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How Do Melting Polar Ice Caps Affect Sea Levels?

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by Teisha Rowland, PhD
Active Time
10-20 minutes
Total Project Time
30-45 minutes
Key Concepts
polar ice caps, sea levels, global climate change
Models of polar ice caps and resulting sea levels during climate change, complete with North Pole polar bear and South Pole penguin.


Have you ever noticed that if you leave an ice cube out on the kitchen counter and come back to check on it in a while, you find a puddle? The same thing happens to ice in nature — if the temperature gets warm enough, the ice melts. In this science activity, you will explore what happens to sea levels if the ice at the North Pole melts, or if the ice at the South Pole melts. Does melting ice at either cap contribute to a rise in sea levels? It is an especially important question for the millions of people who enjoy living along the coasts of the world.


Teisha Rowland, PhD, Science Buddies
This activity is not appropriate for use as a science fair project. Good science fair projects have a stronger focus on controlling variables, taking accurate measurements, and analyzing data. To find a science fair project that is just right for you, browse our library of over 1,150 Science Fair Project Ideas or use the Topic Selection Wizard to get a personalized project recommendation.


  • Play-Doh® or modeling clay
  • Measuring cup
  • Butter knife
  • Clear plastic or glass containers, approximately 2 ¼ cups in size (2). Smaller or larger containers can be used, if they are both the same size, but you will need to scale up or down the amount of dough you add to the containers. Since you will be marking these containers with a permanent marker, make sure they are containers you are allowed to mark.
  • Colored tape or permanent marker (if you do not mind marking your containers with marker)
  • Tap water
  • Ice cubes
    Materials needed to build models of the polar ice caps and test how melting ice due to climate change affects sea levels.
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Active Time
10-20 minutes
Total Project Time
30-45 minutes
Key Concepts
polar ice caps, sea levels, global climate change