Big Idea

In this lesson, students will learn how glaciers help regulate Earth’s temperature, and how the “Ice-Albedo Feedback loop” is accelerating climate change.

Take Action

In the ‘Take Action’ section of this lesson, students will build a glacier satellite to explore albedo and simulate how scientists monitor glaciers from space as a form of climate action!

Learning Goals

Students will…

  • Define albedo
  • Explain how ‘Ice-Albedo Feedback’ accelerates climate change
  • Build prototype of a glacier satellite that:
    • detects changes in surface reflectivity simulating how real satellites might detect glacier melting
    • uses loops to continuously track data
    • uses conditional statements to decide which data to save or discard
  • Collect and analyze experimental data using the data logging feature in MakeCode


This lesson provides a strong real-world application and hands-on activity to supplement the following Grade 6-8 Next Generation Science Standards:

  • Reflection and absorption of light (MS-PS4-2)
  • Role of water in Earth’s surface processes (MS-ESS2-4)
  • Methods for monitoring human impact on the environment (MS-ESS3-3)
  • Cause of global rise in temperatures (MS-ESS3-5)

We recommend students have a basic understanding of the impact of a object’s material on its ability to reflect, absorb, or transmit light before starting this lesson.


Per 1-3 students:

  • Climate Action Kit or Wind Turbine Kit
  • micro:bit
  • Computer with access to Microsoft MakeCode
  • Multi-coloured construction paper (white, black, and one other colour at minimum)

Get to Know the Content

  1. Make sure you’ve completed the ‘Getting Started with the Climate Action Kit’ course
  2. If it has been awhile, review the kit components featured in this lesson:
  3. Review the lesson, particularly the following thinking routines from Project Zero (Harvard Graduate School of Education):
  4. Optionally review how micro:bit’s data logging feature works, including how to access the ‘MY_DATA’ file

Big Idea (15 minutes)

Learn about the role glaciers play in regulating Earth’s temperature.

Students will:

  1. View a diagram of the ‘Ice-Albedo Feedback Loop’ and complete a ‘See, Think, Wonder’ reflection to activate relevant prior knowledge
  2. Discuss how the ‘Ice-Albedo Feedback Loop’ is contributing to climate change
  3. Learn how scientists are taking climate action by tracking glacier change using satellites in space

Take Action (45 minutes)

Build your own glacier satellite with the Climate Action Kit! This glacier satellite measures surface albedo (reflectivity!) as a way to track glacier melting over time.

We’ve provided 3 ways students may build the project to support scaffolding and differentiation in your classroom: ‘Use’, ‘Modify’, and ‘Create’.*

UseStudents will follow a step-by-step tutorial to build & use their glacier satellite. The goal is to help them develop a better understanding of its features. 

Success Criteria
I can:
– build a glacier satellite with the Climate Action Kit
– use the solar sensor to measure the amount of light reflected off paper of different colours
– visualize data using the live data simulator in MakeCode

Final Code
Modify Students will follow a step-by-step tutorial to build their glacier satellite. After this, they will modify the code and complete a basic challenge to demonstrate their understanding.

Success Criteria
I can:
– build a glacier satellite with the Climate Action Kit
– use loops to continuously track solar data using the data logger extension in MakeCode
– use conditional statements to decide which data to save and delete on the micro:bit
– use the glacier satellite to conduct an experiment that simulates the change in Earth’s albedo as glaciers melt

Final Code
CreateStudents will work in small groups to research different ways scientists are monitoring glaciers and design a prototype with the Climate Action Kit.

Success Criteria
I can build a satellite to study glacier melting with the Climate Action Kit that uses at least:

– one sensor to track data on glaciers (e.g. solar, sonar, temperature)
– the data logging extension in MakeCode
– one loop to take continuous measurements
– one conditional statement to save or clear data

Blank Project

*Irene Lee, Fred Martin, Jill Denner, Bob Coulter, Walter Allan, Jeri Erickson, Joyce Malyn-Smith, and Linda Werner. 2011. Computational thinking for youth in practice. Acm Inroads 2, 1 (2011), 32–37.

Use the following criteria to assess student learning. Students can:


  • Define albedo
  • Describe how the ‘Ice-Albedo Feedback Loop’ accelerates climate change
  • Explain why tracking glacier melting is a form of climate action
  • Predict relative changes in the light reflected off a surface based its colour
  • Explain the purpose of each smart component and building block in the main build (Use, Modify, Create)
  • Explain the purpose of loops and conditional statements in the code (Modify, Create)


  • Methodically test and debug their code to ensure it functions as intended (Modify, Create)


  • Add comments to the code to demonstrate their understanding of each block (Use, Modify, Create)
  • Add a new conditional statement to control the saving or clearing of data in the log (Modify, Create)
  • Design their own glacier satellite that satisfies provided criteria (Create)
  • NGSS
  • CSTA
  • UN SDGs

Next Generation Science Standards

Grade 6-8

MS-PS4-2 Develop and use a model to describe that waves are reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials.

MS-ESS2-4 Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth’s systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity.

MS-ESS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.

MS-ESS3-5 Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.

MS-ETS1-4 Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.

Computer Science Teachers Association Standards

Grade 6-8

2-CS-02 Design projects that combine hardware and software components to collect and exchange data.

2-CS-03 Systematically identify and fix problems with computing devices and their components.

2-DA-08 Collect data using computational tool and transform the data to make it more useful and reliable.

2-DA-09 Refine computational models based on the data they have generated.

2-AP-12 Design and iteratively develop programs that combine control structures, including nested loops and compound conditionals.

2-AP-17 Systematically test and refine programs using a range of test cases.

2-AP-19 Document programs in order to make them easier to follow, test, and debug.

United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals