Education and
Public Engagement
at the Lunar and Planetary Institute
Explore! Ice Worlds

Know Your Poles


In this 60-minute companion activity to Polar Bears or Penguins? children ages 8 to 13 divide into Arctic and Antarctic teams to investigate Earth's polar regions. Each team reads, discusses, and records information about their region to share and to use in Polar Bears or Penguins?

What's the Point?

Through their reading, the children will come across diverse information, possibly including:


For each team of four to ten children

Explore Antarctica (Explore the Continents), Bobbie Kalman and Rebecca Sjonger, Crabtree Children's Books, 2007, ISBN-10: 0778730859. In this book for ages 4 to 8, the authors explore the geography, history, politics, climate, and the plant and animal life of Earth's southernmost continent. Interesting facts and photos are presented clearly and succinctly.

Polar Lands (Kingfisher Young Knowledge). Margaret Hyne. Kingfisher. 2005. ISBN: 0753458683. In Hyne's book, children ages 4 to 8 will meet scientists who work in the Arctic and Antarctica and will discover many remarkable facts about the plants and animals at both poles.

Poles Apart: Why Penguins and Polar Bears Will Never Be Neighbors, Elaine Scott, Viking Juvenile, 2004, ISBN: 0670059250. Children ages 10 to 13 are given insight into the rigors of polar exploration, the current scientific research at both poles, and interesting facts about the two environments.

Arctic and Antarctic (Eyewitness Books), Barbara Taylor. DK Children, 2000, ISBN-10: 0789458500. Taylor's book offers impressive photographs of both poles and a clear, easy-to-read text that covers climate along with the history of the native plants and animals. Native cultures and explorers are also discussed.

Antarctic Adventure: Exploring the Frozen South (DK Eyewitness Readers), Meredith Hooper, Tandem Library, 2001, ISBN-10: 0613322789. Readers ages 6 to 12 will find Hooper's book about her adventure in Antarctica replete with stunning photographs, paintings, informative sidebars, and a rich vocabulary.

Living in the Arctic (Rookie Read-About Geography), Allan Fowler. Children's Press (CT), 2000, ISBN-10: 0516270842. Fowler's book about the Arctic supplements a straight-forward text with excellent pictures of the Arctic region and its inhabitants for children ages 4 to 8.

Antarctica (Exploring Continents), Tristan Boyer Binns, Heinemann Publishing, 2006, ISBN-10: 1403482500. Binns presents children ages 9 to12 with answers to questions young people want answered about the climate, politics, geography, and other issues concerning Antarctica. The book also includes a suite of clear, detailed maps.

For the facilitator:



1. To introduce the children to Earth's polar regions, invite them to brainstorm what they think they know about the two regions and what they would like to learn about them. Record the children's ideas on two sheets of poster paper marked "Arctic — the North Pole" and "Antarctic — the South Pole". You will refer back to these "Know"/"Want To Know" posters at the end of the activity to dispel any misconceptions they may have had and to add new knowledge they acquired.

2. Divide the children into Arctic and Antarctic exploration teams. Distribute the books and articles to each team and invite them to collect and record on poster paper all the interesting information they read in the next 30 minutes. Explain that each team will share what they learn with the other teams and will use this information in the game they will be playing next. Have the children list any new vocabulary words on the " Wall of Ice." Encourage the children to locate information that answers such questions as:

3. After the teams have collected and organized their information, invite each team to choose one or more volunteers to share their information with the group. Encourage the children to remember as much as they can about both poles, as their team will need that information in the upcoming game. As they share, revisit the "Know"/"Want To Know" lists they created to check for misconceptions that have been dispelled and to identify answers to questions they had.

Share with the children that information about the extent of Arctic sea ice coverage may have varied between books. Can they guess why that information might vary? Different books use different sources for their information. In addition, the percentage of permanent sea ice coverage is decreasing each year, so the percentage in any given book will be determined by the year of the publication.


4. Discuss and summarize with the children what they have learned and ask if they are ready to test their knowledge of the North and South polar regions in the next activity. Encourage the teams to take a few minutes to make notes regarding what they consider the most important facts about both poles. They may use their notes in the following game.