- Students will learn where the Arctic is located.
- Students will observe how the position of the Arctic in relation to the Sun results in very cold weather.
- Students will learn about the animals that live in the Arctic and how they adapt to survive.
Why Are Arctic Animals Special?
Globe of the Earth
Give one student a flashlight and ask the student to stand in the center of the room. Then ask another student to stand several feet away from the flashlight holding the globe of the Earth.
Discuss the following questions and comments with your students:
1. The Sun is a star that gives us two important things. Can you name them?
(light and heat)
2. Imagine that the flashlight is the Sun shining on the Earth. What part of the Earth do you think would get the most heat? (Answer: the middle part.) Why? It is closer to the Sun.
3. Which parts of the Earth is the coldest? (The top and bottom of the Earth)
4. The top part is called the Arctic. This is where the North Pole is. Even though it is very cold and has lots of snow and ice, there are animals that can live and survive there.
5. When we are cold we can put on a coat. An animal can’t do that. How can an animal stay warm? (Animals have special thick coats of fur. Some of them are waterproof, too.)
6. Since there are no trees to protect smaller animals from their enemies, what are some ways they are protected? (Many have colors that blend in with the snow.)
Time To Read
One of my favorite Arctic animal books is Over in the Arctic Where the Cold Winds Blow by Marianne Berkes. Not only does this book provide information about Arctic animals, the presentation is delightful. The text is written in rhyme, contains good action words and follows numbers one through ten. A perfect selection for preschoolers!
The back of the book contains information for the teacher about the mentioned animals, teaching tips from both the author and illustrator and it even has a song.
Read the book a second time and ask the children to move according to the actions of the animals: roll, thump (hop), kick (safely), hide, click, breathe, swoop (use your wings), honk, growl, and howl.
Use the movements for a relay race!
Arctic Animals and How They Survive
As the students learn about each animal, ask them to draw the animals and cut them out. Add cotton for fur on some of the animals. Create a large bulletin board of the Arctic region complete with lots of animals.
Polar Bear: The fur on the polar bear is water-repellent and has a thick layer of blubber underneath. A polar bear can actually become hot in the frozen north! Sometimes they have to roll around on the ice to cool down.
Arctic Hare: The strong back legs help the hare run from enemies. The white fur blends in with the snow and helps to protect the hare from being seen. To stay warm a group of hares hide together in a hole they dig in the snow.
Walrus: The walrus has strong back flippers to move through the water. Its large tusks are used to hook into the ice and pull the walrus around on land.
Arctic Fox: This fox turns white to blend in with the snow. It has sharp teeth and claws that can dig for food. Sometimes they eat
scraps left over from polar bears.
Beluga Whale: This mammal makes lots of noise! The sounds bounce off objects and help the Beluga find food and locate holes in the ice so that they can breathe.
Seal: The seal is also a mammal. It has a layer of blubber that holds the heat in the body. They spend a lot of time in the cold water. When they come up for air they might get snatched by a polar bear.
Snowy Owl: This kind of owl hunts at night and in the day also. It builds nests on the ground because there are no trees. The owl has very good eyesight.
Snow Geese– Snow geese are strong flyers and move to the frozen area to start a family. In the winter they fly south. That is how this animal adapts.
Wolverine: Wolverines are the largest member of the weasel family and are very mean. They spray any leftover food with a terrible odor so no other animal will bother the food.
Arctic Wolf: The Arctic wolf can go for long periods without food. It has good senses of smell, sight and hearing. Its coloring blends with the snow and two thick coats of fur keep the wolf warm.
Caribou: The caribou is a member of the deer family and built for the cold north weather. Its hooves are broad and can dig through the snow for food. The coat of the caribou has hollow hair making for easier floating in the water. The hair is also thick and kinky to keep it warm. The caribou moves to warmer areas when the winter comes.
Narwhal: Known as the “unicorn of the sea" because of its single tusk, the narwhal is a fast swimmer when it wants to be. Sometimes, though it floats on its back making it look dead. Four inches of fat protect it from cold temperatures.
Individual pictures of Arctic animals (here is a flashcard page for kids).
Place pictures of animals around the room. Then use the information the children have learned to play “I Spy". Here are some examples:
- I spy an animal that swims. This animal has to watch out for polar bears.
- I spy an animal that has a tusk. This animal is known as a “unicorn of the sea".
- I spy a member of the deer family. When it gets too cold this animal travels farther south.
Math and Polar Bears
Of all of the Arctic animals, the polar bear is usually the favorite of young children. After all, they look so fluffy and cuddly. So add an additional book to your lesson that focuses on the polar bear.
Read Sarah Thomson’s, Where Do Polar Bears Live? to your students. Along the way be prepared to include some math.
- The fur on the polar bear is six inches thick. Use a ruler to measure a few things that are six inches thick to show the children what that looks like. Imagine how you would feel in a coat that was six inches thick!
- Polar bears can be 10 feet tall! Place 3 yard sticks plus a 12" ruler on the floor end to end to show the children how tall this is. How many children would it take, laying head to toe, to be the same size as the polar bear?
- A newborn cub weighs about 2 pounds and is about 9" long. Find things that are about the same size in the classroom.
Marco the Polar Bear
Marco the Polar Bear, (Make circle in front of body with arms.)
White as the snow, (Extend arms out proudly.)
Sat down on the ice (Sit down.)
Near the cold water’s flow (Shiver.)
“Lunch! I need lunch," he said. (Rub stomach.)
“I’ll make a wish." (Put hands together to make wish.)
He stuck in his paw (Put right hand down.)
And up it came with a fish! (Hold up right hand and smile.)
Berkes, Marianne. Over in the Arctic Where the Cold Winds Blow. Dawn Publications, 2008.
Lynch, Wayne. Arctic A to Z. Firefly Books, Ltd., 2009.
Thomson, Sarah. Where Do Polar Bears Live? Haper Collins, 2010.
Guiberson, Brenda. Ice Bears. Henry Holt and Company, 2008.
Arctic Fox by, CambridgeBayWeather at Wikimedia.
Arctic Hare by, Steve Sayles at Wikimedia.
Narwhal by, Pearson Scott Foresman at Wikimedia.
Think Quest, http://library.thinkquest.org/3500/animals.htm
National Geographic, http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/animals/creaturefeature/polar-bear/