Global Ups & Downs: Changing Sea Level (6-12)
Lesson 6: Culminating Lesson: Impacts of Sea Level Change on Ecosystems

Culminating Lesson:
Impacts of Sea Level Change on Ecosystems

This lesson consists of one activity. Students select geographic areas of interest and project changes to flora and fauna and the impacts to human society brought about by varying sea level. Students present their findings as a formal report.

Concepts and
learning outcomes

Students will understand that:

  • Changes in sea level affect habitats and the flora and fauna they support.
  • Changes in sea level impacts humans.

Time requirements

Five 50-minute class

Impacts of Sea Level Change

Materials / Preparation


Students should work individually on this assignment.

Teacher tips

This activity is very flexible and should be adapted to suit the needs of your class. The introduction of the activity will take one 50-minute class. Students will need time to conduct research on their selected area, which can be done in class or at home depending on student access to computers with Internet access. The student presentations will take one to two class periods, depending on the number of students in your class.


  1. Begin class by telling students that they have spent the past several weeks gathering evidence that support the hypothesis that there have been changes in global ice cover and thus, global sea level in the past. You may want to have them review this evidence using their notebooks for help.
  2. What kinds of impacts have these changes had in the past? Using the exploration of the Washington, D.C. area and the homework reading from the previous night, ask them “What kinds of impacts would changing global sea level have?”
  3. Tell students that their final assignment will be to select a particular area from a list you will provide them and then research the effects of a 10-meter rise in sea level in that area. They are to map the new shoreline in that area and to compose a report about the effects of the 10-meter rise on the flora and fauna that inhabit that area and on the impact to human society of that area. More advanced students should be encouraged to add a section on possible solutions. They will be required to turn in a report and a map and to make a presentation of their findings for the class.
  4. To begin this assignment, students will choose a location for their study. Begin by directing students to the website GLOBE: A Gallery of Images
    a. Ask them to scroll down to “Continental Images: Color or Shaded Relief”
    b. Have students review the colored maps of the continents, and to choose the city that they think would be most affected by sea level rise. Provide them with the List of City Selections from which to select. To locate these cities students can use the interactive map at Xpeditions Atlas and then locate the cities on the shaded relief maps. Walk around the room to check their choices in order to ensure an appropriate choice.
    c. After students have chosen a city, give them each a printed shaded relief map of their chosen area, and ask them to return to the Sea Level Movie. Using the movie, they should color in the new shoreline of their chosen continent with a 10-meter rise.
    d. Following this, the students should be allowed to work individually to begin research on the impacts to flora, fauna, and human civilization in their area of choice.
    e. Suggestions for research include a trip to the school library starting with encyclopedias, Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature for articles in magazines like National Geographic, and to Google-search the city name to find official city websites (i.e. Chamber of Commerce)
    f. Announce to students that they will have two days of in-class research time in which to complete their assignments. They will need to do some writing at home as well. Remind them that they can use the information in their notebooks as reminders of important concepts to think about. Give them a due date for their report and presentation.


The student reports, maps, presentations, and notebooks should be turned in as a final assessment. The notebook should show confirmation of the student’s understanding of the evidence for past sea level rise. The choice of city for the final report as well as the map shows evidence that the student understands the impact of topography on sea level rise. The report and presentation show that the student was able to synthesize the information from the unit with an understanding of the process of science as inquiry to predict the impacts of sea level rise. The teacher should come up with a list of guidelines for the student presentation (i.e. criteria for success)


Students will need to continue work on research, writing, and presentation preparation for homework.


More advanced students should be encouraged to add a section on possible solutions to the impacts of sea level rise.

Resources used

GLOBE: A Gallery of Images

Xpeditions Atlas

Sea Level Movie