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.

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5 thoughts on “Preschool Science: Animals in Winter (part two)

  1. Nicole Messacar December 3, 2013 at 7:36 pm Reply

    This is super awesomely fantastic. So, which animal goes where? I assume clouds are for migration, right? Who is in the tree? And in the ground? And in the lake?

  2. whoslibmama December 5, 2013 at 2:06 pm Reply

    Thanks 🙂 The cloud is for Monarch butterflies. The hole in the middle of the tree is for a squirrel. The hold in the bottom of the tree is for mice. The hold near the blue water (not seen in this shot but on the same brown paper next to the tree) as the is for turtle – who likes a muddy winter home. The hole on the brown paper next to the tree is for rabbits. Glad you like it. The time I spent creating this has really paid off – I’m using it for a tour group today!

    • Nicole Messacar December 9, 2013 at 4:32 pm Reply

      This is great. I am actually modifying it and making it into a relay race. I have been collecting little stuffed animals. I’m going to make a tree, cloud, hole in the ground and pond (using a small inflatable kiddy pool!) and divide the animals into baskets. The kids will run down and plop the animals into the appropriate place! I’m really excited about it. Thanks for the inspiration! I am an SWCD Educator up here in LaPorte County and I’m always looking for great hands-on activities to do with school groups.

  3. […] Preschool Lab is a new program we’re offering for preschoolers at my library. In the past, we’ve done Changing Leaves and Magnets, and in November, we talked about what animals do in winter. I stole most of my activities and ideas from Christina Jones’s wonderful animals in winter program at Knowledge Matters (see part 1 and part 2). […]

  4. […] ‘gloves,’ so as not to spread water all over the table. We ALSO took inspiration from Knowledge Matter’s Animals in Winter post and filled two extra baggies with craft fur and feathers. That way, kids were allowed to experiment […]

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