For teachersFor teachers

Welcome to Discovering the Arctic, an education resource for schools, developed by the Royal Geographical Society with IBG, in partnership with the British Antarctic Survey and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Scottish Association for Marine Science. This is not a 'scheme of work' but a resource to dip into depending on your curriculum needs and priorities. It is aimed at GCSE level in England and Wales (14 - 16 year olds) but is suitable for other age groups with some adaptation.

Each of the site's sections is divided into:

  • 'Pole position' Learning activities to introduce the topic
  • 'Cool running' Main learning activities
  • 'Polar pitstop' Follow-up learning activities to extend the topic or to review and reinforce the main activities

The learning activities are devised for individual, pair or group work. Many are in interactive multimedia format for use either on an Interactive Whiteboard or for students to complete individually.

Wherever possible there are text-based alternatives, usually in Microsoft Word. You can download these to use away from the computer and/or to adapt them to meet your students' needs. Go to Help for more technical help on using and adapting the site.

Each section includes:

  • A 'cool fact' that relates to the topic
  • Downloads of featured information sheets (in PDF or Word), images
  • A list of all the featured interactive multimedia activities
  • Appropriate links to other sites
  • Interviews with the people who live and work in the Arctic

Whilst designed for use in the secondary curriculum the Discovering the Arctic website has areas which could be used in the primary sector. See below (bottom of this page) for some ideas of areas which could be used to follow the Key Stage 1 and 2 programmes of study in the English National Curriculum in geography and science.

Teachers' notes

Notes on each chapter for information and tips on the activities in each section to help you plan how to use the site:

Curriculum Links

Download a brief summary of the links to the UK geography curriculum and a more detailed analysis of the links to the English KS3 national curriculum and KS4 GCSE specifications.

Download a brief summary of links to the UK 11 - 16 science curriculum and a more detailed analysis of the links to the English KS3 and KS4 national curriculum.

Using the whole site

Students could work in groups on various themes, some run through the site such as the lives of indigenous people and climate change, others are more self contained in the individual sections, such as mineral resource exploitation. They could then present their findings to the rest of the class.

Examples of presentations made by students at an event on 10 July 2009 at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) following various themes can be seen below.

Webcams are a good way of comparing places and weather. 24hour webcams can illustrate the seasons and the changing amount of night and day across the Arctic.

A selection is provided. Some take a while to load.


BBC sites

In Autumn 2011 the BBC will be screening a new major series on BBC1 called Frozen Planet about both Poles. Some preview excerpts are located throughout this site. The full site can be found at

Other examples of footage can be found at Earth Explorers:

Using Discovering the Arctic in the Primary Curriculum

Whilst designed for use in the secondary curriculum the Discovering the Arctic website has areas which could be used in the primary sector. The table below gives some ideas of areas which could be used to follow the Key Stage 1 and 2 programmes of study in the English National Curriculum.


Key stage 1

Website section and link

Identify the location of hot and cold areas of the world in relation to the Equator  and the North and South Poles

Where is the Arctic?

Countries of the Arctic

Use basic geographical vocabulary to refer to:

- key physical features, including: beach, cliff, coast, forest, hill, mountain, sea, ocean, river, soil, valley, vegetation, season and weather

- key human features, including: city, town, village, factory, farm, house, office, port, harbour and shop

Avanersuaq (details of the life od the Inuit community in this settlement)

Key Stage 2


The location and characteristics of a range of the world’s most significant human and physical features

Arctic climate challenge game

Sensitive Arctic

Focus on Europe (including the location of Russia) and North and South America, concentrating on their environmental regions.

Resources from the edge, reindeer herders in Russia

Losing the ice

Identify the position and significance of latitude, longitude, Equator, Northern Hemisphere, Southern Hemisphere, the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, Arctic and Antarctic Circle, the Prime/Greenwich Meridian and time zones (including day and night)

Postcard from the edge – wish you were here, night and day

Where is the Arctic?

Understand geographical similarities and differences through the study of human and physical geography of a region of the United Kingdom, a region in a European country, and a region within North or South America

Living on the edge – a study of the Qaanaaq region of Greenland

Resources from the edge, using the land, reindeer herders in Russia

Life in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada

Describe and understand key aspects of:

physical geography, including: climate zones, biomes and vegetation belts, rivers, mountains, volcanoes and earthquakes, and the water cycle

Climate change – what happens next

What is the cryosphere?

Describe and understand key aspects of human geography, including: types of settlement and land use, economic activity including trade links, and the distribution of natural resources including energy, food, minerals and water

Resources from the edge, resources from the land and sea, trade links and changing economic activities


Key stage 1

Website section and link

Pupils should be taught to:

- observe changes across the four seasons

- observe and describe weather associated with the seasons and how day length varies.

Diagrams and explanation of varying day and night length in the Arctic.

Key Stage 2


Identify that most living things live in habitats to which they are suited and describe how different habitats provide for the basic needs of different kinds of animals and plants, and how they depend on each other

Interactions between species and how some species are at risk of extinction

Find out about and describe the basic needs of animals, including humans, for survival (water, food and air)

How climate change is affecting the lives of Inuit in Greenland and changing their traditional way of life.

Recognise that environments can change and that this can sometimes pose dangers to living things.

Investigation of the effects of climate change and why the Arctic is so sensitive to climate change.

Construct and interpret a variety of food chains, identifying producers, predators and prey.

Investigate the effects of climate change on the Arctic environment in particular the effects of sea ice loss on polar bear numbers.

Describe the differences in the life cycles of a mammal, an amphibian, an insect and a bird

Investigate the life cycle of barnacle geese in particular.

Use the idea of the Earth’s rotation to explain day and night and the apparent movement of the sun across the sky.


Diagrams to explain the difference between day and night and why this varies over the year.

Identify how animals and plants are adapted to suit their environment in different ways and that adaptation may lead to evolution.

Discover how scientists work in the Arctic and how their research helps to explain how animals adapt to their environment.



Home | 1: Climate change | 2: Living on the edge | 3: Arctic science | 4: Hunter or hunted? | 5: Postcard from the edge | 6: Troubled waters | 7: Resources from the edge | 8: Arctic Circumpolar Governance | 9: Snow, water, ice, permafrost | 10: Adapting to change

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