Objective: Children will experiment with icy water to explore how animals stay warm in winter.‹ Return to Theme
What You Will Need
- Resealable freezer bags – 12
- Resealable bags – 1 per child
- Solid shortening – enough to fill 8 resealable freezer bags
- Duct tape – 1 roll
- Water resistant tape – 1 roll (optional)
- Ice cubes – 1 per child
- Water table filled with ice and cold water (see Lesson Tips)
What To Do
Note: Prior to the start of the lesson, fill eight resealable freezer bags with shortening. Use the duct tape to tape two bags together on three sides, creating a glove. Leave the fourth side open for the children to place their hand in between the two bags. Make four sets of these “blubber gloves”.
- Discuss ways the children prepare to go outside on a cold day in the winter (putting on coats, hats, mittens, etc.).
- Explain how animals get ready for the cold winter (see Did You Know?).
- Tell the children they will be performing an experiment to explore how some animals stay warm in the winter.
- Distribute one empty resealable bag to each child. Have them put one hand inside the bag and place an ice cube on the bag.
- Explain that the bag is like the animal’s skin—not much protection from the cold.
- Display the bags filled with shortening (the “blubber gloves”) and explain that the shortening is like blubber on an animal (see Did You Know?).
- Place each set of two shortening-filled bags that have been taped together (the “blubber gloves”) inside a third resealable freezer bag.
- Have the children place their other hand inside a blubber glove, between the bags of shortening. Secure the bag around their wrists (e.g., with duct tape or water resistant tape).
- Have them plunge their hands, one inside the empty bag and the other hand in the “blubber glove,” into the ice and water. Give each child a turn with the blubber glove.
- Discuss which hand could remain in the icy water the longest (see Guiding Student Inquiry) and why (see Did You Know?).
Guiding Student Inquiry
- Tell me some ways you stay warm when you go outside on a cold day.
- Explain how you think animals stay warm in the cold winter months.
- Describe how the icy water felt in your bag-covered hand.
- Describe how the icy water felt in your blubber glove hand.
- Explain why you think you were able to keep one hand in the icy water longer than the other.
Explore, Extend & Integrate
- Freeze ice cubes with a small chunk of onion in them. When frozen, distribute to the children and discuss how you cannot smell the onion. Discuss how animals use their sense of smell to find food. Cold temperatures and winter conditions make it difficult for animals to find food. This is why some animals eat all summer and fall—to fatten up for the cold winter.
- Make a bird feeder using pipe cleaners and unsweetened oat o’s-type cereal. Thread the cereal on the pipe cleaner and knot one end to keep the cereal from falling off. Hook the other end of the pipe cleaner over a tree branch. Hang it where the children can watch the birds.
Check for Children’s Understanding
- Could children explain how they stay warm when they go outdoors on cold days?
- Could children describe how the icy water felt in the bag-covered and the blubber glove hands?
- Could children explain why the hand in the blubber glove could stay in the icy water longer?
Did You Know?
Many regions experience very cold weather in the winter. People cope with winter by wearing warmer clothing, including coats, hats, scarves, mittens, and boots. Many animals prepare for winter by eating all summer and fall to build up a layer of fat or blubber to protect them from the cold winter weather. In our experiment the shortening acted as blubber, or fat, to keep our hands warm.
Blubber is a thick layer of fat beneath the skin of marine animals. Blubber is found in animals such as whales, dolphins, porpoises, walruses, seals, manatees, and polar bears. Blubber acts like an insulator to protect these animals from the cold temperatures found in oceans and lakes during the winter. Other animals that live on land build up a layer of fat beneath the skin to protect them and give them energy during the cold winter months.
- blubber – the layer of fat beneath the skin of whales, seals, and other large sea mammals.
- winter – the season of the year between autumn and spring.
- shortening – a solid fat used in cooking.
- skin – the thin outer covering of the body.
- fat – a thick layer of tissue found between the skin and muscle in people or animals.
- protect – to keep safe from danger or harm.
- Resealable freezer bags are recommended to make the blubber gloves because they are heavier than regular bags and will not rupture as easily.
- You may want to reinforce the closure on the shortening bags by placing packing or duct tape over it.
- If you do not have a water table, use several deep basins filled with ice and cold water.
- Animals in Fall: Preparing for Winter by Martha E. H. Rustad
- Animals in Winter (All About Winter) by Martha E. H. Rustad
- Flip the Flaps: Whales and Dolphins (I Wonder Why) by Judy Allen
- Animals in Winter (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science) by Henrietta Bancroft and Richard G. Van Gelder
Content provided by:
Common Core State
These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge.