Here in Nova Scotia, we experience four distinct seasons; spring, summer, fall and winter. Around the world you will find various climate patterns, but some are not as fortunate as us in Nova Scotia to have our cold winter balanced with a warm breezy summer. As humans, we are able to change our clothing to adapt to the daily climate. Animals however, are not as fortunate and need to figure out a variety of ways to adapt to their climate to survive. Some animals, like those in the Arctic, have to live in the same climate all year round. The Arctic experiences cold harsh winter for 365 days a year! There are even have times where they have days with little to no sunlight. But, even though the climate in the Arctic can be very severe, the animals are still able to survive and flourish there.
Before we start an Arctic animal investigation, here are some questions to think about while you learn more about the animals that live there and how they adapt to such harsh conditions.
– How are the animals able to survive in such cold weather all year round?
– What adaptations do different plants and animals use to be able to survive?
– And finally, how do people adapt during the winter months in order to keep warm in cold climates?
This issue of Let’s Discover from the Discovery Centre will lead you through a multidisciplinary study of Arctic animals and their adaptations. We will begin by learning about arctic animals through reading, viewing online videos and then finally conduct an investigation with a hands-on activity. We will do this by examining blubber and how it helps keep Arctic animals warm in the cold climate. Then, we will explore the traits of a polar bear’s skin and fur and learn how it helps insulate them from the cold. These activities are a great way to have a fun, educational quality time with the family! Try this with your kids on those cold bitter days while staying warm in your own home.
A great way to start of this investigation is to read together try a book about the Arctic in addition to viewing some picture and videos online. Here are some suggested links:
Arctic Animal Investigation Activity:
- 2 Tupperware containers
- Ice cubes
- 2 ziploc baggies
- Clarified butter (or margarine) (blubber)
- Black play dough
- Arctic books
- Computer/Internet access
- Read a book about the Arctic.
- Find the Arctic on a map or a globe.
- Watch videos about the Arctic and/or Arctic animals on YouTube.
- Fill two Tupperware containers with cold water and ice cubes.
- Put a hunk of butter (blubber) in one zip loc bag.
- Hand children place one hand in each bag. In the blubber bag, ensure that your child gets the blubber around as much of his/her hand as possible.
- Submerge hands in the water container and compare how cold each hand is. Children should notice that the hand in the blubber stays warmer than the hand without the blubber. This is because the blubber acts as an insulating layer for arctic animals to protect them from the cold wind and water.
Simulating Polar Bear Skin and Fur:
- Have children take a chunk of black play dough and form a ball with it.
- Cut small pieces of straws and insert them into the black ball of play dough.
- Polar bears have black skin and white hollow hair on them that captures light and keeps the polar bear warm. By taking a flashlight and shining it on the ball when it is covered in straws you simulate a polar bear’s coat and show how they capture the light and heat energy from the sun.
Questions to ask your child:
Q: What does blubber do for arctic animals?
A: Provides insulation
Q: What do we do in the winter that is similar to animals having blubber?
A: Wear coats, hats and mittens to keep in our body heat
Q: Why do polar bears have hollow fur a black skin?
A: To capture heat energy from the sun to help them keep warm.
Q: What other adaptations do arctic animals have to keep them warm and safe?
A: Camouflage, hibernation, living in groups, constant movement etc.
Make sure to stay safe and warm this winter and if you really liked investigating the cold, we would like invite your join us at the Discovery Centre for our upcoming featured exhibit Sherlock Holmes and the Clocktower Mystery opening January 24, 2015 and help us find out ‘whodunit’! Visit thediscoverycentre.ca for more details.