Investigating Ice Cores

Students in environmental science are studying atmosphere and climate change, under the overarching question of What key functions does the atmosphere serve that enables life to exist on the planet?  To gain perspective on this issue students have read the text and watched the "atmosphere", "air pollution" and "climate change" videos on the Habitable Planet, and have brought in current event articles on the Clean Air Act for discussion.  Lectures on the atmosphere, climate, and air regulations have also been presented.

Today students were given "ice cores" to analyze for evidence of air pollution, and to think about the question What can be learned by looking at an ice core?  Student instructions were to 
1.       Identify layers of ice and measure and diagram the layers.
2.       Separate the layers by cutting or breaking the ice.
3.       Measure the mass of the sample. Record results.
4.       Melt each of the layers and measure the pH.
5.       Measure the volume of the sample using a graduated cylinder.
6.       Calculate density.
7.       Carefully extract the ash or boil away the melted ice water and mass the ash.
8.       Report your results on the board.
9.       Compare your predictions to the results of other students.
10.   Look for trends in the data, high and low pH vs. presence of air pollution
11.   Compare your data to the overall class data.

The preparation for this activity required advanced planning.

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