The Arctic


These selected lessons were developed by scientists and educators to demonstrate key concepts about the Arctic. For more lessons, search the full lesson archive.

Older lessons are aligned to the National Science Education Standards and newer lessons support the Next Generation Science Standards  (and their associated Common Core Standards). All lessons from 2006 to the present also support the Ocean Literacy Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts . Note: The links provided in lessons are verified at the time of publication, but over time, may change or become obsolete.

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5-6 6-8 7-8 9-12

Grades 5-6

Three Cold Realms (pdf, 158 KB)

Focus: Biology within the pelagic, benthic, and sea ice realms (Biology)

In this activity, students will be able to compare and contrast the pelagic, benthic, and sea ice realms of the Arctic Ocean; name at least three organisms that are typical of each of these three realms; and explain how the pelagic, benthic, and sea ice realms interact with each other.

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Polar Bear Panic! (pdf, 250 KB)

Focus: Climate change in the Arctic Ocean (Life Science)

Students identify the three realms of the Arctic Ocean and describe the relationships among these realms, graphically analyze data on sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean and recognize a trend in these data, discuss possible causes for observed trends in Arctic sea ice, and infer the potential impact of these trends on biological communities in the Arctic.

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Grades 6-8

Glaciers to Corals (pdf, 770 KB)

Focus: Factors that contribute to biodiversity in Glacier Bay National Park benthic ecosystems (Life Science)

In this activity, students identify and explain factors that contribute to biodiversity in Glacier Bay National Park benthic ecosystems and evaluate design solutions for maintaining biodiversity.

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Grades 7-8

Where Have All the Glaciers Gone? (pdf, 272 KB)

Focus: Arctic climate change (Earth Science)

Students will describe how climate change is affecting sea ice, vegetation, and glaciers in the Arctic region; explain how changes in the Arctic climate can produce global impacts; and provide three examples of such impacts. Students will also explain how a given impact resulting from climate change may be considered ‘positive’ as well as ‘negative’ and will be able to provide at least one example of each. Includes a hands-on activity: Make a photocube showing changes in glaciers.

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Meet the Arctic Benthos (pdf, 358 KB)

Focus: Benthic invertebrate groups in the Arctic Ocean (Life Science)

Students will explain how aspects of structure and function are involved with common feeding strategies used by benthic animals in the Arctic Ocean, discuss patterns in interdependent relationships between groups of animals in Arctic benthic communities, and discuss how changes in the Arctic environment may affect biodiversity in Arctic benthic communities.

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Would You Like to Take a Sample? (pdf, 671 KB)

Focus: Sampling strategies for biological communities

Students identify the three realms of the Arctic Ocean, describe the relationships between these realms, and discuss the advantages and limitations of sampling techniques to study biological communities.

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Grades 9-12

Just Jelly (pdf, 1.1 MB)

Focus: The common gelatinous zooplankton in the Chukchi Borderlands environment and their ecological roles (Life Science)

In this activity, students compare and contrast the feeding strategies of at least three different types of gelatinous zooplankton and explain why gelatinous zooplankton may function at several trophic levels within a marine food web. They then make inferences about potential influences on the distribution of planktonic species in the water column.

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Burp Under the Ice (pdf, 156 KB)

Focus: Potential role of Arctic methane deposits in climate change (Earth Science)

Students identify the natural processes that produce methane, describe where methane deposits are located in the Arctic region, explain how warmer climates may affect Arctic methane deposits, explain how the release of large volumes of methane might affect Earth’s climate, and describe how methane releases may have contributed to mass extinction events in Earth’s geologic history.

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Current Events (pdf, 469 KB)

Focus: Currents and water circulation in the Arctic Ocean (Earth Science)

Students identify the primary driving forces for ocean currents and infer the type of water circulation to be expected in the Arctic Ocean, given information on temperature, salinity, and bathymetry.

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The above items are only a selection of the educational materials highlighting the Arctic on our website.

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