Penguins & Snow: Lesson Plan and Craft

Here in the Northeast where snow is a common sight, I was excited to explore it with my students. The first real snow of the season produces a pure joy that is somehow unmatched by additional snowfall. My children and students never seem to mind the accumulation as much as the adults do (since they typically play while we do the salting and shoveling!) This lesson plan and craft is an opportunity for Teachers, Parents and Students alike to have some fun while all learning about snow.

 

Penguins have long been my favorite animal. Not just because they are cute, but because they have some of the most interesting lives. Our winter unit on snow was the perfect time to talk about these wonderful creatures.

 

Penguins Lesson Plan

I explained to my students that Penguins are one of the best-known species of flightless birds (others being the Ostrich and most domesticated Ducks). While Penguins can live anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere from Ecuador to the South Pole, we focused on the most iconic ones, the Emperor Penguins of Antarctica.

 

We discussed how Emperor Penguins have special relationships with each other and remain in family units from season to season and sometimes stay together for life. Since Antarctica is the coldest place on Earth, they depend on each other to stay warm as well. A penguin chick is cared for from the time he or she is an egg by both parents, as they alternate to keep their new baby warm while the other searches for food. Their bodies have special ways of staying warm, in the extreme cold. We all shivered thinking about what it would be like to be there too!

 

Snow Lesson Plan

Imagine living in a place where snow covered the ground year-round! That’s what it would be like to live in Antarctica. I explained that the Earth doesn’t stand still, even though it feels like it. In fact, it spins very fast around the sun, as the moon spins around us. When we come closer or farther away from the sun, we experience day and night. In addition, the Earth tilts as it spins, causing either the Northern Hemisphere or (top of the world) to spin closer to the sun, or the Southern Hemisphere to do so. When the northern countries are closer, it is summer for us and winter for those places south of the Equator. When the southern countries are closer to the sun, it is their summer and winter for us. I also explained how it is always hot at the equator and cold at the poles, giving the penguins a nice, snowy place to live year-round.

 

How can there be so much snow in one place? The students were fascinated to learn that more than 60% of our bodies are water and more than 70% of the earth’s surface is also water. We talked about the fact that water can either be liquid, solid or gas. We touched upon the Water Cycle: water evaporates into vapor, which condenses in clouds and comes down to the ground again as precipitation: rain, sleet, hail or snow. The amount of water in the world is constant, it just changes its state. Water shifts between the states of solid, liquid and gas depending on the temperature. I showed the class pictures of a cloud, a snowman and a glass of water and asked them to identify which was solid, liquid and gas. The kids loved voting on which was which!

 

Extended Science Experiment

For an extended unit, I took an ice cube tray and filled it with water so that the class could see what happens when the water freezes as we brought it to the school fridge (you can also put it outside if it is cold enough!). We then brought the ice cubes back inside and melted them. Then, we (carefully) took a cup of hot water from the school’s kitchenette and watched the steam rise before “catching” it on a cup lid. With that, we watched the steam “turn” back to water as it cooled down.

Snowy Penguin Craft

When we had learned all about Penguins and snow, it was time to create a snow scene of our own. I had done this craft ahead of time and showed it to the children. They then were given penguin paper cut outs and we all decorated ours with paint. When they were dry, we took cardstock and covered it with snowflake tissue paper and I had the children each cut out a freeform snow bank from velour paper. We glued the snow and penguins down and gave them wiggly eyes. You can also make one big snowy background on your bulletin board and have each child decorate and contribute a penguin of their own. My students were so excited to take home a piece of winter that won’t melt away!

 

Supplies Needed:

Penguin Big Cuts

Paint & brush (We used black, white, orange and yellow paint)

Wiggle eyes (12mm Black)

Piece of cardboard or bulletin board

Glue & Scissors

Velour paper in White, gray and light blue

Snowflake Tissue paper

 

  1. Lay out and glue snowflake tissue paper onto cardboard (2 sheets for opacity).

 

  1. Cut out and glue down snowy hills and water from white, gray and light blue velour paper.

 

  1. Paint Penguin Big Cuts on a separate surface. (glue temporarily to dry flat). When dry, adhere wiggle eye.

 

  1. Glue penguins onto snowy scene.

 

  1. Add any finishing touches and enjoy!
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Ages 5+
Level 1
30 min
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