Monthly Archives: December 2012

Preschool Science: Animals in Winter (part two)

Fat? Feathers? Sweaters? Which is the Best Insulator?

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This activity never fails to attract a crowd.  Prior to the program, I create a set of Ziploc bags that contain yarn, vegetable shortening, and feathers. I prepare the bags so that children can place their hands inside.  Then, I place two over-sized Post-It papers on an adjacent wall. One sheet invites children to predict which insulator will keep their hands the warmest. The other asks children to document which insulator was best after experimentation and observation. Finally, I set two large bowls of ice in which children can test each insulator. This simple experiment provides a great introduction to the scientific method.

Guess the Hibernating Animal.

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One of my primary goals for all activities I present to preschoolers is to encourage meaningful discussion between adults and children. This simple game gets people asking questions and using descriptive words.

Prior to the program, I cut out peepholes in sturdy cardboard squares. On one side I glued a Velcro strip. Then, I printed out and laminated photos of animals that hibernate in winter. I chose a frog, turtle, and a snake. (best to use animals that are distinct and common) During the program, I invited the children to select a photo – without their grown-up partner peeking. The child places the photo on the cardboard, while the adult peers through the hole. The adult proceeds to ask the child questions about the animal until they are able to guess the correct one. This is your basic “20 questions” with a scientific twist.

Wild Bird Feeder

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I found this simple bird feeder that preschoolers can assemble fairly quickly – and should stay useful if it is under cover. The bird feeder will hopefully provide an opportunity for the children to continue their observation of animals in winter at home.

Prior to the program, we cut two semi-circles out of the bottom of a cardboard tube. Then, we punched four holes in the top. Finally, we painted the tubes a cheerful shade of red. I set out colorful duct tape to affix the tubes to small plastic plates, and festive curling ribbon to string through the holes in the top so that the feeder might hang on a tree or a hook. We sent small bags of birdseed home with the families to help them get started with their backyard bird observation.

Hibernation Station

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A couple years ago, I created a large interactive display to illustrate where animals live in the winter. I created a tree, a cloud, a patch of ground, and a partial lake. Each element has a flap that reveals which animal lives in that particular habitat in winter. I pin the pieces to the wall and set out puppets. Children use the puppets to find their animal’s home. This activity appeals to the kinesthetic learner, as they move about searching with their puppet.

Preschool Science: Animals in Winter (part one)

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When the weather turns cold, I turn to one of my favorite themes for preschool science: Animals in Winter. I remember as a young child wondering and worrying about how animals survive in frosty weather. Over time, I came up with a group of stories and activities that our families seem to enjoy.

Prior to Preschool Science, I present a traditional preschool storytime, which includes a mix of fiction, non-fiction and folklore. This helps my young patrons get their minds focused on our topic of exploration. This month I shared:

  • Animals in Winter, by Martha Rustad
  • Bear Snores On, by Karma Wilson (big book version)
  • The Hat, by Jan Brett (big book version)
  • Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit, by Il Sung Na
  • Rabbit’s Gift, retold by George Shannon (oral telling with feltboard)

Then Preschool Science begins!

Dressed for Winter

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This activity tied-in nicely with Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit. Using a projector, I traced the outline of an Arctic Fox, Snowshoe Hare, and a weasel on brown paper. I pinned the shapes onto the wall and set out glue and cotton balls. During the program the children were invited to “dress the animals for winter” by gluing the cotton balls onto the animal shapes. This activity helps to illustrate an animal adaptation, where brown fur changes to white so that the animals are better camouflaged in the snow.

Animal Tracks

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This activity went through a few cycles before I came up with one that worked. First, I cut stencils out of thin craft foam of bear, dear, bird, and fox tracks. Then, I taped white paper to a table. During the program, children created a jumble of tracks in the snow. In order to create an opportunity for writing, I encouraged the children to label the tracks.

See Part Two for more

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