I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 9.
This is part 1 of a 3 part hands-on unit on Global Expeditions. Train like scientists do for trips to Antarctica, make and eat pemmican, carry eggs like penguins, and more! My lessons are geared toward elementary level children. These are lessons I created to do with a weekly homeschool co-op. We meet each week for 2 1/2 hours and have 16 children between the ages of 2-9. Use this fun lesson with your class, family, after school program, camp, or homeschool group!
1. Today we will be learning about the coldest places on the Earth, the polar regions. Tell the children to put on their winter clothing if they brought them. Pray. Read Psalm 148:7-13.
YOU WILL NEED: hats, mittens, scarves, and other cold weather items brought by the individual children
2. Who likes to explore new places? (Let the kids raise their hands.) Do you remember that we learned about explorers a few months ago? What were they searching for? (GOLD, a route to GO the Indies/China, a way to spread the Word of GOD, GLORY for themselves, etc.) About 100 years ago almost every single place in the world had been explored, but people still wanted to explore new places. Who can think of one place on the Earth people might now have explored yet? (Let children guess.) This month we’re going to study three places that to some degree still haven’t been completely explored by humans yet: the depths of the Ocean, the highest Mountain peaks, and the top and bottom of the world. Today we’re going to become polar explorers. Point out the Arctic/North Pole and Antarctica/South Pole on a map. I brought 2 friends who are going to help us explore today. This is my penguin friend and this is my polar bear friend. A lot of people think they live in the same place, but they don’t. My polar bear friend lives up here in the Arctic. (Hold the polar bear at the top of the globe/map.) My penguin friend lives down here. (Hold the penguin at the bottom of the globe/map.) They do have one thing in common, though. They both live in places where it is incredibly cold.
YOU WILL NEED: a map of the world or a globe, a stuffed animal or toy penguin, & a stuffed animal or toy polar bear (If you don't have these, print off pictures from the Internet and make paper bag puppets.)
3. Read a book comparing the North Pole and the South Pole.
YOU WILL NEED: a book introducing the North & South Poles such as Ice Is Nice by Bonnie Worth
Book to use for activity 3
4. Read a book about glaciers or show pictures from a book.
YOU WILL NEED: a book on glaciers
5. (Ahead of time fill the bowl/container with water and store it in the freezer so that the “ocean” water will be cold.) Only the top of an iceberg can be seen in the ocean. Icebergs float in the water because air is trapped inside of them. Most of the iceberg is below the water. The Arctic Tundra and Antarctica are NOT icebergs, but pieces of ice have broken off to form many icebergs around them. The ice is breaking off all the time into ice floes and glaciers, and it floats in the ocean just like ice cubes float in your drink. We’ll pretend these ice cubes are glaciers and that this bowl of water is the ocean. Let each child drop ice of different shapes into a large, clear container (such as a large glass mixing bowl) that has been almost completely filled with water. Is the entire piece of ice on the top of the water? No. Much of the ice cube is under the water. When it comes to icebergs, almost 90 percent of it is actually under the water, which makes sailing a shipping and underwater exploration very hazardous. There’s an expression that says, "That's only the tip of the iceberg" which people say when they are talking about a problem that appears small but is really big.
YOU WILL NEED: a large, clear container (such as a large glass mixing bowl) and ice (preferably ice of different sizes and shapes such as ice that's been frozen in different sizes of disposable cups)
6. Because of the thick ice and snow and extremely cold temperatures, it was very difficult to actually explore these lands. About 100 years ago there was a race to the poles. Various men attempted to be the first person to go to the North Pole (located in the Arctic Circle) and the South Pole (located in Antarctica). (Point to those places on a map or globe.) Read a book about polar exploration.
YOU WILL NEED: the map/globe that was used in the earlier activity and a book about polar exploration
Book to use for activity 4
Book to use for activity 6
7. While they were exploring, they have to come up with a food they could take with them that they could carry easily, that wouldn’t freeze, and that would give them enough energy. Because it’s so cold, they had to eat double the calories they would normally eat because their bodies had to spend so much energy just trying to keep them warm. A favorite food back then and still in those regions is pemmican. Both Scott and Amundsen took pemmican with them on their expeditions to the South Pole. Pemmican is made of dried animal and fat. Sometimes they add dried fruits as well. Have children clean their hands. Make pemmican: Have each child drop a piece of jerky into a food processor. Pulse it until it is fine. Then have each child add in a pinch of dried fruit. Pulse again until well combined. Finally add in melted butter and pulse a few times. If the mixture doesn’t appear to hold together, add a bit of molasses and pulse a few more times. Dump mixture into a casserole dish that has been lined with wax paper , parchment paper, or aluminum foil and sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Place in the refrigerator to harden for about 45 minutes and then cut into bars.
