Drifting North: Polar Planetarium Field Trip Experience

Drifting North: Polar Planetarium Field Trip Experience

In this MS/HS unit, students will be transported to the Arctic on MOSAiC, The Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Arctic Climate, to experience what it's like being out on the ice. 

Context for Use

The Drifting North Polar Planetarium is a polar science unit in which students will explore what it was like to participate in the MOSAiC expedition to the North Pole. The unit is developed around a field trip to the planetarium to see either of The Drifting North films, Into the Polar Night, and The Arctic Pulse. The unit includes three pre-field trip activities, five activities to do at the planetarium, and three post-field trip activities.

Find the experience overview including a summary of the activities and a road map for planning here.

Register here to attend a field trip at Fiske

Polar bears

Polar bears in the Arctic. Taken by Lianna Nixon from the MOSAiC Polarstern ship. 

Goals Header
What Students Will Do

Explore what it was like to be on the MOSAiC expedition through a field trip to the planetarium paired with pre-field trip and post-field trip curriculum developed for middle- and high-school students

Teaching Materials

Drifting North MOSAiC Planetarium Experience - Unit Resources
Drifting North MOSAiC Planetarium Experience Overview: Teacher Guide
Pre Field Trip Drifting North Teacher Guides & Student Worksheets
Field Trip Activities at the Planetarium
Post Drifting North Field Trip Activities


Pre-Field Trip Activities

About MOSAiC Explore the who, what, why, when, where and how of the MOSAiC Expedition through an immersive hunt as students use prompts to understand the MOSAiC Expedition, dig into arctic science, and even visit the Virtual Reality sites of the MOSAiC ice floe.

Seasons in the Arctic Why does the Earth have seasons and what do these seasons look like in the Arctic? This activity has students think about the relationship between seasons and light they locally experience in their lives and use daylight calculators to look at seasons and light around the world. It will engage students to think about Polar Night and Polar Day, the complete disappearance and presence of the sun during the winter and summer months in our polar regions.

Sea Ice, The Character - Hands-on activity that explores sea ice formations in the Arctic. By freezing freshwater and saltwater ice blocks, students are able to compare and contrast the two different structures and understand what makes sea ice so unique in the Arctic.

The Films

More than two dozen scientists, engineers, educators, and others from the University of Colorado Boulder and NOAA joined scientists from 16 other nations for the international MOSAiC mission starting this fall: the Multidisciplinary Drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate.

MOSAiC is an unprecedented international research expedition to study the physical, chemical, and biological processes that couple the Arctic atmosphere, sea ice, ocean, and ecosystem. The German icebreaker Polarstern will begin MOSAiC’s journey in Tromsö, Norway, sailing north of the Northern Lights and parking against a block of sea ice. The Polarstern will drift with the ice for 13 full months, much like the ship of Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen 125 years ago.

The Arctic Pulse by Lianna Nixon

Follow an international team of scientists from over twenty countries who embark on an epic year-long expedition to the Central Arctic, MOSAiC. The Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) team froze the German Icebreaker R/V Polarstern into the sea ice for a year. For a year, the team drifts with an ice floe and strives to understand the Arctic climate system and its future. 

Into the Polar Night by Amy Richman

Step out onto an ice floe in the middle of the Arctic Ocean to watch and listen as scientists race the fading light to set up one of the most ambitious international climate collaborations ever, MOSAiC. The Multidisciplinary Drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate launched in September 2019. Led by the German Alfred Wegener Institute, the mission froze an icebreaker into the Central Arctic Ocean, to better understand the remote region and the role it plays in global climate and weather patterns.

Field Trip Activities at the Planetarium

Constellations During the Polar Night - Let planetarium staff walk you through the night sky in the Arctic. Can you imagine living in the dark for months at a time? 

Ice Water Challenge - Do you have what it takes to work in the Arctic? See what it's like to work with delicate equipment in the cold by putting their hands in ice water and then trying to tie knots. This activity is used in Polar Safety training around the world. 

Warm-Up Station - What kind of gear is needed in the Arctic? Try on boots and coats from past expeditions.

Polargram Photoshoot- What do you look like next to a polar bear? Pose in the Arctic with our green screen. This can be paired with the warm-up station. Share on social media! 

Build a MOSAiC - Can you find your way around the ice floe? Build a map of the research site with your class. 

Post-Field Trip Activities

Letters to the Arctic - A collaboration between filmmaker Lianna Nixon, this activity gets students to put themselves in the shoes of a scientist while considering things in a very different way than we usually portray scientists doing. The film and multimedia project Letters To The Arctic asked scientists to do a task that required them to wear more than just their scientist hats and asked them to be a bit vulnerable and get personal. Students are prompted to reflect on this in some way - stretch their minds about what it means to be a scientist working in a fragile and changing environment.

Reflection QuestionnaireEngages with students to reflect on what they learned from the films and why it is important to create and share stories about the Arctic and climate science.


Additional Resources

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