Resource Type
Completion Time
Less than a week
Middle School and Up
Download, Share, and Remix
Lucy Coleman
Related Members
Copy of the game board
Copy of the Fact or Fiction cards
Natural objects for playing pieces (small stones, shells, seeds)
Pencil and paper to keep score
General Life Science
Life Science
Organisms and Their Environments
Environmental Studies
General Environmental Studies


In this introductory lesson, students read an article about Arctic Ocean ecosystems and then play a board game in which they take on the role of researchers.


The purpose of this introductory activity is to:

  • Identify the main components of complex arctic ecosystem and describe predator/prey relationships between phytoplankton, ice algae, zooplankton, bowhead whales, polar bears, seals, walruses and humans.
  • to describe some of the challenges of conducting scientific research in the harsh environmental conditions of the Arctic.

Lesson Preparation

Before playing this game, students should be provided with access and time to explore this website, which has an interactive Arctic marine ecosystem diagram: Additionally, students should listen to this NPR program about "The Arctic's Hidden Ocean" at: It describes some of the research scientists working in the Arctic ecosystem.

These two resources should provide all necessary background information for the game to be played successfully! Furthermore, these resources could lend themselves to further discussion of the challenges of researching in the Arctic, the Arctic food web and climate change.


  1. Break up into "research teams" of four or five students each. Get a copy of the Arctic Adventures Game Board for each team. Your team's assignment is to explore the areas between the Beaufort Sea and the Chukchi Sea for information about what species are found during which times of the year.
  2. Roll the die. The team member with the highest roll starts your expedition. Take turns, moving counter-clockwise around the board. When you land on a Fact or Fiction space, have another team member turn over the card and ask you the question. For every Fact or Fiction question answered correctly, you earn 500 points. When you land on the Event spaces (not the Fact or Fiction spaces), add or subtract points according to the instructions.
  3. Add the points for all team members together as you play. Keep going around the board until time is up and your team earns 10,000 points. With each set of points earned, we grow closer to understanding more about this exciting and interesting ecosystem.


This introductory lesson could serve as starting point for a variety of different topics, such as:

  1. Comparing and contrasting Arctic and Antarctic ecosystems.
  2. Learning more about the Arctic marine systems by learning about Lisa Seff's PolarTREC expedition "Oceanographic Conditions of the Bowhead Whale", including watching some of the excellent videos from that expedition.
  3. Students could do a "jigsaw" style lesson whereby each group researches one part of the food web introduced in this game and then teaches the class about it.
  4. Students could progress to a depth lesson about food webs using an article like "Circumpolar World- Biological Features and Processes" ( and compare/contrast marine and terrestrial Arctic systems, identifying producers, consumers and decomposers in each ecosystem.


The following assessment strategies are recommended:

  1. The teacher can informally assess student discussions both before and after games, as well as monitor conversations during the game.

  2. The teacher can direct the students to reflect in a journal writing or discussion after the game: a. What did you learn about the Arctic food web that you didn't know before you began this activity? b. What do you think would be especially challenging and/or interesting about being a scientific researcher in the Arctic? c. What would you like to learn more about?


Lucy Coleman, lcoleman [at] This lesson was adapted from one titled "Bioprospector's Game" by the 2003 JASON XV Project: Rainforests at the Crossroads and is based largely on information found on the website "Polar Discovery: Arctic Ocean Ecosystem" by Carin Ashjian from Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institute (link provided in Introduction to this lesson).

Capstone Project Fall 2013. Integrated Life and Earth Sciences in the Polar Regions.

Attachment Size
Download Complete Lesson (PDF - 228 KB)227.93 KB 227.93 KB

This program is supported by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed by this program are those of the PIs and coordinating team, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.