STEM home school activity – glaciers, icebergs and sea levels

STEM activity for home schooling primary school kids : global warming and simulating icebergs melting and sea levels. 

You will need:

1.  3 small containers of equal size (eg Chinese takeaway tubs) that you can fill with water and freeze overnight
2. A  large washing up bowl or, even better,  a see through large plastic tub 
3. Two smaller bowls or containers
4. A rolling pin. 
5.  A ruler


1. What happens when glacier ice sheets break away and enter the sea to sea levels? 
2. When ice sheets break up into ice bergs, does the ice melt faster? 
3. How much of an iceberg is above the water? 
4. If the ice sheets and icebergs melt, does the sea level rise?


1. Fill plastic tub with water to a depth of about 10cm and measure depth accurately with ruler To nearest millimetre. This is your sea level. 
2. Put the three ice sheets on a flat chopping board above the ‘sea’. Allow one ice sheet to break away and enter the water (kids love this bit!). This stimulates the break up of large land glaciers melting entering the sea and entering as massive ice sheets. Measure the water level again (ours rose 3mm)
3. Take out the floating ice sheet and put it in a bowl. Using the end of a rolling pin, let your kid break it up carefully (another bit they love doing), to make ice bergs (simulating the break up of the floating ice sheet). Try not to lose any ice, Put all the broken ice bergs back in the sea. Re-measure the sea level (it shouldn’t have changed as the mass of ice is the same). If you have a see-through container holding your ‘sea’, you can allow the child to see how much of the iceberg is below the water, and how much is above (and take photos) 
4. Put the sea water and iceberg bowl somewhere warm (on top of a warm surface, airing cupboard etc) and leave for a couple of hours, the once all the icebergs have melted, mesasure the sea level again, it will have risen a little more (ours rose a further 2mm)

While doing this, take the other 2 same- sized ice sheets and put one each onto two smaller containers filled with water. Leave one solid, and again get your child to break up the other into smaller icebergs (do this before putting in) . Leave them in a warm room and observe to see which ice melts fastest. This demonstrates why with same mass of ice, the one with the greatest  surface area (the icebergs) melts faster. 

Ask your child to see what their experiment has suggested to them will happen if ice sheets in polar regions melt to sea levels, and if large ice sheets break up into icebergs do they melt faster when they enter the sea? 

Thanks to Abbie’s Dad Alan Woodall, who volunteers as a STEM scientist and produced this investigation for our pupils.