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Photo by Annie Spratt via Unsplash

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Lauren Sommer, Ryan Kellman


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Social Studies, Earth and Space Sciences, Geography

Resource Types

  • Article
  • Interactive Media

Regional Focus

North America, Polar Regions

Sea Change: How Melting Ice Is Disrupting the World's Oceans

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  • This interactive news article tells the story of endangered right whales and their prolonged migration journey to find food as climate change causes shifts in Atlantic Ocean currents.
  • This interactive media features videos of whales and melting Greenland ice as the viewer scrolls down the webpage and encounters additional text.
  • The article describes how Greenland's melting ice sheet could be a driver of changing Atlantic Ocean currents, as fresh, cold meltwater is slowing the conveyor belt current, driving polar saltwater down towards North America.
Teaching Tips


  • The scrolling format of this article with quotes, videos, and images is unique and an effective way to tell an ecological story with many interconnected parts.
  • The images and videos of the Greenland ice sheet and whales are beautiful and captivating, inspiring awe in the viewer.
  • The interactive article shows a video of scientists using fluorescent dye to track how Greenland's ice melt is moving below the ice sheet's surface and into the ocean, demonstrating scientific methods for investigating a phenomenon.
  • The diagrams and data relating to changing and warming ocean currents provide excellent visuals and evidence for understanding the consequences of a warming and changing ocean.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Learners should be familiar with ocean currents and the difference between global freshwater and saltwater sources.
  • It may benefit learners to understand the causes behind glacial melting and ocean warming.


  • Before viewing the resource, ask students how the shifting range of the right whale's plankton food source might affect the whales and prompt them to consider human water use if they don't do so independently.
  • Consider having students work in pairs to read the story first and jot down their thoughts and questions about the environmental phenomena.
  • Create a graphic organizer to help students record the science behind the ecological issue of right whales and consider including a global map to help them diagram information about the changing ocean currents and shifting organism ranges. 
  • To conclude a lesson using this resource, ask students to describe how they think the unique format of the story impacted their interest and prompt them to consider how they could use this type of storytelling for topics they care about.
  • As an extension, have students complete the ice melt quiz linked at the bottom of the story to dive deeper into the causes and effects of global ice melt.
Scientist Notes
This resource from National Public Radio follows the plight of right whales in the North Atlantic as a changing climate melts the Greenland ice sheet, forcing them to move farther north in search of food. This story is packed with videos that show the whales, their habitat, and how melting ice in Greenland impacts the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a current crucial to heat circulation around the planet. The resource also features current ocean maps from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and sea surface temperature data from NOAA. At the bottom of the page, the resource includes an excellent interactive ice melt quiz, allowing students to learn more about how ice melting in one place can have huge impacts across the globe. This resource is well-sourced and recommended for teaching.

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • English Language Arts
    • Speaking & Listening (K-12)
      • SL.7.2 Analyze the main ideas and supporting details presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how the ideas clarify a topic, text, or issue under study.
  • Social Studies
    • U.S. History: America in the World - Geography, People, and the Environment
      • 6.1.12.GeoHE.14.a: Evaluate the impact of individual, business, and government decisions and actions on the environment and climate change and assess the efficacy of government policies and agencies in New Jersey and the United States in addressing these decisions.
  • Science
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • HS-ESS2-2. Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.
      • HS-ESS2-4. Use a model to describe how variations in the flow of energy into and out of Earth’s systems result in changes in climate.
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • HS-ESS3-6. Use a computational representation to illustrate the relationships among Earth systems and how those relationships are being modified due to human activity.
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • MS-LS2-4. Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
      • HS-LS2-6. Evaluate claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem.
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