Resource Type
Completion Time
Less than a week
Elementary and Up
Download, Share, and Remix
Anne Marie Wotkyns
See Resources section for materials related to each individual activity
Life Science
General Life Science
Organisms and Their Environments
Structure and Function
Climate Change
Earth Science
General Earth Science
Physical Science
General Physical Science
Environmental Studies
General Environmental Studies
Polar Science
General Polar Science


Plan and run a family fun afternoon or evening with several hands-on activities. Students help run the activity stations and share what they have learned about the Polar Regions. A great culminating activity for a unit on the Arctic, Antarctica, or both, and a fun way to involve families in the learning experience.


The students will be able to identify adaptations that help animals survive in polar habitats. The students will know the key differences between the Arctic and Antarctica.

Lesson Preparation

For the 8 activity stations, I did all the activities except Game Table and Snow Cones with my 4th grade students in the days before our Family Polar Fun Day. We sent out parent letters requesting donations of the necessary items. I made sign-up sheets and asked my students to sign-up for a time to run the different stations. We sent home letters inviting the parents and families to attend our early evening (5:30-7:30 pm) event. We made large posters to identify each station and printed direction sheets for each activity (see attached), as well as recording sheets for Deep Freeze.


Arctic Animal Match Up – Can you match the fur to the animal?

  1. Observe the animal fur. Notice how thick it is.
  2. Look at the fur with a hand lens. Notice the different types of hairs. Why is this important?
  3. Match the fur with the animal it came from.

Feel The Chill – Test the effectiveness of different forms of insulation.

  1. Cover your hand with one of the gloves or fur provided.
  2. Place your covered hand against the block of ice.
  3. See how long you can hold your hand on the block of ice (use the sand timer).
  4. Which type of protection insulated your hand the best? Why?

Vocabulary Words: Effectiveness- producing the intended or expected result. Insulation- material used to stop heat from escaping.

Deep Freeze – How do seals and whales survive the frigid waters of the Polar Regions?

  1. Hold the thermometer in your right hand and place in ice water for 30 seconds. Record temperature on record sheet.
  2. Now hold the thermometer in your left hand, place hand inside the blubber mitt. Carefully place the mitt in the ice water, but don't let water get inside the mitt! Hold it there for 30 seconds. Record the temperature.
  3. Was there a difference in temperature? Why?

Build an Ice Shelter or Igloo – Students use sugar cubes and white glue to build ice structures or Ice sculptures. As a math extension they calculate the area and perimeter of outer walls, as well as complete paper worksheets which reinforce these concepts.

Polar Opposites – How well do you know the Arctic and Antarctica? Discuss each Polar Picture Card and decide where it belongs on the Venn Diagram. Check your answers on the answer key.

Seal Snacks – Students make an edible Seal Snack – see the attached picture. Our Nutrition Network club ran this table.

Game Table – Students play Break the Ice – a commercially available game

Snow Cone machine – Parent volunteers make snow cones for everyone – donations are accepted to defray the cost of supplies

Other polar related art, maps, and projects on display in and around the classrooms.


Students can research their favorite polar animal and create a written, oral, or PowerPoint presentation about the animal.


Materials for each activity:

  • Arctic Animal Match Up - Different types of Arctic animal furs (I got mine from a leather and fur shop in Alaska), pictures of the same arctic animals, hand lens
  • Feel The Chill – rubber glove, wool glove, fleece glove, block of ice, minute timer
  • Deep Freeze - plastic Ziploc bags (sandwich size), vegetable shortening, duct tape, thermometers, plastic storage containers or buckets, lots of ice cubes, water
  • Build an Ice Shelter or Igloo - sugar cubes, white glue, paper plates, pictures of igloos and ice structures
  • Polar Opposites – cards with features found in the Arctic, Antarctica, or both (I used the cards available from the Andrill Antarctica's Climate Secrets curriculum - available at
  • Seal Snacks – wheat bread, cream cheese spread, thin carrot sticks, bell pepper slices, olive slices, sunflower seeds (unshelled), diagram for students to follow
  • Game TableBreak the Ice children's game, available at most toy stores
  • Snow Cone machine – available for rent (we got ours donated and had parent volunteers make the snow cones)


Students were assessed in the classroom lessons by their written work for Deep Freeze and the math worksheets that accompanied Build an Igloo, their oral responses to discussions about Arctic Animal Match Up, Feel the Chill, and Polar Opposites. They were also assessed by observing their participation and knowledge exhibited as they ran the activity stations.


Anne Marie Wotkyns, Academic Coordinator Internationella Engelska Skolan, Huskvarna, Sweden, amwotkyns [at]


K-4 5-8 Content Standard A: Science as Inquiry: Content Standard B: Physical Science: Content Standard C: Life Science: Content Standard E: Science and Technology: Content Standard F: Science In Personal and Social Perspectives: a. Abilities b. Understandings a. Properties of objects and materials a. Characteristics of organisms b. Life cycles of organisms c. Abilities to distinguish between natural objects and objects made by humans a. Personal health d. Changes in environments Content Standard A: Science As Inquiry: Content Standard B: Physical Science: Content Standard C: Life Science: Content Standard F: Science In Personal and Social Perspectives: a. Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry b. Understandings about scientific inquiry a. Properties and changes of properties in matter c. Transfer of energy a. Structure and function in living systems e. Diversity and adaptations of organisms a. Personal health c. Natural hazards e. Science and technology in local challenges

Standards Other

Grade 3 Life Sciences 3. Adaptations in physical structure or behavior may improve an organism's chance for survival. As a basis for understanding this concept: a. Students know plants and animals have structures that serve different functions in growth, survival, and reproduction. b. Students know examples of diverse life forms in different environments, such as oceans, deserts, tundra, forests, grasslands, and wetlands. c. Students know living things cause changes in the environment in which they live: some of these changes are detrimental to the organism or other organisms, and some are beneficial. d. Students know when the environment changes, some plants and animals survive and reproduce; others die or move to new locations. Investigation and Experimentation 5. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will: a. Repeat observations to improve accuracy and know that the results of similar scientific investigations seldom turn out exactly the same because of differences in the things being investigated, methods being used, or uncertainty in the observation. b. Differentiate evidence from opinion and know that scientists do not rely on claims or conclusions unless they are backed by observations that can be confirmed. c. Use numerical data in describing and comparing objects, events, and measurements.

Grade 4 Life Science 2. Living organisms depend on one another and on their environment for survival. As a basis for understanding this concept: a. Students know ecosystems can be characterized by their living and nonliving components. b. Students know that in any particular environment, some kinds of plants and animals survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all

Grade 5 Earth Sciences 3. Water on Earth moves between the oceans and land through the processes of evaporation and condensation. As a basis for understanding this concept: a. Students know most of Earth's water is present as salt water in the oceans, which cover most of Earth's surface. b. Students know when liquid water evaporates, it turns into water vapor in the air and can reappear as a liquid when cooled or as a solid if cooled below the freezing point of water. c. Students know water vapor in the air moves from one place to another and can form fog or clouds, which are tiny droplets of water or ice, and can fall to Earth as rain, hail, sleet, or snow.

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.