YOU WILL NEED: baby wipes/hand sanitizer or other method to clean kids’ hands, 1 food processor, 1 bag of beef jerky, 1 big box of raisins or 1 bag of craisins, 1/4 stick of butter, molasses, 1 9x9 casserole dish, nonstick cooking spray, something to line the pan with (wax paper, parchment paper, or aluminum foil), a microwave-safe bowl to use to melt the butter, a rubber scraper/spatula, & a knife
8. Let’s start with the Arctic. Which animal lives in the Arctic? (The polar bear.)
YOU WILL NEED: the stuffed penguin & polar bear from the earlier activity
9. Read a book about polar bears and/or arctic animals.
YOU WILL NEED: a book on polar bears and/or arctic animals
Book to use for activity 9
Arctic Food Chain
10. If you are not limited by time, briefly talk about a food chain and define what a predator (they animal that does the eating) and prey (the animal that is eaten) are. Have children make an Arctic Food Chain mobile by following the directions at windows2universe.org. As the children quickly color each animal/item, read the section about it. For younger children (second grade and under), it is helpful to punch out the holes on the plate, and string the 4 strings that will attach to the sun ahead of time.
YOU WILL NEED PER CHILD: a copy of each of the animals and the sun found at http://www.windows2universe.org/, a white Styrofoam plate, a sheet of blue construction paper or a few pieces of blue ribbon or crepe paper, 8 pieces of pre-cut yarn or string pieces , crayons, tape, a glue stick, & hole punches
Arctic Animals & Camouflage
11. Share how camouflage helps animals in the Arctic.
- What are some of the animals that can be found in the Arctic? (Let children answer.) What color are many of them? (White.)
- Some of them are always white, and some of them have summer coats and winter coats. God gave them special coats of fur that have color during the summer and then fall out and grow in as white fun when it’s winter. Why might God have done that? This is called camouflage.
- Many Arctic tundra animals (such as polar bears, foxes, wolves, & hares) and tundra birds (such as terns and snowy owls) grow white outer fur or white feathers to help camouflage them on the snow-covered winter landscape.
- Divide the children into groups of 4 or 5. Have the children clean/sanitize their hands.
- Give each group a large bowl, casserole dish, or other container that has something white (powdered sugar, flour, or strips of white paper) covering the bottom of it. Toss in a handful of chocolate chips and white chocolate chips.
- Tell them to pretend those chocolate chips are their prey and they need find them and eat them up. Give them about 15 seconds to pick out as many as they can and put them in a pile in front of them.
- After the time is up, tell them to divide their prey into 2 piles: white chocolate & brown milk chocolate. Then have them raise their hands if they had more white than brown. More brown than white?
- Let them eat all their "prey" as you further discuss this.
- Ask, "Was it easy to find them all? What color of chocolate chip was easier to find? How does the white camouflage help many of the animals in the polar regions during the winter?"
YOU WILL NEED: baby wipes/hand sanitizer or other method to clean kids’ hands, 4 containers (such as 9x13 casserole dishes), something white (such as powdered sugar, flour, or strips of white paper) that can cover the bottom of the containers, 1 (12 oz bag) of semisweet chocolate chips, & 1 (12 oz bag) of white chocolate chips
Arctic Animals and Insulation
12. Not only did God make special provisions for how Arctic animals camouflage themselves, He also provided special ways insulate them. Insulate means “to keep warm.” One way is with their coats. Do we humans grown thick coats? Then how do we get warm? (We add on layers of clothing.) Not all clothing and materials insulate the same. Show the children 4 containers that each have the same amount of water in them. Let the children touch the water to feel that it is all the same temperature. Use rubber bands to wrap each container in a different material: bubble wrap, fleece, and cotton towel. Leave one with no insulation. Tell them we’re going to put them in the freezer. Tell the children that we need to make a hypothesis, or educated guess, as to which material will insulate the best. Ask, “Which container do you think will get the coldest? Which will be the warmest?” (Have them raise their hands for their vote.) Put them in the freezer.
