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Thursday, 06 March 2008 11:36

Lesson Plan - Scientists

scientists_04.jpgScientists - Lesson Plans

Central questions:

  • How do scientists learn about our world?
  • What questions are scientists currently asking about the Polar regions?
  • What is it like to be a scientist in the Polar regions?


  • Each student will read about a scientist and his/her work.
  • Students will introduce their scientist to their classmates.
  • Students will discuss how the work of numerous scientists contributes to knowledge.

Time Needed: At least forty-five minutes

Grade Level: Middle School or High School

INTRODUCTION (5 minutes)

Explain to your students that scientist is just another word for investigator. Similar to detectives, scientists look at the world with a curious perspective and then work to discover new knowledge. Individual scientists or teams of scientists work to answer specific questions on narrow topics. Large groups of scientists then analyze many studies to try to develop a logical explanation of how a system works. Scientists then continue to test their explanation. An explanation gets stronger and stronger as more and more scientists design ways to test the model.

According to the National Academy of Sciences (2005), “Some scientific explanations are so well established that no new evidence is likely to alter them. The explanation becomes a scientific theory. In everyday language a theory means a hunch or speculation. Not so in science. In science, the word theory refers to a comprehensive explanation of an important feature of nature that is supported by many facts gathered over time. Theories also allow scientists to make predictions about as yet unobserved phenomena.”

Because so many different and independent studies contribute to the formation of a theory, one single study that disagrees with the theory does not overturn it. Instead, if the results of a study appear to disagree with an established theory, other scientists review the study, try to replicate its results, look for errors, or try to figure out why it got the results it did.

For example, from 1979 to 2001 some satellite measurements of the temperature in the atmosphere were suggesting that the lower atmosphere was not warming. This finding did not agree with the well-established theory of global warming. Scientists worked to figure out what was causing the disagreement and in 2002 found that the satellite measurements needed a number of adjustments and calibrations. Once corrected, the satellite measurements confirmed the theory of a warming atmosphere (Source: Mears, C.A., Schabel, M.C., & Wentz, F.J. Journal of Climate, May 23, 2003).


Explain to your students that they will have the opportunity to become familiar with some of the scientists doing work in the Arctic as part of the International Polar Year (IPY). The IPY runs from March 2007 to March 2009 (it is really two years so it can include two research seasons at both poles) and is coordinated by the International Council for Science and the World Meteorological Organization. Its goal is to focus scientific attention on the Polar Regions.

Explain to the students that you will distribute a “Meet a Scientist” hand-out to each student. The students will have five minutes to read the hand-out. They will then have another two minutes to take notes on the scientist’s work and life in the field. Each student will use his or her notes to give a two-minute introduction of his or her scientist to a small group of classmates. Each student’s presentation should cover:

  • The scientist’s name
  • The question the scientist is trying to answer
  • The importance of that question
  • How the scientist is attempting to answer the question

Each student’s presentation should also include a short re-telling of an incident the scientist experienced in the field or a creative story about what the scientist experiences in a typical day. Explain to your students that humans have been using storytelling for generations to pass on knowledge and to entertain. Storytelling can make distant experiences “come alive” for an audience.
Give your students some basics on storytelling (source:

  • Pretend you’re confident.
  • Relax, breathe and have fun with it.
  • Use your own words—don’t try to memorize.
  • Just remember a few parts of the plot.
  • Let your imagination create the magic.
  • If you get stuck, don’t frown, curse or apologize—keep going by describing details of sounds, colors, smells, etc. until you remember the story


  1. Divide the class into groups of no more than six. Distribute one “Meet a Scientist” hand-out to each student. (2 minutes)
  2. Each student reads his or her hand-out. (5 minutes)
  3. Each student takes notes in preparation for his or her presentation to the group and mentally prepares for storytelling. (2 minutes)
  4. Each student presents on his or her scientist to his or her small group for a maximum of two minutes. (15 minutes)

Bring the class back together in one large group to discuss the activity. Here are some example questions you might choose:

  • Who can explain how scientific knowledge is gained?
  • What new insights did you gain about how science works?
  • How do the studies one scientist or group of scientists is doing fit in with studies other scientists are doing?
  • What aspects of the being a scientist do you think would be exciting? Rewarding? Frustrating?
  • Do you think most people understand how scientific knowledge is gained?
  • Scientists analyzed thousands of studies to produce the Fourth IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Report. This report finds that most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic (man-made) greenhouse gas concentrations.”
    • Do you think if some people do not understand how scientific theories become well established, that they might get confused about a well-established theory like global warming if they see one or two studies that seem to disagree with it?

