Habitats: Environmental Issues in the Polar Regions
Connections to the curriculum:
Geography, world history
Connections to the Canadian National Standards for Geography:
Places and Regions
Environment and Society
Three to four hours
• Computer with Internet access
• Wall map of the world
• Drawing materials
Suggested Grade Level: 9 - 12
The Polar Regions are frequently neglected in discussions of the environment,
but they shouldn't be. The environment of the Polar Regions is particularly
susceptible to human impacts such as pollution and the depletion of the ozone
layer. Moreover, the effects of global warming on the Polar Regions are likely
to have major repercussions in the rest of the world.
Students will learn about how environmental problems affect the Polar Regions, and
they will create magazine ads to educate the public about these problems and to convince
people to pay more attention to human impacts on the Arctic and Antarctic.
- review their knowledge of the polar regions;
- list environmental problems they are familiar with
and check the ones they think affect the polar regions;
- research and answer questions about environmental
issues affecting the polar regions;
- discuss their findings; and
- create magazine advertisements to encourage the public
to support environmental protection of the polar regions.
- Acquiring Geographic Information
- Acquiring Geographic Information
- Organizing Geographic Information
- Analyzing Geographic Information
Ask students to point out the Polar Regions on a wall
map, and then ask them to describe some of the differences
between the Arctic and the Antarctic. If their understanding
of these differences is minimal, have them read the activity “The
Arctic and Antarctic Circles” and some of the
links provided on that page.
Ask students to list some of the environmental problems
they have heard about, either locally or in other parts
of the world. Then have them place checks next to the
ones they think might affect the Polar Regions. Have
students place two checks next to any environmental problems
they think might impact the Polar Regions more severely
than other parts of the world.
Discuss the lists as a class. Have students hypothesize
the reasons why certain environmental problems might
have particularly severe impacts on the Polar Regions.
Have students use the web sites listed and additional
Internet or print resources to find out about environmental
issues that affect the polar regions. As they conduct
their research, they should answer the following questions:
- What is the ozone hole, and what are its effects?
- How does global warming affect the Polar Regions
and what implications might this have for the rest
of the world?
- What types of pollution threaten the Polar Regions,
and why are these regions frequently more sensitive
to pollution than other parts of the world?
Discuss students' findings as a class. How are global
environmental problems affecting the Polar Regions? Why
are the Polar Regions particularly sensitive to environmental
Suggested Student Assessment
Point out that, since the Polar Regions are very sparsely
inhabited, many people are unfamiliar with the characteristics
of these areas and don't think about these parts of the
world when they consider human impacts on the environment.
Ask students to think about the reasons why it would
be beneficial for more people to be aware of environmental
concerns in the Polar Regions. Have them create public-interest
magazine advertisements that aim to convince the public
to support environmental protection in the Arctic and
Antarctic. Their ads should include information they
have gathered in their research and must mention both
the Arctic and Antarctic regions.
Extending the Lesson
Have students create “environmental fact sheets” that
could be given to members of environmental organizations,
politicians, or the general public to educate them about
specific environmental issues concerning the Polar Regions.
The fact sheets should describe the causes, effects,
and predictions for the environmental problems students
have learned about in this lesson.
Canada—Canadian Arctic Profiles
Students On Ice
National Geographic: GeoAction!-Habitats
U. S. Environmental
Protection Agency—Ozone Depletion
Online—Warnings from the Ice
Habitats: Environmental Issues in the Polar Regions (Adobe PDF document)