Around the World: Antarctica Unit Study & Polar Biome

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Our next country study is complete: Antarctica! We have been loving our country studies this school year and I purposely saved Antarctica for the winter months so doing all the fun winter projects would fit right in.

Before I share our Antarctica studies, I like to share the links to our past country units we have completed so you can easily find them. You can read our first country, China, to get an idea of how we learn about each country and the flow in which we do them. We spend 2 weeks on each country and that has been just enough for us without getting bored of any one subject.

Around the World: China Unit Study

Around the World: Japan Unit Study

Around the World: Thailand Unit Study

Around the World: India Unit Study

Around the World: Egypt Unit Study

Antarctica

I always start each unit by introducing my kids to the country in our Maps book and DK Countries of the World. We used the country outline from Around the World with Picture Books to add Antarctica to our notebooks, and label some of its main features or landmarks.

For each country we also paint a small flag. Antarctica does not have an official flag because it doesn’t have a governing body, but some designs have been made to represent the country. So for Antartica, I printed a second outline of the country and just cut a larger rectangle around it. My kids painted around it blue, leaving the country white. This is the design for Antarctica used in the United Nations, as well as the emoji 🇦🇶🤣 .

For each country I also pick 2-3 topics to focus on so that we don’t become overwhelmed with doing too much. For Antarctica, we learned about penguins, the blue whale, and the explorer Ernest Shackleton. We typically spend 2-3 days on each topic throughout our 2 weeks on the country.

We started our studies with some fun imaginative play. We made an Antarctic landscape with blue magnatiles and white stuffing for snow. I bought THIS set of Artic animals for our studies that they played with on the magnatiles.

We also made a fun “snowstorm in a jar.” You can find all the instructions HERE.

Books

We read a lot of fun picture books throughout the different topics we studied. I’ll share all our favorites below since they are broken down by topic.

One book that we enjoyed reading throughout the entire unit was Greetings from Antarctica by Sarah Wheeler. This book was a collection of letters Sarah wrote home as she did an expedition in Antarctica. It is full of information and my kids loved learning about how you would live, eat, sleep, etc. if you were to go explore Antarctica. We read a few letters each day as part of our bedtime stories.

We love all the Draw, Write, Now books and I realized while doing this unit that we do not own the Polar Regions one, so that would be a great addition you could add.

Read Alouds & Independent Reading

My two oldest kids each have their own required reading time each day. I thought it would be fun for them to read about the story of Balto in their own reading levels. My first grader read Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto and my third grader read Balto and the Great Race (both by Elizabeth Kimmel.)

When both of them finished their books at the end of our Antarctica unit, we had a movie night to watch the Balto movie. You can find it on Prime Video.

If you are wanting to read the story of Balto together as a family, you could also read Magic Treehouse Merlin Missions: Balto of the Blue Dawn. Some other great family read alouds are Mr. Popper’s Penguins or The Popper Penguin Rescue.

For my daughter’s Language Arts, we are also loving the book The Very, Very Far North by Dan Bar-el. It is such a cute story, almost like a Winnie the Pooh type of story, but in the Arctic. This book would also make a great read aloud.

If you own a Yoto player for audio books, we really enjoyed listening to the Ladybird Audio Adventures: The Frozen World. It gives so many great facts and information in the form of a story.

Penguins

Of course when studying about Antarctica, our main topic was penguins! We did so many fun activities and read some great books about penguins.

We enjoyed ALL of these books! Tacky the Penguin is one of our favorites (I actually remember buying my copy from a book fair in elementary school) so we gathered all the others from the library to read each night at bed time. My kids laughed so hard at many of the stories.

We started our penguin study by reading The Emperor’s Egg by Martin Jenkins. As we read about it in the story, the kids matched and put together the penguin life cycle (FREE printable.) When we finished the story I had them draw and copy the life cycle into their notebooks.

We blew up some balloons and put them between their legs so they could see what it was like to “waddle” like a penguin.

