Planning a Polar Festival

In a school setting, festival is a general term that can describe any number of informal, short-term learning experiences. This type of flexible event allows teachers and schools to incorporate a specific topic, such as polar science, into a crowded schedule. Festivals are an engaging way to spark interest in science and involve the greater community.

Festivals can take many forms: a full day of activities, a week with a special focus, a family night, and so on. Festivals can also range in size: a single class, a grade-level team, or an entire school. Or an elementary and middle school could pair up to host a polar-themed festival.


Ideas for Festivals

Here are just a few ideas for including a polar festival in your school’s activities:

  • Hold a daylong event in which groups of students or classes rotate through hands-on polar science and literacy activities led by teachers or volunteers.
  • Dedicate a week to polar science. Each grade level studies a different, developmentally appropriate topic. The week can be repeated from year to year so that students build on their knowledge from the previous year. Hold an assembly or special celebration to kick off the week or to share knowledge at the end.
  • Plan a polar science unit (a few weeks or more) for your class or grade-level team. The final products (presentations and displays of student work) can be shared with families and the community in a culminating celebration.
  • Hold a family science night. Invite parents, guardians, grandparents, and other family members to participate in hands-on polar science and literacy activities.
  • Include a read-a-thon in your polar activities. Challenge students, teachers, and families to read across Antarctica (or to the South Pole) by equating pages or books read to miles. Display a map in the hallway, and track your school’s progress!

Of course, there is no wrong way to plan a polar festival! You might choose to combine some of these ideas, or invent a new idea altogether! Consider your goals, school calendar, and available resources before deciding on the best fit for you.


Getting Started

To start the planning process, decide on a format and a focus. What is the time frame for your festival? Which classes or grades will be involved? Will you focus on polar science in general, or one specific topic such as polar animals?

Once you have a time frame and theme, you may want to consult national or state standards to support your activity. Polar science encompasses a wide variety of content from the National Science Education Standards. By integrating children’s literature and poetry, you can also meet several English Language Arts standards.

A major task in planning a festival is selecting activities. We’ve included articles to help you choose hands-on science activities, polar arts and crafts, and a bookshelf with activity books and teacher’s guides in case you need more ideas. We’ve suggested children’s literature and various types of poetry to integrate literacy into your event. Finally, we’ve provided ideas for involving the community and a list of resources from polar research projects that can supplement your activities.


Planning Resources

Festival Tips
A list of tips to make the process easier.

Timeline
Provides a suggested timeline for planning a festival. All time frames are suggestions and may vary depending on your school and event type.

Planning Checklist
A checklist of tasks that you may need to complete as you plan and conduct your festival.

Volunteer Form
A template that can be used to solicit volunteers.

Evaluation Survey
A template that can be used to evaluate your festival.


This article was written by Jessica Fries-Gaither. For more information, see the Contributors page. Email Jessica at beyondpenguins@msteacher.org.

Copyright November 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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