Notes to teachers:

  • While your students are reading their hand-outs, preparing for their presentations, and presenting to each other circulate among them to make sure they are staying focused on the task and to answer any questions they might have.
  • There are more than six hand-outs. You can chose which ones will be most appropriate and engaging for your individual students.
  • Will Steger’s Global Warming 101 expedition to Ellesmere Island in the high Arctic will draw attention to some of the scientific projects being conducted as part of the IPY. You and your students can follow the expedition on

Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:37

Richard Weber - Explorers (Modern)


In 1995 Canadian Richard Weber and Russian Mikikail Malakov became the first and only people to ski unsupported from Northern Canada to the North Pole and back to Canada. They traveled by ski, pulling sleds for 123 days!

This was not Richard’s first or only Arctic expedition, however. From 1978 to 2006, Richard participated in more than 45 Arctic expeditions and is the only person to have completed six full expeditions to the North Pole. On a 1986 expedition led by Will Steger, Richard and a teammate became the first Canadians to reach the North Pole without motorized transportation. In 2006 Richard and British explorer Conrad Dickenson were the first to reach the North Pole traveling solely by snowshoe.

Richard and his wife Josee Auclair own Arctic Watch, Canada’s most northerly lodge. With their company Canadian Arctic Holidays they outfit, organize and lead Arctic expeditions and guide clients to the North Pole.


Q (Will Steger Foundation): You’ve been traveling in the Arctic for over thirty years and you have led more trips to the North Pole than probably anyone else. Have you seen any changes in the environment or in pack ice in the time that you’ve been traveling?
A (Richard Weber): I didn’t think it would be possible to see changes because the variations in the weather from year to year are so different and when you’re walking on the Arctic Ocean you’re looking at such a relatively small piece of ice, but last year when we were up there it was really different than twenty years ago. The pack ice is visibly thinner - when you come to a crack and look in it’s much much thinner. Twenty years ago it was eight to twelve feet thick now it’s three to six feet thick; it’s much thinner. I think in consequence, when you get pressure on the pans they now crumple up.

Last year from Ward Hunt Island almost to the North Pole we had only three big pans—big open spaces, the rest was just rubble. Twenty years ago you would have a big pressure ridge with lumps of ice the size of houses and cars all piled up–a significant obstacle—and then you would have a big open space. Now the pressure ridges aren’t that big anymore but there are no open spaces anymore; it’s just rubble and rubble.

And the weather was fifteen to twenty degrees warmer. Yeah, you can say it was just a warm year, but I don’t think that kind of weather would have happened twenty years ago. That’s the way the weather is going. We had whiteouts and warm weather, you know, May weather in April. By May, the Arctic Ocean was turning to porridge. You couldn’t travel on it anymore. Whereas before in 1992 we traveled and it didn’t do that until the 22nd of June. Things have significantly changed.

Q (WSF): Have the changes affected your ability to travel on the Arctic Ocean?
A (RW): I think, at least last year, it was not possible to ski, to travel from the North Pole back to Canada. Travel in May became impossible last year. There were three expeditions attempting to come from the pole back to Canada and none of them were successful. So I think that it is becoming more difficult. Maybe we will have a colder year this year and maybe there will be some more wind and it will be a bit easier, but definitely it is getting harder—there is no question.

Another significant change is last year for the first time the currents of the Arctic Ocean changed. Normally when you ski from Canada to the North Pole you are basically drifting east and south and we drifted west the whole time. Later on I found out that, yep, every current throughout the Arctic ocean changed last year for the first time. So something is really different up there from twenty years ago.

