To prepare for this educational activity, we recommend reading a few fun facts about Polar Bears and their habitat (courtesy of Polar Bears International).
Polar Bear Facts
Fur – Polar Bears have two coats of fur: a thick, soft, insulating undercoat and a top coat of thick, long, stiff guard hairs.
Skin and Fat – Below their two coats of fur Polar Bears have black skin under which is a layer of fat (or blubber) that can measure up to 4.5 inches thick.
Temperatures – In the High Arctic, the sun sets in October and doesn’t rise again until late February. Winter temperatures can plunge as low as -50° F and stay that way for weeks.
On land (or on top of the sea ice) the Polar bear’s thick fur coat—not its fat—prevents heat loss. In fact, Polar Bears quickly overheat. This is why they tend to keep a slow and steady pace.
In the water, Polar Bears rely on their fat layer to keep warm: wet fur is a poor insulator. This is why mother bears are so reluctant to swim with young cubs in the spring: the cubs don’t have enough fat. As long as they don’t have to go into water, dry fur keeps little cubs warm at very cold spring temperatures.
‘How Polar Bears Stay Warm’ Activity
Ok, now that you have some talking points, it’s time to teach your youngsters about Polar Bears, their habitat and how their blubber acts as an insulator against the harsh and icy Arctic waters. Set up for this activity is cheap and easy, and your kids will have a blast while they learn something.
• Large Bowl
• Ice Cubes
• Clean Ones Disposable Gloves
• Vegetable Shortening
• Plastic Wrap
Fill a large bowl with cold water and ice. Set aside to chill. Gather disposable gloves, vegetable shortening and plastic wrap.
Set up a play station. Somewhere where your child can comfortably access the bowl of icy water — a kitchen table would work perfectly.
Encourage your child to stick their hand in the icy water. Turn this into a game by asking them to count how long they can have their hand submerged. This is great counting practice. (Note: we recommend stopping your child once they have reached the count of 30.)
Next, put a disposable glove on your child’s hand — and yes, it’s ok that the glove is too big for their hand. Also to make clean up easy, put on a pair of disposable gloves yourself.
Have your child make a fist, and coat their gloved hand in a thick layer of vegetable shortening.
Take off your own of disposable gloves and wrap your child’s vegetable shortening covered hand in plastic wrap.
Repeat step 3 and ask them to count again. This time, don’t stop them on the count of 30. While their hand is submerged, talk to them about the similarities between Polar Bear blubber and the vegetable shortening covering their hand.
Clean up and visit International Polar Bear Day for ideas on how you can participate in International Polar Bear Day