I haven’t done a lesson/educational post in a while but a week ago I had the privilege of teaching a small class of about twelve elementary aged students a STEM class. My daughter attends a co-op one day a week and the deal is parents have to chip in, which I think is fantastic.
However, STEM is not my strong suit. I’m a words person, not a numbers person so at first, I was a little panicked. Then I started to realize, why can’t I do both?
*This post contains affiliate links because I like to eat
So I started thinking of science-related issues that I cared about, since that would obviously be easier to write about and decided to do something on global warming. Thus, Chuck was born. Here is the lesson plan and what you need to recreate for a class or in your own home.
(We made the story into a game to keep the student’s interest. If you are doing this with just one child you may want to tweak that part. The game was that each group of students received a folder with a habitat picture inside. They had to give clues as to what their habitat was to the other students to guess. When the correct answer was guessed, the picture was taped to the front of the class.)
A Home for Chuck
One polar bear’s escape from the melting ice
Page one: Have picture up of Arctic landscape
(Does anyone know, or want to take a guess, about how many cubs a polar bear usually has? Answer: two)
When Chuck was a wee lad he lived on the ice of the Arctic with his mom and his sister Chucklette. He was born in a small den, in December and came out to see his Arctic home in March.
Everyone repeat after me- Polar bears live in the Arctic. Not the Antarctic. The Arctic.
Repeat- Penguins and Polar Bears do not live together!
Chuck was a little bit bigger than his sister but they would play and wrestle in the snow.
****Change pictures- picture of Arctic melting
At the ripe age of 30 months old, or close to three years old, Chuck went out on his own to be a man. He would catch seals and fish. He did this by waiting near a melting ice patch in the land. This would be the best place to find seals because the freezing, then melting of the patch gave seals a place to pop up and breathe.
Chuck, like most polar bears, was a great swimmer. But because swimming takes up so much energy, he would need to get back to the ice to rest. So he would wander around on a large home of snow and ice.
Only, his home wasn’t so large anymore. Chuck started to notice that the older he got, the smaller his arctic home became. He liked the water for hunting but he couldn’t live on it. His home was getting thinner, smaller, and more wet.
“Well,” said Chuck one day, “I have had enough!
I’m a big ole Polar Bear, I need land, lots of land to roam. I think I should set out to find myself a new home.”
As luck would have it, there was an abandoned researcher’s site nearby and it had a tarp, some rope, and a large tub.
So Chuck fashioned himself a parachute and decided to see the world!
(Now, everyone is going to get a super secret folder that has a picture of a habitat inside, along with a number on the outside. You will work in pairs or threes, just for a minute. When I call your number you will look at your habitat, then you and partner will have to describe it to the rest of the class to see if we can guess which habitat it is. For example, if I opened my folder and it was a picture of a living room I would say something like: Well, Chuck couldn’t live here because he would bang his head on the ceiling. Notice I didn’t say anything about it being a room or a living room. So we will NOT say what our habitat is, we will give clues. Repeat after me “I will NOT say what my habitat is”. Can someone define habitat for us? Answer: Natural home or environment for animal, plants, or any organism. *Handout folders)
When habitat is guessed, student tape the picture to the board.
First Group: Parachutes to Mountains
After a long day of floating through the sky, Chuck sees something below him and starts his descent.
Group one, open your folder and tell the class why you think Chuck couldn’t live there, or just something about your habitat without saying what it is. *student tapes their habitat on the board.
*Class discussion *Clap- one two three
So Chuck saw the snow and thought, “hmm this might be a good place to land.” And land he did, with a thud. The mountain was quite uneven, as most mountains are. Whoa, whoa. But Chuck got steady.
“Wow, it’s hard to walk on these rocky mountains.” Chuck weighed as much as 10 men, and trying to climb any higher on the mountain was a very hard and scary task. “Maybe I should just climb down instead.” Slowly he made his way to the bottom of the mountain. Once he was on safe flat land he realized how hungry he was. He looked around and didn’t see any animals he could eat. Just some scattered green things. He looked back up and saw some birds flying overhead. “Well, how am I supposed to catch those for dinner?”
Group Two: Parachute to the Ocean
Down he went. Group two, open your folder and tell the class why you think Chuck couldn’t live there, or just something about your habitat without saying what it is.
Now polar bears, are actually the only bear that is considered a marine mammal. Polar bears can swim for hours and hours to get from one piece of ice to the other. But this water wasn’t as cold as he was used to. It was warm and salty. Saltier then he had back in the Arctic.
“Well at least there’s some fish,” Chuck thought. He dove down and got a fish to eat. Then looked around. He was getting tired. But there was nowhere to get out of the water!
“I can’t live in the ocean ALL the time,” Chuck said. “This place can’t be my new home. He swam back to where his tub and parachute were floating and waited for a strong wind to blow. “Let’s try again,” he said and off he floated into the sky.
