Sea Level Rise


Students learn how projected sea level rise threatens coastal areas.

Engage students with the potential consequences of sea level rise.

  • Watch the Rising Sea Level video (6 min) from the National Science Foundation and NBC Learn: Ask student to note (1) how much sea level has changed in recent years, (2) how much sea level change is projected for this century, and (3) the two reasons that sea level rises due to climate change.
  • Look at the Impact of Sea Level Rise on Bangladesh Map: Have students compare maps and describe which heavily populated areas are at risk of sea level rise. Ask students to consider how different amounts of sea level rise will impact Bangladesh.

Explore maps to investigate the projected impacts of sea level rise in different geographic areas.

  • Have students choose a location in the continental U.S. that they think will be vulnerable to sea level rise (city or state). If you have a wall map, have each student mark the location they will research with a sticky note.
  • Surging Seas Interactive Map: Instruct each student to investigate his/her chosen location on the interactive map, taking note of how many people, places and things are vulnerable to one, two, and three feet of sea level rise. Have students present their findings to the class and record the data in a table with columns for the number of people, homes, and acres that will be vulnerable to flooding with the different amounts of sea level rise.
  • Have students brainstorm what communities could do to keep people safe. If time permits, allow students to research whether communities have tried these strategies and whether they worked.

Evaluate learning by having students articulate the possible impacts of sea level rise on a place.

  • Evaluate student learning by having each student write a letter to the mayor or governor of the location that they researched. Instruct students to explain how sea level rise may impact the community, provide information about the different scenarios that might occur over this century, the short term (a few years) and long term (a century) impacts, and how many people and homes could be affected. Have students include suggestions in their letters for how the community might keep people safe in the future as sea level rises. Students should include data and information gathered from the Surging Seas Interactive Map and be able to describe the impacts that people will experience with different amounts of sea level rise.