Education Materials


Outreach Programs of the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center are supported by the following: National Science Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, The Ohio State University, and Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center Education & Outreach Fund (OSU Fund 312018).

Professional Development for Educators

Over the past decade, the Byrd Center has offered a number of professional development opportunities for both classroom teachers and informal educators. In addition to participating in the NSTA Regional Conference in Columbus, Ohio in December 2016, the Center will host two educator workshops in summer 2017, one focused on argumentative writing for science, social studies, and English language arts classrooms and a second focused on investigations and polar data in science classrooms

Education Lessons and Activities

In addition to a series of public programs, group tours, guest speakers, and rock boxes for education, the Byrd Center has created educational materials focused on Earth sciences, climate change, and polar and alpine regions for use in both classrooms and informal learning environments. The Center is also regularly asked to vetting materials for educators and has offered a number of trusted collections below.

Earth Sciences

SERC offers searchable databases of Earth sciences lessons for teachers of students in elementary school through graduate school. Lessons have been peer-reviewed for both science content and pedagogy. 


BPCRC, in partnership with teachers and visiting school groups, has put together a Unit on Rocks and the Rock Cycle. This unit is designed to be inquiry-based and utilize materials available from our Rock Boxes for Education.

PhET at the University of Colorado at Boulder consistently produces excellent computer simulations that are scientifically valid and provide students with opportunities to investigate difficult to visualize or experience concepts. Plate Tectonics is no exception. As with all materials on the site, activities to use with the simulations are created by users and refined over time.


The Byrd Center recently completed an instructional module composed of five units on watersheds and computer modeling of the water cycle in the context of geosciences careers. As part of this project, a web application to model watersheds was also created. 

Ohio Watershed Network provides information to community members and natural resources professionals who want to protect the resources in their watershed. Information on water quality education is available from Project Wet.

World Ocean Observatory is dedicated to information, education and public discourse about the ocean defined as an integrated global social system. We believe that informed citizens worldwide can unite to sustain the ocean through mitigation and change of human behavior on land and sea.


The Center's Education and Outreach team created and field tested a comprehensive lesson on ice cores. This lesson includes instructions for creating ice cores, handouts, and a post-activity assessment. WOSU Public Media developed a set of learning modules, Ice Cores: Unlocking Past Climates, with associated videos and curricular resources designed to explain how ice cores allow scientists to study past climates.

In addition to creating ice cores, the Education and Outreach team also created a lesson on thermal energy transfer and ice core transportation. This activity focuses on how to keep an ice core cool using engineering design concepts, thermal energy rules, and creativity. The lesson includes a background on ice core research and transport, and includes supplemental images, a classroom handout, and instructions on how to build a model ice core tube.

A Flubber Activity was designed for grades 2-3 and grades 3-5. This is a hands-on activity that simulates glacial flow for students. The students use a glacier-modeling compound, “FLUBBER”, (which is made from glue, water, and Borax) to predict and observe the flow of ice. The students and teacher discuss how scientists determine the rate and direction of flow of glaciers.

The University of Colorado at Boulder created a suite of interactive media as described above. One of these is a simulations, Glaciers, that supports students learning glacier dynamics. Teachers will need to think about how they use this simulation in class; it could be used to support student investigations on a topic that is otherwise hard to explore in warmer climates.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Permafrost Outreach Program has images, videos, and lessons focused around permafrost education.


Earth is currently our favorite tool for viewing atmospheric and oceanographic data. When used for outreach programs, this tools has led to interesting conversations on a range of weather and climate phenomena.

Best Place Activity was developed by the Byrd Center's Dr. Carol Landis as a mathematics and science lesson for grades 5-12 (modifications necessary for younger grades).  The purpose of this lesson is to enhance analytical skills and to apply historic data to everyday decisions using local climatological data summaries from the National Weather Service. This lesson allows students to see temperature and precipitation averages, ranges, and seasonal variability. At the end of the unit, climate data can be examined in terms of geography.

PhET at the University of Colorado at Boulder has a simulation that allows students to explore the greenhouse effect and a second simulation that allows students to explore the advance, retreat, and flow of glaciers. The PhET team consistently produces excellent computer simulations that are scientifically valid and provide students with opportunities to investigate difficult to visualize or experience concepts.

The Concord Consortium has created an interactive tool to teach the Earth’s climate system. This tool has support materials and links macroscopic level observations with microscopic level explanations. Participle diagrams support rich student understanding. The Science Teacher has an excellent write-up on this tool and its use.   

Climate Change

The Collection of Climate and Energy Educational Resources provided by CLEAN includes a searchable database of materials that are peer-reviewed and aligned with the Climate Literacy and the Energy Literacy frameworks and the Next Generation Science Standards.

Our outreach staff assembled a handout with Educational Resources on Climate Change & Energy [pdf] for students and teachers. Our director, Dr. Ellen Mosley-Thompson has put together an excellent list of Sources for Global Climate Change Information. These readings cover a number of research areas.

The Byrd Center has assembled a DVD primer on climate change that is available in both English and Spanish. The DVD can be downloaded from our website and burned to disk. The DVD can be used by students directly or help build teacher understanding. Climate Model Simulation was developed by the Byrd Center as a learning tool to illustrate how climate models are constructed and used.

The College of Education and Human Ecology at Ohio State has assembled an online magazine titled Beyond Weather & The Water Cycle to support elementary teachers integrating climate science and science literacy. The Byrd Center contributed to this publication. The online magazine is based on the Essential Principles of Climate Literacy developed by NOAA and available online.

NASA hosts a site on climate change and environmental issues for young children at Climate Kids.

Polar and Alpine Regions

A series of Cold Cases were developed by local high school teachers with guidance with the Ohio State Department of History and draw from primary sources at the Byrd Center Polar Archives. Students explore the past through key questions and documents from the archive’s collections that have been digitized. All materials necessary for the lessons are included online.The Byrd Polar & Climate Research Center Archival Program and Ohio State University Libraries have assembled a Polar Timeline at There are images and videos from the archival collection linked to the timeline.

An online magazine titled Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears provided by the College of Education and Human Ecology at Ohio State includes information on people, places, and science in the polar regions. The Byrd Center contributed to this publication.

The Byrd Center contributed to the Polar Frontier exhibit at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Temperature and pressure data shown in the exhibit is updated daily from models designed at the center. BPCRC partnered with local teachers to create lessons centered around the Arctic weather forecast in the Polar Frontier exhibit.

The Antarctic Geological Drilling (ANDRILL) Program has lessons and reading materials on environmental literacy, climate change education, and Antarctic geology. Information for teachers and researchers interested in collaborating on science related to the poles is available at Polar Educators International and opportunities for teachers to participate in field expeditions in the polar regions are available through PolarTREC. Do you know a girl, between the ages of 15 and 18 years old, who would be interested in an 11-day experience studying a glacier in the Cascade Mountains of Washington or traveling to Alaska?  If so, check out Girls on Ice and encourage her to apply!

Survival is an activity developed at the Byrd Center in which students learn about equipment used in polar and alpine research, discuss differences between geography and climate in these regions versus their own, and come to better understand traits of effective teams.