Polar Bear and Glaciers: Seal Your Survival

by Margaret Tian, Tony Zeng, Tina Quach, Willie Zhu

The data says that sea ice cover in the Arctic is declining year-over-year. Declining sea ice is a major factor in the decline in polar bear populations because they primarily hunt on the ice. Thus, melting ice caps reduce polar bears’ ability to feed themselves and raise their children. From 2001 to 2010, polar bear populations have dropped by 40%. We want to tell this story because as a young child, you may hear about global warming, but not really know what it means or why it’s so bad. Even if you already associate melting ice caps with sad polar bears, do you really know what that looks like?

Our audience is 8 – 11 year olds who like animals and have yet to learn about the impact global warming has on their animals. Our goal is to use the specific example of melting ice caps and polar bears to teach these kids about how global warming hurts the animals they love. We accomplish this, through our design of a physical, Candy Land-inspired board game, Polar Bear and Glaciers: Seal Your Survival.

Depiction of our gameboard with the some ice tiles on it.

We used Arctic sea ice data to determine the amount of ice cover for each time period corresponding to each stage of the game. In particular, we looked at the amount of ice cover in the Bering Strait in 2012, 2014, and 2016. As the amount of ice decreases in the real world, the amount of ice in the game decreases proportionally. This is intended to mirror the struggle that polar bears have in the real world due to sea ice loss by increasing the difficulty of the game.

Our physical board game is an effective way to tell this story because it is a physically engaging, social way to collectively empathize and learn about the polar bears and their struggle for survival. Each player is put into the shoes of a polar bear that needs to eat at least 8 seals in order to survive the year, reflecting the real amount a polar bear needs to survive. As the players progress through the game, they discover how it gets harder to get the seals as the proportion of water to ice increases (See Game Rules here).