The natural changes and actions of animals during the winter months provide the opportunity to talk about a variety of science and math concepts, from predator/prey relationships to hibernation and camouflage. From the changing coats and feathers experienced by some animals when the temperature drops to those who simply fatten up and sleep the season away, these activities will help you start talking animals and science this winter.
Winter White – Camouflage in Winter
Mention “camouflage” and most kids will think of chameleons – or hunters – but this fascinating concept is also easily introduced during the winter. Identifying the wide range of animals that use protective coloration and the select few who change colors when the weather gets cold gives you the opportunity to learn more about how the process works and to introduce activities for art, math, science and more.
Arctic fox, caribou and hares all fade to white each snowy season, but for different reasons. Use this opportunity to talk about predator/prey relationships or to perform experiments to see how well camouflage works. One of the easiest camouflage activities can be used for a variety of ages, with minimal prep time.
You’ll need some laundry baskets or other vessels, white construction paper and scissors. Cut several rabbits from white paper, then tear or cut other papers into strips and off shapes. Dump the papers into a basket and hide the rabbits inside. See how long it takes students to discover the rabbits. Repeat the experiment, using the white paper, but replacing the white rabbits with brown ones. Students will rapidly realize how much easier it is to pick out the rabbits when they have no protective camouflage. The smaller you cut your paper and rabbits, the more difficult the activity will be for the kids participating.
The classic children’s book makes a welcome addition to a winter study of animals. Young children will enjoy counting the animals, learning “why” the animals went into the mitten and even coming up with mittens of their own using construction paper and basic art supplies. Older kids can explore the language used in the book, outlining the story and identifying the adjectives used to describe the cold, snowy day. This classic read aloud makes an excellent companion to studies on animals, snow, weather or even how the seasons change and why they change when they do.
Why do animals hibernate – and which animals are most likely to rest this winter? Take some time to talk about hibernation, conservation of energy and why some animals fatten themselves up for a long winter rest. Use videos or books to identify why some animals hibernate and to learn about the diverse species that engage in this activity. From identifying animals that hibernate in your own region to comparing hibernation with other survival strategies (migration, weathering the cold, etc.). Round out the study with a class hibernation day, complete with pajamas, stories and activities based on hibernation.
Using the natural change of seasons and cold weather as a prompt allows you to incorporate these topics in a meaningful way and helps them resonate with your class, too.