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Last Updated: Friday, 7 March 2008, 19:45 GMT
From white continent to the blackboard
By Martin Redfern
BBC Science producer, HMS Endurance off the Antarctic Peninsula

Helicopter dropping supplies in Antarctica (Image: Martin Redfern)
Scientists in Antarctica will share their knowledge with pupils

Science lessons in UK primary schools will be taking an Antarctic flavour during National Science and Engineering Week (7- 16 March).

The Royal Navy's ice patrol vessel, HMS Endurance, and the University of Portsmouth have joined forces under the patronage of round-the-world yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur to provide a series of Internet-based worksheets for teachers and pupils.

Dame Ellen, who visited Antarctica several years ago, told BBC News: "It is a wonderful, wild, unique place, so full of nature and history.

"Spending time on Albatross Island was magical and I felt hugely privileged to spend some time with these magnificent birds. I could not believe how beautiful they are. I really had the impression we were in their world."

Under threat

About 10,000 albatrosses are killed each year when they try to take bait from long fishing lines but get hooked themselves and drown.

"It really made me aware that we need to work hard to save these graceful and incredible birds by raising awareness of the dangers of long-line fishing," said Dame Ellen.

Black-browed albatross (Image: Grahame Madge/Save the Albatross)
Pupils will also learn about the threats facing albatrosses

"The current trend will lead to extinction, so we need to give these birds the best chance we can."

The plight of the albatross features strongly among the series of lesson plans that can be downloaded from the Internet.

Pupils are being encouraged to create their own "save the albatross" campaign, as well as studying the principles of flight by making a model albatross.

They can also practice an albatross dance while studying the lifecycle of these great birds.

The lesson plans are designed for 7-11-year-olds and cover a wide range of science topics that draw their inspiration from Antarctica.

Speaking onboard HMS Endurance, Captain Bob Tarrant commented: "We are looking forward to supporting National Science Week with the University of Portsmouth and Dame Ellen MacArthur.

"Our combined knowledge will really bring Antarctica to life, helping children to understand some of the issues this amazing continent currently faces."

There is plenty of practical science in the teaching modules. Pupils can explore what happens when water freezes, and the difference between salt and fresh water.

Pupils can experiment with different insulating materials to find the best Antarctic clothing. There is plenty about the weather too, including an experiment to create your own clouds.

One of the highlights of a recent cruise by HMS Endurance was a visit to Deception Island, a volcano that last erupted in 1969.

The lesson plans include details of how pupils can build their own erupting volcano, like the real thing but not quite as dangerous.

Antarctic diary: Polar year
06 Mar 08 |  Science/Nature
Action plan for iconic seabirds
27 Sep 06 |  Science/Nature
Albatross numbers take steep dive
04 Jun 06 |  Science/Nature
MacArthur's albatross safety bid
12 Dec 05 |  Hampshire

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