This is a sequence of 5 classroom activities focusing on the El NiÃo climate variability. The activities increase in complexity and student-directedness. The focus of the activities is on accessing and manipulating real data to help students understand El NiÃo as an interaction of Earth systems.

In this activity, students are introduced to tree rings by examining a cross section of a tree, also known as a 'tree cookie.' They discover how tree age can be determined by studying the rings and how ring thickness can be used to deduce times of optimal growing conditions. Next, they investigate simulated tree rings applying the scientific method to explore how climatic conditions varied over time.

This Earth Exploration Toolbook chapter is a detailed computer-based exploration in which students learn how various climatic conditions impact the formations of sediment layers on the ocean floor. They analyze sediment core data from the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica for evidence of climate changes over time. In addition, they interact with various tools and animations throughout the activity, in particular the Paleontological Stratigraphic Interval Construction and Analysis Tool (PSICAT) that is used to construct a climate change model of a sediment core from core images.

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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