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Arctic Blast 2001

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"Weekly Topic & News" is posted here every Monday by 7 a.m. CST

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"The Weekly Topic and News" merges the expedition, educational goals, and the needs of teachers. It is the most important component of your online classroom expedition.

Start each week with an in-depth look at this page.

The topic of the week is emphasized with clearly presented, facts and information supplementing each unit of the curriculum package.

Information is also provided to help make real world connections, investigate personal values and discuss current issues.

Completing the circle, the weekly topic will also be highlighted from the Arctic Blast explorers.

Using the sights, sounds, and wilderness perspectives of the arctic facilitate meaningful and energized classes.

The Weekly Topic and News integrates the nationally accredited, K through 12, Nunavut curriculum package and the weekly reports from the expedition. This is where the adventure of collaborative learning really begins.

Us Mammals

I was watching some reruns of the Olympics the other day. Feeling lazy, I grabbed the first video my hand touched. I kicked up my feet and pressed play. My screen was filled with a close up shot of the Olympic flag flying proudly. The camera panned to the infield where athletes stretched and practiced their strides. I fast forwarded to the next event, the 200 meter dash. The camera was now focused on the starting line as women positioned themselves slowly. They carefully placed hands and feet, their eyes focused toward the finish. I heard the sharp of the starter’s pistol as the women exploded out past the start.

At about that same time a mouse ran across my feet. “Are you planning on entering the race, too?” I remarked to the tiny blur. The mouse stopped instantly, looked around, and sped off in a new direction. I laughed at the thought, “a mouse in the Olympics!” I tried to focus on the video, but my mind was busy working out mouse Olympic logistics. Why limit it to just mice... how about other animals, too? Suddenly the idea hit me - an all mammal Olympics!

The first annual ALL MAMMAL OLYMPICS would probably post the following results:

Fastest mammals: Cheetah: Fastest land mammal over short distance, may run at speeds of over 60 mph, for 200-300 yards. Its explosive speed helps it catch its prey. Pronghorn: Fastest land mammal over a long distance, can easily run 35-40 mph, for 4 miles and can reach speeds of 55 mph. for shorter distances. Being able to run for long periods of time, helps it outrun their predators. Killer Whale: Fastest marine mammal over a short distance, can swim at speeds of up to 35 mph, for about 500 yards.

Largest mammals: Blue Whale: Largest animal in the world. Also, the largest animal that’s ever lived, may grow to over 100 ft. long and weigh more than 150 tons. Its heart is as big as a Volkswagen Beetle and its arteries are big enough for a child to swim through. Giraffe: Tallest land mammal measuring in at 19 feet high. African Elephant: Largest land animal. Elephants may stand more than 10.5 ft. tall at the shoulder and weighs more than 6.5 tons.

Best jumpers: Red Kangaroo: Can jump more than 40 ft. in one bound and can jump more than ten feet high. Jerboa: Can broad jump up to 10 feet in a single bound. (Jerboas are only 5 inches long) Cougar: Can jump 18 feet high and can broad jump 30 feet. Cougars often stalk their prey then jump on their back.

Best breathe holders: Sperm Whale: Can hold its breath for one hour and fifteen minutes. Sperm whales feed as deep as 3000 feet. Weddell Seal: Can hold its breath for up to an hour. These Antarctic seals spend a lot of time under the ice and often have to chew through in order to breathe.

Why all the fuss about mammals you may ask? Well, first of all were mammals! That’s right, you’re related to a mice, bats, weasels, wolves... even our Polar Huskies. All told, there are about 4,000 different types of mammals walking, hopping, and flying (almost one thousand are bat species) around. But what makes us mammals so different from animals like sharks, frogs, and eagles? Here is a list to help you better understand your “mammalness.” (Can you guess any of them first?)

1. Fur Coat - Only mammals have hair. Long guard hairs shed water and a dense undercoat helps insulate the body. Hair also protects. For example, porcupine quills are actually made of modified hair. Whiskers on head, cheeks, and lips help animals feel their way around the environment. Hair around eyes, nose, and ears helps keep out dust, dirt, etc... (Your eyelashes help protect eyes from dust and bright sunlight.)
2. Heart - Mammals have a strong four chambered hearts that pushes blood quickly throughout the entire body giving mammals energy to be more active than cold-blooded animals. The four chambered heart of a mammal prevents the mixing of oxygen-rich blood with oxygen-poor blood.
3. Diaphragm - An active metabolism is supported by an efficient respiratory system that uses a diaphragm, a powerful muscle in the chest, that opens the chest space with each breath in turn opening the lungs and pulling in air with each breath.
4. Brains - Mammals have larger brains than other vertebrates of equivalent size and seem to be the most capable learners. Of all the animals, mammals have the most powerful central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). Everything that you or any other animal does is controlled by this system: taste, touch, hearing, and sight.
5. Smell - Mammals use smell for finding food, family, mates, and avoiding danger.
6. Hearing - Mammals usually have outer ears (flaps of skin) to help catch sound waves and funnel them into the ears.
7. Eyesight - Eyesight in mammals ranges from extremely poor to excellent.
8. Touch - Skin is sensitive to heat, cold, and pain.
9. Teeth - Whereas the teeth of reptiles are generally conical and uniform in size, the teeth of mammals come in a variety of sizes and shapes and are adapted for chewing many kinds of foods. The three types of mammal teeth include: incisors, canines, and molars.
10. Warm Blooded - Body temperature of mammals always stays the same. They can be active at cold and hot temperatures but need to eat more to create energy to keep body temperature constant.
11. Live Birth - Most mammals bear their young live, the order monotremata being the only exception (platypus and spiny anteaters). Fertilization is internal, and the egg develops into an embryo within the uterus of the female reproductive tract. Also, the relatively long duration of parental care extends the time for parents to teach important skills to their impressionable progeny.
12. Glands - Most mammal skin has many glands, for example: milk, oil, sweat, and scent glands. All mammalian mothers nourish their babies with milk, a balanced diet rich in fats, sugars, proteins, minerals, and vitamins. The milk can also help protect young from disease. Oil from oil gland helps waterproof fur, sweat is produced to help cool, and scent glands are used for marking territories and attracting other individuals.
13. Backbone and Brain case - Like most vertebrates, mammals have a bony backbone called a vertebral column. And like all vertebrates, they have a cranium; a hard case made of bone that surrounds the brain.

Us mammals are a pretty unique group. I’m sure the first annual ALL MAMMAL OLYMPICS would be an amazing athletic event... But who would be the announcer???

To learn more about mammals and the role winter plays in their lives visit the Collaboration Zone, The Big Freeze?

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