Survival in Antarctica
Subject: Physical Science,
Life Science, Cooperative Learning, Geography
Grade Level: 6-8
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- Personal computer: (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running Windows
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Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM
- Software: Any presentation software such as Power Point or Hyperstudio (optional)
TIP: Preview all sites and videos before presenting them to the class.
The following sites provide information about different methods of staying warm in cold weather. As students prepare for the first challenge, keeping a shorthaired dog warm in Antarctica, the concepts covered by these sites will be helpful.
How A Spacesuit Works
How Blubber Works
Cold Weather Clothing -- How to Stay Warm
Learn to Dress for Cold Weather
The following sites will be helpful to students researching penguin species for the third challenge.
NATURE -- The World of Penguins
New Zealand Penguins
Penguins Around the World
The following Web sites will be useful to students researching the variety of plant and animal life found in the seas around Antarctica. Students will find pictures, descriptions, and other information at these sites.
Antarctic Connection -- Marine Life
The following sites contain maps of and general information about Antarctica and are very well detailed. They will be useful to students trying to plot various locations for the third challenge.
Antarctica Map -- Lonely Planet
Global Schoolhouse: Dry Valleys, Antarctica
This Web site documents a scientific expedition to Antarctica. Includes maps and a journal documenting the expedition.
NATURE: Antarctica: The End of the Earth
This site, a companion to a NATURE episode about Antarctica, contains useful information, essays, and resources about the continent.
USGS Map of Antarctica
The following two Web sites contain information necessary to calculate the amount of fresh water in the Antarctic Icecap.
Water Resources -- Polar Icecaps
How Much Water is there on Earth
Cloth scraps, plastic, bubble wrap, and other materials suggested by individual groups
Students will need the following supplies:
Paper and pencil
Paper and pencil
Basic art supplies -- construction paper, glue, tape, markers, string or yarn
Reference books -- encyclopedias, almanacs
Teachers will need the following:
- Handouts of Web resources if computers are not available in the classroom
- TV and VCR
- Video of NATURE episode "Under Antarctic Ice"
(one class period)
1. Play the "Under Antarctic Ice" video from the very beginning until the introductory credits appear. Stop it at this point (about one minute into the video) and tell the class that they will be taking a field trip to Antarctica. Ask them what difficulties they think they'll encounter. List their responses on the board.
2. Fast-forward the video to the segment that shows the people in the airplane on the way to Antarctica (about three minutes into the video). Pause the video about one minute later, just at the end of this section. Tell the class that they will see some "residents" of this bleak environment. Then, continue to play the video from this point, where penguins are walking on the ice and swimming below it. Pause the video when the aerial view of McMurdo Station appears (this clip is about two minutes long). Ask the class how they think penguins stay warm in Antarctica. List their responses on the board and save them for use in Activity One.
3. Ask the class if they know where Antarctica is located, and if they know any specific locations there. Record their responses on the board.
4. Fast-forward the video to the scene where the two divers are preparing to go into the water, about 14 minutes into the video. Ask the class if they think the divers will find much to photograph under the ice. Ask them why or why not. Play the video for about seven minutes, showing students the scenes of marine life under the Antarctic ice.
5. At this point, tell the class that they're about to embark on an adventure unlike any they've experienced before: "Survival in Antarctica." Inform students that they'll be divided into teams of explorers/scientists. They will have to solve three challenges in order to survive their ordeal, working together to solve problems and, just like a real team of Antarctic explorers/scientists, making use of the strengths of their team members.
(Note: You know your class well. Forming cooperative groups is something you already know how to do with the specific group of students you have. Try to put teams together keeping in mind individual student strengths, and put students together whose strengths complement those of the others in the group.)
Activity 1: The First Challenge -- Stop Blubbering and Stay Warm
(three class periods)
1. Tell the class that many marine mammals migrate to different parts of the world as part of their life cycles. Those that spend time in Antarctica must have adaptations to help them stay warm. These adaptations include such things as thick fur and thick layers of fat called blubber. For their first challenge, each team of students must:
(1) Come up with a way to help a domestic, shorthaired dog survive in Antarctica.
