Lesson Plan: Teaching about Hazards and Disasters through Climate-related Examples (Sea-Level Rise and Flooding due to Melting of Polar Ice)

As a high school or undergraduate Geography or Earth Sciences teacher, you can use this set of computer-based tools to help you in teaching topics such as Hazards, and Disasters: Natural and Man-made.
This lesson plan allows students to understand how the melting of polar ice due to climate change can result in an increase in sea levels globally. The activity will also allow students to examine real data on sea-level rise, determine the reasons for climate change-related flooding, and visualize the effects of such flooding on vulnerable coastal regions.

Thus, the use of this lesson plan allows you to integrate the teaching of a climate science topic with a core topic in Geography or Earth Sciences.

Changes in Global Sea Level


Use this lesson plan to help your students find answers to:

  •  1.  Name the largest glaciers (in terms of volume) in the world.
  •  2.  What would be the impact of the melting of large glaciers on coastal locations across the world?
  •  3. What are the factors that determine the vulnerability of a coastline to flooding caused by rising sea levels?
  •  4. What is the likely impact of a sea-level rise of 100 cm on San Francisco and Los Angeles?

Our Coast Our Future


About Lesson Plan

Grade Level High School, Undergraduate
Discipline Geography, Earth Sciences
Topic(s) in Discipline • Hazards, Disasters: Natural and Man-made
• Sea-level Rise
• Floods
• Melting of Polar Ice due to Climate Change
Climate Topic Disasters and Hazards
Location United States, California
Languages English
Access Online
Approximate Time Required 140 – 200 min


Classroom/Laboratory Activity (60 – 90 min) A classroom/laboratory activity that introduces the relationship between climate and the cryosphere, explains how sea-level rise can be predicted (based on average global temperature change), and triggers a discussion on the potential impacts of sea-level rise.


Video (~7 min) A video to discuss the social and economic impacts of rising sea levels.
Classroom/Laboratory Activity (undergraduate level) (~90 min)


Visualization (high-school level) (60 – 90 min)

For undergraduate level:
A classroom/laboratory activity to examine and analyze sea-level change data and shoreline response for the coast of California.


For high-school level:
An interactive visualization to visualize the effect of different amounts of sea-level rise and various storm scenarios on the coast of California.

Here is a step-by-step guide to using this lesson plan in the classroom/laboratory. We have suggested these steps as a possible plan of action. You may customize the lesson plan according to your preferences and requirements.

1. Introduce the topic through a classroom/laboratory activity


2. Play a video
3. Conduct a Classroom/Laboratory Activity (undergraduate level) (~90 min) 


Conduct an activity based on an interactive visualization (high-school level)


  • • For undergraduate level:
  • • Next, explore the topic through a hands-on classroom/laboratory activity, “Mapping Coastal Vulnerability to Sea-Level Rise at Point Reyes National Seashore”, developed by Len Vacher, University of South Florida.
  • • In this activity, students will examine actual data for sea-level change, and will perform data analysis and calculations in MS Excel to determine coastal vulnerability and shoreline response to sea-level rise.
  • • Download the teaching material (module) available at https://serc.carleton.edu/sp/ssac/national_parks/examples/35176.html
  • • Conduct the activity described in the PowerPoint presentation (module).
  • • OR
  • • For high-school level:
  • •  Next, explore the topic in an interactive and engaging manner by using the visualization (maps and tools), “OCOF Our Coast Our Future Flood Map”, developed by the CoSMoS project team.
  • • Access the visualization at http://data.pointblue.org/apps/ocof/cms/index.php?page=flood-map
  • • Facilitate an activity in which students can change the amounts of sea-level rise and storm scenario frequency, and observe the corresponding effects for specific locations on the coast of California.
  • • Compare and discuss various flooding scenarios and the vulnerability of different locations.


California coast ocean level

Mapping Coastal Vulnerability to Sea-Level Rise

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