Taking A Sense of Place Beyond Geography and Science

The theme of this issue speaks to the integrated nature of the content and featured lessons. When developing a sense of place about the polar regions, the line between science and social studies (or geography) is considerably blurred. Yet the lessons and activities featured in this issue can extend into other content areas, such as math and art. We’ve highlighted a few examples of cross-curricular connections here.

Map Skills

A recent post from our blog, titled Mapping the Polar Regions, provides several examples of lessons and activities to teach map skills within the context of the polar regions.


Conducting simple surveys and using graphic representations of data (such as tables and graphs) are common topics in the elementary mathematics curriculum. The lessons and activities in Science and Literacy Activities to Develop a Polar Sense of Place (Science and Literacy department) provide many opportunities for data collection and analysis.

For example, after learning about the Arctic and Antarctica, students could create survey questions such as:

  • Would you rather visit the Arctic or Antarctica?
  • Which Arctic animal is your favorite?
  • Would you rather visit Antarctica in the winter or in the summer?

After surveying their classmates (or small group), students could create a table to organize their data. They could display their results as a pictograph, line plot, or bar graph.

Many resources and lesson plans deal with data collection, representation, and analysis. We’ve chosen to highlight two from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics: Illuminations web site as well as a description of how to use Microsoft Excel to create a pictograph.

Look At Me (K-2 unit plan)
This unit, designed for students in grades K-2, is a comprehensive introduction to data collection and representation. The unit includes six lessons in which students collect physical characteristics data (freckles, eye color, hair color) about themselves and classmates, use tally marks and a table to record information, and generate graphs. Of course, these lessons can be adapted for use with questions that reflect the polar regions, like the ones described above.

Categorical Data (Grades 3-5 lesson plan)
Designed for grades 3-5, this lesson involves formulating questions, collecting data, and representing the data graphically. An online bar graphing tool is included with the lesson. Further lessons (accessible by tabs at the top of the page) deal with numerical data (could be used with temperatures in the two regions) and comparing categorical and numerical data. The lesson uses categories such as eye colors or favorite books but could be easily adapted to fit the polar regions.

Create A Pictograph
This resource, from Microsoft Education, shows how to use Microsoft Excel to create a pictograph. This type of graph would be perfect to show students’ favorite Arctic animals by using a picture of each animal to represent each vote.


Several of the featured Science and Literacy lessons and activities involve drawing pictures or postcards to demonstrate understanding. You could more fully integrate art with the following ideas:

  • Use clay or salt dough to create three-dimensional representations of the Arctic (water surrounded by land) and Antarctica (land surrounded by water). Students can use cardboard for the base and glue down maps like the ones linked above to use as a guide. Students should use the clay to represent the continents and not cover the areas that represent the Arctic or Southern oceans. The clay can be painted when dry. In addition, students could label countries, landforms, the poles, and other geographic features.
  • Have students make dioramas or three-dimensional models showing the Arctic and Antarctica. A model could supplement a compare/contrast essay or written explanation of the two areas, or serve as an alternate form of assessment.

Another way to integrate art with the strategy of identifying similarities and differences is to use manipulatives and graphic organizers. Dinah Zike’s Foldables web site shows examples of Venn Diagrams, Concept Maps, and Folded Charts and Tables. (Each page includes pictures of examples that would be appropriate for elementary students.) Students fold and cut to create each graphic organizer and then add information using words or pictures.

This article was written by Jessica Fries-Gaither. For more information, see the Contributors page. Email Kimberly Lightle, Principal Investigator, with any questions about the content of this site.

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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