Lesson Plans

Graphing Sea-Level Trends

Grade Band

  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12

Lesson Duration

  • 90 minutes



NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas

Common Core Math

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Sea Level Rise


In this activity, students will use sea-level rise data to create models and compare short-term trends to long-term trends. They will then determine whether sea-level rise is occurring based on the data.

Learning Objectives

The student will:

  • Graph sea-level rise data to create models

  • Compare short-term trends to long-term trends

  • Analyze whether sea-level rise is occurring based on the data

NASA Phenomenon Connection

Global sea level rise is accelerating incrementally over time rather than increasing at a steady rate, as previously thought, according to a new study based on 25 years of NASA and European satellite data.

If the rate of ocean rise continues to change at this pace, sea level will rise 26 inches (65 centimeters) by 2100—enough to cause significant problems for coastal cities.

Full story: Link


NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Essential Questions

  • How is sea level changing?
  • What evidence do we have about sea level change?

Materials Required



  • For this activity, 130 years of sea-level measurements have been divided into 20 data sets for examination. Depending on class size, the steps in “Procedures” can be done by individuals or groups of students. Students will examine all 20 data sets to learn how scientists study data over short and long periods of time. Some groups or individuals may need to examine multiple data sets in order to model all 20 sets.

  • If you plan to have students transfer data into spreadsheet software, have them use the text files to do so. Otherwise, if students don’t have the skills to transfer the data into a spreadsheet, create graphs using the CSV (comma separated values) files.

  • Depending on students’ familiarity with spreadsheets, the activity may need to be split into two days: one day for entering the data into spreadsheets and one day for analyzing the data.


For procedures, see full lesson plan at NASA's JPL Education: Graphing Sea-Level Trends 

Lesson PLan


In addition to causing sea-level rise, the increase in global temperatures linked to higher CO2 concentrations leads to more heat waves and greater area affected by drought. We also see an increase in heavy precipitation events and flooding on land. Warm surface waters can damage coral reefs, reducing opportunities for fishing and tourism, and leave coasts vulnerable to storm surges and erosion. 

How can you make a difference? Calculate your carbon footprint to find out just how much carbon you’re contributing to the environment. Then, create a plan of action to reduce your impact.