Option C Extreme Environments

Lesson Plans for the Extreme Environments Topic

These learning activities cover everything in the IB guide for this topic. Lesson plans include resources to use on an interactive whiteboard and worksheets to print. The pages have full student access to give maximum flexibility to the teacher and the student. There are theoretical notes for extended reading and teacher notes at the top that provide timing information lesson objectives and activity instructions

1. The Characteristics of Extreme Environments


Global-scale distribution of cold and high altitude environments (polar, glacial areas, periglacial areas, high mountains in non-polar places) and hot arid environments (hot deserts and semi-arid areas)

Relief and climatic characteristics that make environments extreme, including unreliability and intensity of rainfall in arid environments and the risk of flash floods

Introduction to Extreme Environments

This page introduces extreme environments and their distribution. It's resourced to enable students to explain the distribution of extreme environments. It uses a lot of maps and graphics to get students interpreting data and describing patterns. There are informative videos and quizzes in this unit as well as printable PDFs.


How relief, climate, human discomfort, inaccessibility, and remoteness present challenges for human habitation and resource development

  • Detailed examples for illustrative purposes

The changing distribution of extreme environments over time, including the advance and retreat of glaciers and natural desertification

The Challenges of Extreme Environments

This page develops resources and lesson activities on both the physical and human challenges of living in extreme environments. It combines a combination of skill-based activities with insightful place locations and resources. There is also an in-depth investigation that students can either do in the classroom or at home based on the challenges of the mining industry in Western Australia. There are additional resources that then go as extension work to introduce indigenous economy and the values of their economic system. The students are introduced to a number of examples of tribal indigenous groups and their adaptations to live in extreme environments.

The Changing Distribution of Extreme Environments

This page explores the changing physical environment of glacial environments, including mountain regions and the Arctic. As well as desert environments focusing on North Africa and the Kalahari Desert. Students investigate how and why the distribution of such extreme environments change over different time scales. They refer back to the Milankovitch cycles and examine them in the context of shifting ice and deserts. The lesson begins in the Arctic, through time lapse imagery and then looks at the historical collapse of the Larentide ice sheet in North America. A more regional focus is explored through the loss of glaciers in The Glacier National Park and then then students investigate the evidence for a much greener North African region and what the consequence of this is for the future.

2. Physical Processes and Landscapes


Glacial processes of erosion, transport and deposition, and landscape features in glaciated areas, including cirques/corries, lakes, pyramidal peaks/horns, arêtes, glacial troughs; lateral, medial and terminal moraine and erratics

Periglacial processes of freeze-thaw, solifluction and frost heave, and periglacial landscape features, including permafrost, thermokarst, patterned ground and pingos

Glacial Environments

This page introduces you to the glacial environment. It provides a visually rich learning space to explore different glacial environments, the processes that form glaciers, the glacial budget and the movement of both Polar and Alpine (temperate) glaciers. It includes a starter activity, documentary videos,  a class presentation and student reading and worksheets. It also includes more in depth student investigations through a number of online interactive resources. It provides a visual structure that allows students to explore the scale of glacial processes either independently or in the class environment.

Glacial Erosion and Landforms.

This page provides an overview of glacial erosion and develops this through a number of well chosen videos, and class presentation. there are a number of smaller activities set within this page as well as a 7 page printable PDF. The page develops different erosional landforms found at different locations and at different scales, from the largest features such as pyramidal peaks to smallest like striations and roche moutoneées.

Glacial Deposition and Landforms

This page provides a visual approach to exploring both glacial and fluvioglacial depositional features. You can find a number of outstanding class room resources, presentation tools and student worksheets. The page also hosts a virtual field work exercise using Google Earth and Formative, whereby students investigate and measure the physical characteristics of different deposition features

Periglacial Environments and Processes

This page provides in-depth resources to explore the location, distribution and physical characteristics of different periglacial landforms, including thermokarst, patterned ground and pingos. It uses maps, original graphics, animations and videos to develop clear understanding of the characteristics of periglacial features and processes as well as an understanding of the processes that form such unique landforms.


Physical and chemical weathering in hot arid environments, and erosion, transportation and deposition by wind and water

Hot, arid landscape features, including dunes, wadis, rock pedestals, mesas and buttes

Hot Arid Environments and Processes

This page hosts resources and content that will introduce students to the desert environment and develops the characteristics and key features and processes of desert environments. These include the processes of weathering, water and wind. It places a key focus on weathering. The page includes some well chosen videos and animations and has some creating learning activities, including a cool classification walk around activity.

Desert  Landforms

This page is structured in terms of landforms that form predominantly from wind and landforms that form landforms predominantly from water. The main focus is on the processes of erosion but some features of deposition such as dunes and bajadas are developed as well as processes of weathering and transportation. There are detailed subject notes for students to read and develop their own notes independently. there are also printable worksheets that can be completed alongside the page, which is visual and  informative. Some of the more creative learning activities involve a class learning walk and plasticine desert landscapes.

3. Managing Extreme Environments


Agricultural opportunities and challenges in arid areas, including the distinction between aridity and infertility, irrigation access, salinization risk and land ownership

    The Opportunities and Challenges of Agriculture in Arid Environments

    This pages provides resources and lesson ideas on opportunities and challenges of agriculture, in extreme environments, predominantly hot arid environments. It develops a broad range of place examples, skill-based activities and multi-media resources to cover the challenges of irrigation and environmental problems such as salinization and irrigation. Students are introduced to a number of ways of managing arid environments, not all of which are pro-poor. Resources include graphs and photographs, unequal access to resources are looked at through gender differences. Video resources on benefits of permaculture are included in this lesson.

