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Explore Alaska: Three Scavenger Hunts

Education World celebrates Alaska's 40th anniversary with scavenger hunts for students across the grades. Students explore an "Alaska" Web site in search of answers to ten grade-appropriate questions.

In recognition of the 40th anniversary of Alaskan statehood, Education World introduces your students to some of the best Web sites for learning about Alaska. Challenge your students to answer the questions in one of three grade-appropriate scavenger hunts. Choose the hunt that's best for your students, whether they're in grades 1-3, grades 4-6, or grades 7-12. (Answer Keys are provided.) And, while you've got your students focused on their study of Alaska, don't forget to check out this week's Education World CURRICULUM story, Happy Birthday, Alaska!, for news of additional great and educational Alaska links!


Point out to students that Alaska is the part of the United States and that it's located in the Arctic. Then invite them to go to the Web site The Arctic and Its Animals at Challenge students to explore the site and to answer the following questions.


  1. What color are dall sheep?
  2. How can you tell how old a walrus is?
  3. How does the color of a polar bear's skin help it live in the Arctic?
  4. How are Arctic hare different from hare that live outside the Arctic?
  5. Why do wolverines move so fast?
  6. What kind of animal is a caribou?
  7. What do Eskimos do with the fur from collared lemmings?
  8. What is a narwhal?
  9. What does an Arctic fox eat?
  10. Why is it important that snowy owls can leave their nests in just eight weeks?

Bonus: Why do you think so many Arctic animals change color with the seasons?

Notes: Students might complete the slightly more difficult Scavenger Hunt found on the The Arctic and Its Animals Web site. Students can also see pictures of many of the animals they read about by going to Alaskan Animals at


Go to the State of Alaska -- Visitor Information Page at Use information you find at that site to answer each of the following questions:


  1. What is the capital of Alaska? What is the state's most populous city?
  2. What causes the aurora borealis?
  3. What are the five regions of Alaska?
  4. What are three of the most popular methods of transportation in Alaska today?
  5. What are Alaska's three most important industries?
  6. When did Alaska become a state?
  7. How, and when, did the U.S. acquire Alaska? What is its nickname today?
  8. About how many earthquakes happen in Alaska each year? How many glaciers are in Alaska?
  9. What is Alaska's official state land animal?
  10. How many stars are on the Alaska state flag?


Go to the Alaska Science Forum at Use the information you find at that Web site to answer the questions that follow:


  1. What is the official state insect of Alaska?
  2. What causes red auroras?
  3. Anthropologists believe the Americas were originally populated by nomads from Asia who migrated across a land bridge connecting Alaska with Siberia. How many migrations were there?
  4. What causes solar eclipses?
  5. Does polar bear hair conduct light and, therefore, heat?
  6. What causes thunder?
  7. What effects of Alaskan volcanoes pose the greatest threat to humans?
  8. Where is the Denali fault?
  9. How fast did the Black Rapids Glacier of 1937 move?
  10. Why is gold used in electronic equipment?


Answer Key for Scavenger Hunt 1: For Students in Grades 1-3

  1. Dall sheep are the only wild white sheep in the world.
  2. You can tell how old a walrus is by the number of rings you find in a cross-section of its teeth.
  3. The polar bear's black skin allows it to soak up as much heat as possible from the sun.
  4. Arctic hare have short ears while hare outside of Arctic areas have long ears.
  5. Going fast helps a wolverine stay on top of the snow.
  6. The caribou is a member of the deer family.
  7. Eskimos use the winter fur of collared lemmings to make doll clothing.
  8. A narwhal is a kind of whale.
  9. Arctic fox mainly eat small mammals, such as lemmings.
  10. Summers are very short in the Arctic. Owlets must be ready to take care of themselves during the cold winter. BONUS. An animal's color can help it blend into its surroundings and protect it from predators.

Answer Key for Scavenger Hunt 2: For Students in Grades 4-6

  1. The capital of Alaska is Juneau. Anchorage is its most populous city.
  2. The aurora borealis, also called the Northern Lights, is created from charged electrons and protons striking gas particles in the atmosphere.
  3. Alaska's five regions are the Far North, Interior, Southwest, Southeast, and Southcentral regions.
  4. The snowmobile has replaced the dogsled as the most popular form of ground transportation; more Alaskan residents per capita (than any other U.S. state) have planes and/or pilot licenses; accept ferry, car, or dog sled as the third choice.
  5. Alaska's three most important industries are oil, tourism, and fishing.
  6. Alaska became the United State's 49th state on January 3, 1959.
  7. The United States bought Alaska from Russia in October 1867 for 7.2 million dollars. (Many Americans thought this was a waste of money and called Alaska "Seward's Folly," after Secretary of State William H. Seward who championed the purchase.)
  8. About 5000 earthquakes happen in Alaska each year and 5000 glaciers are in Alaska.
  9. The moose is Alaska's official state land animal.
  10. Eight stars are on the Alaska state flag.

Answer Key for Scavenger Hunt 3: For Students in Grades 7-12

  1. The dragonfly is the official state insect of Alaska. (Source: Dragonfly Wins State Title; Mosquitoes Miffed)
  2. All-red auroras are associated with a large influx of electrons. Auroral scientists do not yet fully understand the cause of pure red aurora. They know it is associated with intense solar activity and heating of the upper atmosphere from a large influx of low-energy electrons, but they have not yet explained the mechanism producing this occurrence. (Source: The Rare Red Aurora)
  3. Three anthropologists, working independently, have concluded that there were three unrelated migrations occurring thousands of years apart. (Source: The First North Americans)
  4. Solar eclipses occur because the moon, which is about 400 times smaller than the sun, is also about 400 times closer to the earth than the sun. That means the moon, in proper position, is just large enough to block out the sun and prevent direct sunlight from reaching the earth during a total solar eclipse. (Source: Alaska's Being Followed by a Moon Shadow)
  5. Researchers recently found that less than .001 percent of red light and less than a trillionth of the violet light transmitted traveled the length of a typical, inch-long polar bear hair. Even less ultraviolet light made it from the tip to the base of the hair. (Source: Debunking the Myth of Polar Bear Hair)
  6. Lightning heats the air through which it passes to 54,000 degrees F, which causes a dramatic expansion of air. This produces a shock wave, which becomes a sound wave we hear as thunder. (Source: Lightning Returns, with a Flash and a Bang)
  7. Because most of Alaska's volcanoes are far removed from cities and towns, the abrasive ash they emit, not lava or mudslides, present the greatest danger to humans. (Source: Listening to the Heartbeat of Alaska's Volcanoes)
  8. The Denali fault follows the mid-line of the Alaska Range from a point north of Mt. McKinley into Canada and to the southeast where it forms Chatham Strait. (Source: Fairbanks Alaska's Faults and Earthquakes)
  9. The Black Rapids Glacier advanced about one mile each month between December 3, 1936, and March 7, 1937. (Source: Black Rapids Glacier Galloped to Fame in 1937)
  10. Gold, rather than cheaper metals, is used in electronic equipment because it's dependable in extremes of heat and humidity. (Source: Gold Opened Alaska; But What Is it Good For?)

Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © 2003 Education World

Originally Published 01/18/1999
Links updated 03/12/2003