image of wolf behind title overlay "Exploring Alaska Wildlife Through a Unit Study"

In our homeschool, studying the fantastic Alaska wildlife was an essential part of our Unit Study. It’s an easy way to bring diverse ecosystems to life for your little learners.

Kids can explore different habitats, observe how animals interact with each other, and understand the importance of conservation.

And, as a parent with multiple ages at home, wildlife is an easy lesson to diversify and adjust for various interests.

Uncover Alaska’s Unique Wildlife

Alaska Polar Bear Comparison

Along with migrators that travel west and north annually, and other animals shared with the lower 48, Alaska is home to various species found nowhere else in the United States.

The Muskox, Dall Sheep, Islands Wolf, and Polar bears are just a few examples of the range of wildlife found in the arctic circle through to interior Alaska.

These unique creatures provide an excellent opportunity to teach kids how different ecosystems can support various species of wildlife and why conserving these areas is essential.

Use Alaska Wildlife to Learn Geography

Wolf with title overlay -

Bring your map work to life by discussing how the state symbols’ and the term “The Last Frontier” came to be known. Note the history, and how statehood came to be with the purchase from Russia and the Alaska Gold Rush.

Depending on interests, your students might be interested in how geographical location and climate play a central role in the abundance of wildlife throughout the state.

With its vast terrain, diverse ecosystems, long cold winters, and abundant river systems, Alaska is home to many species. Some can survive in the extreme weather conditions of the Arctic, while others thrive in the dampness of a temperate rainforest.

The terrain also provides an array of diverse habitats – from mountains and glaciers to coastal islands, tundra, and boreal forests.

The combination of geography, climate, transportation, and habitats allows these unique species to thrive in Alaska’s various habitats.

And when you study them and their needs, you can bring those learnings to life in ways a simple map study can’t.

Our Alaska Wildlife Activities

Compare Alaska Ecosystems in the Alaska Unit

These are the activities we used to explore our geography and wildlife studies further.

  • Created a salt-dough map of Alaska and painted the major habitats.
  • Researched one animal from each habitat.
  • Completed a Jr. Ranger Worksheet from Glacier Bay National Park.
  • Read a non-fiction and several fiction books about our animals in print or on YouTube.
  • Downloaded and created arctic circle foodchains from the World Wildlife Federation Resources.

Relate Wildlife to the Culture and Tradition of Alaska’s Indigenous Peoples

Wildlife has always been a vital part of the culture and traditions of Alaska’s indigenous peoples. From subsistence living in rural country through harsh winter climates to sacred ceremonies, wildlife plays an integral role in their history, customs, and rituals.

For example, much of the population of native Alaskan communities have relied on salmon as a primary source of sustenance for thousands of years. They have also used the hides of moose and other animals to make clothing and tools.

The First People also honor Alaska wildlife in their legends, songs, and artwork.

For example, the Raven is celebrated in many stories as a trickster who brought light into the world. And fish are featured prominently in Tlingit art and culture, representing natural abundance and the power of the life-giving waters of the Pacific Ocean and Southeast Alaska.

By exploring the relationship between the native populations and the abundant Alaska wildlife, we can gain a deeper understanding of both.

This is an important lesson we strive to include in each of our unit studies.

Our Alaska Native Cultures Activities

Interesting fact: During our Alaska Unit Study, we discovered more recognized tribes in the state of AK than in the rest of the entire lower 48 combined.

These are the activities we used to explore our geography and wildlife studies further. Choose activities that fit your time and student’s age and interests.

Salmon Boy Read Aloud Link to YouTube
Click on the image to be taken to the YouTube Read Aloud in Tlgingit

Embrace Other Activities for Kids

When it comes to exploring Alaska wildlife, there is no shortage of engaging activities for kids.

In our state unit study, we provide anatomy worksheets and a compare and contrast worksheet. But I recommend you take that further and include a read-aloud story and a hands-on activity. Maybe include some maps.

Not sure what you should include?

From creating dioramas with glow-in-the-dark salt (we called it “Northern Lights Salt) to enriching art projects of various mountain and aquatic creatures, there are plenty of ways to bring the rich biodiversity of Alaska alive in your homeschool.

