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  4. ASPIRES Case Study 10: Polar Bears (Year 7)

ASPIRES Case Study 10: Polar Bears (Year 7)


Polar Bears in Year 7

School: City of London School (A high-attaining independent boys’ school for students aged 10-18)

Teacher: Chanelle Weller (

Overview40 minutes of each of five science lessons were dedicated to the production of a documentary about polar bears, bringing together climate change, media production and drama.

Type of lesson:  Science lessons (25% of students’ weekly science lesson time was dedicated to this project.) 

Why did you do this?

I wanted to challenge my students’ existing perceptions of science careers. Students at CLS seem to have quite narrow perceptions of science careers and limited awareness of the wide variety of jobs that use science. I decided to build on their interests in media and drama to demonstrate that many jobs in which they might be interested actually use science. 

Summary of Activities 

Lesson 1: I introduced the project by showing them a small clip of Frozen Planet and then got them to brainstorm all the ‘Science’ jobs involved in producing a documentary like Frozen Planet. We discussed the ideas that they came up with and then I talked through the ‘key roles’ needed to make their documentaries: producer, assistant producer, director, assistant director, researchers, script writers, runners. I explained what each role is responsible for and told them to think about which role they would like/be best at. Finally I explained what I wanted them to include in their documentary: information about Polar Bears and their habitat, information about how global warming is affecting their habitat and thirdly, how individuals can help reduce climate change. 

Lesson 2: The class got into three groups of 8, and I gave them 5 minutes to decide who would take which role. The scriptwriters and researchers then got on laptops and started their jobs. The rest of the group started to brainstorm ideas and plan the sequence of their documentary. I did have to remind them a few times that they only have the resources available to them in school and at home as some groups were getting very ambitious with their ideas. Towards the end of this lesson I gave each group an A3 storyboard (download) to fill in and asked them to start getting their thoughts onto their storyboards. 

Lesson 3: This was the last lesson of planning before they were given cameras. I asked them to start thinking about the logistics of filming so that when they had the cameras they would know exactly where they need to film, what they need to say and so forth. This was particularly important as some boys were still thinking of grand ideas and not planning the small scale details. Their HW this week was to finish their storyboard and bring in their scripts. 

Lessons 4 and 5: The groups were given video cameras and tripods and were allowed to go to other regions of the school to film. I was lucky enough to have an empty classroom next door which they boys used to avoid background noise. The ICT facilities available to me made it impossible to provide the boys with lesson time to edit their footage and add music/ title pages etc. so I set the editing as homework. 

Timing: 5 X 40mins lessons, plus 2 HWs 


Materials:  Video cameras and laptops 

Polar bears in trouble - introductory powerpoint presentation

Documentary planner - storyboard template                          

Student work:

While we are unable to put the videos online, the following photo shows some of the students busy filming. . . 

ASPIRES Case study 10 - image 1

Learning and Other Outcomes/Evaluation

  • All students gained an understanding of the adaptations of a polar bear that helps it to survive in its habitat
  • All students gained an understanding of the causes of global warming and some of the possible consequences of climate change
  • All students gained an insight into some of the actions that can be taken to help reduce global warming 
  • All students gained an appreciation of the huge number and range of different professionals, each with their own subset of skills, that are involved in producing a documentary.
  • All students gained an insight into the need for scientists when making a documentary such as Frozen Planet. Both the obvious, such as experts on polar bears and global warming and the less obvious, such as engineers designing camera rigs, chemists who invent materials to cope with such cold conditions and medics who ensure the safety of the crew in such harsh conditions. 

Curriculum Links 

  • Global warming/ climate change
  • Adaptation/ food webs/ ecology 

Integrating Careers Information into the Lessons

Lesson One was the session that brought out all students’ initial thoughts about the careers involved in filming a documentary like Frozen Planet. Whilst the students had many ideas some teacher input was needed to help guide them a little. I posed questions to them as the discussion went on, such as "Where is the camera for a shot such as this, how is it moving?" "What would happen to your camera if we took it to the Arctic?" "What happens when you sit still for a long time outside? Do you think the film crew had to sit still?" This helped to prise out the more science-based careers that they didn't immediately think of.  The PowerPoint then explained the filming and producing careers, which are less science dependent. 

In the final lesson we discussed the question "What has this project taught you?" and I used this as an opportunity to remind them of the science careers that we had considered at the start of the assignment. 

Top Tips 

  • The groups struggled to work together and fairly share out the responsibilities – I would perhaps consider doing the project with slightly older students to reduce the likelihood of students falling out and myself having to take on a peace keeping role!
  • Our school’s ICT system prevented the boys from saving their video footage onto their shared area as the files were too large. This caused a bit of a nightmare and I would suggest checking with your ICT department first. My last minute solution was to get students to put the files on memory sticks but this resulted in one student losing the group’s work/ forgetting to bring it in/ not being about to share the footage with other group members. It would have been much easier if there was somewhere in the school shared area where all students, and myself could access the files.

Related documents

Zip Folder - ASPIRES Case Study 10: Polar Bears (Year 7)


All the associated lesson plans, worksheets, pdfs, powerpoints (ppts) and links for this case study resource. This is a free ASE download.