I am a primary teacher and every year for the past five years I have taught my class a unit of work on Antarctica. In the NSW syllabus the study of Antarctica is part of the Human Society and Its Environment syllabus for Stage 3. The NSW Syllabus documents provide guidelines and expectations on what the students will learn, starting with this:

Current Issues: Antarctica
This unit provides opportunities for students to explore issues and decision-making involved in human interaction with a significant world environment, the Antarctic. The unit focuses on how beliefs about human interaction have changed over time and differ from person to person, depending on their perspective and interest in the area.

Not surprisingly there are many excellent websites, lots of fabulous books, hundreds of worksheets and many units of work to guide one when teaching the topic of Antarctica. Over the past five years I have developed my own inquiry based program, using a matrix of activities created using Bloom’s taxonomy and Gardener’s theories of multiple intelligence. I am the kind of teacher who is never satisfied that a unit is perfect and so every year I have made modifications and adjustments to my Antarctic unit, tweaking and improving it, mostly to increase the students use of technology within it but also to add IWB activities or lessons.

The story I want to share with you today is how this year not surprisingly, I used Twitter to assist me in this. Earlier this term I sent out a tweet that went something like this “I want my Antarctic unit to include more inquiry questions, can anyone help?” Almost immediately @audreynay sent me link to a complete inquiry based unit. If I had been a new teacher or someone who had not taught Antarctica before, or a teacher from an isolated school without support and guidance I would have been set for the term. This unit was fabulous. As it was, I read it carefully, reflected on my current unit, cherry picked a couple of ideas from it and used those to further improve my own work. Just perfect, I was set for the unit.

Last week I sent out two more tweets “Year 5 class seeking Antarctic scientist to skype with” and “seeking stage 3 class to collaborate on Antarctic Tourism voicethread”. To the first tweet I had two responses, unfortunately I cannot now find who they were from but I am eternally grateful, as I followed up their leads and by Monday afternoon I was in email communication with Nick, a scientist wintering at the Australian Davis Station in Antarctica. Communication and assistance from my IT department followed and we were set. So to top our final week of term two, on Friday afternoon my class enjoyed an amazing chat with not one but three Antarctic scientists. Skype does not work in Antarctica, so we had to make do with a land line and a speaker phone with some of his photos displayed on our IWB screen. Nick and his colleagues a physicist and geologist listened patiently and answered questions ranging from ‘what inspired you to become a scientist and go to work in Antarctica’ to ‘what do you eat’. Nick and his colleagues were interesting, informative and above all real. It was brilliant. The students listened intently, they were focussed and engaged throughout

Next term my students have to complete an individual task which they will choose from a variety of options. These include such things as creating a brochure, to advertise Antarctica. Or writing producing and directing a skit retelling Shakleton’s journey. Those who choose to create a podcast describing a day in the life of an Antarctic scientist will, I believe, have a head start over the others. They will be able to draw on our soon to be created podcast from Nick in Antarctica. They will be able to describe not only the science involved but a daily life devoid of trees and greenery. Where the only winter daylight is two hours of twilight. Where the temperature is -20 degrees on a good day. Of a life eating only frozen vegetables and a small amount of home grown salad. Yet one which they described as the most amazing experience of their lives, surrounded by scenery and animals that would take ones breath away and worth every deprivation and hardship.

Now all I need to do is find a school that wants to collaborate on my semi completed voicethread and I will have had complete success with my tweets. Are you learning about Antarctica in your class this year? Will your students consider the question of tourism in Antarctica? If so let me know and we can continue this learning together.

Photographs: Nick Roden

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  1. Awesome work! I remember the excitement way back in the dark ages of 1995 when my class emailed a school in Turkey as part of the CWA Country Study program. Oh, we were cutting edge back then. We printed out the emails to share with the Country Ladies. lol

    Congratulations on making the most of our connected world. 🙂

  2. I can’t help with the class, but I remember seeing something your kids might like. At the British Library, there is a virtual book section. You can see Captain Scott’s actual diary from the 1911 expedition. You can listen to an actor reading it aloud too – luckily because the handwriting is a bit tricky. I know it’s not tourism, but it WAS human interaction, and I think it’s really (ahem) cool!

  3. What great resources. The inquiry based unit sounds like great fun. I think your kids will be very enthusiastic. Many years ago the Billings Gazette sponsored a photography show from pictures taken in Antarctica. They were breathtaking. I wonder if American Memory from Library of Congress would have any photos of Antarctica and information about early exploration?

  4. This is absolutely incredible! I am in awe over stories of learning like this one. The learning happened on multiple levels, not just for your students, but it was a learning opportunity for you. An opportunity from you to learn from other teachers and collaborate with scientists. Amazing! Can I share this post on

  5. of course you can share it Kelly, thanks for your support

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  9. Dear Henrietta

    I love your blog and your commitment to using ICTs for learning. I’m currently studying a Graduate Diploma in Learning & Teaching at Central Queensland University and hope to be a maths or computing teacher next year in secondary.

    For one of my assignments I’m preparing a report on ICTs for Learning in the Senior School and have referenced this post – I hope that’s ok? I was also wondering if I could use one of the antarctica images of Nick’s for the presentation I’m putting together?

    Kind regards

  10. M.J

    I hope you can help me…. Last week I started in a new position in a low socio economic area in western Sydney. One of my jobs in this role is to promote higher order thinking skills. Antarctica is a focus for this term, the unit that you described is exactly what I have been looking for. I am keen to try and contact Nick as I have read about him on other websites… How you I begin to go about that? Any support or advice would be great.

  11. Hi Monique, I am happy to send you my unit and I will do so via your email address. I found Nick by chance and I will also send you him his email address but I am unsure if he is still in Antarctica.

  12. Jeanette Wilkins

    Hi Henrietta I loved your blog. I found it while searching for some new and exciting ways to do an inquiry unit on Antarctica. I also have a student teacher this term and want to share a great learning journey with her. I would love to look at your unit and will try tweeting for a scientist in Antarctica.

  13. henriettami

    Thank you Jeanette, for your kind comment. If you also search for http:// and search in that for Antarctica you will find a recording of our Antarctic phone call. I will also see if I can find the unit and email it to you.