Your elementary students can also have a blast playing fun games such as “Alaska Animal Match.” Create a simple memory game where kids have to match each animal with its corresponding habitat.

Or, try creating “Alaska Jeopardy,” a quiz-style game that tests your students’ knowledge of Alaska wildlife.

Looking for ideas? We’ve gathered a Pinterest board of ideas for you here.

And if you’re looking for something even more hands-on, take your students on a virtual field trip to one of Alaska’s National Parks or Wildlife Refuges, where kids can learn about the native species and explore the natural beauty of their environment.

Explore our YouTube Playlist for ideas.

No matter how you explore Alaska wildlife, it will be an enriching, educational experience for your young students. With some creativity and enthusiasm, you can make Alaska come to life!

***Find the entire list of 104 Alaska Unit Study Resources here.***

Explain Conservation Efforts in Alaska

We can empower our kids to be active stewards of their environment and inspire them to make a difference in the world.

Despite being the largest state in America, Alaska’s wildlife faces a range of challenges due to habitat loss and interactions with humans. Unfortunately, many habitats in Alaska have been damaged or destroyed, pushing species out of their native habitats.

This has disrupted the delicate balance between different species in the region, putting their future at risk.

Fortunately, people are working hard to protect Alaska’s wildlife and the habitats they live in.

Local conservation organizations like Audubon Alaska are striving to preserve the ecosystems and species of Alaska through research, advocacy, and public education programs.

As your students begin to appreciate the different species in Alaska, they’ll learn the value and importance of conservation to prevent extinctions.

Image of Inuit rock sculpture with title overlay - Explore Wildlife in Your Alaska Unit Study

Take an Educational Tour Through Alaska Wildlife

Before you know it, your students will be experts on Alaska wildlife and ecosystems! With hands-on activities, they’ll gain an appreciation for the unique ecosystem of Alaska and the importance of preserving its environment.

From the stunning mountains to the amazing Pacific Ocean, the Aleutian island chain, and the rugged frontier of the Yukon river, there’s so much wonder to be found!

Community Question: What resources have you used for your state studies or Alaska learning resources? Share them below.

Alaska State Facts

  • Alaska is the largest state in the U.S. by land area. It’s bigger than Texas, California, and Montana combined. Its total area land area alone is about 663,300 square miles.
  • Alaska was bought from Russia. The United States government purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million, a deal often referred to during that part of history as “Seward’s Folly” after Secretary of State William H. Seward.
  • It has more coastline than any other U.S. state. Alaska has a whopping 6,640 square miles of coastline, more than all the other U.S. states combined.
  • Alaska is home to North America’s highest peak. Mount Denali, formerly known as Mount McKinley, is the tallest mountain in North America, standing at 20,310 feet above sea level.
  • Alaska has about 100,000 glaciers. The largest, the Bering Glacier, is larger than the state of Rhode Island.
  • Alaska has over 3 million lakes. The largest is Lake Iliamna, which is over 1,000 square miles.
  • Alaska is famous for its wildlife. It is home to many different species, including bears, eagles, salmon, and whales.
  • Alaska experiences unusual daylight hours. Some parts of Alaska have 24 hours of daylight in the summer months, known as the “midnight sun.” In contrast, during winter months, some parts of Alaska experience 24 hours of darkness, known as “polar night.”
  • The state capital is Juneau, although not the largest city. Interestingly, it’s the only U.S. capital city that is not accessible by road. You have to get there by boat or plane.
  • Alaska is known for its annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The great race is a long-distance sled dog race run in early March from Anchorage to Nome, covering over 1,000 miles.
  • The Bering Sea is only 51 miles wide at it’s narrowest point. It stretches between Alaska and American soil to the west and Russia to the East.
  • The Russian-American Company (RAC) was formed in 1799 by Russia’s Tsar Paul I. It was established to manage the fur trade in Alaska, a Russian territory.
  • Alaska is home to nine military bases, although none belong to the Navy or the Marines despite the extensive bodies of water from the arctic ocean to the gulf of Alaska near the Aleutian island chain.

Looking for Other Hands-On Learning Resources

Do you love including art and science in your PreK-3rd grade homeschool plans? Would you love to have more hands-on literature study ideas? Check out the following resources for more information.

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