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  • In this activity, students investigate the effect that contact with water has on melting ice.

    Climate change causes variations in both temperature and snowfall. Warming temperatures cause glaciers to melt faster than they can accumulate new ice. Warming temperatures also mean some areas will get rain rather than snow, further lessening ice accumulation. When glaciers lose more ice in the warmer months than they gain in the colder months, they retreat or recede. As a glacier melts, a river or lake may form at its end. Contact with the water causes the ice to melt more quickly. It can also cause ice cliffs to calve.

    Although this activity uses melting glacial ice as its primary context, it can also be used to explore these Material World concepts:

    • Changes of state always involve a transfer of energy.
    • The properties that characterise solids, liquids and gases are related to particle behaviour.

    By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

    • observe that ice melts faster when in contact with water
    • discuss how the activity models the effect that contact with water has on glaciers
    • observe and discuss basic energy transfer between the air, water and ice.

    Download the Word file (see link below) for:

    • background information for teachers
    • equipment list
    • teacher instructions
    • extension ideas/prompting questions for teachers.

    Nature of science

    In science, a model is often used to represent something that we cannot experience directly. In this activity, students use ice cubes to model the impact that water contact has on glaciers. This fits into the investigating in science aspect of the NZC.

    Related content

    Use these resources below to explore how rising global temperature is causing both land ice and sea ice to melt.



      Published 4 May 2017, Updated 6 August 2020 Referencing Hub articles
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