The Southern Ocean and penguin adaptation with Dr Norman Ratcliffe

Lesson overview

Students travel to the Southern Ocean and the waters around Antarctica to study how penguins have adapted to this habitat. Students will learn about the different adaptations that allow penguins to live in this frozen world and get their food from the ocean. This lesson can be used as an introductory lesson to the topic of evolution for upper Key Stage 2 students, which is the focus of Mission 11.

Learning outcomes

  • Describe similarities between features of penguins and other birds
  • Describe how penguins have adapted to their habitat

Lesson steps

  1. Mission statement from Dr Norman Ratcliffe (5 mins)
    Students are introduced to their lesson’s mission by Dr Norman Ratcliffe.
  2. Penguin adaptations Thinglink (25 mins)
    Students research the adaptations of penguins using the interactive Thinglink tool.
  3. Penguin gallery (15 mins)
    Students apply their knowledge to identify adaptations in a variety of penguins.
  4. Penguin postcard (10 mins)
    Students can complete a postcard about penguins, describing the adaptations that make them suited to living in and around the Southern Ocean.
  5. Reflection (5 mins)
    Students reflect on their learning, considering what they have learnt, what connects to their prior knowledge and what they still want to know.


By task
To support lower ability students, focus on identifying features of penguins. To facilitate this, use the slide imagery of penguins.
To challenge higher ability students, focus on clearly linking the adaptations of penguins to how these help them to survive.

By outcome
The open summary assessment task allows students to demonstrate their learning at a variety of levels.

By support
For ideas of how to support and challenge students further, look for guidance and ideas in the teacher guidance.