Penguins: Sensitive Indicators


Antarctica is a sensitive indicator of global change. Scientists from around the world are studying the impact that climate changes are having on the penguins of Antarctica. In this lesson, students will gather information regarding penguins and write a story from a penguin’s point-of-view that describes his or her daily life. Students will also research the impact of climate change on Antarctica and create a poster to call attention to the topic.

Grade Level: Grades 6-8

Subject Areas: Language Arts, Science

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to do the following:

  • synthesize information from a variety of sources.
  • create a story that summarizes information about penguins.
  • design a poster that addresses the impact of climate changes on Antarctica.


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Language Arts


Standard 1. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process

5. Uses strategies to address writing to different audiences (e.g., includes explanations and definitions according to the audience’s background, age, or knowledge of the topic, adjusts formality of style, considers interests of potential readers)

6. Uses strategies to adapt writing for different purposes (e.g., to explain, inform, analyze, entertain, reflect, persuade)

7. Writes expository compositions (e.g., synthesizes and organizes information from first- and second-hand sources, including books, magazines, computer data banks, and the community; uses a variety of techniques to develop the main idea [names, describes, or differentiates parts; compares or contrasts; examines the history of a subject; cites an anecdote to provide an example; illustrates through a scenario; provides interesting facts about the subject]; distinguishes relative importance of facts, data, and ideas; uses appropriate technical terms and notations)

11. Writes reflective compositions (e.g., uses personal experience as a basis for reflection on some aspect of life, draws abstract comparisons between specific incidents and abstract concepts, maintains a balance between describing incidents and relating them to more general abstract ideas that illustrate personal beliefs, moves from specific examples to generalizations about life)

Life Sciences

Standard 6. Understands relationships among organisms and their physical environment

1. Knows how the interrelationships and interdependencies among organisms generate stable ecosystems that fluctuate around a state of rough equilibrium for hundreds or thousands of years (e.g., growth of a population is held in check by environmental factors such as depletion of food or nesting sites, increased loss due to larger numbers of predators or parasites)

5. Knows ways in which humans can alter the equilibrium of ecosystems, causing potentially irreversible effects (e.g., human population growth, technology, and consumption; human destruction of habitats through direct harvesting, pollution, and atmospheric changes)

Procedures for Teachers

Introductory Activity – 20 minutes

The purpose of this activity is to pique students’ interest and to activate background knowledge on Antarctica.

  1. Divide the class into small groups. Pass out a copy of the “Antarctica Fact Quiz” handout to each group. Tell students to discuss each question and record the group’s best educated guess on the paper. After students have completed the quiz, read the questions as a class and share the answers.
    Antarctica Fact Quiz

    1. The “Dry Valleys” of Antarctica are cold and dry. How many years has it been since it rained in these regions? Answer: It has not rained in the dry valleys for at least 2 million years.
    2. The largest iceberg in recorded history broke free from the Ross ice-shelf in Antarctica in 2000. How long and how wide do you think the iceberg was? Answer: The iceberg was 183 miles long and 23 miles wide.
    3. The blue whales in Antarctica eat a tiny shrimp-like creature called krill. How many krill do you think a full-grown blue whale eats in a given day? Answer: A full-grown blue whale eats 4 million krill per day.
    4. What is the lowest temperature ever recorded in Antarctica? Answer: The lowest temperature in Antarctica was -128.60F. It was recorded at the Russian Vostok station.
    5. What is the largest LAND animal in Antarctica? Answer: The largest land animal in Antarctica is an insect, a wingless midge, Belgica antarctica, less than 1.3cm (0.5in) long.
    6. How much snow do you think the South Pole gets in a year? Answer: The South Pole receives less than 6 inches of snow a year.
    7. What was perhaps the most unexpected item that was found in the ice along the eastern coast of Antarctica? Answer: Petrified palm trees were found in the ice along the eastern coast of Antarctica.


Activity one – three class periods

In this activity, students will gather information about penguins and write a story about the daily life of a penguin from the penguin’s point of view.

  1. Tell students that they are going to write a story about the daily life of a penguin from the penguin’s point of view. Explain to students that they will gather information about penguins’ daily lives from the “Penguins of the Antarctic” NATURE program, the websites listed below, and any other available resources. Ask students to record their information in the “All About Penguins” organizer.
  2. Explain to students that they will need to include in their stories information and/or descriptions about the following topics as they pertain to Adélie penguins and Antarctica:
    • Land characteristics of the Antarctic
    • Weather
    • Breeding habits
    • Sunlight
    • Temperature
    • Predators and threats
    • Description of a change in Antarctica that is impacting their lives
    • Description of Adélie penguins
    • What Adélie penguins eat and how they get their food
  3. After students have gathered their information, but before they begin writing their stories, spend a few minutes discussing point of view with your students.
  4. You may choose to have the students share their stories with a younger class as a way of teaching them about penguins.

Activity two – two class periods

  1. As a class, take the quiz on climate change found on this site. Provide time for students to ask questions after each quiz answer is given.
  2. Divide the class into small groups to research the impact of climate changes in Antarctica. Pass out the “Possible Impact of Climate Changes on Antarctica” organizer.
  3. Ask students to answer these questions during their research:
    • What evidence is there that climate changes are actually occurring on Antarctica?
    • What do scientists believe to be the causes of these climate changes?
    • What effect might climate changes have on Antarctica and its inhabitants?
  4. Encourage students to use a variety of sources to complete their research. The following is a list of possible Internet resources.
  5. Ask students to use the information they collected to create a “Possible Impact of Climate Changes on Antarctica” poster. Tell students that their poster must include the following:
    • Photograph or drawing
    • Quotation from a respected scientist
    • Data and or statistical information
  6. Provide time for students to share the information on their posters with the class.
  • kourtney

    omg i love penguins the rock my socks i just love them

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