A Family-Style Arctic Unit Study of STEAM lessons for Homeschooling Families
Dive into these hands-on and real-life Arctic Unit Study STEAM activities and lessons for the Arctic region to learn more about Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, & Math!
In this Arctic Unit Study: STEAM, your kids will learn how igloos are built and how they work to keep people warm; discover Inuit art and the Northern Lights; what catenary shapes are; and much more!
These family-style Arctic unit study STEAM lessons have 3 main levels of difficulty to help you meet your child at the level they are currently working, instead of some arbitrary grade level.
The Early Learners lessons are generally for learners working at a Preschool, Kindergarten, or 1st & 2nd-grade level.
The Upper Elementary lessons are generally for learners working at 3rd to 5th-grade levels.
The Middle to High School lessons are generally for learners working at 6th to 12-grade levels.
Feel free to mix and match with the lessons and activities for the three different levels to find activities that best suit your children and their individual learning styles.
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Arctic Unit Study STEAM
Science for Early Learners
Read Gail Gibbon’s book, Polar Bears. Use the Arctic v. Antarctic Science Sorting worksheet from the Free Resource Library to show what you’ve learned.
Learn all about polar bears in this video from Free School.
Complete a polar bear life cycle activity from Simple Living, Creative Learning.
Learn about all of the animals in this book that is written in the style of The House that Jack Built, In Arctic Waters by Laura Crawford, and illustrated by Ben Hodson.
Science for Upper Elementary Learners
Learn all about polar bears in this video from Socratica Kids. (Note: this video does mention climate change beginning at the 7-minute mark.)
Watch these polar animals via webcams in this post from Science is for Kids.
How Igloos Keep You Warm
Learn how igloos keep people warm. (hint, it’s due to convection, conduction, and radiation)
Watch this video from It’s Okay to be Smart for 4th grade and up and how this transfer of heat keeps you warm inside an igloo.
For younger kids, try this quick video from AumSum that explains the process in much simpler terms.
Living in the Arctic
Many communities in the Arctic are not connected to other communities by roads. Have your student research what methods of transportation are commonly used by the people living above the Arctic Circle.
Then have them find out what some of the challenges are that living in frigid temperatures causes.
For example, diesel engines don’t run well in the cold. What do people do to combat this issue? Do regular airplanes fly without any alterations? What about marine travel? Do ships get stuck in the ice?
Build your own igloo.
Did you know that igloos are not really half-circle domes like in cartoon drawings?
They are actually a catenary shape–just like the St. Louis Gateway to the West Arch. It’s one of the most stable shapes in nature! Learn more about the Gateway Arch and how it’s constructed in this interesting video from Best History Biographies and Documentaries. The video also contains a brief background history of the City of St. Louis and the role it played in the nation’s westward expansion. To learn more about that, check out our Lewis & Clark Unit Study.
Learn how Igloos traditionally slope the initial layer of blocks to create a spiral so that the sides don’t cave in with this video from OverThe Hill Outdoors
This authentic How to Build a Real Igloo video from the 1950s was filmed by the National Film Board of Canada. It shows Native Americans building an igloo using the techniques handed down over the generations. You may want to talk with your kids about how some of the narrator’s words can seem a bit condescending towards the Native Americans at times; it’s a good opportunity to discuss how people’s attitudes towards others have changed for the better. At any rate, it’s a worthwhile video to see the traditional methods used.
Now that you know HOW to build an igloo, let’s see how you do at building one of your own.
Younger kids can try their hand at making an igloo from marshmallows and toothpicks.
Older kids may want to explore geodesic designs before they start their marshmallow and toothpick igloo, to aid in the structure.
You can even make an igloo from sugar cubes and egg whites using these instructions from eHow.
Your kids can even learn how to build an igloo in Minecraft with this instructional video from Folli.
If you live where there is plenty of snow, older kids can try making their own igloo as shown in the Exploring Alternative video above.
Germaine Arnaktauyok is an Inuit artist who specializes in printmaking, drawings, and paintings. She was born in Igloolik, then a part of the Northwest Territories, Canada in 1946. Ms. Arnaktauyok now lives in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. She has had great success illustrating children’s books, both in English and Inuktitut.
The painting, The Power of Tunniq, seen above is an illustration of how incredibly strong the Dorset people were (they inhabited the area before the Inuits). Arnaktauyok also designed a coin in 1999 that commemorated the founding of the territory of Nunavut for the Royal Canadian Mint. You can find examples of her work at the bottom of this post from Katilvik.com.
Photographers go to great lengths to set up and hopefully capture one of the most amazing natural phenomenons on Earth, the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. You can see several examples of the Aurora Borealis here at Traveldigg.com.
For your older kids who are fans of Bob Ross, watch Bob paint the Northern Lights with oil in this episode from Season 8.
Then, let them paint their own Northern Lights with acrylic paint using the Step by Step Painting instructions.
Younger kids can create their own painting of the Northern Lights, with these instructions from Projects with Kids, which uses salt and watercolors.
The Arctic peoples had very few natural resources to use in their daily lives, so they came up with ingenious ways to use what they did have with zero waste.
Their art was often a walrus tusk carved into the shape of an Arctic animal. If your children are old enough, let them try their hand at carving.
For younger kids, let them use a butter knife and a bar of soap. (Ivory works well for this.) Slightly older kids can try using carving tools made for working with soap like this one.
Older kids can use cut-resistant gloves while they carve balsam wood with this carving kit.
If you don’t have a geoboard, you can easily make one with a square piece of wood and 36 screws or nails.