Thursday, October 24, 2013

mammals, blubber and the zoo (oh my!)

During the entire month of October, my class does a very thorough study of mammals.  We learn about many, many different mammals, but my favorite to teach about are the Arctic mammals.  I'm pretty sure I could teach the entire month just talking about polar bears, whales and the many other creatures you can find up north.

My students' favorite thing we did this month has to be, hands down, the all too famous blubber experiment.  A little messy, a lot of fun--my first graders couldn't get enough of it!  It's super simple to do as long as you have all of the supplies and a great demonstration of how those Arctic animals keep warm.

You can find many how-tos for this experiment all over the internet, I'm sure, but this is how we did it:

vegetable shortening
two pairs of plastic gloves

1. Before the experiment, I filled one of the plastic gloves with vegetable shortening and made sure it was in all of the fingers and the hand/palm area.  I then put a clean glove on my hand and stuck that hand and glove inside the shortening glove.  The shortening acts as the "blubber" for the experiment.
2. I filled a bowl full of ice and added water to about two inches from the top of the bowl.  
3. I had each kiddo wear the blubber glove on one hand and two clean gloves on the other (we did a little discussion of a "control" for the experiment).  After each first grader got a turn, we talked about which hand felt colder faster and the blubber helped to keep one hand warm.  We, of course, recorded our discussion on a giant piece of chart paper (love chart paper!  I wish I had taken a picture of it, though!).

Note:  While year old shortening does work for this experiment, it also smells funny.  Live and learn.  Probably a good idea to buy new shortening for next year!

In addition to this experiment and all the other in class things we do to learn about mammals, we also take a trip to the zoo in our city.  We have a very set curriculum of animal studies, and our students learn about different types of animals during each year in the primary grades.  Of course, the zoo is one of the only field trips we can utilize for these studies, so we take care to really focus on the animals we are studying at that point.  To help my first graders at the zoo find all the mammals, I created these mammal tour guides for them to take with them.  

I use the map from the zoo website to help me break them down into the different habitats and put them in the order that students will see them.  I personally get a kick out of seeing the first graders so intently searching the zoos with their tour guides and pencils, ready to check off each mammal as they see it.  When we get back from the zoo, we use these to help us with any writing we do about our trip.

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