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Bring Climate Science to the Digital Classroom with the Polar Lab

Online, interactive resources for teaching climate science and climate change to middle and high school students

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Online learning resources are more important today than ever before. Now, with help from NOVA’s Polar Lab, educators can give students an immersive, interactive look at Earth and climate science from the safety of their home.

Despite the growing body of evidence showing the causes and current impacts of climate change and the scientific consensus on how human activity contributes to recent global warming, climate change denialism continues to be a problem across the country. If you are a science educator who teaches Earth and climate science, you are bound to hear your students tout misconceptions that they have picked up from politicians, news media, and, in some cases, other science classrooms.

To increase student understanding of climate science and Earth’s climate history, NOVA has created the Polar Lab — a web-based game that uses 360 videos, interviews with scientists, and mini-games to send players on an immersive quest to understand how the poles are key to understanding Earth’s climate.

The Polar Lab combines mini-games, clickable 360 landscapes, videos, and animations to take players onto the ice and into the laboratory in search of evidence to answer big questions about Earth’s climate—past, present, and future. The Polar Lab puts students in the driver’s seat as they work with host Caitlin at “Polar Lab HQ” to collect data from the field, answer questions about Earth’s climate past, and play mini-games, moving through the story in three missions that happen across the globe.

Beyond the game, NOVA has developed the Polar Lab collection on PBS LearningMedia, a collection that includes resources for integrating the Polar Lab into your climate change lessons. In this collection, you’ll find a lesson plan with suggestions for developing a teaching unit using the Polar Lab, several extension activities for additional assessment of student knowledge and skills, and a technical guide for navigating through the game. In addition, there are also several video resources that address the learning goals of the Polar Lab and include support materials for facilitating class discussions about the research findings featured throughout the game.

NOVA Polar Lab

Launch the Polar Lab to get started: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/labs/lab/polar/

NOVA Polar Lab Collection

Before you use the Polar Lab with your students, review our lesson plan for an overview of the disciplinary content and practices covered in the game, including NGSS performance expectations. You’ll also find teaching tips with discussion questions that address learning goals throughout the game: https://www.pbslearningmedia.org/collection/polar-lab/

NOVA Antarctic Extremes

Follow NOVA’s Caitlin and Arlo as they explore how science is done on the 7th continent, Antarctica! Watch as Caitlin and Arlo discover what it’s like to live in the coldest place on the planet, meet baby seals (also featured in the Polar Lab!), and find out where all the poop in Antarctica goes. The 10-episode digital series is available on Youtube: youtube.com/pbsterra

NOVA Polar Extremes

Supplement the content of the Polar Lab with NOVA’s film on the climate science of Earth’s poles. Kirk Johnson, the Sant Director of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, takes you on a journey from deep time to the present, from Antarctica to Greenland, as he uncovers clues that tell us about the dynamic history—and future—of Earth’s climate: pbs.org/polarextremes

Have questions about these resources or suggestions for additional resources we should add to the collection? Let us know at novalabs@wgbh.org.

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National corporate funding for NOVA is provided by Draper. Major funding for NOVA is provided by the David H. Koch Fund for Science, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS viewers. Additional funding is provided by the NOVA Science Trust.