Magic School Bus Meets the Arctic – Science Lessons for Elementary Students

A polar bear hunting for food

Did you know:
The best way to stop snow from giving you cold feet is to make sure you don’t go around brrr-footed.

Is that chilly pun a good way to break the ice?

Now that our comedy is getting warmed up, let’s wrap ourselves up into learning today with this lesson on the Arctic, heat loss, and how to stay warm. Grab your hot cocoa, keep it insulated, and don’t get too close to any polar bears.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, as I may receive a small payment for things you purchase from Amazon. Feel free to get the books from wherever you feel comfortable, free like a public amazing library, used like Betterworldbooks, and then do click on this sponsored link before purchasing your life things like snow shovels, snowmobiles, cups of hot chocolate, magic school buses, or books on Amazon.

Below are discussion questions ready for an Arctic Unit Study or a Heat Unit Study. These questions are based around the amazing book, “The Magic School Bus In the Arctic: A Book About Heat“, by author Joanna Cole, part of the Magic School Bus book series. Every question listed below in the discussion can be answered by this detailed, accessible book!

The discussion included below is designed that an elementary student can follow along and answer this non-fiction text by themselves, or young students in preschool and elementary can answer questions orally after hearing each page read aloud to them.

I really recommend checking this book out from the library or buying a copy if you want to follow along.

Click here if you want to jump ahead to videos of Arctic animals and heat conservation.

Discussion Questions:

What is special about the Arctic?

How cold is the water?

Why would a lizard not do well in the Arctic?

Are humans warm-blooded or cold-blooded?

How cold can it get in the Arctic?

Heat moves from hot to cold. What are the hottest things inside a school bus in the Arctic?

Does heat from a fire move up, or move down?

What is a cracked piece of floating sea ice called?

Is it spelled flow, or floe?

What is insulation?

When you go outside in winter time, what do you use for insulation?

If you had a warm cup of coffee or hot chocolate, what would you do for insulation of the cup?

Would you put it in a fridge, leave it out, put it in a thermos, give it layers, set it near something warm?

What colors are the bears you will find in the Arctic?

Why is this good camouflage? What is in their environment that makes this a useful color choice?

What does a polar bear’s fur do for it, in keeping heat?

What is blubber?

If polar bears use a fur blanket to stay warm, what do walruses use to stay warm in Arctic waters?

If someone went swimming in cold water (don’t try that at home!), what could they do to stay warm?

If you make heat inside, how can it escape outside?

Why are igloos built?

How can we keep our drinks warm without them getting cold?

What are wet suits?

Connection Questions: [after finishing the text]

What adaptations do animals have to keep them warm in the winter? Name 3. (Humans count!)

Resourcefulness: In the things and objects around you, what would make a good coat? What would provide a lot of heat insulation? What would provide very little insulation at all?

That’s such a vivid introduction lesson to heat sources, insulation, plus the visits by polar bears and walruses!

These discussion questions do not have to be written down by the student. They can be asked and answered entirely orally. They can be used as trivia questions. They can be a jumping off place for researching more. They might want to be asked over several read-throughs, so that the first reading lets the student make a first impression – seeing that the Arctic is a cold place – and then later readthroughs have the student identifying that heat travels from hot to cold, explaining the definition of insulation, and recognizing insulation materials in their own environment.

Again, all answers for this discussion book can be found in “The Magic School Bus in the Arctic: A Book About Heat” by Joanna Cole, distributed by Scholastic. It is a great resource about insulation and heat conservation for young readers – the example of them being in the Arctic really makes you think about why keeping heat nearby is important in our own winter homes..

This would go great with an Arctic unit study.

The Magic School Bus In The Arctic: A Book About Heat, by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen

Best Arctic and Heating Videos for Elementary Students

Intro to the Arctic

This 3 minute video designed with a preschooler in mind discusses the Arctic, tundra, walruses, beluga whales, harp seals, blubber, Arctic foxes, snowy owls, arctic hares, and polar bears.

Small Animals of the Arctic

This National Geographic Episode dicusses small animals in the Arctic, the Arctic foxes. The foxes appear in minute 3. They hunt lemmings, jumping high in the air to catch a lemming. When they’ve hunted in warm weather, while the ice is warm, they then store their catch for the winter. At minute 5:30, you can see an Arctic hare, who runs away going over 30 miles per hour. At 7:30, Arctic birds are present – the willow ptarmigan and the snow bunting, both hunting in below freezing temperatures. The clip ends with an aurora borealis, a beautiful Arctic sky with northern lights.

Polar Bears

This episode of The Big Freeze covers baby polar bears, the polar bear hibernation and then trek for food, how polar bears achieve heat conservation through building a snow den, and shows polar bear fur close up. Polars bears have to grow up to self-sufficiency in just 2.5 years! They are born small, the size of a squirrel.

Harp Seals

This video goes through the birth of harp seals, which spend only 10 days with their mothers before they’re released to live by themselves. There is a newborn fresh little baby harp seal in this video.

Arctic wolves, Polar Bears, and Moose

This episode of The Big Freeze shows the behavior of a pack of wolves in the Arctic, including when three wolves come as a pack to confront a polar bear.

How Humans Stay Warm In the Arctic: Homes of Snow

This video does an excellent demonstration of heat rising, of air as an insulator, and discusses the type of snow that is perfect for making an igloo – lightly dense, fresh fallen snow. Building an igloo can make the inside temperature 40 degrees F warmer inside the igloo than outside. Also in the video is explanation of animal adaptations (like beaver fur) and a showing of other animals who make their own ‘igloos’ – many Arctic animals survive using snow burrows.

Heat Energy

Throwback Bill Nye the Science Guy clip discussing how heat is in everything, including ice and snow.

Wet Suits

This video answers the question: “How Do Wetsuits Keep You Warm?”, discussing kinetic energy and energy transfer.

Wet Suits

This video answers the question: “How Do Wetsuits Keep You Warm?”, discussing kinetic energy and energy transfer.

If you made it this far, thank you for spending this time with me learning about the Arctic, one of the coldest places on Earth. Don’t forget to join us on more science adventures by subscribing with your email address.

Final Question

What is your favorite way of staying warm? Let me know in the comments, or send me an email. Well, now it’s time to close those windows, keep the door shut, and go make myself a nice hot chocolate. Until time freezes, see you soon.

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