Q (WSF): What impacts or what effects would you imagine a trend that continued in this direction would have on polar exploration?
A (RW): If it continues like this, in twenty years [the Arctic Ocean] is going to be open water in the summer. So all of a sudden for the planet we are going to have this huge black space instead of a huge white space, so that’s going to make things really different and that’s going to change the weather. As it goes that way, it’s going to speed up and things are going to change more and more…

We’ve been at Arctic Watch, our lodge on Somerset Island] almost ten years now. Twice now we’ve seen electrical storms. And there are local people who had never seen electrical storms. It’s simply too warm. We are getting temperatures up into the low twenties in the summer now. I haven’t been there long enough to know if that is normal or not normal. But we’ve seen areas where there are steep banks that normally hold together because they are frozen but now the permafrost is melting and you have huge slides along the river everywhere there are steep banks. I don’t have enough experience to say, yeah that happens every summer, but I don’t think so because [the river banks] wouldn’t be there; it would look different. So there is definitely melting of the permafrost in our area.

Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:35

Lonnie Dupre - Explorers (Modern)


During the last 20 years, Lonnie Dupre has traveled over 14,000 miles throughout the Polar regions by dog team, ski and kayak. Lonnie made a 3,000-mile, first, west to east winter transit of Canada’s Northwest Passage in 1991 by dog team. In 2001, Lonie along with Australian John Hoelscher became the first to circumnavigate Greenland’s 6,500 miles of coastline. This was completed all non-motorized by dog team and kayak.
In 2006, Lonie and Eric Larsen’s One World Expedition completed the first summer expedition to the North Pole pulling and paddling modified canoe/sleds over 600 miles shifting sea ice. Lonnie and Eric reached the Pole on July 1st and in the process reached 68 million people worldwide with a message about global warming. Lonnie lives in Minnesota with his wife Kelly.


Q (Will Steger Foundation): You've been exploring the Arctic since the 1980's. Have you seen any changes in the environment in the time that you've been traveling?
A (Lonnie Dupre): I have seen it rain during winter 1998 in the high Arctic coating the surrounding tundra in a sheet of ice making it impossible for the rare Peary Caribou and muskox to forage for food. 70% of the caribou herd perished. Also between 1982 and 2000 two massive glaciers on Greenland’s east coast vanished leaving dry valleys.

Q (WSF): Have the changes affected your ability to travel on the Arctic Ocean?
A (LD): Every year there is less and less multi-year ice (9 to 15 feet thick). In 2006 we crossed lots of ice only 2 feet thick. We also noticed a great number of seals on our way to the pole as well as a Polar Bear at the North Pole. Because the southern Arctic is losing more and more ice during summer these marine mammals are forced further north.

Q (WSF): What impacts or what effects would you imagine a trend that continued in this direction would have on polar exploration?
A (LD): We explorers, like the Polar Bears, will go extinct.

Q (WSF): What concerns you most about warming in the Arctic?
A (LD): The Arctic ice is like a big thermostat for not just the northern hemisphere but for the whole globe. If we lose this ice…we think our summers are warm now... Arctic marine mammals will go extinct and the Inuit people will no longer have their traditional culture.

Q (WSF): What influence or effect do you hope your expeditions will have?
A (LD): To get the word out to the masses not just about the impacts of global warming but also about solutions and the need to act now. We could lose the Arctic ice in the summer as early as 5 years from now.

Q (WSF): Are there lessons or inspirations individuals and communities can take from your experiences?
A (LD): You don’t have to be a polar explorer to stop global warming.

Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:34

Börge Ousland - Explorers (Modern)


In February 2006 National Geographic Adventure Magazine called Norwegian Börge Ousland "arguably the most accomplished polar explorer alive!" How did Börge become such a well-known explorer?

After high school, Börge trained as a diver and worked for almost ten years diving in the North Sea. He then served in the Norwegian Special Naval Forces.
In 1986 Börge and two of his diving friends skied across Greenland from the East to West, a feat only a few had accomplished in the almost 100 years since early explorer Fritjof Nansen made the first crossing in 1888.

