Resource Type
Completion Time
Middle School and Up
Download and Share
Deanna Wheeler
Sarah Crowley
Joni Spiess
Life Science
General Life Science
Organisms and Their Environments
Climate Change
General Earth Science
Water Cycle, Weather, and Climate
General Physical Science
Climate Change
Tools and Methods
Climate Change
Polar Science
General Polar Science

The Arctic Ocean Curriculum Unit was created by the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States with funding from the North Pacific Research Board. This project aimed to update and revise existing Arctic Ocean-related lesson plans originally created by PolarTREC program teacher alumni. The format used lends itself to the changes in education - providing student-facing slide decks that allow them to move through the lessons with more independence.

Curriculum Unit Overview

The unit traces the movement of energy throughout the Arctic Ocean environment.

There is a total of 18 lessons broken into two main components.

Lessons 1.1 - 1.13 are focused on the physical sciences with an emphasis on seasons, climate, salinity, temperature, currents, and density. One lesson called the “Unit Bridge” can be used to link the two sets of lessons.

Lessons 2.1-2.4 are focused on the biological sciences with an emphasis on life cycles, predator-prey relationships, food sources, and survival.

Each set of lessons (1.1-1.13 and 2.1-2.4 ) can be taught separately.

Throughout the curriculum unit, examples, and stories are used to illuminate the interconnections between daily life and Arctic ecosystems that many of the students in the Arctic already recognize. Connections to culture are intentional and embedded within the lessons, rather than always separated in extension content.

Curriculum Unit Mapping – Standards and Principles

Each lesson touches on important national education standards and relevant/local principles: Polar Literacy Principles, Ocean Literacy Principles, Inupiaq Learning Framework, and NGSS Performance Expectations.

Instructions for Use

To use this curriculum unit, please download and retrieve the zipped file. It's a large file but it has all the files you will need. After you use the curriculum unit, we would appreciate your feedback.

The PowerPoint files provided are student-facing, meaning that students should be able to navigate the content and tasks with limited teacher interaction.

  • Worksheets should be provided to students in printed or electronic form. When a slide requires students to complete a worksheet, there is a worksheet symbol present and the file name is provided at the base of the slide.
  • Student worksheets files are available for you to copy and/or share electronically.
  • Teacher worksheet keys provide you with the content needed to evaluate student work.
  • Teacher resource files are provided for each lesson, or sequence, offering a short overview, original lesson plans, content background information, teacher prep instructions, and/or extensions.

Download The Arctic Ocean Curriculum Unit Files (Zip - 178 MB)

Feedback Form


If you have questions or comments, please contact Janet Warburton at warburton [at] at ARCUS.


This work is funded by the North Pacific Research Board, project F1008-10. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the North Pacific Research Board.

ARCUS would like to thank Sarah Crowley, Deanna Wheeler, and Joni Spiess for their time on this project.

Suggested Citation: Arctic Research Consortium of the United States. 2022. The Arctic Ocean Curriculum Unit. ARCUS, Fairbanks, Alaska.

Logo of the North Pacific Research Board

Logo for the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States.