Antarctica as an Educational
Antarctica is a continent of superlatives and of contrasts. It is, for example, the coldest and the driest and the windiest and the highest continent on earth. Yet it still supports a range of organisms that extends from microbes and plants to animals. How the extreme physical conditions evolved and how organisms are adapted to cope with them provides an abundance of resource material for the science prescription. To this may be added some unique aspects of Antarctic history and various socio-political elements which reflect on broader issues, thus integrating, in Medawar’s terms, the art of the soluble with the art of the possible.
As an educational resource, Antarctica is extremely broad in scope with the potential to contribute to a number of study areas. The focus of this webpage and thus the majority of the examples used, however, will centre on Antarctica as a resource for biology and in particular on the various adaptations organisms living in Antarctica have evolved to meet the unique conditions.
Map of Antarctica
Much can be made of these unique aspects of Antarctica. Who can fail but
be aroused by the extraordinary physical endeavours of Douglas Mawson,
for example, when he writes, having already buried his two sledging companions:
"On taking off the third and inner pair of socks the sight of my feet
gave me quite a shock, for the thickened skin of the soles had separated
in each case as a complete layer, and abundant watery fluid had escaped
saturating the sock.........(T)here was nothing to be done but make the
best of it.........and with bandages (I) bound the old skin casts back
in place......Then on I went, treading rather like a cat on wet ground
endeavouring to save my feet from pain." (Mawson, 1915).
It might be added, as a casual aside, that this was on 11 January 1913. Mawson was finally to walk into his base camp nearly four weeks later, having suffered and yet survived some of the most extreme conditions on this planet.
The prime aim of this web page is to provide a focus for teachers interested in using Antarctica as an educational resource. It represents an assemblage of primary and secondary source material from both the written and the electronic media, both of which should be accessed for further information.
As an educational resource, Antarctica is extremely broad in scope with the potential to contribute to a number of study areas (Table 1). Each of these different study areas will be used as an example of how resource material relating to Antarctica can be applied to advantage across different aspects of the educational spectrum. The focus of the web page and thus the majority of examples, however, will centre on Antarctica as a resource for biology.