2. Give students the following information about the project:
(2) Prove that their solution will keep the body temperature of the dog at least 50 degrees F.
(3) Turn in the Stop Blubbering student organizer.
3. Distribute the Web Sites for the First Challenge handout. Tell the students that this handout contains a list of Web sites that have information about clothing designed to keep people warm and that they should check those sites before starting their planning process.
- Tell the students that the "dog" they will be testing is their hand.
- Explain to them that they are using their hands because they share several characteristics with dogs, including the fact that they are warm-blooded and have hair.
- Tell them that they'll be sticking their hand in a bucket of ice water for two minutes with a thermometer next to their skin.
The thermometer must read no lower than 50 degrees when they take their hand out of the water. (Note: You may wish to "waterproof" the covered hands by having the students put their covered hands in a gallon-sized plastic bag. You may decide to let the designed covering get wet as an additional lesson component. Wet coverings are much more difficult to keep warm.)
- Teams of students will have one class period to discuss the kinds of "dog" coverings they think will work best.
- Each team will write a description of their design.
- This plan must include the following information:
(a) The materials they intend to use.
(b) What the device will look like, either in words or drawings or both.
(c) Why they think their device will work. The teacher should make available such materials as cloth scraps, bubble wrap, shortening (to represent blubber), and other materials the students might suggest.
4. Allow teams to conduct research and plan for the remainder of the period. Give teams a second class period to construct their "dog" covering. (Note: You may decide to allow the teams to test their device, or you may elect to have them "go in cold" and only test their design in competition.)
5. On competition day, each team will select one person as their "dog." This person will have a thermometer attached to the back of their hand. The "dog" will then don the designed covering and immerse their hand in a bucket of ice water. Place an additional thermometer in the ice water. The student's hand is left in the ice water bath for 2 minutes. At the end of that time, the device is quickly removed and the temperature of the attached thermometer is read and recorded. The difference between the temperature of the ice bath thermometer and the attached thermometer is also recorded. The next team of students then follows the above instructions.
6. After all of the teams have tested their covering, announce the winner(s). The winning team is the one whose attached thermometer comes closest to reading 50 degrees F. after the five-minute immersion. In the case of a tie, the winning team will be the one whose temperature is above 50 degrees F. (Note: You may elect to name more than one winning team) All teams will receive popsicles, but the winning team(s) will get theirs first. While the students are eating their rewards, team spokespeople in turn will share their designs with the rest of the class.
Note: If teams are far from the 50-degree goal, allow them to make adjustments to the design and try again.
Activity 2: The Second Challenge - Traveling in Antarctica is a Moving Experience
(two or three class periods)
Moving around in Antarctica can be very difficult for many reasons. There may be sudden snowstorms called whiteouts that cause disorientation, windstorms that make communication impossible, and hypothermia that can set in rapidly if you're not careful. This competition is designed to challenge the creative processes of the students.
1.Tell the students the following:
2. The team must come up with a nonverbal and non-visual means of communicating with their teammate and then use this means of communication to get the teammate back to safety in five minutes or less. There are some allowable sounds:
- One member of the team will be venturing out onto the Antarctic ice.
- Without warning, a strong snowstorm descends on the compound.
- The team member is lost in a whiteout 25 feet from safety.
- There are several obstacles between the team member and safety, including a tall snow mound, a deep rift in the ice, and a hungry penguin.
- The team must get their stranded member back to home base before hypothermia sets in. There are several problems the team must overcome: The "lost" team member is blinded by the storm, deafened by the wind, and is wearing large snowshoes.
The team works together to design their communication system and teach it to every member of the team. The "lost" team member is then chosen by lot.
- a hand clap
- a beep
- a snort
- a cough
3. Prior to competition day, use the Floor Plan to:
4. On competition day:
- Clear a large open space in the classroom.
- Mark a "start" point on the floor using masking tape
- Mark off a two-square-foot area using masking tape and designate it "snow mound."
