels. They will also discover problems we will face if the ocean’s water levels continue to go up. This lesson is for students in 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. For this lesson, you need clay or Play-doh, plastic containers, cold water, ice cubes, permanent markers, measuring cups, and rulers.

Options for Lesson

You can check out the “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page for additional suggestions for ideas and activities to incorporate into the lesson. One idea is to have an environmental group come and speak with the class about the dangers of global warming. Then the students could watch videos of Greta Thunberg. Ask them to think about ways they can reach out to their local government officials to learn more about what their city and state are doing to help reduce global warming. Another idea is for students to complete the experiment by themselves with only one trial. Then combine the results as a class for even more data. The class could then analyze the data as a group.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page provides an extra paragraph of information to help guide the lesson and remind you what to focus on. The blank lines on this page are available for you to write out thoughts and ideas you have as you prepare the lesson.


Why the Rise in Sea Level?

The Sea Level Rise STEM lesson plan has two pages of content. Over time, the sea level has been slowly rising. But in the last 100 years, it has been rising at a much faster rate than it has before. Unfortunately, the sea level is rising due to global warming. This can cause lots of problems for our environment.

The rise in sea level also happens because of three other factors: thermal expansion, melting glaciers, and loss of ice sheets. Burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the air. As the earth warms, so do the oceans. And as the water gets warmer, it takes up more space. So the sea levels are rising due to the expansion of the water. In fact, half of the rise in the last 25 years is due to warmer ocean temperatures.

When the temperatures rise, large ice formations like mountain glaciers naturally melt a little bit every summer. And then in the winter, when it snows, the melted water is replaced by new snow and ice. So throughout each season, the amount of melted glacier and fresh snow balances out. Global warming has caused higher temperatures in the summer, which means more of the glacier melts. But it also causes less snow to fall in the winter, so the melted glacier no longer replaces itself each season. The imbalance is causing the sea levels to rise.

Greenland and Antarctica are covered by gigantic ice sheets. Because the weather is becoming warmer, more of the ice sheet is melting than usual. Both under the ice sheet and on top are small rivers of water from the melting ice. When there is more melted water, the rivers run faster, causing even more of the ice sheet to melt and adding more water into the oceans. In fact, in 2017, the Larson C ice shelf in West Antarctica actually broke!

Specific Data

The average sea level around the globe rose by almost seven inches over the last 100 years. Seven inches doesn’t sound like much until we consider that the earth is nearly three-fourths water. Seven inches represents trillions of gallons. Sea levels can change in different amounts in different places. Wind patterns, ocean currents, and plate tectonics contribute to the sea level rising faster in some places. In addition, the land is changing by rising and sinking.

The biggest problems occur in coastal areas where the ground is sinking and the sea levels increase simultaneously. Even a slight increase in the sea level can have an enormous impact on habitats, especially along the coast. It can cause erosion, flood the wetlands, contaminate the soil with salt, and destroy animal habitats.

On top of that, higher sea levels also cause more dangerous hurricanes and typhoons. That’s because the storm moves slower and dumps more rain, which causes flooding. The flooding ruins homes and businesses, but it also forces people to migrate to higher ground.

Suppose we keep burning fossil fuels and putting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. In that case, the globe will continue to heat up, the glaciers and ice sheets will continue to melt, and the water will rise. As a result, islands will disappear, and entire coastal regions will be under water.

We face several problems as sea levels continue to rise:

  • The accelerated rate of beach erosion
  • Higher numbers of cliffs falling
  • Increased coastal flooding
  • Dangerous navigation conditions
  • Compromised beach safety
  • Saltwater intruding on freshwater areas
  • Fewer jobs and tourism
  • Loss of wetland habitats

To help, we must reduce the number of greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere. If we continue to heat up our planet, it will react. Water levels will continue to rise, causing more and more problems. We can make a difference and stop it now before it is too late.


The Sea Level Rise STEM lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. Each one will reinforce students’ comprehension of lesson material in different ways and help them demonstrate when they learned. Use the guidelines on the classroom procedure page to determine when to distribute each worksheet to the class.


There are three parts to the activity worksheet. First, students will follow a series of directions to create a model of the North Pole. They will use plastic containers, water, and ice cubes. When they finish, they will explain what the water and ice represent. Next, they will create a South Pole model using clay or Play-doh, containers, water, and ice cubes. Again, they will describe what the water, clay, and ice represent.

Finally, students will allow their models to melt. Once the ice melts completely, they will check whether the water level has risen. If it has, they will measure the amount (in millimeters) and draw a line to show the new water level.

Students will complete three trials of this experiment. When they finish, they will create a bar graph that shows the data for the North Pole and South Pole models. Then they will respond to the prompts at the bottom of the second worksheet page.


For the practice worksheet, students will read through a short passage about the dangers of sea level rise. They will use a free online template platform such as Canva or Crello to create three Instagram posts for their campaign. The goal is to teach others about the negative impacts of sea level rise. The worksheet provides an example for students to use as reference as they complete the task.


The homework assignment requires students to read an article from a specific website about the worries of changing sea levels. Once they read the article, students will answer a series of questions. If the link is inaccessible, have students instead research the answers to the various questions on the worksheet. In total, there are seven questions to answer.

Worksheet Answer Keys

The lesson plan provides answer keys for the activity and homework worksheets at the end of the document. Correct answers are in red to make it easy to compare them with students’ work. Some answers will vary because of the nature of the prompts or questions. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade



State Educational Standards


Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.