YOU WILL NEED: 4 containers (cups, bottles, tupperwear, etc.) that are the same size each with the same amount of water in them (no more than 2 cups of water per container), 4 rubber bands, bubble wrap, fleece, and cotton towel or t-shirt
Fur Coats & Insulation
13. Many Arctic animals, such as musk oxen, wolves, and foxes, don’t go to the store to get coats and jackets like we do. Instead, God have them grow two layers of fur to help insulate their bodies in subzero winter temperatures. The animals shed this extra layer each spring, when temperatures rise and the extra layer is no longer needed. Have each child hold out both of their hands. Have the moms lay the kitchen towel over their child’s hands. Lay the thicker towel over 1 of their hands. Now lay a piece of ice in each hand and tell the children to squeeze the ice and count to 20 together. Afterward ask, “Which hand stays the warmest? Why? What does this teach us about the Arctic animal’s fur?”
YOU WILL NEED: 2 towels per child (such as kitchen towels), 2 ice cubes per child, and a container/bowl to hold the ice
14. God also gave many of the large animals blubber to insulate them. Blubber is thick layers of fat. Seals, walruses, and whales all have layers of blubber which help to keep them warm. Give each child a blubber mitten to put on one hand. Tell them to try to smash around the vegetable shortening to make sure it covers as much of their hand as possible. (If this is done correctly, the shortening shouldn’t ever actually touch their skin as it should stay in the zipper bag.) The shortening is like blubber. Their other hand will be bare. Divide the children into 4 groups and assign them to 1 of the 4 bowls. Have them then place both hands in a bowl of ice water and compare how each hand feels. Ask, “How cold does the water seem with the ‘blubber mitten’ on? Do you think a nice layer of blubber would be great protection against cold?” This shows how blubber insulates ocean mammals and keeps them warm.
YOU WILL NEED: 4 large bowls filled with very cold ice water and one “blubber mitten” per child (To create a “blubber mitten” fill a sandwich or quart size zipper bag about 1/3 full of vegetable shortening/Crisco. Then turn a second zipper bag of the same size inside out. Place it carefully inside the bag with the shortening so that you are able to zip the one bag to the other.)
15. Have each child share something they learned about the Arctic.
Antarctica & Penguins
16. Now let’s head South to Antarctica. Which animal lives in the Antarctica? (The penguin.)
YOU WILL NEED: the stuffed penguin & polar bear from the earlier activity
17. Read a book about penguins. Ask questions where the penguins live, some of the different types of penguins, what penguins eat, why penguins are considered birds rather than fish, how they raise their chicks, and how they stay warm.
YOU WILL NEED:a book on penguins such as "The Emperor Lays an Egg." I also used "Penguins!: Strange and Wonderful" by Laurence Pringle to show the other varieties of penguins and where they live.
Books to use for activity 17
18. Demonstrate how penguins stay warm. Ask for a volunteer (preferably your child) to be our penguin. Put a light t-shirt on him. Ask the children if that would keep him warm in the cold. Then add several a sweaters over the shirt and a thick jacket. Ask if these would keep him warm. Explain that penguins have layers just like these. First, they have a layer of blubber which is a layer of fat. Then, they have a layer of air. Last, they have a layer of tightly packed feathers.
YOU WILL NEED: a t-shirt, sweater, and thick jacket that can fit your child
19. Mention that all 17 species of penguins live south of the equator. Seven kinds of penguins visit Antarctica, but only two species, the Adelie and Emperor penguins, breed exclusively on the Antarctic continent. As we read in the book, the mother Emperor penguin lays her egg and lets the dad taken care of it while she marches a long way away to get food. The dad keeps the egg warm by holding it on what? His feet! Have the children each place a hackey sack or beanbag (representing the egg) on their feet and waddle a short distance from one place to another place in the room. If their hackey sack falls on the ground (“the ice”), their chick dies, so they need to be very careful!
