Polar Bears in a Changing Climate

4260064183_fa6f6bc4c9.jpg  Julene Reed, the Director of Academic Technology at St. George’s Independent School in Collierville, TN and a STAR Discovery Educator and Apple Distinguished Educator shows how the polar bears in the Hudson Bay area are being affected by climate change, how Challenge Based Learning can engage students in related activities that are based on 21st century education skills, and how the”Tundra Connections” program from Polar Bears International is providing educators and students with live videoconferencing and webcast opportunities with scientists on the tundra as well as curriculum resources to inspire action and make a difference.

While busy at the Polar Bears International board meeting in San Diego, CA, Julene shared her presentation. Polar Bears International is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the worldwide conservation of the polar bear and its habitat through research and education. They have a wide range of educational projects that inspire, inform, and empower people to make a difference by reducing carbon emissions and motivating others to do the same.

Julene shared some amazing videos which you can check out later this week at Science in Action blog.  One showed the tundra buggy “train” in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. People come from all over the world to study, paint, write about, and just observe the polar bears in a natural, vibrant habitat. Churchill won the ecology tourism award this year

Julene created climate change lessons based on her work with Polar Bears International.  This year’s focus was  Challenge Based Learning.

CBL framework

While similar to Project Based Learning, there are two significant differences. One, CBL leverages 24/7 access to tools and resources allowing for global collaboration and communication with experts. And two, the students are the ones who design the learning, an element of inquiry learning.  Read more and learn more about CBL and see concrete examples as well of video clips of actual lessons and authentic, meaningful, and important learning opportunities in Julene’s school.

drocher.jpgDr. Andre Derocher, who does great work on the tundra shared some alarming facts about the polar bears. The polar population of Hudson Bay has declined over 20% in the last ten years. The ice is taking longer to form, lasts a shorter time than it used to, and is smaller. Since the polar bears cannot get to their food as early nor for as long, they are forced to go without food for a longer time. This has led to a reduction in reproduction rates, smaller cubs, and poorer cub survival rates.The polar bears exist on the fat of seals. The require the seals to live through the summer.Changes being seen due to the lengthening of the summer are: cannibalism, moving into population areas, drowning, increased range of bears, bears further out on ice,and  fewer seals far away from shore.

Polar Ice Cap

This dramatic change on the polar ice cap from 1978 – 2007 is demonstrated by this video.

Julene acknowledged that climate change has its share of controversies. Regardless, we should all be good stewards of our planet and environment. Green technologies can help our economy develop new jobs, can reduce dependence on outside energy resources, and can help our national security. The arctic is the earth’s early warning system. Changes happen first there. We cannot ignore the changes happening.

Polar bears and their habitat are affected by climate change, as are many other species and environments around the world. Through Challenge Based Learning, students can become actively involved in authentic, scientific studies, creatively design solutions, and take action to make a difference both locally and globally.

KilimanjaroAnother video showcased the tragedy of Mount Kilimanjaro. There is no water in the area except the snow and ice melt. As the planet has warmed, the snow and ice of Mount Kilimanjaro has diminished. Leading scientists predict that in as little as a few decades the famous snows and ice will be gone from Mount Kilimanjaro.

What can YOU and your students do? How can you make a difference? Julene assures us andour students that one person can indeed make a difference. Action does not need to be on a global or even national level. Start small, start locally. Involve your students and make them aware of what is going on in your community. Plant tress, label storm drains, use less plastic. Have your students share their learning through posters, fliers, PSAs. Calculate your school’s carbon footprint. Local actions DO make a difference and many one persons together will have an impact.

To learn more search for “climate change” or “polar bears” in Discovery Media. thinkgreen.discoveryeducation.com has nice environmental resources collated.

Finally a perfect example of how one person can make a difference.

Jane Goodall  Jane Goodall speaks to “the tremendous enthusiasm and energy of young people once they know what the problems are and are empowered to act.” Teach your students that they are important and that they can make real change.


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