Planning Polar Expeditions Integrates Math, Science, and Geography

How can you integrate multiple content areas into a study of polar regions while engaging students and encouraging higher-level thinking skills? By asking them to use their understanding of these remote places and plan an expedition.

Mapping routes, deciding on appropriate clothing, and calculating nutritional information involve geography, science, and math skills, and the real-world scenario will keep students focused and interested. While the resources we’ve highlighted below focus
on Antarctica, you can easily ask students to plan an Arctic expedition as well.

We recommend supplementing these activities with tales from real researchers. The PolarTREC (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating) program offers many “live from the field” broadcasts, and the web site includes expedition maps, photo galleries, and a wealth of resources. Our monthly Researcher Stories column is another source of information about the men and women who study in the polar regions. Children’s literature is another great source of information. Check out this month’s Virtual Bookshelf as well as the Polar Explorers bookshelf.


Getting Ready to Go! (Grades K-2)
Students plan an expedition to Antarctica, deciding on a route, transportation, provisions, and research topics.

Coping with the Cold (Grades 3-5)
Teams of 3-4 students plan an expedition to Antarctica.

Antarctic Journey Itinerary (Grades 3-5)
This activity provides students with an introduction to the gear and supplies they would need on an expedition and why many of these supplies are unique to Antarctic expeditions. This activity also encourages critical thinking and planning skills.

Icy Survival (Grades 4-5)
From prepared handouts, students identify items they consider essential to survival in an emergency outside camp in Antarctica.

Packing for Antarctica (Grades 4-5)
In this math/social studies/science//technology lesson, students use Microsoft Excel or AppleWorks spreadsheets to create a packing list for their “pretend” trip to Antarctica.

A Meal of Endurance (Grade 5 and up)
Calculate the calories in meals eaten by explorers. Will they survive on this diet?

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 April 2010 – 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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