Take a cool Internet tour of Antarctica in the warmth of the classroom. Included: Fifteen Antarctica teaching activities for across the grades and across the curriculum.
Looking for a cool place to take your students on a field trip? There's no cooler place than Antarctica! And you and your students can go there. You can take a trip to the coldest place on Earth via a handful of hot Internet sites!
Check out some great Web sites that offer "virtual tours" or personal journals of previous trips to the icy land way down under! For starters, and best for younger students, check out the Virtual Tour put together by the folks at the Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica (CARA). Your tour will start where most every Antarctic expedition begins, in New Zealand. You'll fly from there to McMurdo Station on the coast of Antarctica and then on to the bottom of the Earth -- the South Pole. At each stop you'll learn some cold, hard facts and a little bit of history. Click on the postage-stamp-size photos for a clearer look at images of the important sites at each location.
In New Zealand, take a look at all the gear you'll need for your trip to the South Pole as you wait for your plane to McMurdo (Antarctica). Your flight is bound to take off on short notice due to the ever-changing nature of Antarctica's weather. And the flight conditions aren't exactly first class! See the photo inside the airplane to get an idea of how cramped conditions will be for your 8-hour flight!
The excitement builds as you see McMurdo from the air. (McMurdo is Antarctica's largest community, with more than 100 buildings!) See a bunch of photos here, including a couple shots of the hut built here by British explorer Robert Falcon Scott, who established a base here in the early 1900s. Check out the link to lots of other McMurdo photos before heading to the cold ol' pole.
Finally. You made it! You landed at the South Pole in your ski-equipped airplane. Here you'll learn what it's like to live at the South Pole. Learn that South Pole Station is located about 350 feet from the actual geographic South Pole -- but it's moving closer to the Pole all the time! So how cold is it here? You're probably visting in December or in January, when it's summertime at the South Pole. The average summertime temperature here is about 20 degrees below zero (Centigrade). While you're here, be sure to check out the link to "more cold facts"!
A FEW DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES ON ANTARCTICA
If it's a "tour" of Antarctica you're looking for, check out some of the other available sites while you're strapped into your chair at the computer. I recommend that you check out A Tourist Expedition to Antarctica. Travel on the Grand Antarctic Circumnavigation cruise aboard the MV Marco Polo. Read the journal entries written by "tourist" Lee Liming. On the trip, Liming was accompanied by a number of famous Antarctic explorers, including Sir Edmund Hillary and Sir Vivian Fuchs, as well as family members of the original South Pole explorers Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen and experts on Antarctic biology and geology. Be sure to see Liming's chronological listing of journal entries and photos of places visited.
Among the other Antarctic tours you can take on the Internet are these:
Interested in learning about additional Antarctica-related Web sites? If you aren't interested in additional online resources, skip immediately to Cool Antarctic Activities.
ADDITIONAL INTERNET SITES OF INTEREST
Antarctica-related sites galore can be found on the WWW. I've selected a handful of excellent teaching resources. But these are just "the tip of the iceberg;" these sites are indicative of the wide variety of available online material.
COOL ANTARCTIC ACTIVITES
What Do You Know About Antarctica? Before students begin their study of Antarctica, trace an outline map of Antarctica on a large sheet of mural paper. (White mural paper would be great!) You might trace a copy of an Antarctica Outline Map found online onto a sheet of acetate; then that tracing could be placed on an overhead projector to enlarge the map. Invite students to tell things that they know about Antarctica. Write each of those "facts" on the mural. Then, as your study proceeds, new facts will be learned that can be added to the mural. (All facts might be written on colored cards to add color to your mural.) During your study, some facts on the mural might be discovered to be untrue. The corrected fact could be written on a sheet of colored paper and pasted over the misinformation.
Charting and Graphing Antarctica's Temperatures. (All grades.) Use the up-to-the-minute temperature map from the Antarctica Automatic Weather Station to track the temperatures at one or more of the 12 weather station sites on the icy continent. Check the temperature at the same time every day for the length of your Antarctic study. Students can create a table on which to record the daily temperature(s). Students in grades 3 and up can plot the daily temperatures on a bar or dot graph.
