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March of the Polar Bears: Global Change, Sea Ice, and Wildlife Migration

Venugopal Bhat, NASA - My NASA Data Lesson Plans

In this activity students use NASA satellite data to study changes in temperature and snow-ice coverage in the South Beaufort Sea, Alaska. They will then correlate the data with USGS ground tracking of polar bears and relate their findings to global change, sea ice changes, and polar bear migration and survival.

Activity takes two 50-minute class periods. Computer access is necessary.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Performance Expectation, 4 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 6 Cross Cutting Concepts, 12 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 2 Performance Expectations, 5 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 8 Cross Cutting Concepts, 10 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

About Teaching Principle 3
Other materials addressing 3a
About Teaching Principle 7
Other materials addressing 7e

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.2 The Living Environment:A) Organisms, populations, and communities
Other materials addressing:
A) Organisms, populations, and communities.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.2 The Living Environment:C) Systems and connections
Other materials addressing:
C) Systems and connections.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Students may need help navigating the access site. Providing students with some screenshots of the steps in the procedure section may be helpful.
  • Younger students may need better scaffolding to guide them in analyzing data.
  • Activity could be extended to look at other species.
  • Be aware that the video from WWF might be biased - possibly discuss the advocacy standpoint behind the video with the students.

About the Science

  • Students develop an understanding of the impacts of climate change on wildlife.
  • Students use real NASA and USGS data.
  • Comment from scientist: The statement about sea ice breaking off and moving towards warmer waters is not accurate for the Arctic -- it may be accurate for the Antarctic.
  • Comment from scientist: All materials on this site imply that climate change is the only factor potentially responsible for the decline of the species. The major threats are: climate change, over-harvest, pollution, oil development, and tourism (not listed in order of priority).

About the Pedagogy

  • Students work directly with data, making graphs and drawing conclusions.
  • The activity has students developing understanding of the global through the local.
  • The activity does not address the role of humans in climate change as stated in the learning outcome. This piece could be added by educator.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

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