YOU WILL NEED: 1 hackey sack or beanbag per child
20. When the mother returns to feed, she finds her mate based on his squawk. Match every child up with a mate. Tell them to squawk at each other. Have the female “lay” her hackey sack egg on her feet and roll it onto her partner’s feet.
- All the females will go into a side room to feed. Give them each some goldfish crackers to eat quickly since penguins eat fish. Remind them that their mates are waiting for them and their mates are starving. While they are eating, blindfold them. Also, instruct the females that when they return to the rookery, the males will squawk and they will need to find their mate by listening to the squawk. When they are all blindfolded, have them return to the main room.
- While the females are eating, have the mates waddle around the room. If desired, blow a fan on them. Have them waddle around in a close circle and then have the ones in the middle move to the outside of the circle and the ones on the outside of the circle move into the middle of the circle. They take turns staying in the warmest spot (in the middle of the circle). Remind them to not drop their egg on the “ice” or else their chick will die. Instruct them that when the females return, they will need to start squawk so she can find them. When the females return, they can spread out a but. The blindfolded females will need to locate their mates based on what they remember their partner’s squawk to sound like. This will not be easy.
- Next reverse the rolls and have the males leave, get fed fish, get blindfolded, and return to find their mate by the sound of their squawk.
YOU WILL NEED: 2 bags of goldfish crackers, napkins, 1 hackey sack or beanbag per pair of children, 1 blindfold for every pair of children, & 1 fan (optional)
Humans & Insulation
21. Explain that there are no native humans on Antarctica. After Antarctica was explored by Robert Falcon Scott, Roald Amundsen, and Richard E. Byrd, the major countries of the world decided that no one would be able to own Antarctica. They signed the Antarctic Treaty that said that Antarctica would just be a place where scientists from anywhere in the world would go to do scientific research. Before the scientists can go there, they have to pack special clothing to stay warm. They dress in many layers just like [whichever child was the “penguin”] dressed in many layers. They also try to make sure the clothing they bring is the best at insulator. Pull out the 4 containers from the freezer. Measure the temperature of each one. Which material was the best insulator? Which was the worst? Did it insulate at all or was the water temperature about the same as the one that had nothing around it?
YOU WILL NEED: thermometer and a paper and writing utensil
22. If you are not limited by time: The scientists also have to train for what life will be like there. Since it’s so cold, they wear gloves almost all the time, even when they’re going to bed. To stay warm, they will sleep in multiple sleeping bags, which they have to get into and out of rather quickly and while wearing their gloves. Divide the children into 2 teams. Give each team a pair of thick gloves. Have each person on the team put on the gloves, get into the sleeping bag, get out of the sleeping bag, and then pass the gloves to the next person on their team. Afterward ask, “How hard was it? Why would explores train this way?”
YOU WILL NEED: 2 pairs of thick winter gloves and 6 sleeping bags (layer the sleeping bags so that 2 are stacked inside a third one)
Antarctica & Food
23. Ask, “How do you think they get water in Antarctica?” They melt the ice. Take some ice cubes and melt them. Use that for the kids’ water to drink.
YOU WILL NEED: a pan to use to melt ice cubes and ice
24. Have the children clean their hands and then try the pemmican and drink water.
YOU WILL NEED: napkins and cups
25. Have each child share something they learned about Antarctica.
Material List for the Lesson
*Everyone needs to bring per child:
-cold weather clothing (mittens, scarves, ear muffs, etc.) (optional)
-scotch tape (1 role per family)
-hole punch (optional – bring more if you own more than one)
-a copy of each of the animals and the sun found at http://www.windows2universe.org/earth/polar/arctic_mobile.pdf (Cut these out ahead of time, but don’t do anything else with them. The kids will color them and assemble the mobile at co-op.) -a thin towel (such as a kitchen towel) (You will get this back unharmed.)
-a small, thicker towel (such as a hand towel or washcloth) (You will get this back unharmed.)
