- Contributed by PEI member Megan Gunderson, Dillingham, Alaska
I want you to escape your current adult body for a minute, and think back to your childhood. How did you learn about the polar regions? Personally, it was never really covered in school that I can recall. Most of what I knew about Antarctica came from watching The Pebble and the Penguin, and most of what I knew about the Arctic included Santa Claus. My understanding of the difference between Arctic and Antarctic was piecemealed over the years by my own developing brain, which often made incorrect assumptions based on poor information and child logic. To further confuse the issue for kids, mass marketing continues to print advertising and packaging that includes penguins and polar bears inhabiting the same icy area.
Common misconceptions concerning polar region comparison:
- Polar bears and penguins occupy the same habitat.
- Both poles are similar in temperature.
- Both the Arctic and Antarctic are solid ice, with snow on top.
- Antarctica is quite a small continent that nobody can visit.
- Humans cannot live in the Arctic.
- Polar oceans are too cold for most life.
One of the most accessible and ready-to-use lesson plans for this topic was created by the Alaska SeaLife Center. In this lesson, students are asked to brainstorm what they already know about the poles, watch a short video produced by TedEd, and then create team Venn Diagrams that compare the poles. Older students can brainstorm their own ideas to write and draw on large poster paper (Pro Tip: Bring fun smelly markers in bright colors! They are always a hit. Just be ready to refocus kids if they get too distracted by the novelty). However, primary level students might need to be provided a pre-printed assortment of words and pictures to sort into the graphic organizer (two overlapping hula hoops are a fun and different way to create a quick venn diagram). Be sure to ask kids to share their finished products!
- The Arctic vs. the Antarctic - TedEd, Camille Seaman
- Difference between Antarctica and the Arctic - EducaPoles (IPF)
Animations (from the International Polar Foundation)
Full Lessons (with activities)
- Difference Between the Poles - Alaska SeaLife Center
- Polar Regions Teaching Dossier - EducaPoles (International Polar Foundation)
- Ice Is Nice!: All About the North and South Poles (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library)
- All About the North and South Poles
- North Pole South Pole
- Poles Apart
- DK Eyewitness: Arctic and Antarctic
- The Top and Bottom of the World