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Polar Bears and the Arctic



Polar Bears and the Arctic is a resource comprised of five age appropriate activities which focus on climate change in the Arctic.

Activity 1 - Where in the world is the Arctic? The students use a globe, a map and photographs to identify the Arctic region and make observations about its climate.

Activity 2 - Reading about Polar Bears - The students create a web of knowledge based on observing photos and prior knowledge. They then read an informational text about polar bears and answer discussion questions as a class.

Activity 3 - Arctic Adaptations - After observing photos, the students describe the environment in which polar bears live.  A student will then dress up in the adaptations suggested by students.  These adaptations will be compared to the adaptations of other arctic animals. This leads to a discussion of the habitat loss and its effects on polar bears.

Activity 4 - Writer's Corner - The students plan and write a persuasive/opinion piece on how the polar bear is affected by climate change and habitat loss.

Activity 5 - Climate Change Action - The students discuss climate change and also visit the website Climate Classroom Kids in order to complete a set of questions and learn more about climate change.  Afterwards they complete a Family Action Plan and a checklist in order to reflect on "How will they use this new knowledge?"

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

This resource explicitly teaches the students to plan and write an opinion/persuasive piece of writing.


This resource has the following strengths:

  • a guide and suggestions on how to make climate change age appropriate so as to not overwhelm or frighten students
  • up to date links to the needed materials
  • interesting subject for students
  • plenty of background information for teachers
  • all handouts and activity materials are included 
  • the resource is easy to use in a teacher friendly format


The resource has the following weaknesses:

  • a lack of assessment tools
  • a lack of adaptations and extension activities that are supposed to be included

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This resource would be a great introduction to climate change as it provides suggestions in the guide as to how to not overwhelm children with the problem. It could also be used as a geographical unit of study on the Arctic when learning about the different regions of Canada or the world.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

Themes Addressed

  • Air, Atmosphere & Climate (1)

    • Climate Change
  • Ecosystems (1)

    • Habitat Loss

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Very Good

After learning about the Arctic, the adaptations that polar bears have for their environment and different species of bears, the students take an informed position on the plight of the polar bears with regards to climate change.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Satisfactory
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Very Good
Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Good

As a final activity, the students complete a Family Action Plan and Checklist that allows them to make a plan of simple to complex actions that they can take to help with climate change.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Very Good

Writing the opinion piece allows the students to express their beliefs about the plight of the polar bears.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered

This is not a focus for this resource.

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Good
Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

As the resource centers around the Arctic it is difficult to have a local focus; however, the students are encouraged to take actions at home to help with climate change.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Good
Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Very Good

All activities are open ended and allow for a lot of thought and discussion by the students.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Good
Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Satisfactory
Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.


Differentiated Instruction Good
Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Satisfactory
Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory
Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Poor/Not considered

In the information for teachers, it indicates that there are adaptations and extensions for teachers to use with younger or older students; however, in the document those sections are there but without content. As well, there are not tools to help teachers assess the student learning.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory
Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Poor/Not considered

This is not included in this resource.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Satisfactory

This is not the focus of this resource; it acts primarily as an introduction for younger students to the issues facing polar bears and climate change.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.