-1 hackey sack or beanbag or something similar
-1 blindfold (such as a bandana or long towel) (1 per family)
*Items to be assigned to individuals to bring for the group:
-a book introducing the North & South Poles
-a book on glaciers
-a book on polar bears and/or arctic animals
-a book on polar exploration
-a book on penguins
-a map of the world or a globe
-a stuffed animal or toy penguin
-a stuffed animal or toy polar bear
-a large, clear container (such as a large glass mixing bowl)
-ice (preferably ice in different sizes and shapes)
-baby wipes/hand sanitizer or other method to clean kids’ hands
-1 bag of beef jerky
-1 big box of raisins or 1 bag of craisins
-1/4 stick of butter
-1 9x9 casserole dish
-nonstick cooking spray
-something to line the pan with (wax paper, parchment paper, or aluminum foil)
-a microwave-safe bowl to use to melt the butter
-a rubber scraper/spatula
-a white Styrofoam plate per child
-a sheet of blue construction paper or a few pieces of blue ribbon or crepe paper per child
-precut yarn or string pieces per child
-4 containers (such as 9x13 casserole dishes)
-something white (such as powdered sugar, flour, or strips of white paper) that can cover the bottom of the containers
-1 (12 oz bag) of semisweet chocolate chips
-1 (12 oz bag) of white chocolate chips
-4 containers (cups, bottles, tupperwear, etc.) that are the same size each with the same amount of water in them (no more than 2 cups of water per container)
-4 rubber bands
-cotton towel or t-shirt
-a container/bowl to hold ice
-4 large bowls filled with very cold ice water
-one “blubber mitten” per child (To create a “blubber mitten” fill a sandwich or quart size zipper bag about 1/3 full of vegetable shortening/Crisco. Then turn a second zipper bag of the same size inside out. Place it carefully inside the bag with the shortening so that you are able to zip the one bag to the other.)
-a t-shirt, sweater, and thick jacket that can fit your child
-2 bags of goldfish crackers
-a paper and writing utensil
-2 pairs of thick winter gloves
-6 sleeping bags (layer the sleeping bags so that 2 are stacked inside a third one)
-a pan to use to melt ice cubes
-1 cup per child
Make ocean floor pies, carry "eggs" like a penguin, sketch Mount Everest, compete in a "Base Camp" relay race, prepare and eat pemmican, and more in the exciting 3 week adventure as we explore the poles of the Earth, the heights of the mountains, and the depths of the oceans! This unit includes habitats, food chains, earth science, oceanography, and more!
- Race to the Poles: A Lesson on Polar Exploration - This is part 1 of a 3 part hands-on unit on Global Expeditions. Train like scientists do for trips to Antarctica, make and eat pemmican, carry eggs like penguins, and more!
- To Mount Everest and Beyond: A Lesson on Mountain Climbing for Children - This is part 2 of a 3 part hands-on unit on Global Expeditions. This lesson is on Mountain Climbing. Sketch Mount Everest, compete in a Base Camp relay race, use a ladder to cross a “crevasse,” and more!
- Dive into the Ocean: An Oceanography Lesson for Children - This is part 3 of a 3 part hands-on unit on Global Expeditions. This lesson is on Oceanography. Sculpt ocean floor pies, act out what creates tides, create ocean wave bottles, try on scuba gear, make ocean zone flip books, and more!
I have posted over 35 hands-on unit studies that focus primarily on science and social studies. In each lesson plan I have listed the activities that we did (and included photos), the books we read, YouTube video clips that we watched, and lapbook links that pair with the lesson. I posted links to all of my unit studies and lessons at Fun, FREE Hands-On Unit Studies.
Our Favorite Family Read Aloud Book for This Lesson
More Great Picture Books on the Arctic and Antarctica
Rescue in Antarctica: An Isabel Soto Geography Adventure (Graphic Expeditions) by Emily Sohn is part of a fun geography series presented in graphic format! The Magic School Bus in the Arctic: A Book About Heat by Joanna Cole covers various aspects of the Arctic, not just about animals. It focuses on how arctic animals stay warm. We also enjoyed the picture books Ann And Liv Cross Antarctica by Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen and Sophie Scott Goes South by Alison Lester. Hooray For Antarctica! by April Pulley Sayre provides a nice overview of the continent using photographs and short text. Life on the Ice by Susan Goodman describes the work scientists are doing in the poles. Recess at 20 Below by Cindy Aillaud uses photographs and short text to show what recess is like for children in Northern Alaska during the winter time.