Math. Older students can convert temperatures shown on the map(s) and on their tables (see activity above) from Centigrade to Fahrenheit.
Geography. Print out for students a copy of the Antarctica Outline Map. Invite students to locate on the map some of these places: Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, the Antarctic Circle, the Antarctic Ocean, the geographic South Pole, the Indian Ocean, McMurdo Station, Mount Erebus, Palmer Station, the Ross Ice Shelf, the South Pacific Ocean, and the Weddell Sea. Add to this activity any other locations that are part of your classroom study of Antarctica.
Hands-On Science. What kinds of clothing best protect visitors to Antarctica from the cold? Try this experiment: You'll need to get four thermometers. They should all be of the same kind and each should record the same temperature at the start of this experiment. Three of the thermometers should each be wrapped in a different kind of material. For example, one could be wrapped in a cotton T-shirt, another in a wool sock, and the third in a sheet of polyester material. The fourth will not be wrapped. Next, place each of the four thermometers (three wrapped and one not) into a paper cup and place the cups in a cooler with ice in it. Wait ten minutes. Remove the cups. Record the temperatures on each of the thermometers. Which material was the best insulator? (See another experiment for Investigating Insulation [archived copy], which includes a discussion of the layers of clothing needed for cold-weather protection.)
Safety. This is a good time of year to review safety rules for keeping warm and preventing frostbite. Take a look at the Surviving the Cold Weather fact sheet from the National Safety Council. Students might create a fact sheet of their own to take home to keep posted on the refrigerator.
Hands-On Science #3. This experiment will demonstrate the insulating properties of the layer of blubber that a penguin has.
Which had gets cold first? How does this experiment demonstrate the properties of a penguin's protective layer of blubber?
Read a Wind Chill Table. Provide practice for students in reading a simple wind chill table using the Teaching Master provided.
ANSWER KEY: 1. t, 2. f, 3. t, 4. t, 5. f, 6. 15 degrees, 7. -9 degrees, 8. 40 mph, 9. 25 degrees, THINK ABOUT IT! The 10 degree day with a 10 mph wind is colder (-4 degrees) than a 20 degree day with 20 mph winds (+4 degrees).
Telling Time. Invite students to take a look at a world time zone map. (Check out a World Time Zones Map online.) What time is it now in your classroom? Invite students to figure out what time it is in Antarctica. (Note: According to the online time zone map, Antarctica is two hours ahead of EST at this time of year. However, it's interesting to note, that scientists and visitors to Antarctica tend to follow New Zealand time, because New Zealand is the most common point of takeoff for Antarctic exploration. If my calculation is correct, New Zealand would be 17 hours ahead of EST.)
Geography/World Map. Invite students to take a look at a map of Antarctic Territorial Claims (scroll down the page to the second map). On an outline map of the world have students color any country that has staked a claim on Antarctica. The colored map will give students an idea how much worldwide interest there is in the icy land at the bottom of the world.
Career Education/Language. Take a look at the list of members on The Antarctic Team [archived copy]. Talk and learn about why each member is needed and what that person's responsibilities might include. For instance, why would the Antarctic team include a dermatologist, a marine scientist, a radio operator, a helicopter pilot, an astronomer, and a mechanic? Invite each student to choose the role he or she might like to take on a trip to Antarctica. Ask each student to write a brief explanation of what his/her responsibilities would be and why he/she would choose to perform that role.
Riddle. Just for a laugh: What's the largest ant in the world? (Ant-arctica!)
For a couple more Antarctica teaching resources you might check out the Table of Contents from the Live from Antarctica 2 Teacher's Guide and the Lessons from the TEA 2003 Transfer Workshop at the American Museum of Natural History.
Article by Gary Hopkins
Copyright © 2010 Education World
Originally published 12/08/1997
Last updated 12/02/2010