Education and
Public Engagement
at the Lunar and Planetary Institute
Explore Earth's Climate

Polar Bears or Penguins?


In this 60-minute companion activity to Know Your Poles, Arctic and Antarctic teams of children, ages 8 to13, become familiar with the geography of, and amount of ice in, Earth's polar regions. Children create a Polar Geographic Features Map with an ice overlay. In teams, they play a fast-action matching game that challenges them to use their knowledge of North and South pole facts.

What's the Point?

Children become acquainted with the physical characteristics of Earth's polar regions and the organisms that live there.


For each child:

For the group:

For the facilitator:



1. Gear up for Polar Bears or Penguins? by distributing the Arctic and Antarctic geographic maps to the children. Give each child pencils or crayons. Invite the children to use their blue and green pencils or crayons to color the land (green) and water (blue) portions of their polar region.

2. Ask the children to examine their maps.

3. Invite the children to discuss the two polar regions and to make a prediction about how much of their pole is covered with ice. You may ask older children to give their prediction as a percentage. Younger children may simply express how much of the pole is covered in terms like "a lot," or "a little."

4. Distribute the Arctic and Antarctic ice overlays to each child.

Have the children color the ice with markers; they can color the different types of ice different colors or color it the same color. Have them tape one edge to their Arctic or Antarctic region map so that they can lift the ice to see the land and ocean below.

5. Revisit the Know Your Poles "Know"/"Want To Know" posters to address any questions remaining open about the geography of the two polar regions or to identify new questions.

6. Prepare the children to play Polar Bears or Penguins? Divide the children into two (or more) teams and provide each with a different color of Pole Cards (turned face-down to conceal the facts). Invite them to play a game in which they will work with their teams to determine which cards describe conditions that are unique to the Arctic or Antarctic and which are true for both. Before they turn over their cards, explain the rules of the game:

7. Start the game!


Regroup with the children and review the card area.

Share with the children that, in the next activities, they will learn how our polar regions are changing and how what happens at the poles impacts everyone on the globe!