Antarctica covers about 14 million square miles surrounding the south pole of the earth. Because of its distance from the equator, it receives very little sunlight and it’s very cold there, too cold to support the growth of trees. It’s much colder even than the North Pole. The land is largely covered by ice. It is mostly uninhabited, except for researchers and tourists. Compared with other places on earth, it is very much an untouched continent. Sir Peter Scott, founder of the WWF, said this about Antarctica: “We should have the sense to leave just one place alone.”
Antarctica is the only continent without any indigenous people. It has no independent government and no economy. It is governed only by an Antarctic treaty which many countries have signed and that governs how the land is used. Thousands of scientists from all over the globe do research there, so even though we call it untouched as compared with other continents, the research facilities include people, equipment, supplies, and garbage that has become a pollution problem in the region.
Roald Amundsen was the first person to reach the South Pole. He and his team are pictured below, in 1911, looking at the Norwegian flag, the flag of their home country. It was a difficult continent to explore because of the extreme temperatures and climate conditions, but now there are a number of permanent research facilities as well as regular tourism, mostly by small cruise boats.
- Did you know there’s a marathon held in Antarctica every year?
- Antarctica is a desert. It is really dry and really windy. The snow doesn’t really fall, it just blows around in the wind.
- The name Antarctica literally means “opposite of the Arctic.”
- Find out about trips to Antarctica, how to get there, and how much it costs. This is a great website for your research.
- Read about the garbage problem that plagues Antarctica’s research stations and write up a proposal for solving the problem.
- Choose an antarctic animal to write an animal report on. Learn how to draw your animal too, so you can include your own illustrations in your report. Some great animals to choose from are penguins, snow petrels, colossal squid, Antarctic krill, blue whales, orcas, fur seals, and Weddell seals.
- Watch March of the Penguins, one of the best documentaries I’ve seen, especially for holding the interest of kids.
- Make this cute penguin craft to go along with your studies.
- Play penguin relay race! Partners will have to get from line to another by transferring an egg on their feet back and forth until they reach the finish line.
- Waddle like a penguin by putting a ball in between your legs while you waddle walk.
- Make an Antarctica packing list. What would you take on your scientific voyage to Antarctica?
- Do a blubber experiment as you read about whales that live in the Southern Ocean. Get a bowl of ice water. Put a disposable glove on one hand and smear a thick coating a shortening over your hand, then wrap it in clear plastic wrap. Now put both of your hands in the ice water – one with the glove and one without. The blubber layer will keep one of your hands warm, just like blubber keeps polar animals warm in the frigid waters.
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Come visit us on social media for tons and tons of learning ideas and fresh teaching enthusiasm! You may want to take a look at our geography Pinterest board that includes even more fun ideas for learning about Antarctica and the rest of the world. You may also enjoy our geography page here on Layers of Learning. And you’ll definitely want to check out Layers of Learning Unit 1-9, with a geography section all about the polar regions.
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