Using Webcams to Bring the Polar Regions into Your Classroom

Webcams are targeted on just about everything of interest to some group nowadays – from the newest exotic animal at the local zoo to daily traffic patterns. The polar regions are no exception. Cameras are trained on penguins, bears, ice floes, and the poles themselves. Below we’ve identified five of these cams from the Arctic or Antarctica.In the classroom, webcams can provide bird’s-eye views as well as close-ups to enhance children’s understanding of living things and objects in polar regions inaccessible to children. They allow children to see real-time events and can inspire curiosity and imagination. Looking at and discussing the webcam images can help children bridge their experiences of home with the world around them, especially when they are asked to record their thoughts and ideas.

How can you integrate this technology into your teaching? One way is to have these images be the springboard for writing poetry. A second possibility is incorporating the images when students are learning about the behaviors or habitats of animals. We’ve included links to three ReadWriteThink lessons that provide guidance on composing cinquain poems and observing animal behavior.


Webcams

Live From the North Pole!
NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) operates four webcams at the North Pole during the Arctic summertime–April through October. The cameras cannot operate in wintertime darkness, but archived images are available on the site at all times.

Penguin Webcam
A small group of Gentoo penguins are observed by the webcams at the Chilean/German research station in the very north of the Antarctic Peninsula. The penguins are found at the site from October through late April. Four webcams update every 15 minutes. Scroll down and click on the four Penguin Webcam links (1a, 1b, 2a, and 2b). The images are extremely close up.

Polar Bear Cam Highlights
View highlights from the 2007 Polar Bear Cam, which recorded bears in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada.

U.S. Antarctic Program: South Pole Station Cam
This webcam focuses on the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station and updates every 30 seconds, enabling scientists and the general public to view activity and geophysical rarities at the South Pole. Current weather conditions are also posted here. The Atmospheric Research Observatory building can be seen in the top left of the aerial photo below the webcam. A second webcam of this station shows two images of the same station but from a greater distance.

Webcams from Antarctica
The British Antarctic Survey currently has webcams at its Halley, Rothera, and King Edward Point research stations as well as onboard its two research ships, RRS James Clark Ross and RRS Ernest Shackleton. RSS feeds are available.


ReadWriteThink Lessons

Composing Cinquain Poems: A Quick-Writing Activity (Grades K-2)
Composing Cinquain Poems with Basic Parts of Speech
(Grade 3-5)
In these lessons, students are asked to compose a cinquain that describes a familiar person, place, or thing. The site provides an overview of cinquain poems, examples, resource links, instructional guidelines, student assessment ideas, and the National Council of Teachers of English/International Reading Association Standards.

Webcams in the Classroom: Animal Inquiry and Observation (Grades 3-5)
In this lesson, written for grades 3-5, students observe animal habits and habitats using webcams broadcasting from zoos and aquariums. Links are given to the sites. The lesson includes an observation worksheet and other forms. The video highlights from Polar Bear Cam could be used with this lesson as well as the Penguin Webcam when the penguins are on land.


This article was written by Kimberly Lightle. For more information, see the Contributors page. Email Kimberly at beyondpenguins@msteacher.org .

Copyright March 2008 – The Ohio State University. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.

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