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Teachers’ notes | Pole to Pole

Learning objectives:

  • To understand the geographical, environmental and biological differences between the Earth’s two polar regions
  • To understand the interactions between polar regions and the rest of the globe
  • To explore the areas of scientific research in the polar regions and understand their importance in relation to climate change
  • To develop skills of decision-making, presentation and justification

Spot the difference

This is a starter activity to reinforce the different features between the polar regions. It is designed to be used on an interactive whiteboard. Answers are available here.

Polar extremes

This activity is designed to be used flexibly, either as a whole class teacher led activity where each data source is enlarged for use on a whiteboard, or the class can be split into groups with each looking at one of the data sources or a combination. Students are asked to analyse each one to find out why it is so cold at the poles.

Answers should include:


  • The north polar region is cold due to the angle and reduced intensity of approaching solar radiation


  • The south polar region is cold due to the angle and reduced intensity of approaching solar radiation
  • It is colder than the north because of its increased elevation across the region and its geographic isolation by the encircling Antarctic Circumpolar Current.

The importance of polar science

A group activity which encourages students to explore the areas of scientific research and rank their importance in terms of mitigating the effects of climate change on different aspects of the planet. It should be noted that there are no ‘correct answers’ for this activity and the perceived importance of each area of science is very subjective when compared to others. Whole class discussion enables the students to discuss their perceptions and opinions and reasons for their choices. The teacher should try to balance each argument with the alternative view point as to what is important for the students and the planet.

Your polar proposal – become an IPY scientist

This follows on from the previous activity where students have selected which area of scientific research they consider most important and now have to bid for funding for their proposal. The proposal can be completed online and shared through the school’s VLE or printed out.

Decision time

Each group presents their proposal to the class and a class decision is made as to which one will receive funding. Before the presentations, a set of criteria can be established by the class to decide which presentation wins.