Lesson 3: Penguins Foraging Activity

Why are biological hotspots convergent zones for living organisms?


In addition to the abiotic factors discussed in the two previous lessons, biological features are also a key component of ecological hotspots. In this lesson, students will examine a few of the organisms present at the Palmer Deep hotspot and become familiar with the concept of convergent zones.


  • Pie pans
  • 2 different colored beads
  • Penguin Habitat maps
  • Projector
  • Computer
  • Marker board

Take Home Message

  • Students will define the term “convergent zone” and determine how biological hotspots contribute to the formation of these zones
  • Students will be introduced to some of the living organisms present in Antarctica and begin to think about which organisms provide food for the others present
Engage: Introduction to the Organisms in Antarctica

  • Show students the Penguins of Palmer fact sheets
  • Ask them what they think penguins eat, what their food eats; draw a very simple 3-organism food web on the board to address which organisms will be
    • Discuss some background information about phytoplankton and zooplankton if students do not know what they are
  • Pose the motivating question in a way they will understand, ask students to make a prediction: “Do you think these hotspots are more like farms or convenience stores? Why?”
  • Show SWARM video clip
10 minutes
Explore: Penguin Foraging Activity

  • Set up the pie pans with colored beads in a grid, as shown in the provided diagram
30 minutes
Make Sense: Defining Convergent Zones

  • In a student discussion, ask them to reflect on which region was the best area for feeding
  • Ask them to consider what this region might represent, based on the previous lesson (bio. hotspot)
    • Introduce the additional term “convergent zones”
  • Answer the original question: do you think this hotspot more like a convenience store or a farm? What abiotic factors would influence this?
10 minutes
Total: 50 minutes


  • Middle school and high school


Engage (10 minutes)

  • Show the provided Penguins of Palmer
  • Ask students what penguins eat, what their food source eats to create a simple food web
    • Show the provided slides on phytoplankton and zooplankton if needed
  • Ask them the motivating question about these hotspots being convenience stores or farms and ask them to make a prediction about what these hotspots are like

Explore (30 minutes)

  • Complete the foraging activity using provided teacher guides, student handout

Make Sense (10 minutes)

  • Group discussion based on the data–which area was best for feeding?
    • Define the term “convergent zone”

NGSS Standards

Disciplinary Core Ideas

MS-LS2-1 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

  • Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
  • Performance Expectation Grade: Middle School (6-8)

MS-LS2-2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

  • Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.
  • Performance Expectation Grade: Middle School (6-8)

MS-LS2-3 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

  • Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.
  • Performance Expectation Grade: Middle School (6-8)

MS-LS2-4 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

  • Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
  • Performance Expectation Grade: Middle School (6-8)

MS-LS2-5 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

  • Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • Performance Expectation Grade: Middle School (6-8)

HS-LS2-2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

  • Use mathematical representations to support and revise explanations based on evidence about factors affecting biodiversity and populations in ecosystems of different scales.
  • Performance Expectation Grade: High School (9-12)

Crosscutting Concepts

  • Patterns
  • Cause and effect
  • Scale, proportion and quantity
  • Energy and matter
  • Stability and change

Science and Engineering Practices

  • Developing and using models
  • Using mathematics and computational thinking
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Engaging in argument from evidence

Polar Literacy Principles Addressed

Ocean Literacy Principles Addressed

Climate Literacy Principles Addressed