Winter Hideaway Wednesday: The Science of Hibernation

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Hope you’re having a great holiday week!  Today I am sharing 5 science activities that you can try at home or school to help your children understand the science behind hibernation.  Be sure to visit Erin over at The Usual Mayhem to see what hibernation activities she is focusing on today!

Warmth Activities – Following you will find two science activities to help children understand how animals keep warm during the winter months.

#1 Towel Test

Place 2 of the same towels into a heated drier and run the dryer for at least 5 minutes.   After stopping the dryer, remove the towels.  Have your kids quickly fold one towel in half and half again, then roll up tightly.  The second towel clip to a pants or skirt hanger.  Let them rest for 5 minutes.  When time is up, have your children compare the warmth of the two towels.  They will find that the rolled towel retained more heat, just as a hibernating animal stays warm by curling itself up in a ball.

#2 Blubber Finger Race

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Fill two bowls equally with with ice and water and let them sit for 5 minutes.  As they sit, apply shortening to one of your child’s pointer fingers to represent blubber (animal fat) and leave the second pointer uncovered.  Place each finger into its own bowl of water and see which finger they can keep in longer.  Children will find that the finger covered with “fat” can stay in the cold water longer, just as the fat on hibernating animals protects them from the winter chill.

#3 Warm Weather Simulation

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Cut a bear out of newspaper and fold it in half head to tail and then in half again side to side.  Place the bear into a pan of hot water and watch it unfold, just as an animal wakes up from hibernation, uncurls itself, and comes out in warmer weather.  I enjoyed watching my kids’ reactions to this activity and their gasps of amazement!

Heart Rate Activity – Following you will find a science activity to help children understand how an animal’s heart rate slows down during the winter months.

#4 Heart Rate Comparison

Time your child running in place for 1 minute.  When time is up, count your child’s pulse for a minute and number of breaths.  Write these numbers down, so you have them handy for a comparison.   Let your child rest for 10 minutes to represent a hibernating animals “resting rate.”  Count your child’s pulse a second time for a minute.  At the same time, count their number of breaths.  Compare the data with their previous active state.023

Blood Flow Activity – Following you will find a science activity to help children understand how sugar in an animal’s bloodstream help the blood from freezing solid during winter months.

#5 Blood Flow Comparison

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You will need 2 similar sized plastic containers.  Fill 1/3 of one container with water and 1/3 of the other container with maple syrup.  Cover each and have your children place the containers in the freezer overnight.  In the morning, check both of the containers, your children will find that the water container has frozen, while the syrup container has not, just as the glucose (sugar) in the blood of hibernating animals helps prevent the blood from freezing during the cold winter months.

Hibernation Helps

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We’ve enjoyed reading all kinds of book about hibernation, courtesy of our local library.  If you haven’t figured out how to reserve books online and then pick them up on the hold shelf, you’re missing out on the ease of research!  Next week I’ll be covering some of the books more in depth with my games and activities post.  In the meantime, one of my girls’ favorite fiction books has been Don’t Wake Up the Bear by Marjorie Dennis Murray. 

To go along with the hibernating animals within the story, I created a very quick sequencing activity and body part identification mini-book for young children.  You can download this activity by clicking the image below.

Don't Wake Up the Bear

To go along with all the stories we’ve been reading, a picture sort of hibernating, migrating, and adapting animals was used to gauge understanding of hibernating animals. 

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There are many sorts available, but the sort we used was from Enchanted Homeschooling Mom’s Animals in Winter Mini Unit.  Not only did it contain the picture sort but areas to focus on the vocabulary.  If you’re not a member of Jill’s Member’s Only site, she has tons of resources available and it’s worth looking into!

Next week I’ll be focusing on games and activities, followed by posts on math and language arts activities linked to hibernation.  Feel free to click the button below to visit my initial post on hibernation with an outline of the unit and look forward to a document you can refer to for planning your own unit on hibernation!

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11 thoughts on “Winter Hideaway Wednesday: The Science of Hibernation

  1. Pingback: Winter Hideaway Wednesday: Introducing Hibernation | No Doubt Learning

  2. Nice! I didn’t know about the glucose blood thing myself. I repinned several if these on Pinterest. Thank you, Carolym

  3. Pingback: Winter & Snow Science Experiments

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