Wild Explorer > Lesson Plans > Polar Bears

Educational Activities and Lessons for Encounters

Prepared by Patricia H. Partnow, Ph.D.


Encounters - Polar Bears
Introduction | Natural History | Climate Change | Traditional Knowledge


How to use the Encounters polar bear radio programs as classroom resources

Anthropologist and writer Richard Nelson recorded and produced three programs as part of the Encounters radio series about polar bears: Polar Bear Natural History, Polar Bears and Climate Change, and Polar Bears and Traditional Knowledge. Each can be the focus of a separate class. Alternatively, the three can be taught together in a single unit, in conjunction with other resources on this website. The lesson plans on this site are flexible to accommodate both possibilities.

Download a pdf file of the Encounters Polar Bears lessons plans - HERE.

Background About the Recordings

Richard Nelson was interviewed in August 2011 by Encounters Web Content Specialist Liz McKenzie to explore how he prepares for and records his programs. Following is a summary of that interview.

Who does the research before you go out into the field?

Richard does most of the research himself, though he is sometimes helped by others. He investigates information on the Internet (being very careful to determine that the information is reliable) and in books, and sometimes talks to experts before venturing out into the field.

How do you always happen to have the right facts on the tip of your tongue when they're needed?

Richard immerses himself in the topic for several weeks before leaving for his fieldwork so he will have the facts in mind when they're needed.

Is any of the commentary edited into the program after the field experience?

No, Richard records his comments as he is watching the animals. He does not add information when he returns to the studio, because he wants the Encounters programs to be authentic, nonfiction engagements between himself and the natural environment.

What equipment do you take with you?

Richard's equipment must be small, simple, and light enough to carry comfortably. He takes a digital recorder that's about the size of a three-ring binder and can be slung over his shoulder. He wears headphones so he can hear himself and check on the quality of the recording. Attached to the headphone is a microphone that records his voice. He also uses a hand mike, which he has placed inside a clear plastic parabolic dish that magnifies the sounds of the animals and the environment.

Does an assistant accompany you into the field?

No, Richard prefers to do the recording by himself.

Do you carry a gun?

No, not usually—a gun is too heavy and clumsy to carry while recording. Richard does carry pepper spray, and when he's camping out, he surrounds his tent with a portable electric fence that keeps bears away.

How long do you usually have to wait for the animals to show up?

It varies. Richard has waited up to three years for the chance to record programs about some subjects, though when he has gone on remote locations he has been lucky to find the animals within his allotted time in the field (usually a week or two). This is because he conducts careful research ahead of time with scientists and local people who know where and when the animals are likely to be.

How long does it take to edit and broadcast a show after it has been recorded?

It usually takes several full days to a week to edit a program. Most programs are not broadcast immediately, and may be rebroadcast repeatedly for several years after the initial show. Each radio station has its own schedule, so it is impossible to say when a given program will be broadcast. Most of the shows are available for listening on the Encounters website (http://encountersnorth.org).

How many hours of recording go into a single broadcast?

Richard records many, many hours—much of it consisting of sounds of the environment—to produce a single 28-minute broadcast. He usually records his commentary several times and chooses the best for broadcast. Most commentaries made in the field are about an hour long and are edited down to broadcast length.

Any other comments?

Richard loves listening to the sounds of nature and encourages young people to go outside, even if only into their backyards, with a recorder or video camera, record what they hear, and learn to identify the sounds.

Encounters - Polar Bears
Introduction | Natural History | Climate Change | Traditional Knowledge
Encounters |