Science

Bring Antarctica to Your (Home) School

Explore the Southern Ocean with your kids—these fun and engaging STEM-oriented lesson plans discuss the incredible aspects of the Antarctic ecosystem and how it affects the rest of the planet. Download for free!

By
Saildrone
,
on
March 19, 2020

In this unprecedented time, many parents, including those at Saildrone, are now finding themselves not only working from home, but also with a new side gig: Teacher. Saildrone is proud to share a series of fun and engaging educational tools inspired by our autonomous vehicles and developed to bring the mysteries of Antarctica to students around the world.

The Antarctic ecosystem, part of the Southern Ocean, is one of the most productive and diverse on the planet and plays an essential role in balancing the global climate. In 2019, a saildrone known as SD 1020 became the first autonomous vehicle to circumnavigate Antarctica—a voyage of more than 22,000 km (13,670 miles)! 

Frequent, fast-moving storms, frigid water temperatures, and massive breaking waves make crewed scientific research challenging in the Southern Ocean. Saildrones are equipped with state-of-the-art science sensors that collect important data about the ocean, atmosphere, and ecosystem. The data the saildrones collected in the Southern Ocean will help scientists study the Antarctic ecosystem and how changes there can impact oceans around the world.

Saildrone selfie southern ocean
This “saildrone selfie” taken by SD 1020 during the 2019 Antarctic Circumnavigation shows how challenging conditions in the Southern Ocean can be. 

Below is an overview of three modules developed as part of the Antarctic mission and a link to access the individual lesson plans. Each lesson includes a class presentation, activities, and printable visual aids. Teaching notes are also included to help guide teachers—and parents!—through each lesson. All materials are free—no registration required!

Have your kids or class completed these lessons? We’d love to see their projects! Send pictures in a Facebook message or tags us @saildrone on Twitter or Instagram so that we can retweet/share to Stories!

Module 1: Antarctic krill

Antarctic krill is a small, shrimp-like crustacean and the foundation of the Antarctic food chain. But krill are increasingly under pressure from commercial fishing and a reduction in sea ice due to melting, which could have global effects.

This unit consists of an introductory video and three lessons designed to develop core knowledge about how ecosystems work and the importance of predator and prey relationships.

Read: What We Can Learn from Studying Antarctic Krill

Watch the video and download Module 1 lesson plans

Module 2: Ocean acidification

Oceans are thought to absorb about 30% of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere, but once the CO2 is absorbed, it reacts with the water and creates carbonic acid. Ocean acidification affects the water chemistry, which has effects on marine species large and small, from phytoplankton, coral, and krill to fish, seals, and whales.

This unit consists of an introductory video and five lessons discussing the carbon cycle, global warming, pH and how carbon dioxide increases ocean acidification, and how to reduce the human carbon footprint.

Read: Why It Matters: Carbon Uptake and the Southern Ocean

Watch the video and download Module 2 lesson plans

Module 3: Penguins and statistics

While many species of penguin are threatened or endangered, there is a healthy population of chinstrap penguins in the Antarctic region. These tuxedo-clad seabirds feed on krill, squid, and small fish, and by studying their behavior, scientists can gain insight into changes occurring in the Antarctic ecosystem as a whole.

This unit consists of an introductory video and three lessons designed to help students learn how to plan a scientific investigation and how to handle, analyze, and present data effectively and accurately.

Read: What Chinstrap Penguins Tell Us About the Health of the Antarctic Ecosystem 

Watch the video and download Module 3 lesson plans

Saildrone partnered with the 1851 Trust, a UK-based education charity, to develop these lessons rooted in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Learn more about the 2019 Saildrone Antarctic Circumnavigation: Follow the mission track on the 3D globe and find more science-focused blog posts inspired by the Antarctic mission at saildrone.com/missions/antarctica.


Main photo: An orca swims off the coast of Antarctica.