1. The Characteristics of Extreme Environments

Lesson Plans for Characteristics of Extreme Environments

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


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.

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