Looking for a fun way to teach your students how animals stay warm in such cold temperatures? Try this hands-on STEM arctic animals blubber experiment. Only a few ingredients are needed for this easy activity that your preschool, kindergarten, or first-grade class will love! Then, make sure to grab the FREE printable at the bottom for science and writing extensions.
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This Activity Goes Well With This Simply Kinder Resource:
Winter Animals Easy Readers$5.00
Penguin Nonfiction Book$4.00
So how DO arctic animals stay warm?
A simple way to explain blubber to students is to say that it’s the fat inside the animals’ bodies, the layer right under the skin. Polar bears, whales, penguins, seals, walruses, and more all have this extra layer, which traps their body heat inside. It’s kind of like covering up with a blanket to stay warm. Here is a great video that’s kindergarten appropriate you can start with:
Want to introduce the topic with even more information on arctic animals? Be sure to grab these Research Reports now! Start here and then move on to science experiments to really seal in the learning!
Now that you’ve explained it, it’s time to let your students experience this concept for themselves with the arctic animal’s blubber experiment! Crisco shortening is an excellent fat that works as an insulator. When your student’s hand is covered with the insulator, they can’t feel the cold water! Keep reading for everything you need and then grab the freebie at the bottom.
- Crisco (or any store brand shortening)
- Three-gallon-sized baggies
- Large bowl of ice water
- Spatula or spoon to scoop the Crisco
Steps for the Arctic Animals Blubber Experiment:
You can choose to do this whole group and have one student at a time come up to your desk to try, split it into small groups with several sets, or have each student have their own individual baggie of Crisco. Teacher tip: to contain the mess, avoid spilled water, and keep the cost low; we would recommend passing out the free printable first so students can be working on it while you call them up individually.
- Fill a bowl with cold water, and add enough ice to keep it chilly.
- Scoop Crisco into a gallon-sized baggie to fill it about halfway.
- Have the student place an empty baggie on their hand and submerge that hand into the icy water. Teacher: “Is your hand cold?” Student: “YES!”
- Then place the baggie with Crisco over top of the empty baggie. Spread the shortening around so that it covers the whole outside of a student’s hand.
- Invite them to submerge their hand in the icy water again.
Teacher: “How does your hand feel now? Now let’s go write down our observations!”
Spoiler alert: their hand won’t feel cold! WHAT?!? Prepare to watch their amazement! The shortening works just like the blubber of an arctic animal. So cool!
We’ve created the BEST printables for you to accompany this activity. Differentiated options in a science worksheet allow the students to think about a question, make a prediction, and then figure out the conclusion. You can choose to have them write their answers, or circle them.
If you need an extension or work for early finishers, the writing prompt with space for a picture is a great way to continue the thoughts on arctic animals. Best news? THEY’RE FREE!!!
Grab It Now:
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We would LOVE to see your experiment results. Make sure you tag #simplykinder if you share any photos on Instagram. Or tell us in a post on our Simply Kinder Teacher Group Facebook Page.
This post was written by Johanna, an experienced early elementary teacher who loves learning about new teaching ideas for preschool, kindergarten, and first grade!