Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears is an online professional development magazine which focuses on preparing elementary teachers to teach polar science concepts while also integrating inquiry-based science and literacy instruction. The project draws on research showing that an integrated approach can improve student achievement in science, as well as in reading comprehension and oral and written discourse abilities. Ultimately, the project seeks to bring the polar regions “closer to home” for elementary teachers and their students.

In each of 20 thematic issues, you can:

In addition you can find multimedia resources such as podcasts and electronic books for student use.

Project Partners

The Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears project is produced by an interdisciplinary team from the following organizations:

  • The Ohio State University, College of Education and Human Ecology
  • The Ohio Resource Center for Mathematics, Science, and Reading
  • Byrd Polar Research Center
  • COSI (Center for Science and Industry) Columbus
  • Upper Arlington Public Library
  • National Science Digital Library Core Integration team at Cornell University and University Corporation for Atmospheric Research


Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears covers diverse scientific themes and lessons. NSF Discovery. August 31, 2011.

Fries-Gaither, J. and Lightle, K. (2011). Penguins and polar bears integrates science and literacy. Science. 331 (6016): 413-414.

Fries-Gaither, J. (2009). Discovering the polar regions. Learning & leading with technology. 36 (6): 29.

D-Lib Magazine. January/February 2009. electronic magazine. Feature Collection. http://www.dlib.org/dlib/january09/01featured-collection.html

Fries-Gaither, J. (2010). Digital storytelling supports writing across content areas. Ohio Journal of English Language Arts, 50 (1), 9-13.

Fries-Gaither, Jessica. (2010). Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears: Integrating literacy and IPY into primary school classrooms. In Polar Science and Global Climate, edited by Bettina Kaiser, 156-157 (Harlow, UK: Pearson).

Fries-Gaither, J. (2010). Bringing the polar regions closer to home. Knowledge Quest, 39 (2), 34-38.

Conference Presentations

Integrating Informational Text and Science Through the Polar Regions. IRA Southeast Regional Conference. December 10, 2008. Nashville, TN.

Using Technology to Support Struggling Elementary Readers. NSTA National Conference. March 22, 2009. New Orleans, LA.

Reading 2.0: Improving Comprehension with Online Tools. 2010 Ohio Educational Technology Conference. February 3, 2010. Columbus, OH.

Beaks and Biomes: Inquiry and Literacy. Science Education Council of Ohio Conference. February 25, 2010. Columbus, OH.

Build an Interdisciplinary Polar Science Unit with Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears. NSTA National Conference. March 19, 2010. Philadelphia, PA.

Web Seminars

Polar Geography. NSTA/NSDL web seminar. May 27, 2008.

Physical Science from the Poles. NSTA/NSDL web seminar. October 29, 2008.

Energy and the Polar Environment. NSTA/NSDL web seminar. November 13, 2008.

Integrating Science and Literacy: States and Changes of Matter. NSDL web seminar. January 13, 2009.

Integrating Science and Literacy: Rocks and Minerals. NSDL web seminar. January 22, 2009.

Ecosystems: Life in the Polar Extremes. NSDL web seminar. April 7, 2009.

Arctic and Antarctic Birds. NSTA/NSDL web seminar. April 21, 2009.

Timely Teachings: Seasons and the Cycles of Night and Day. NSTA/NSDL web seminar. December 10, 2009.

ITSCO Book Talk: Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears. January 2010.

Informational Texts and Multigenre Text Sets. Beyond Penguins web seminar. August 26, 2010.

Inquiry, Literacy, and the Learning Cycle. Beyond Penguins web seminar. September 9, 2010.

Beaks and Biomes: Integrating Science and Literacy. Beyond Penguins web seminar. October 14, 2010.

Research Projects, Revisited. Beyond Penguins web seminar. November 11, 2010.

Citizen Science and Inquiry. Beyond Penguins web seminar. December 9, 2010.

Reader’s Theater and Informational Text. Beyond Penguins web seminar. January 13, 2011.

Reading 2.0. Beyond Penguins web seminar. February 10, 2011.

Visual Literacy and Nonlinguistic Representations: Part 1. Beyond Penguins web seminar. March 10, 2011.

Project Evaluation

Project evaluation is conducted by Ohio’s Evaluation & Assessment Center for Mathematics and Science Education, Miami University, Oxford, OH.

2008-2009 Evaluation Report (Project Year 2)

2009-2010 Evaluation Report (Project Year 3)