Over the following years, Börge conducted many expeditions. He and another companion skied over the frozen Arctic Ocean from Ellesmere Island to the North Pole in 1990 without receiving any outside assistance. In 1993 he and a friend tried to ski across the drift ice from Frans Josef Land (Russian territory) to Svalbard (islands in the Arctic Ocean about midway between Norway and the North Pole), but were forced to quit when large areas of open water blocked their path. In 1994 Börge trekked solo from Siberia to the North Pole, then crossed Antarctica alone without outside support in 1997. In 2001 he crossed the Arctic Ocean solo from Siberia to Canada via the North Pole. He has also climbed in the Himalaya and crossed the Patagonia ice field. In 2006, Börge and a partner skied to the North Pole in the winter, an expedition long considered impossible. In 2007 he and a partner retraced the historic route of explorer Fridtjof Nansen. At the end of this expedition, they were forced to live off the land for three weeks as they waited for a boat to be able to reach them.



Q (Will Steger Foundation): You’ve been exploring the Arctic since the 1980's. Have you seen any changes in the environment in the time that you’ve been traveling?
A (Börge Ousland): Yes I have seen the changes over the years. In 1986, we skied across Greenland and across the sea ice to Umanak, which we reached on the 1st of May. Now, it is impossible to ski because it is all open water around Umanak at that time of year. In 1990, we skied unsupported to the North Pole. Back then, the ice was 3 meters thick. Last year I skied from the North Pole to Frans Josef Land and measured ice thickness for the Norwegian Polar Institute on the way. The ice was only 2 meters thick - a 30% reduction over the last two decades.

Q (WSF): Have the changes affected your ability to travel on the Arctic Ocean?
A (BO): Not really. I adapt, using swim gear and polypropylene kayaks to move fast across unstable ice. The ice breaks up more quickly, making traveling in summer months more dangerous.

Q (WSF): What impacts or what effects would you imagine a trend that continued in this direction would have on polar exploration?
A (BO): If sea ice disappears in the summer months, I am not too worried about polar exploration. That’s a minor issue compared to other more serious impacts. I am much more worried about the animals that live there. It has taken the polar bear thousands of years to become what it is; they can be extinct in one hundred years if this continues. Humans adapt, but polar bears do not have that opportunity. The drift ice is the engine for the whole food chain in the Arctic. If that ice disappears, it will have huge consequences for all animal life there.

Q (WSF): What concerns you most about warming in the Arctic
A (BO): See above, along with the melting of large ice caps, which will cause the sea to rise, and the local people who also depend on the food chain of the Arctic.

Q (WSF): What influence or effect do you hope your expeditions will have?
A BO): My role as the eyewitness is not only to tell the world that changes happen in the Arctic very quickly, but also that I believe we can reduce the damage if we are responsible and act now.

Q (WSF): Are there lessons or inspirations individuals and communities can take from your experiences?
A (BO): When I do my expedition, I solve problems. If there is a solution to a problem, I deal with it. It’s the same with global warming: we know the problem, we know the solution and there is only one thing to do. When the future comes and we look back, each of us needs to say that at least I did my best to solve that problem. I look upon it as a personal responsibility, and that’s really my main message.

Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:28

More Resources - Explorers (Modern)

willmap.jpgModern Explorers - More Resources

Photograher James Balog explores the Arctic and other places where he can “catch global warming in the act” with his innovative time-lapse photography. See one of the largest glacier calvings ever documented in High Definition video as well as other scenes here.

National Geographic explorer Jon Bowermaster just completed his Oceans 8 project where he kayaked in the world’s eight oceans. Oceans 8’s final and most recent kayak expedition was to the remnants of Antarctica’s Larsen Ice Shelf, which Will Steger crossed by dogteam in 1990 and which collapsed in 2002. Read the dispatches, see photos, and watch videos here.

Minnesota natives Lonnie Dupre and Eric Larsen completed the first summer ski expedition to the North Pole, dragging their gear in canoes behind them and using the canoes to paddle across leads of open water. The goal of the GreenPeace-sponsored expedition, Project Thin Ice, is to draw attention to the plight of the polar bear and inspire action to slow global warming.

Mountaineer Alton C. Byers, Director of the Alpine Conservation Partnership, spent 30 days in 2007 in the Mt. Everest region recreating 1950s-era photographs of Swiss glaciologists and mapmakers. The comparison between the two sets of photos makes what is arguably the best long-term photographic documentation of how climate change is affecting the world’s tallest, most famous mountain.

Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:27

Action! - Explorers (Modern)

willmap.jpgModern Explorers - Action!

Explorers connect with the natural world in a personal way that makes them care about protecting it. Their experiences in nature can also provide an eyewitness to the public about changes that might otherwise go unnoticed.

You don’t need to go to a far-away place like the Arctic to be an explorer. You can explore natural areas around your home. If you’d like to connect with other people who share your love of exploration, find a local outing club. Here is a directory. You can share with the members of your outing club your concerns about climate change. As a group you can brainstorm projects and actions to work collectively to slow climate change.

There are several national groups that organize outdoor excursions and also work on conservation. Find your local chapter here:


Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:25

Discussion Starters - Explorers (Modern)

willmap.jpgModern Explorers - Discussion Starters

Teachers: Use the following information to spark discussion in your classroom. Familiarize students with the events, people and organizations in the following paragraphs and then encourage students to discuss their opinions and reactions. There are several example questions and suggested areas for discussion. Remind your students that discussion requires well-supported opinions, respectful listening, and sometimes agreeing to disagree.


Many people feel disempowered by the daunting challenge of slowing climate change. A focus group commissioned by Ted Turner found the following:
“Nightmarish scenarios environmentalists tell about global warming so terrify and repel ordinary Americans that they retreat from engagement. The more you scare people about global warming, the more they want to buy SUVs to protect themselves. Miniature Arks.”

Source: Susan Bales of FrameWorks Institute.

Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, founders of the Break Through Institute, argue that what truly motivates people is an inspiring vision. They make the case that people might be more willing to work towards slowing global warming if leaders could present a vision for a better world for which it would be worth working, rather than focusing on the potentially catastrophic climate change we might bring upon ourselves through business as usual.
In a 2004 essay [] Nordhaus and Shellenberger look to the example of Martin Luther King whose “I have a dream speech is famous because it put forward an inspiring, positive vision that carried a critique of the current moment within it. Imagine how history would have turned out had King given an I have a nightmare speech instead.”

In their 2007 book BreakThrough: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility, Nordhaus and Shellenberger go on to say:
“What we didn’t know at the time we wrote those words was that King had given an I have a nightmare speech. In fact, he had given it just moments before he gave his I have a dream speech…It was perhaps the darkest and most discouraged speech King ever gave. But then something strange and wonderful happened. A voice rang out from the back…It was Mahalia Jackson, ‘Tell them about your dream, Martin!’…King then seemed to find the words Mahalia Jackson had tossed himm, and he began the new speech. ‘And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.’ From there King led the hot crowd in a rapid climb out of the valley…racial integration suddenly felt inevitable.” (pp. 2 – 3)
Other people realize the importance of an inspiring vision. Adam Werbach, the youngest ever President of Sierra Club (he was 23 years old at the time of his appointment) recounts the following experience.

In 2003, in Erie, Penn., and Akron, Ohio, the Apollo Alliance did focus groups among undecided, working-class, swing voters -- the very people who would determine the outcome of the 2004 election. I had the luck to observe the focus groups from the other side of a one-way mirror.

Instead of starting the focus groups by asking people what they thought of global warming, our pollster Ted Nordhaus simply asked them how things were going. This open-ended question led, invariably, to focus group participants describing the collapse of the local economy. They would list, in depressing detail, the shutting of Hoover Vacuum and Timken Ball-bearing factories; gone to Mexico. They explained that the jobs that had been created in their wake -- mostly service sector jobs in places like Wal-Mart -- paid half as much and offered no health care or retirement benefits. Many said they were working two jobs to make ends meet.

We then asked them what they thought of the idea of a major federal investment program to accelerate America's transition to the clean energy economy of the future: research and development, manufacturing of wind turbines and solar, energy efficiency. We didn't have to prove to them that such a program would pay for itself; they knew it would intuitively. Hadn't a similar program succeeded in the post-war period? Of course it had.

What had been a roomful of tired and semi-depressed working folks transformed itself into a roomful of excited, optimistic Americans in a period of just 20 minutes. The energy emanating from the room was palpable.