Great Books on Polar Bears
A Polar Bear Journey by Debbie S. Miller and Polar Bear Horizon by Janet Halfmann were also great picture books on polar bears. Adventure with Polly Polar Bear (Peek and Find) by Maurice Pledger is a cute book that my toddler enjoys. If you're looking for short chapter books, try Polar Bears Past Bedtime and Magic Tree House Fact Tracker #16: Polar Bears and the Arctic both of which are by Mary Pope Osborne, Polar Bear Patrol (The Magic School Bus Chapter Book) by Judith Stamper, or Polar Bears on the Path (Animal Ark Series #37) by Ben M. Baglio.
Our Favorite Books on Penguins
More good book options include Penguin Chick (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science) by Betty Tatham, The Emperor's Egg by Martin Jenkins, Penguin's Family: The Story of a Humboldt Penguin by Kathleen M. Hollenbeck, The Penguin Lady by Carol A. Cole, Penguins (Usborne Beginners) by Emily Bone, Pierre the Penguin: A True Story by Jean Marzollo, and Little Penguin: The Emperor of Antarctica by Jonathan London. If you're looking for short chapter books, try Penguin Puzzle (Magic School Bus Chapter Books) by Judith Bauer Stamper or Eve of the Emperor Penguin (Magic Tree House #40) by Mary Pope Osborne.
Our Favorite Books on Polar Exploration
We also really enjoyed:
You Wouldn't Want to Travel with Captain Cook!: A Voyage You'd Rather Not Make by Mark Bergin
The Value of Boldness: The Story of Captain Cook (A ValueTale) by Ann Donegan Johnson
Robert Peary and Matthew Henson:
I, Matthew Henson: Polar Explorer by Carole Boston Weatherford
Keep On!: The Story of Matthew Henson, Co-Discoverer of the North Pole by Deborah Hopkinson
Peary and Henson by Marie M. Richards
Robert Peary: Boy of the North Pole (Childhood of Famous Americans) by Electa Clark (chapter book)
Animals Robert Scott Saw: An Adventure in Antarctica by Sandra Markle actually covers quite a bit about Antarctica and polar exploration in general. It is a longer picture book, but the illustrations kept the attention of my 4 year old so that even she enjoyed sitting through the reading of this book.
A World Explorer: Robert Falcon Scott by Joan Bristow (chapter book)
Shackleton and the Lost Antarctic Expedition (Graphic History) by Hoena
You Wouldn't Want to Be a Polar Explorer! by Jen Greenand David Antram
Trapped by the Ice!: Shackleton's Amazing Antarctic Adventure by Michael McCurdy
The Endurance: Shackleton's Perilous Expedition in Antarctica by Meredith Hooper
Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World by Jennifer Armstrong (chapter book - We listened to the audio CD version)
Ice Wreck by Lucille Recht Penner
Richard E. Byrd:
Black Whiteness: Admiral Byrd Alone in the Antarctic by Robert Burleigh
Something to Tell the Grandcows by Eileen Spinelli
Richard E. Byrd by Adele DeLeeuw (chapter book)
Free Polar Lapbooks
Click on the link for a free polar-related lapbook: Polar Animal Lapbooks . Homeschoolshare.com offers numerous other great polar-themed lapbooks. To view some of them, copy and paste these links:
http://www.homeschoolshare.com/polar_animals_lapbook.php for More Polar Animal Lapbooks, http://www.homeschoolshare.com/poppers_penguins.php for Mr. Popper's Penguins Lapbook, and http://www.homeschoolshare.com/penguin_match.php for Penguin Lapbook.
Great Video Clips on Topics Related to the Poles
Great YouTube Clips on the Arctic
Just to warn you, in this episode of "Man vs. Wild," Bear Grylls does remove his clothing. They blur the important parts, but you might want to preview this first if you'd prefer your students/children not see that.
Great Video Clips on the Antarctic
Would you like to teach this way every day?
I use KONOS Curriculum as a springboard from which to plan my lessons. It's a wonderful Christian curriculum and was created by moms with active children! You can even watch free online videos as Jessica, one of the co-authors of KONOS, walks you through a unit. (Look for the Explanation Videos tab.)
If you're new to homeschooling or in need of some fresh guidance, I highly recommend KONOS' HomeSchoolMentor.com program! Watch videos on-line of what to do each day and how to teach it in this great hands-on format!
© 2014 Shannon