The next day we tried some fun experiments. We used THIS printable, that I laminated to show how penguins stay dry. The laminated sheet acted like their feathers where the water would not be absorbed and would just slide right off.

We also did the “Blubber” experiment to see how the layer of fat keeps them warm in the cold Antarctic weather. You can find the instructions for this experiment HERE.

If you have a little one (PreK-K) THIS website, ABC’s of Literacy, has many different free printables and craft ideas with the penguin theme to work on learning the alphabet, counting, and more. I printed a few for my preschooler, like this Penguin alphabet search.

To end our Penguin study, we did an art project that turned out SO cute! Definitely one of my favorites. I shared on my Instagram the directions to make this, but will share them again here. *This idea was from THIS post on Pinterest.

Penguin Process Art:

  1. Using watercolor paper, paint the top half with liquid watercolors (blue and purple.) When it is nice and wet, add a few sprinkles of coarse salt.
  2. Paint the bottom half of the paper with a mix of light blue and white paint for the ice.
  3. Let dry! Wipe off any excess salt when completely dry.
  4. On regular white paper, draw a large baby penguin in pencil like we did above. I just coached my kids through drawing it, step by step. You can do it! If you feel intimidated you can find a how-to video on YouTube (check out Art for Kids Hub.)
  5. Color in the head, eyes, and feet with black markers or sharpies.
    Use black oil pastels to outline the head, bottom, and wings. (Push down hard) Rub & smear the pastel with a paper towel to get the grey/white look for the body and face.
  6. Cut the penguins out and glue them to the background art.

So cute and I love how everyone’s penguins turn out different!

Blue Whale

Our next topic we focused on was the blue whale. We read about all whales in general and looked at all the different kinds in our DK Encyclopedia of Animals book. (This book is the best to have in your homeschool!) My kids loved the book Billy Twitters and the Blue Whale Problem by Mac Barnett and thought it was so funny!

We used the blue whale cut out from Around the World with Picture Books and added it to their notebooks with one fact they learned. We also read the Bible story, Jonah and the Whale, and made this fun craft/game to go with it. We filled a balloon with rice and attached it to a blue cup “whale.” The kids had to swing the balloon up and catch it in the cup.

Ernest Shackleton

Our final topic in Antarctica was learning about the explorer Ernest Shackleton. All of these are great books to read, some are a little longer so we read over a few days. My kid’s favorite was You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Polar Explorer by Jen Green.

After we read all about Ernest Shackleton, my kids filled out his biography page, did some copywork from a quote of his, and colored a coloring page all from the Who Was unit from The Waldock Way.

We also learned about the power of salt and how it melts water. We did a simple ice fishing experiment with water, ice, salt and string. You can find the instructions HERE.

Polar Biome

For science, we have been learning about different biomes on different continents. Since Antarctica is the only polar region we are studying this year we did our polar biome at the same time.

You can see my posts for our other biomes here:

Mountain Biome

Desert Biome

At the end of each biome study we fill out the portion of our biome accordion book and build a diorama. They locate and label where main polar regions are on the world map and then fill in the boxes for characteristics of that biome.

Our polar diorama was so fun to create. We reuse the same box for each biome, they present what they have learned to the family, and then I leave it up for a week or so. This one we had to take a picture of quickly when they finished and take it apart before it melted, but it looked great. They made some instant snow with water and baking powder (directions HERE) and thought it would be fun to freeze a small bowl of water to make an igloo structure. They used scrapbook paper for the background and water, and added our Arctic animals. They also used some gel-like crystals we had from an old science kit that they put on top of the snow here and there. I can’t remember what they were called to link them for you.


That wrapped up our Antarctica study! I hope you found some great ideas, books, and projects for your next Antarctica, Arctic, or winter studies. Thank you for reading and be sure to follow along on my Instagram as we head to the next country, Australia!!

Have a great week!

— Lindsay

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