Global warming causes the average temperatures in the world to increase. Around the North Pole, the cold season is becoming shorter, the sea ice melts earlier and the time during which polar bears can hunt for food diminishes every year. This threat may seem remote and difficult to explain to children growing up in more temperate regions of the world. How can you make this situation more concrete and easier to understand? Here is what I propose. If you do this project in the winter and it is cold enough where you live, fill a plastic tub or storage box with snow. Pack the snow tightly. If it’s not cold enough outside, fill a plastic container with water and put it in the freezer until the water is frozen solid. In that case, you’ll probably have to use a container that is smaller than mine. Bring the frozen container into a warm room and put plastic polar bear figurines on the ice.
If you don’t have any polar bear figurines, you could make your own from play dough or paper. Now, let the children observe what happens. If you want to apply a more scientific method, start by asking the children to formulate hypotheses: “What do you think will happen?”, “How long is it going to take?”, etc. Then, at regular intervals, let them observe what happens and let them measure the thickness of the ice. Polar bears mainly feed on seals, which they hunt from the edge of sea ice. With temperatures rising over the years, the ice floes shrink and the time during which polar bears can hunt for food diminishes as well. As a result of these two effects, the survival of polar bears is threatened and in the long run, the species could disappear altogether. This reality is represented in a very concrete (and simplified) way by the melting of the ice in the plastic container of our experiment. Sometimes, dramatic images like this one are needed to inspire to action.
If you do this experiment, share the kids’ comments on the Animaplates website!.