ANTARCTICA unit study resources and ideas














Here are some books I ordered for my class as mid-week reading material.  Links to the books on Amazon are provided in case you find that helpful for quick shopping.

“Antarctica” a popular picture book for young readers.

“Here is Antarctica: Web of Life” picture book for young elementary.

“Antarctic Encounter” an advanced picture book (ages 8-10-ish) about a homeschool family who spends a year in their yacht home anchored at South Georgia island.

“Life Under Ice” is an advanced picture book about the amazing diversity of life under the ice shelves.

“Under the Ice: A Marine Biologist at Work”  This is suitable for middle school, maybe upper elementary.  Lots of information about how scientists work.

“Under Antarctic Ice” a book aimed at adults, but the pictures are so nice it would be of interest to all ages.  It is a thick book . I purchased used copies.

“The Endurance: Shackleton’s Perilous Expedition in Antarctica”  picture book, summarize well.



I created a playlist about Antarctica on my YouTube channel.  Sometimes the playlists are hard to find (thanks, YouTube) and you have to click “View all playlists.”  It’s there somewhere!











Simulation of survival training camp:  We did a simulation of the “Bucket Head” exercise that is part of the McMurdo Base “Happy Camper” training week for all newbies.  Participants are required to camp out on the ice for a few days so they can learn what to do if they can’t make it back to base.  One aspect of this training that is fun for kids to do is the “Bucket Head” exercise where the buckets worn over their heads simulate what it is like in a “white out” when a snow storm makes visibility almost nil.   You can’t hear and you can’t see.  Participants stay together using ropes.  We had our bucket heads try to find and rescue a comrade who was sitting in a different part of the room quietly saying “Help, help.”  START BY SEARCHING YOUTUBE using key words “Happy Camper Antarctica” and then add the words “Whiteout scenario.”









The Southern Ocean card game is about the ecosystem in the ocean surrounding Antarctica.  There are a number of activities and games you can play with these cards.  You can find it as a free download on this site.









“Science in Antarctica” is great for review at the end of your unit.  It was a smashing success in both my elementary and middle school classes.  This is a purchased product in my store, but it’s only a few dollars.

Look at “Science in Antarctica” in store



Here is really nice poster map for a good price

I used Google Earth quite a bit.  This is a great free resource.  I used it in class by hooking my computer to a projector.  Sometimes the kids took turns with a laser pointer showing me which photo icons to click on.









Antarctic map project   Great as review, or do it bit by bit as you go along.   Click here to download Antarctic map project

Make an edible model of Deception Island (an island near the tip of the peninsula)  Click here for edible Deception Island instructions

Draw a quick map of Antarctica  (This is lesson 30 from my “Mapping the World with Art” curriculum.)  Click here to watch video.


BIOLOGY DRAWING LESSONS    (Printable template pages are listed on the video page.)

“Penguin adaptations”  Posted on the animal science page under VIDEO tab.

“Lichens”  Pretty much the only form of “plant life” (though not a plant) on the continent.

“Krill”  This tiny crustacean forms the basis of the Antarctic food chain.










After learning about Antarctic seals, we made seals from homemade play dough and put them onto an ice floe (stiff insulation foam painted white).









Katabatic winds demo:  These are the winds caused by the polar air flow, going from the center of the continent out toward the edges.  The cold air sinks and basically rolls down to the sea, causing ferocious winds.  Sinking cold air can be demonstrated using dry ice, if you can get some.  Videos about katabatic winds are on the Antarctica playlist on

Cold/hot water demo:  Color hot water with red food coloring, and ice water with blue food coloring.  Fill a clear glass with lukewarm water.  Use an eye dropper to put drops of cold water on top and watch them sink.  Squeeze some drops of red hot water onto the bottom and watch them rise.  Think of other ways to investigate this phenomenon by putting drops in various places.  (The temperature of the water and air at the poles makes it act in similar ways to the blue ice water in this experiment.)

Blubber experiment:  Polar animals have a thick layer of blubber under their skin, which insulates them from the cold.  Smear a layer of vegetable shortening on one hand.  Put both hands into a bowl of ice water and feel the difference. Does blubber insulate?

Size of Antarctica demo with globe:  You will need a globe for this, not a flat map.  Place a piece of plastic wrap over Australia or other land masses and trace with a permanent marker.  Then move this tracing over Antarctica.  Wow!  Australia looks small in comparison.  USA could fit almost twice if you cut the second one up a bit!

Map projection demo with orange:  You will need an orange and a permanent marker.  Draw a facsimile of Antarctica on the bottom of the orange.  Rest of world optional.  Now slowly peel the orange to lay it out flat.  Students should see that you have to make choices about where to allow cuts and cracks.  What does the rest of the world look like if you keep Antarctica whole?  Why does Antarctica look like a long strip on flat maps?


Comments are closed.

© Copyright 2000-2016 Ellen J Mchenry