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Birds of a Feather

In 1928, Richard E. Byrd led his first exploration of Antarctica. At the time, the expedition was the best equipped journey to Antarctica to date, and included a total of 42 men who stayed through the winter on the southern continent. All members of the expedition were important and served specific roles. The Richard E. Byrd Papers contain many files of information about those who applied and were ultimately selected to serve. Using selections from those papers, students will analyze the characteristics, skills and traits of the men who accompanied Byrd to Antarctica.

Instructional Unit: Social Studies Skills and Methods

Grade Level: 9th & 10th

Standards: 9.A.3a, 9.A.4a-c, 10.A.1.a-b, 10.A.2

Description: Based upon the review of primary sources, students will analyze the characteristics, skills and traits of the men who accompanied Byrd to Antarctica, through the use of T-charts and Venn diagrams.

Duration: One Day (1x45min)

Materials and Resources:

  • Notepaper
  • Post-it notes
  • Pencil
  • “Byrd's Men” analysis worksheet

Warm up activity:

  1. Given a T-Chart, the teacher will label characterics on one side / skills on the other
  2. Students will be provided two post-it notes each
    • They will identify a characteristic on one & a skill on the other needed by people participating in an Antarctic expedition
    • Once filled out, the post-it notes will be placed upon the T-Chart.
  3. The class will tally the results of the post-it notes that appear on the T-Chart
    • They will graphically chart the tabulated results for further analysis.

Instructional steps:

  1. Each student will be provided with a primary source on one of Byrd’s companions.
    • After reviewing the primary source, the student will be provided with a “Byrd's Men” analysis worksheet
    • The students will identify characteristics, skills, and/or traits of the person described in the primary source using the analysis worksheet
  2. The students will again fill out post-it notes, this time with actual characteristics and skills and place them upon a “new” T-Chart.
  3. The students will graph the new results.
  4. The instructor will provide the students with a Venn diagram, which will allow the students to compare and contrast their findings.
  5. The teacher will head a group discussion concerning the motivation of the participants of the expedition.

Byrd's Men Analysis Worksheet
Extension Activity - Byrd's Eye Cafe

"Jacob Bursey"

"William Cyclone Haines"

"Unpublished Writings by Byrd, "How I Pick My Men." (Though in a file called Unpublished Writings, this was actually published by the Saturday Evening Post, April 21, 1928.)"

"Harold Irving June"

"Notes from a Journal, an excerpt from Richard E. Bryd's Little America, • Byrd, Richard E. Little America, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1930."

"Carl O. Petersen"

"George A. Thorne"

"Norman D. Vaughan"

"'Magic Words', a chapter from Norman Vaughan's book With Byrd at the Bottom of the World"

"Byrd Quoted in National Geographic Magazine"

"Birds of a Feather - Group Photo"

University Libraries. Byrd Polar Research Center. History Teaching Institute.