- Mark off a two-foot wide "trench" and designate it "ice rift."
- Mark off a "finish line" and designate it "home base."
The teacher (or a selected student) is the hungry penguin and may reach out and touch the lost person if he/she comes within arm's length.
5. The scoring is as follows:
- Have each team in turn send their lost soul to the start line.
- Affix a blindfold to the student and spin him/her around several times.
- Have the other members of the team gather at "home base" and tell the group to start. (Note: The remaining members of the class should be standing on the outside perimeter of the "course" as a safety precaution.)
- Time five minutes and call "stop" when the time has expired.
6. The winning team is the one with the most points when all groups have had their chance to bring their lost member home safely. All of the teams receive hot chocolate, but the winning team is served first. While the teams are drinking their rewards, each team in turn shares their thoughts about how their communication method succeeded and suggestions for how it might have been improved.
- 50 points for getting the person home safely and within the allotted time.
- 10 point penalty for encountering an obstacle.
- 5 point penalty for each time the team makes any sound other than an allowed sound.
Activity 3: The Third Challenge - Penguins and Orcas and Maps, Oh My!
(five class periods)
This challenge has four parts and may be considered a scavenger hunt, of sorts. Each group is given a number of tasks to complete. The team decides which member undertakes each task. A specific task may be undertaken by a small group of no more than three students.
(Note: Before beginning these challenges, you may wish to review the concept of a food web with students and, perhaps, give some examples. Remember that a food web includes the plants and animals in an ecosystem with lines drawn between the members of the web who either eat or are eaten by other members of the web. This Web site, http://oceanlink.island.net/oinfo/foodweb/foodweb.html, is a good resource on food webs.)
These are the four tasks that make up this challenge:
1. The video tells us that 70% of the fresh water on the planet is tied up in the Antarctic ice. Students must create a visual representation that compares the Antarctic ice and its fresh water content to the remainder of the planet's fresh water. In addition, the actual amount of fresh water tied up in the Antarctic ice must be determined.
2. The video tells us that there are 17 different species of penguins. For each species of penguin, students must find the name and a picture or description. They will place each picture they find on a map of the world in the appropriate location.
3. The team must draw a map of Antarctica and label the following places on it:
4. The team must create a representation of an Antarctic food web using the following organisms named in the video:
- McMurdo Station
- Mt. Erebus
- Dry Valleys
- The South Pole
- Antarctic Peninsula
- Additional named locations
The food web must be displayed as a poster and include pictures (either drawn or from a print or Internet source).
- Sea spider
- Sea star
- Leopard seal
- Soft coral
- Minke whales
This four-part challenge will take about five class periods. Students may use a variety of resources: the school and/or public library, the Internet, encyclopedias, almanacs, magazines, etc. Each specific part of the challenge is scored based on completeness, accuracy, and creativity. (A suggested scoring rubric has been provided in the Organizers section of this lesson.) Refer to the following two Web sites for maps showing the locations referenced in this challenge.
Antarctica Map -- Lonely Planet
USGS Map of Antarctica
Students may choose one of the following assignments:
1. Write an illustrated fairy tale about life in the Antarctic. The fairy tale must include:
2. Create a presentation (using software such as Power Point) covering the information required above.
- Information about the wildlife found there.
- The challenges faced by people trying to live there.
- Information about the geography of Antarctica.
- Have the students research the specific difficulties of Dr. Jerri Nielsen, who learned that she had developed breast cancer while on a scientific expedition to Antarctica. Have a class discussion relating her experiences with the challenges of living in Antarctica.
- The McMurdo Research Station carries out many different research projects sponsored by The National Science Foundation. The following Web site lists the various research projects along with the e-mail addresses of the project directors: http://www.nsf.gov/od/opp/support/mcmurdo.htm. The class could e-mail different project directors with questions about their individual research areas. An alternative could be for the class to look at the research projects online and decide which one they'd like to find out more about. The teacher could then compile a list of questions to be e-mailed to that project director.
- Students may research information about the depletion of the ozone layer and create a display highlighting what they've learned.