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Happy Birthday, Alaska!


As winter deepens, invite students to go on a WWW tour of the nation's largest state. What better way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Alaskan statehood?

NOTE: Be sure to check out this week's LESSON PLANNING story. There you'll find three Alaska Scavenger Hunts, one each for students in grades 1-3, 4-6, and 7-12.

January 3rd marked the 40th anniversary of Alaskan statehood What do your students know about the 49th state? Have they seen pictures of the Northern Lights? the Arctic tundra? the tidewater glaciers? Are they aware of the state's beauty, its wildlife, its grandeur, its diversity? Do they think Alaska is populated only by Eskimos and polar bears, or do they realize that most Alaskans live in modern homes, shop in modern stores, eat at fast food restaurants, and visit theaters, art galleries, and museums? Do they know that more than 1 million tourists visit the state each year and that the tourist industry is Alaska's second largest employer? Do they understand why northern Alaska is called The Land of the Midnight Sun?

Don't wait another minute to plan a visit to Alaska -- an online visit! Or better yet, come along with Education World as we stop off at a handful of the best Alaska Web sites. Come, help your students see and experience the United States' largest, and most remote, state!


What better place to begin your tour of Alaska than at the Alaska Division of Tourism's Official Student Information Guide? This site, perhaps one of the most comprehensive and easily navigated on the Web, is a veritable gold mine of information. Written specifically for students, the site includes information about Alaska's symbols, its geography, its government, its history, and the daily life of its residents. The site also contains maps of the state's five regions, a simple explanation of the aurora borealis, descriptions of some of Alaska's unique wildlife, and pictures of the state flag and state seal. If you only have time to visit one site, this is the place to go!

One of the most interesting and student-friendly sites about Alaska is The Teel Family WWW Site. This site, maintained by a family living in Eagle River, includes informative text, exciting activities, and a large number of valuable links that give visitors an insider's look into life in this vast state. The Teel family's individual Web pages provide visitors with a wilderness adventure, a 1920's paper doll, a tale of a moose encounter, an account of what it's like to live in Alaska during the various seasons, and some pictures of Alaskan fish. Also included are web projects on animals of the Arctic and women in Alaska's history. The family's site contains many educational links, including information about the Aurora, a reading list of books about Alaska for students of all ages, activities and projects about Alaskan trees, and a number of links to other valuable sites about the family's home state. At the Kid's Snow Page, students can study snow crystals, read snow folk tales and poems, or go to the Snow Scavenger Hunt page to find all the Inuit words for snow. At The Polar Bear and The Walrus, students can find out about these Alaskan animals, make a polar bear puppet, and learn polar bear and walrus songs and finger plays. This site has a number of hard-to-find adventures and activities for younger students and it's well worth an extended visit.

Another government agency, the U.S. Department of the Interior Minerals Management Service, provides the Alaska Region Kids Corner page, with information for students that's divided into four areas:

  • Short Subjects -- Learn about ice islands, oil spills, and the annual whale survey.
  • People at Work -- Find out about Alaskan residents who work in unusual jobs.
  • Lab Experiments -- Experiment with ballast and stability.
  • Photo Gallery -- See pictures of the state's wildlife and industry.
This visually appealing and easy-to-navigate site provides a vivid picture of life in Alaska's more remote areas.

Another scientifically interesting site can be found at the Poker Flat Research Range. The facility, located approximately 30 miles north of Fairbanks, is operated by the University of Alaska's Geophysical Institute and is the only scientific rocket launching facility in the world owned by a university. At Poker Flat, home to many scientific instruments that study the arctic atmosphere, students can explore the facility, access the data archives to find the information collected at the facility, learn about the aurora, and participate in "Adventures from Alaska Space Science." Here, they can also debunk some common Alaskan myths and learn more about physicists, engineers, and polar bears.

At Poker Flat, older students can also access the Geophysical Institute's Alaska Science Forum to find articles on a number of Alaskan topics, including the aurora, bugs, pets, dinosaurs, earthquakes, volcanoes, history, life, wildlife, weather, and much more. The articles are clearly written and accessible to students in middle school and above who want greater insight into the scientific aspects of life in Alaska. For example, students can learn about the needs of black guillemots, the secrets of the frozen tundra, and the history of the Irish apple, Alaska's number one agricultural product.

Finally, traveling north, students can visit Alaska's Cold Desert. This site, provided by the Bureau of Land Management Environmental Education Homepage, includes an article from Science and Children, a magazine published by the National Science Teachers Association. The article contains informative text and scientific activities to help students learn about the area north of the Arctic Circle. The activities, which include learning how animals in the tundra raise their young and an experiment about temperature and decomposition, are appropriate for students in the upper elementary grades and above.

But when your trip is completed, don't just curl up for a long winter's nap. Check out some of the additional references below. Each provides fascinating information about some aspect of Alaskan life, and all are worth at least a brief visit.


Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
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