December has arrived, and in colder regions it’s time to combat the frost with coats, scarves, gloves, earmuffs, and boots. It’s just the right atmosphere for a chilly science activity—when you and your student are safe and warm inside, of course.
This blubber glove experiment helps students understand and even experience how marine animals such as polar bears stay warm in cold climates. Just a few materials are needed, and you can easily find these at home. Once you assemble your supplies, guide your student through the instructions listed below.
Blubber Glove Experiment Instructions
- A large bowl of ice water
- A lunch- or quart-sized Ziploc bag
- A gallon-sized Ziploc bag
- 1-2 cups of shortening
- Old socks, mittens, or gloves
- Have your student dip one or two fingers into the bowl of ice water and describe how it feels. Ask him or her to imagine what it would feel like to swim in the ice water.
- Scoop 1-2 cups of shortening into the larger Ziploc bag.
- Have your student put his or her hand inside the smaller Ziploc bag and snap it closed as much as possible.
- Help your student place his or her bagged hand inside the large bag. The small bag is meant to protect your child’s hand from direct contact with the shortening.
- Mold the shortening around his or her bagged hand, adding more if necessary. Shut the large bag around his or her wrist.
- Place the bowl of ice water over a sink or in the bathtub and have your child submerge his or her hand in it. How does it feel now?
If you want to try this activity with a middle school student, simply provide him or her with the list of supplies without the instructions. Your child can then identify and test different types of insulation methods on his or her own.
Critical Thinking Questions
Ask your student these questions after completing the blubber activity to test his or her comprehension.
- Why do polar bears swim in freezing cold water?
- How do you think polar bears gain their protective layers of body fat?
- What other animals that in cold climates?
- What would happen to animals living in cold climates if they did not have a layer of protective body fat?
- What are some ways that people keep their bodies insulated during the winter?
- What are some other methods you use to keep warm? Which of these methods can be used by animals?
- How do reindeer stay warm?
Polar Bear Facts
- The blubber from ringed seals helps polar bears maintain their body temperature in cold climates. It also helps them store enough energy to last between meals when food becomes scarce.
- April, May, June, and July are important months for polar bears because they use this time to replenish their body fat by hunting ringed seals.
- Polar bears are the largest land predators currently in existence.
- A polar bear’s feet have small depressions on the pads that act as suction cups. These suction cups help polar bears grip the ice so they can run without slipping.
- A polar bear’s skin is black to soak up heat from the sun.
- Wide paws help distribute a polar bear’s weight so it doesn’t break through the ice.
- Only pregnant polar bears live in a den because cubs need to be born in a warm environment. A polar bear’s den can be up to 38 degrees warmer than the outside temperature.
Let us know how your child liked this activity!