    Competing Demands for Land and Water

    This page provides an in-depth case study into the competing demands for water in the Ica Valley Basin in Peru. Students develop a deep understanding of the physical and human factors that impact on the supply and scarcity of water. Students become aware of conflicting interest groups and come to realize that not everyone's right to water is equal.


    Human and physical opportunities and challenges for mineral extraction in cold environments, including inaccessibility, permafrost and resource nationalism

    • Case study of one cold environment to illustrate the issues

    The Opportunities and Challenges of Mineral Extraction in Cold Environments

    This pages provides resources and lesson ideas on opportunities and challenges of mining minerals in cold environments. It develops a detailed case study on gas exploration in the Yamal Peninsula in Russia. Students first begin by examining the challenges and opportunities of cold environments through a photo gallery. Then they use a question sheet for a video resource based on general challenges of oil and gas exploration in the Arctic. This is followed by more in-depth graphic resources that look at Russia's economic dependence on oil and gas. In addition there is a card sort on resource nationalism in Russia before students investigate the issues based on a Blendpspace resource embedded in the site.


    Human and physical opportunities and challenges for mineral extraction in arid environments, including inaccessibility and climatic and political factors

    • Case study of one arid environment to illustrate the issues

    Opportunities and Challenges of Mineral Extraction in Arid Environments.

    This page develops resources and lesson ideas on mineral extraction in Australia, building on the research investigation students completed earlier in the topic. Students first explore the political importance of mining to the Australian economy through a number of graphic and text resources. They then complete a series of focused tasks based on a bespoke resource pack to develop an understanding of both opportunities and challenges based around a fly-in-fly-out mining industry including, remoteness, inaccessibility and climate as well as the inevitable social problems that come with migrant based mining towns.


    Opportunities and challenges for tourism in extreme environments

    • Detailed examples illustrating the involvement of local and global stakeholders

    Opportunities and Challenges for Tourism in Extreme Environments

    This pages provides resources and lesson ideas on the opportunities and challenges of tourism in a number of extreme environments including Antarctica and Nepal. It develops a broad range of skill-based activities that allow students to investigate the impacts of tourism in Antarctica. There are a number of detailed resource worksheets that lead students through the lesson. There a number of skill based activies including graph and photograph interpretation questions and a mystery activity based on a critical investigation into the ethics of tourism on Mount Everest. The lesson also provides a resourced research project into the different stakeholder interests of tourism in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia.

    4. Extreme Environment Futures


    The causes, acceleration, consequences and management of desertification, including land use, conflict and climate change

    • One case study illustrating the human and physical dimensions of desertification


    This page provides and enormous amount of activities and resources on desertification, its causes acceleration, consequences and management. It introduces the concept with a simple flow chart activity and then develops student discussion based on a number of graphics and images based on the Sahel Region. It then goes on to look more specifically at the management strategies from the international to the local. It includes some fun and interactive activities including a graphic storyboard on the causes and solutions of desertification.


    Increasing competition for access to resources in extreme environments, including the role of indigenous groups, civil society organizations, transnational corporations (TNCs) and militia groups

    • One case study to highlight the issues

    Increasing International Competition in the Arctic Region

    This page develops resources and lesson activities around the theme of increasing competition for resources in the Arctic. Its main focus is on how human activity including that of governments, TNCs and civic society groups  as well as indigenous groups have a role to play in determining the Arctic Region's future. The lesson begins with a focus on the Obama, Trump presidential change and what this means for the regions. There is an in-depth look at the Yamal Peninsula and how the Russian state, militia groups and and the TNC Gazprom have worked over time to expropriate land from the Nenet people. The activities include in-depth printable worksheets and bespoke article extracts and videos that develop the complexity of issues in a region that the Russians call 'a strategic energy battleground'.


    New technology and sustainable development in extreme environments, including greater use of solar power and desalination

    The impacts and management of global climate change in extreme environments, including adaptation by local populations.

    New Technology and Sustainable Development

    This page provides resources and lesson activities on new technologies and sustainable development in extreme environments. It begins with a look a definition of sustainable development and then student use the 5P model of sustainable development to mind map appropriate technologies. This is well supported with a gallery of examples including desalinisation and solor power. Students then work on the message based on contrasting infographics based on desalinisation before examining the sustainability challenges of two contrasting desalinisation examples based in Israel and Saudi Arabia. To evaluate it sustainability students are asked to apply it to the circular economy. Later students look again more appropriate technologies such as run-off capture. Students then look at the different possibilities of solar power and examine the appropriateness of Tunisia's Tu Nur Project from a perspective of neo-colonialism

    Climate Change

    This page develops resources and lesson activities around the theme of climate change in extreme environments. Students first begin by with mini-mystery based on craters in the Yamal Peninsula There is a short student investigation on the impacts of climate change in the Arctic and active reading exercise on the wider impacts for other regions. Students then go on to examine the the ways climate change can be managed at different scales of governance from the UN's SDGs to the adaptation of the Nenet indigenous group. Student then work on peer evaluated presentation on adaptation in the Sahel through using an amazing DFID resource for support.

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