Antarctica

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.”

By Vincent van Zeijst (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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.

By Loranchet (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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.

By Olav Bjaaland [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Fabulous Facts

  • 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.”

Learning Activities

A penguin craft.

By Jason Auch (originally posted to Flickr as IMG_0760) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Additional Layers

  • 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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