And then something extraordinary happened. Nearly every single person in the room started to sound like Sierra Club members. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. They waxed poetic about solar panels. They spoke of their children's future -- their future -- and the planet's future. They remembered episodes from the area's local history -- like when thousands of jobs were created to retrofit smokestacks after the passage of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendment -- things that James Watt and Rush Limbaugh want them to forget. But more than that, Apollo tells a narrative about American greatness, our history of shared investment and prosperity, of our ingenuity, and how we build a better future.

When our pollster left the room, several of the women participants speculated excitedly about who was sponsoring the focus groups. Was it a corporation seeking to open up a factory? Perhaps a car maker? The more excited they got, the sadder I felt; we were years from getting Congress to pass the kind of legislation that would create these jobs in Akron.

Ted was insistent about his method. "We're just going to start by listening," he'd say. "Let's figure out where they're at."

Previous focus groups I had attended got defined upfront by moderators in a hurry to test environmentalist messages and slogans. As a matter of principal, environmentalists don't hire pollsters to tell them not to talk about the environment.

"Tonight," these moderators would often say, "we want to hear what you think about a few environmental issues." You could almost see the air leave the room. Here we were, interviewing people worried about how they could afford to pay an increase in the health care premiums, whether their children were learning anything at school, and how they could go another night on four hours of sleep, and we were asking them about issues that only three to five percent of them would volunteer as the most important issues facing their community.

Invariably, these folks would voice support for environmental laws, for clean air and clean water, and higher fuel economy standards, though hardly ever with much enthusiasm.

What was different in the focus groups we did for Apollo? It wasn't just that we addressed concerns like jobs and economic development that are of a far higher priority. It was also that we spoke to their aspirations, their families, their communities, and their country. We activated a set of ecological values that, ironically, cannot be activated through environmental rhetoric that is now more than three decades old.

We did a poll and found that more than 70 percent of voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania supported a $30 billion annual investment in energy efficiency and clean energy. Having never seen such high numbers supporting any government program, the pollster to the Steelworkers, an Apollo ally, stressed in a poll question he asked that the $30 billion annual investment would come from taxpayer money. A funny thing happened: support for Apollo went up.

Why? Because Americans see the problems facing their communities and their country as big problems and they want big solutions…

I have come to believe, after a decade’s work on this issue, that saving ourselves depends not on our ability to shock, but rather to inspire....Imagine our strength coming not from our separate movements, but from our interconnections

Source: Adam Werbach speech December 8, 2004 []


  • How do you think most people tend to react when confronted with information about possibly catastrophic climate change? How do you react?
  • Do you feel empowered to work towards slowing climate change?
    • If so, what makes you feel empowered?
    • If not, what makes you feel disempowered? What could motivate and empower you?
  • What aspects of the future and the possibilities it holds excite you?
  • How do you think people could become empowered to work towards slowing climate change?
  • Some people worry that working to slow climate change will destroy the economy.
    • Do you think that it would be possible to create a vision that would protect people’s financial security while at the same time protecting the climate?
      • How could you make this vision inspiring?
      • How could you communicate this vision to people?
      • How could you motivate people (and yourself) to start working toward this vision?
Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:24

Lesson Plan - Explorers (Modern)

willmap.jpgModern Explorers - Lesson Plan

Central questions:

  • What are explorers discovering today?
  • How can we learn about our world by studying explorers?
  • How can we be explorers?


  • Each student will read about a modern polar explorer.
  • Students write and perform “skit” television news segments on each explorer.
  • Students will discuss the significance polar explorations in the context of a warming planet.
  • Students will brainstorm ways they can be explorers.

Time Needed: At least forty-five minutes

Grade Level: Middle School or High School

INTRODUCTION (2 minutes)

Introduce the idea to your students that although nearly every place on the surface of the earth has been “discovered”, people are still exploring. Author Kenneth Brower writes:
“The country [is] all waiting to be known again. Most discovery is rediscovery. The best discoveries are personal, anyway, and not the kind commissioned by queens and scientific academies. The idea that Earth’s landscapes have been used up in some ways [is], for me, peculiar.” (Source: The Starship and the Canoe, 1978)
Every year explorers journey into the mountains, deserts, oceans, rainforests, rivers, and even into the cities and towns. The most important characteristic of an explorer is a sense of curiosity and a desire to see things for him or herself.
The Arctic is a region that has attracted many explorers over the years and continues to attract many today. Learning about Arctic explorers can help us better understand this remote yet important part of our earth, especially as it experiences rapid climate change. Learning about explorers can also help each of us become explorers of our own surroundings.


