Poles Apart....The Arctic and the Antactic

5 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT to discover the differences within the Polar Regions.

Big Idea

Seeing that the world is not one giant piece of land and understanding where those pieces fit in the puzzle can be a huge learning.

Setting the Stage

5 minutes

This lesson was designed to offer another perspective to the polar regions for my students. Up to this point, we have been learning everything we can to make the diversity of the Arctic region come to life. I want the students to know that this is not the only place on the Earth that could be this cold or have this amazing environment.  I have tried to weave into conversations the concept that the Arctic is located at the top of the world.  I try to use the geographical language as often as possible as well. This begins to cross over and front load information and learning that with geography standards will be addressed in later grades.  

A field trip to either of these places is really not a reality for a classroom teacher or students. There are virtual field trips that could happen on line, but even those are a bit hard to conceptualize for a seven-year-old.  2-ESS2.B encourages using maps to locate bodies of land and water on the Earth.  This lesson allows me to do this in a concrete way that will make sense to my students. 

The Antarctic really is the 'polar opposite' of the Arctic.  Demonstrating the differences and similarities between the two continents is a fun lesson.  

I purposely teach this lesson before I go into more depth of the specific animals from the Antarctic to explain the distance separating the two environments. 

Around the outside edges of the anchor charts, I have penned in my classic stitches.  I always put these around my anchor charts.  All the brain research I have read says that it is important to 'box in' new learning for students.  This ensures it will remain important.  I have adapted my own boxes to be that of 'stitches.' Two reasons for this.....Drawing a straight line quickly when you are busy with other activities in a classroom is not always easy. Second, if you tend to like your finished product to appear a particular way, a straight line is not easy!! Hence, I opt for the stitches that are quick and easy and always turn out nicely. 

I use colored pens to introduce specific information that I want the children to really internalize and remember.  Using colored pens helps me to organize the thoughts and concepts easily for the children.  I decided ahead of time what information I want to include in my sketching and also the color coding I will use. 

Red -- equator and compass rose

Purple -- hemispheres

Blue -- oceans and continents

Brown and Blue -- colored in to designate land and water

Green -- characteristics of each region

Orange -- animals specific to each region



Engage and Explain

20 minutes

I ask all the children to join me on the carpet in front of our Smart Board.  On the board I have taped a semi blank chart.  This phase of the lesson really incorporates both elements of the Five E model. It is hard to separate the two in this case. The hook to get the children interested is the blank chart paper, however, the explaining comes in the form of the information that is shared on the chart itself.  

I explain to the students that we have been learning so much about the Arctic that "it might be a good idea for us to explore the Antarctic too.  It would be really good for us to know how similar or different they really are." 

I begin to sketch with the blue pen and outline both globes.  After sketching the globes, I color in the oceans around both the poles.  The coloring does not need to be precise or even the quality of coloring expected by our students.  It is a map that will hang on the wall as a learning tool, so it is alright if it is a bit messy.  Next, I move on to brown and color in the land areas.  As I begin to add new information to the chart, I ask the children questions that will elicit any prior knowledge they may already have from any of our earlier lessons.....I want them to be as engaged and involved in the process of building the chart as I can.  

I move on to the red pen sketch out the equator and compass rose. While I am sketching, I am explaining the concepts of both these items on a map.  Much of the information that is shared, is oral and not always written down.  

I change colors again and use purple to explain the two hemispheres.  I believe it is important for the children to understand the two hemispheres because they are distinguishing features that help to organize the Earth.  This helps more in really focusing on that standard of using the map to lay out where continents and oceans lie (2-ESS2-B).  

Once the characteristics of the globe are established, we can begin to really focus on the characteristics that make up both regions.  I begin with the animals, using an orange pen.  I first write about the polar bears that live in the Arctic.  This is the review that the children are very familiar with because of previous learning.  Someone yells out, "What about penguins?" I answer, "Yes, what about them...." I don't say anymore, but write the word penguins down below next to the Antarctic. This brings on the important conversation that the animals do not live together.  A highly important concept.  

When the conversation has been finished about animals in each region, I move to the characteristics that make each environment so special.  This information is written in green.  



10 minutes

During this section of the lesson, it is out of order within a normal sequence of the model, but necessary to have it in this order.  Because I must explain new information to the children first with the anchor chart, they cannot complete their exploratory learning without the chart itself.  For this reason, the lesson is very out of order.

I explain to the children that I want them to be able stretch their learning and begin to tie all their learning together.  One way that we have done this in past lessons is to use a foldable that we can organize our thinking.  I pass out the foldable that I have created for the children to use.  This is not the first time we have used foldables and especially not this format. The children are very familiar with them.  They take the papers and go back to their seats and quickly cut them out and prepare them to gather information.  

As the students are cutting their organizer out and folding, I explain that I won't be helping them to determine what is the important information to document.  I am leaving this up to them.  I want to encourage the children to be independent thinkers and analyze the information for themselves.   


5 minutes

When the students complete their documenting, I ask them to glue this foldable into their journals. As they are doing this, I am circulating throughout the classroom overlooking the children's work. I see that most of the children have included almost every piece of information from the chart onto their own personal work.  

I interpret this as their ability to distinguish the information and where it lands in the organization of the concepts. My goal was to have them work independently and gather information and organize it. After seeing their work, I realize they have been able to accomplish this.