Feature: NSF's Antarctic Artists and Writers Program

Teacher Background

Though substantially fewer in number than researchers and their science support teams, NSF each year does send a number of men and women to Antarctica whose interests are more in experiencing and then communicating the human dimension of the continent and its living creatures. Some of these non-science visitors are media crews, reporting back via newspapers, radio and TV to the public about what their tax dollars are contributing, down at the end of the world. Others are poets, photographers, writers, and-in the 1996-97 research season- an audio recordist!

Applicants to the National Science Foundation's "Antarctic Artists and Writers Program" must develop a detailed proposal, just as scientists do, and show how they will reach a wide audience. They must also meet the health and fitness criteria set for all visitors. Successful applicants are those who are prominent in their chosen fields, and have received critical recognition for their work.


Students will write poetry and prose, and/or create images in various media, to capture some of the non-scientific aspects of the Antarctic experience, and to practice communicating what they see and hear during the Module.



What would attract you to Antarctica if you were an artist,
photographer, or writer? Why?

In Antarctica mankind can view a truly primeval wilderness. It is essential to his psychic well-being that his feelings of awe, wonder, mystery, humility, his appreciation of incredible and unspoiled natural beauty on a tremendous scale not be taken from him.

CHARLES NEIDER, from "Homage to Antarctica"
NSF's Artists and Writers Program

As I was painting in Antarctica, I remember having to constantly remind myself that this was actually a part of the Earth I knew. I had the sense of another planet, of something powerful, and strangely beautiful. I think of Antarctica as a symbol of peace-an inner peace that all people can share, regardless of nationality-because the vitalizing spirit that such an expansive, magnificent landscape evokes in all of us is unaffected by culture. Antarctica is the only stretch of wilderness on this planet that belongs to people of all nations; one last peaceful expanse of earth to nurture as our paradise.

NSF's Artists and Writers Program


Ask students what they know about the differences between "essays" and "poems". Share the two poems by sixth graders who participated in Live From Antarctica 1. Ask students what sense of Antarctica the works convey.


Antarctica is a study in contrasts: summer sunlight for days on end, long months of winter darkness; unyielding yet fragile; remote yet ever-present to those who've visited just once; a place of achievement for Amundsen, an "awful" tragic place for Scott. As your students participate in LFA 2, have them add evocative words suggesting these contrasts to a class list.

Examine library or on-line materials that picture Antarctica. What feelings, images, moods, contrasts, do these photos suggest? What's visible? What's noticeably absent?



Poetry tries to say in few words what essays convey in expanded form. There's often poetry waiting to be mined from within prose or journal writing. Try this technique to get started: using either excerpts from historical or contemporary writing about Antarctica, or from their own project Logbooks, have students highlight high-imagery words or phrases that capture the essence of the Antarctic experience. Using the highlighted text-words and phrases-as a starting point, play with their arrangement and relationship to create a new work from the prose text. As they construct their word images, have them refer to the class vocabulary chart and other reference materials. Remind them a poem does not have to rhyme, but achieves its effect from the careful placement of words.

Solitary Confinement

This is my sentence,
This deserted place,
This is my prize, my prison.
I am in the middle of nowhere.
The wind, ice, and everything,
All White.
Colorless, bleached white,
It goes with everything,

Except me.

SALLY SMITH, Summit Middle School, Summit, NJ

Younger students may prefer to work on art projects in various media. One first grade teacher reported LFA 1 inspired her students to great creativity. Remember, there's an on-line Gallery for student work!

Impressions of Antarctica

Barren place of no civilization for millions of years.
World of intense knowledge.
Snow piled up from millions of years ago.
I sit, struggling to survive the arid climate.
I stop, look around, and think,
"What am I doing on this vast, unknown continent?"
Searching for an answer, I feel a sudden gust of wind on my face.
There is something about it that makes me feel all alone, yet in the midst of a crowd.
Still searching for an answer, I am seized with a feeling of presence.
Someone is all around me but nowhere at all.
Standing in this ancient land of ice, I sense I am in the presence of God.
In this frigid, bare area, I suddenly feel warm inside.
Now I don't have to ask my question any more... it was answered.

DOMINIQUE PRADELLA, Summit Middle School, Summit, NJ

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