Polar Bears in the Classroom
This article was originally published in the Winter 2018 Wild Times Newsletter.
Close your eyes and imagine how cool it would be to spend an entire week of school at the zoo. All sorts of incredible and unexpected adventures would make that an unforgettable experience. Now, just imagine the thrill of seeing wild polar bears in your classroom, and the chance to meet a real polar bear scientist!
This is one of the special experiences that the Velma E. Baker School Grade 3 class enjoyed at the Edmonton Valley Zoo! The class participated in the zoo’s first ever, live Tundra Connections Webcast from Churchill, Manitoba – the polar bear capital of the world – an amazing initiative of Polar Bears International (PBI).
Students were able to watch wild polar bears roam the snow-covered tundra while asking Alysa McCall, a staff scientist with Polar Bears International, all their burning polar bear questions:
Photo Credit: Wild Times Magazine, Winter 2018 Issue
Each year, once the sea ice melts, the bears of Western Hudson Bay spend the summer on land. Then, come October and November, the bears begin to congregate on the shore as they wait for the ice to return. PBI sets up a mobile learning lab on the tundra called Buggy One – a giant, monster truck-like vehicle that keeps them safe while watching and studying the polar bears.
On the day of the Tundra Connection Webcast, three polar bears were in the vicinity. What a thrill for these Grade 3 students to watch the bears prowl across the snow as the Arctic winds blew, while talking to the on-site scientist.
Though the Edmonton Valley Zoo does not house polar bears, it has been recognized as an Arctic Ambassador Centre (AAC) for Polar Bears International for many years. Arctic Ambassador Centres are endorsed by leading polar bear scientists, the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for actively engaging in saving polar bear habitat through greenhouse gas reductions within their organizations and their communities.
As an AAC, the Edmonton Valley Zoo works together with PBI to inform, inspire, and empower others to take immediate steps to reduce carbon dioxide for the conservation of polar bear habitat and other species impacted by a warming world.
Zoo School is a unique, immersive learning opportunity that gives teachers the opportunity to use the zoo as their classroom for a whole week! Hands-on animal encounters, behind the scenes tours, guest speakers and special presentations, such as the polar bear webcast, are offered. Students journal, observe, sketch, hear, sniff, touch and ask a flood of questions all week long. Every day promises new experiences and new discoveries!
For more information on Zoo School and our partnership with Polar Bears International please visit valleyzoo.ca