Group Three: The desert
Group three, open your folder and tell the class why you think Chuck couldn’t live there, or just something about your habitat without saying what it is.
Now Chuck was used to not doing much when it was hot outside. During summer in the Arctic, polar bears have “walking hibernation” where they do less activity. But this heat was TOO much. Chuck’s thick fur and skin made him so hot.
“There’s got to water around here somewhere.” He thought. He walked and walked. He passed a strange looking animal that had two humps on his back. (What animal is that?)
“Excuse me,” Chuck asked the camel. “Is there any water around here? Or a place to cool down?”
“Cool down?” the camel laughed. “Certainly not. There is some water about two days walk that way.” He nodded behind him.
“Two days!” said Chuck. He couldn’t walk for two days without water. “How are you able to go so long without water?”
“Oh I have these humps and I’ve lived in the desert all my life. I’ve adapted.”
Chuck shook his head. He couldn’t adapt to all this heat and the dryness. He went back to his parachute and waited for the wind to blow.
Group four, open your folder and tell the class why you think Chuck couldn’t live there, or just something about your habitat without saying what it is.
When Chuck landed this time he was surrounded by green! He had never seen so much green in his life.
“Well, it’s still really hot here. But at least it seems like there may be water around.”
He was getting tired from all this traveling and decided to take a nap. As he laid his head down he heard sounds of all kinds: birds chirping, monkeys howling, bugs and frogs clicking.
“This is much louder than the Arctic,” Chuck said. (Why do you think it’s louder in the rainforest than in the Arctic?) He thought maybe he should try to hunt for another snack before deciding if he could live here.
He sat and waited. There were so many animals nearby that he could hear but nothing was coming near him. At home, in the Arctic, Chuck could just sit still and blend in with the snow so his prey didn’t see him, but now! (Why would that not work now?)
“I can’t live here,” Chuck said sadly. He went to his parachute to try again.
Group Five: The Northern Forests or Woodlands
Group five, open your folder and tell the class why you think Chuck couldn’t live there, or just something about your habitat without saying what it is.
As he looked around at first he thought he was in the same place as he just left but the air was much cooler and the trees were all different.
“At least it’s getting colder,” Chuck said. He was finally able to take a short nap before deciding to try again for a snack.
“It sounds like everything is up in the trees, maybe I have to climb up to get some food.”
So Chuck went to the nearest tree and put his paws on the trunk. HEAVE, he tried to lift himself but could barely get his bottom off the ground. HEAVE he tried again.
By and by he saw another animal walking towards him. Not as big as he was, but was still pretty big and furry. (What do you think he saw?)
“Oh Mr. Bear.”
“Ahem, I am lady Mr. White Bear. What are you?” she answered.
“Oh sorry, I’m a polar bear.”
“A polar bear? What are you doing here? You can’t live here.”
“Well, why not if you do? You’re a bear too.”
“Yes but I can climb quickly and hide. You can’t sir.”
No he couldn’t. He couldn’t hide here just as he couldn’t hide in the rainforest.
“I guess you’re right,” he told the lady bear.
So Chuck got his parachute and decided to go home…
Group Six: Antarctic
Group six, open your folder and tell the class why you think Chuck couldn’t live there, or just something about your habitat without saying what it is.
So, this is a hard one, the hardest one. Why couldn’t Polar Bears live in the Antarctic? It’s cold, it’s ice, it looks so much like the Arctic!
But it’s not.
Chuck walked around, seemingly confused. “It looks kind of like home but not completely.” He shivered, it actually felt colder here than back in the Arctic.
For miles and miles, all Chuck could see was more snow and ice. The ground was so hard and frozen solid, Chuck didn’t think he’d be able to build a den here. He also didn’t see any other polar bears or any animal for that matter.
Up ahead he saw water and started to get excited. Maybe there’s some seals nearby, although he couldn’t smell any even with his great sense of smell. But he smelled something else. Was that chicken? Definitely a bird. (What bird lives in the Antarctic?)
They were so funny looking like they were wearing suits. Chuck didn’t think he would like penguins very much and not having anyone else to talk to he decided to really go home this time. It was too cold, maybe even for him.
Chuck went back to the Arctic and decided to make do with his shrinking home.
“I hope everyone tries to help us save our Arctic home,” he thought to himself. As he looked around he saw another bear’s den and felt happy to be back.
Now, Chuck’s home is shrinking. Do we all know what that is?
Map of global warming.
*From here we talked about ways to stop global warming, lower pollution, and recycle. Then we made DIY parachutes out of used plastic grocery bags, twine, tape, and small polar bears I ordered off of Oriental Trading.
Lastly, I had built a wind tunnel that we used to launch our Chucks across the room. This was obviously the most fun part of the lesson but if building a wind tunnel isn’t possible for you the parachutes work just from being thrown as well.