International Polar Bear Day

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February 27 is International Polar Bear Day. This day offers an opportunity to pay attention to polar bears and the dangers they face due to climate warming. It is also an excellent way to engage students with real-world connections to animals, climate, environment, habitats, and more. 

One way to engage students in learning is by creating an environment that piques their interest. Consider preparing an arctic scene within your classroom, starting with an interesting door decoration. A quick search of Google should give you several ideas. Take a look at how Fun in First transformed her classroom into an Arctic Adventure! Throughout the day, students participated in math, coding, spelling, and reading activities with an arctic theme. 

Of course, immersing students in a full-day adventure takes careful planning and preparation. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Lesson Planning:

  • Polar Bear Lesson Plan – this lesson plan for kindergarten guides students through nonfiction text about polar bears. Easily adjust the reading material and questions for older students
  • World Wildlife Fund Polar Bear Toolkit – this site provides a variety of activities for grades 3 -5, including science, social studies, physical education lessons, and more.
  • Study.com Polar Bear Lesson Plan – this lesson plan is part of a larger unit about animals and habitats. It is easily adaptable for grades four and older.

Polar Bear Websites:

  • Polar Bears International – find facts and updated information about polar bears and their environment. Consider sharing a link to the Polar Bear Basics Story as a fact-finding journey for students.
  • San Diego Zoo Polar Bear Cam – unfortunately, it isn’t very easy to observe polar bears in their natural environment; however, the zoo webcam lets us take a peek into the activities of polar bears. After viewing the webcam, browse the links on the page to learn more about the use of technology to track and monitor animals in the wild.

Crafts and Experiments:

  • Polar Bear Blubber Experiment – try this hands-on experiment for students to learn how blubber helps animals survive in the arctic. One tip – when I did this activity in my classroom, there was always one student who was determined to keep their hand in the ice water longer than necessary, keep an eye on this, and set a reasonable time limit so that no one walks away with frostbite!
  • Make a milk jug igloo – a milk jug igloo is just the right touch to use as a reading or writing center and bring an arctic environment to life in your classroom. Here are some things to keep in mind when preparing and building your igloo (found from first-hand experience):
    • Make sure to ask students to bring in jugs that have been thoroughly cleaned and dried (they stink if not done correctly). You might even want to set up a cleaning and drying center in your room to be sure the jugs are cleaned out correctly.
    • Igloo building provides several opportunities to explore math concepts. As you build the igloo, ask students to predict how many jugs it will take, find the diameter of your igloo, or have older students estimate the cost of all of the gallons of milk purchased.
  • Hands-on Science Activities for Your Polar Festival – browse through the many ideas found on this site. Learn how to create salt dough maps of the arctic, experiment with melting ice cubes, or try to float an iceberg.

Let’s take a look at how this might look when put together for your students. 

  • Complete activities in centers throughout the day.
  • Use Choice Boards or another option to allow students to pick and choose information based on their interests. This Wakelet collection provides a look at how to offer student options. Add a text box at the beginning of a collection to give details on student choices and expectations, then add any links needed for students to complete their activities.
  • Use Book Creator (TeachersFirst review) and have students create a digital book sharing their learning. Book Creator offers many options for personalizing ebooks, including adding video, audio, text, and links. It is an excellent way for students to share their learning in a very personal way. Use this penguin research example as a guide to get started. 
  • Use Flipgrid (TeachersFirst review) to pose open-ended response questions. This grid asks students to respond to the question of who would win in a polar bear vs. grizzly bear conflict.
  • Make it easy for students to find online resources used during your Polar Bear Day activities by curating them in one place and sharing the link on classroom devices. Share the link on your class website so that they have the opportunity to look at them further at home. As an example, this Wakelet collection contains all of the resources shared on this blog. 

What could be more fun than spending a day learning about polar bears? Providing student choice and engaging them through hands-on learning is a sure formula for success. 

What is your favorite activity for learning about polar bears and animals? Perhaps you have engaged students with changing the classroom environment as part of your lesson. We would love for you to share your ideas with our readers.


About the author: Sharon Hall

Sharon Hall was a recipient of the Presidential Award of Excellence in Math teaching. With over 15 years of classroom experience as a National Board Certified teacher, Sharon shares her content knowledge and reflections on ideas for basic classroom technology integration with us.


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