In this activity, students make a model sea floor sediment core using two types of buttons to represent fossil diatoms. They then compare the numbers of diatom fossils in the sediment at different depths to determine whether the seas were free of ice while the diatoms were alive.

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.

This lesson sequence guides students to learn about the geography and the unique characteristics of the Arctic, including vegetation, and people who live there. Students use Google Earth to explore the Arctic and learn about meteorological observations in the Arctic, including collecting their own data in hands-on experiments. This is the first part of a three-part curriculum about Arctic climate.