Explain to your students that you are going to divide them into five groups. Each group will receive a hand-out that gives background information on a modern Arctic explorer and also features the explorer’s answers to interview questions.

Each group will be responsible for creating and performing for the rest of the class a three-minute “skit” TV news segment about the explorer. The skit will need to feature a News Anchor who introduces the story, explains a bit about the background of the explorer, and frames for the audience the significance of the explorer’s expeditions. The skit should also feature a news correspondent who is “on location” with the explorer. The news correspondent should conduct a brief interview with the explorer that covers some of what the explorer has witnessed, especially as it relates to climate change in the Arctic. The Anchor should then close the story by summarizing the significance and leaving the audience with a “take home message.”

Depending on how many students are in each group, additional parts could include someone running the “teleprompter”, other explorers who participated in expeditions with the explorer being highlighted, actors recreating “footage” from previous expeditions, or other roles the students create.

Remind the students that the skit content should be appropriate for the classroom and should be sure to cover the important points, but that the students should feel free to have fun with the skits. Remind the students that each group will have only three minutes to perform their skit. Groups will have very little time to plan their skits, so let them know in advance that skits do not need to be “polished.” They should be impromptu, quickly moving and fun.


  • Divide students into five groups. Distribute one “Modern Explorer” hand-out to each group. (2 minutes)
  • Each student group reads its hand-out and quickly plans a skit. (5 minutes)
  • The class reconvenes and each group presents its skit. To allow for transition time between skits, plan five minutes for each skit. (25 minutes)

Here are some example questions you might choose:

  • Now that nearly all the places on the surface of the earth have been “discovered”, of what value, if any, is modern exploration?
  • What did you learn about the Arctic from these explorers?
  • Do you think it is possible for people to feel more connected to an area like the Arctic by hearing stories and seeing images from explorers who go there, even if the people themselves do not have a chance to go there? Why or why not?
  • What do you think it would take for you to be an explorer? Is it possible to explore areas close to your home?
  • What insights could you share with others if you explored the nature that is close to your home? How would you share those insights?
  • If you wanted to help people connect to their own surroundings, how would you do it? What effect do you think it might have on people if they were more connected to their surroundings?

Note to teachers:

You and your students can follow Will Steger’s Ellesmere Island expedition on Will is traveling with a team of young explorers aged 21 to 28 to visit remote research stations and rapidly changing ice shelves. Dispatches, photos and videos from Will’s 2007 Baffin Island expedition are also available on the website.

Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:20

More Resources - Explorers (Young)

team_ice.jpgYoung Explorers - More Resources

Students on Ice takes high school students age 14 – 19 and their teachers and chaperones on learning expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. On their website you can read daily dispatches and see photos from previous expeditions.

National Geographic Young Explorer Grants aim to foster the next generation of researchers, explorers, and conservationists. Seed grants to individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 provide the opportunity for many recipients to pursue their first experiences in the field.

The Pittarak Expedition led by National Geographic Young Explorer and Global Warming 101 expedition member Sarah McNair-Landry skied and kited 1,430-miles (2,300-kilometers) to cross the Greenland icecap. See the expedition journals, logs, photographs, and high-definition video footage here.

With guidance from teachers, even very young students can research community problems and plan their own service projects. Kids as Planners is a guidebook that helps teachers engage students in Service-Learning. It can be purchased through the Kids Consortium.

Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:19

Action! - Explorers (Young)

sigrid_03.jpgYoung Explorers - Action!

Your home region is the best place to start exploring. Visit a Nature Center near you to learn about your local environment. You can ask the staff of the nature center for ways you can take action in your community to help protect the environment.

Help develop the next generation of explorers by hosting a No Child Left Inside Day. The Chesapeake Foundation provides suggested outdoor activities and information about the No Child Left Inside congressional bill. Getting kids connected with nature is an important step towards developing environmental responsibility.

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