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Pole to Pole

A creative cross curriculum project linked to the theme of the North and South Poles. Ideal for Foundation Stage and Key Stages 1, 2 and beyond

The North Pole

The Arctic is the area located around the North Pole. When referring to the Arctic, people usually mean the part of the Earth within the Arctic Circle. Although there is no land at the North Pole, the icy Arctic Ocean is teeming with life. There is also a lot of land within the Arctic Circle (northern parts of Asia, Europe and North America). Land within the Arctic Circle is called 'tundra', and it supports less life than most other biomes because of the cold temperatures, strong dry winds, and permafrost (permanently frozen soil). Long periods of darkness (in the winter) and light (in the summer) also affect Arctic life.

When not otherwise qualified, the term 'North Pole' usually refers to the Geographic North Pole - the northern most point on the surface of the Earth, where the Earth's axis of rotation intersects the Earth's surface.

North Pole Climate

The North Pole is significantly warmer than the South Pole because it lies at sea-level in the middle of an ocean (which acts as a reservoir of heat), rather than at altitude in a continental land mass. During the winter (January) temperatures at the North Pole can range from about -43oC (-45oF) to -26oC (-15oF), perhaps averaging around -34oC (-30oF). Summer temperatures (June - August) average around freezing point. The sea ice at the North Pole is typically around two or three metres thick, though occasionally the movement of floes exposes clear water. Some studies have indicated that the average ice thickness has decreased in recent years due to global warming. 

Day and Night at the North Pole

During the summer months, the North Pole experiences 24 hours of daylight daily, but during winter months the North Pole experiences 24 hours of darkness daily. Sunrise and sunset do not occur in a 24 hour cycle. At the North Pole, sunrise begins at the Vernal equinox taking three months for the sun to reach its highest point at the summer solstice when sunset begins, taking three months to reach sunset at the Autumnal equinox. A similar effect can be observed at the South Pole with a six month difference.

The South Pole

When not otherwise qualified, the term 'South Pole' normally refers to the Geographic South Pole - the southernmost point on the surface of the Earth, on the opposite side of the Earth from the North Pole. Other 'South Poles' described include the Ceremonial South Pole, the South Magnetic and Geomagnetic Poles, and the Southern Pole of inaccessibility. The Geographic South Pole is defined for most purposes as one of two points where the Earth's axis of rotation is actually subject to very small 'wobbles'. The projection of the Geographic South Pole onto the celestial sphere gives the south celestial pole.

At present, Antarctica is located over the South Pole, although this has not been the case for all of Earth's history because of continental drift. The land (i.e. rock) at the South Pole lies near sea level, but the ice cap is 3000 metres thick so the surface is actually at high altitude. The polar ice sheet is moving at a rate of roughly 10 metres per year, so the exact position of the Pole, relative to the ice surface and the buildings constructed on it, gradually shifts over time. The South Pole marker is repositioned each year to reflect this.

South Pole Climate

During the southern winter, the South Pole receives no sunlight at all, and in summer the Sun, though continuously above the horizon, is always low in the sky. Much of the sunlight that does reach the surface is reflected by the white snow. This lack of warmth from the sun, combined with the high altitude (about 3200 metres), means that the South Pole has one of the coldest climates on Earth. Temperatures at the South Pole are much lower than at the North Pole.

In midsummer, as the Sun reaches its maximum elevation of about 23.5 degrees, temperatures at the South Pole average around -25oC (-12oF). As the year-long 'day' wears on and the Sun gets lower, temperatures drop - sunset (late March) and sunrise (late September) being around -45oC (-49oF). In winter, the temperature remains steady at around -65oC (-85oF). The South Pole has a desert climate, almost never receiving any precipitation.


North Pole

  • One of the earliest expeditions to reach the North Pole was that of British naval officer William Edward Parry, who in 1827 reached latitude 82o 45' North. 
  • The Polaris expedition, an 1871 attempt on the Pole led by Charles Francis Hall, ended in disaster. 
  • In April 1895 Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen reached latitude 86o 14' North.
  • The conquest of the North Pole is traditionally credited to Anglo-American Navy engineer Robert Edwin Peary, who claimed to have reached the Pole on 6 April 1909. However, Peary's claim remains controversial. 
  • The first undisputed sighting of the Pole was on 12 May 1926, by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his American sponsor Lincoln Ellsworth from the airship Norge.
  • Sir Wally Herbert led the team that made the first surface crossing of the Arctic Ocean (1968-69) - and its longest axis - a feat that has never been repeated. In so doing the team became the first to reach the North Pole by surface travel. In addition no one alive today has personally surveyed and mapped on the ground a larger area of Antarctica than Sir Wally. He has been awarded the Polar Medal and was knighted in 2000 for services to polar exploration.  

South Pole

  • The first humans to reach the Geographic South Pole were Norwegian Roald Amundsen and his party on 14 December 1911. Amundsen's competitor, Robert Falcon Scott, reached the Pole a month later. On the return trip Scott and his four companions all died of hunger and extreme cold. In 1914 British explorer Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition set out with the goal of crossing Antarctica via the South Pole but ended in failure. 
  • US Admiral Richard Byrd, with the assistance of his first pilot Bernt Balchen, became the first person to fly over the South Pole on 29 November 1929. 
  • After Amundsen and Scott, the next people to reach the South Pole overland (albeit with air support) were Edmund Hillary (4 January 1958) and Vivian Fuchs (19 January 1958).

Download the Pole to Pole project plans:

Pole to Pole Literacy Project Plans:

  • Literacy Project 1: Letter writing (Foundation and Key Stage 1)
  • Literacy Project 2: Exciting explorers (Key Stages 1 and 2)
  • Literacy Project 3: Riotous reindeers (Key Stage 2)
  • Literacy Project 4: Polar poetry (Key Stages 1 and 2)
  • Literacy Project 5: Daring diaries (Key Stage 2)

Pole to Pole Numeracy Project Plans:

  • Numeracy Project 1: Freezing maths (Key Stage 2 and 3)
  • Numeracy Project 2: Miraculous measurements (Key Stage 2+)
  • Numeracy Project 3: Icy Shapes (Key Stage 1) 

Pole to Pole Science Project Plans:

  • Science Project 1: Amazing Arctic animals (Key Stages 1 and 2)
  • Science Project 2: Amazing Antarctic animals (Key Stages 1 and 2)
  • Science Project 3: Arctic medical kit (Key Stage 2)
  • Science Project 4: There may be trouble ahead ( Key Stages 2+)
  • Science Project 5: How do penguins keep warm? (Key Stages 1 and 2)

Pole to Pole Geography Project Plans:

  • Geography Project 1: Let's get connected (Key Stages 1 and 2)
  • Geography Project 2: Planning an expedition (Key Stages 1 and 2)

Pole to Pole History Project Plans:

  • History Project 1: A ship's history (Key Stage 2)
  • History Project 2: An exploration timeline (Key Stage 2)

Pole to Pole ICT Project Plans:

  • ICT Project 1: Ice cold word banks (Key Stages 1 and 2)
  • ICT Project 2: Labelling and classifying (Key Stages 1 and 2)

Pole to Pole Art and Design Project Plans:

  • Art and Design Project 1: Scrimshaw time (Key Stages 1 and 2)
  • Art and Design Project 2: Polar carvings (Key Stage 2)

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