Northern Exposure

Science

Students research the causes of hypothermia, identify its signs, and make posters that inform others of these symptoms and provide instruction on how to help a hypothermia victim.

Background

Hypothermia is a potential risk to anyone who hikes, skis, skates, swims, cycles, runs, or is outdoors for prolonged periods in temperatures of 50 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Taken from the Greek word hypo, meaning “under” and therm, meaning “heat,” hypothermia occurs when the body becomes underheated and its temperature drops below 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

What You Need

What to Do

  1. Ask students what safety threats they are likely to encounter if they hike or participate in other outdoor activities. These may include the following hazards:
    • wild animals
    • dangerous terrain
    • accidents
    • drowning
    • getting lost
    • hypothermia
    • starvation
  2. Guide students to understand that hypothermia is particularly threatening for the following reasons:
    • It can occur at temperatures as high as 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • Its symptoms can be as vague as drowsiness or slurred speech.
    • It can occur swiftly when someone stops exercising and feels, at first, overheated.
    • It can be deadly.
  3. Tell students that knowing what hypothermia is and how to prevent it can help them survive potentially risky situations. Let them know that they will be designing posters to inform others of this danger. Suggest that they brainstorm areas of information they will need to research. Their list should focus on the following questions:
    • How does hypothermia occur, and under what conditions?
    • What are its symptoms?
    • How can you prevent hypothermia?
    • How can you help someone who is suffering from hypothermia?
  4. Divide the class into groups to research information and to choose a focus for the group's poster. Each group then develops a poster and selects one member to present it to the class. Display the posters.

Teaching Options