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Antarctic Explorers - Social Studies/Geography for grades 3-5

The purpose of this activity is to acquaint students with the history of Antarctica.

Learning Objectives: Students will synthesize information from a variety of sources. Students will be able to interpret facts and express meaning through writing activities.

1. Read an excerpt from a letter written by explorer Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier regarding written in 1739.
    "I am sorry to inform you that the Terres Australes are much further from the Pole than hitherto believed, and completely unsuitable as a staging post for vessels en route to the Indies. We have sailed 1200-1500 leagues (3600-4500 miles) in unknown waters, and for seventy days encountered almost continuous fog. We were forty days among the icebergs and we had hail and snow almost every day. The cold was severe for men accustomed to a warmer climate. They were badly clothed and had no means of drying their bedding. Many suffered from chilblains but they had to keep working. I saw sailors crying with cold as they hauled in the sounding line. To alleviate the men's discomfort I distributed blankets, hats, shoes, old clothes...and I opened two kegs of brandy to issue to the crew. The dangers were as great as the discomforts. For more than two months we had been in uncharted waters. We had very little daylight and there were few times when we weren't encountering some kind or risk...It was not the officers and crew who failed in their mission, but rather the mission that failed them".

    More information on Jean-Baptiste: www.south-pole.com/p0000067.htm

2. Involve students in a class discussion about traveling to Antarctica in the in the 1700s.
  •  Why do you think people went on this expedition?
  •  Were there women members of the expedition?
  •  Would you have gone on this expedition if you were living during this time period?
  •  How different was travel during the 18th century compared to current day travel to Antarctica?
  •  Would you travel to Antarctica tomorrow if you were given the opportunity?

3. Divide the class into small groups. Tell students that they are going to listen to accounts of expeditions, imagine that they were one of the people on the expedition and write a letter home detailing their experience. Read a different account to each group an ask the students to write down important information in their learning logs.

Teacher Note: Visit these sites and select a different expedition for each group of students. You may choose to print copies of the accounts of the expedition: www.spri.cam.ac.uk/resources/expeditions or www.south-pole.com On the south-pole site, elect "The Explorers" from the "History" pull down menu.

4. Tell students to imagine that they are on the expedition and write a letter about their experience. Have group members exchange letters with members from another group. Continue doing this until every student has read a letter from each group. Ask students to include the following in their letters:
  •  Date
  •  Purpose for the expedition
  •  Their location
  •  Details of the expedition
  •  Thoughts and/or feelings about the expedition

5. Ask students to imagine that they have been given an opportunity to go on a space trip to an unexplored galaxy. Ask them to spend a few minutes writing about whether or not they will go and an explanation for their decision in their learning logs.

Learning Log Entries: Students should write their letters about an expedition, thoughts about space exploration, and any important details about the expeditions in their learning logs.