Dead Diatoms Do Tell Tales

The students get to be climate detectives as they make a model of sediment cores using different kinds of glass beads and sand. They learn how to examine the types, numbers, and conditions of diatom skeletons in the model sediment cores and tell something about the hypothetical paleoclimate that existed when they were deposited.

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LuAnn Dahlman

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Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips

There is an associated video podcast about diatoms at] and leader notes at [

Educators may wish to use this unit in association with others in the "Antarctica's Climate Secrets" package to provide the needed climate context for this activity.

To conserve time, students could break up into four groups and each group make one core. The groups could then swap cores and sample the core and determine the climate history of that core.

If safety is an issue (using hammers to crush beads), the educator can prepare the beads beforehand.

Maybe too childish for high school students? Font used makes it feel too young for high school students.

For high school: add videos and augment with more real-life examples or case studies.