Third Graders Simulate Polar Bear Conundrum

Third Graders in Tracy Visceglia’s class at Ward School recently participated in a multi-day transdisciplinary STEAM experience surrounding the investigation of polar bears and their changing habitats. 

Working with Instructional Technology Facilitator Jeannine Shields, the students participated in an archived virtual field trip from Discovery Education, hearing from scientists working with Polar Bears International in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. Students observed footage and photos of polar bears, noticing which behaviors help them survive in their habitats, and responding to the scientists’ questions about myths and facts. 

Mrs. Visceglia also shared travel photos and videos from her husband’s visit a year before to this polar bear region. 

Students tracked their thinking digitally, distinguishing their predictions and revising their thinking after hearing from the experts. 

In an exercise to illustrate shrinking polar bear habitat, the students placed themselves in the role of a polar bear standing on sea ice. Using a room immersion, with tablecloths representing water and white paper representing sea ice, students were able to model polar bear behaviors. They attempted to reach for pictures of seals, a main source of food for polar bears. As the sea ice shrunk, the ability to capture seals became more difficult. This helped students understand the predicament of polar bears in their changing environment.