Lesson Plans for First Grade on Arctic Animals

A polar bear is an arctic animal first graders will love to study.
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First graders are excited about the world around them and will find learning about arctic animals very engaging. The Arctic is a unique part of the world, and the animals that inhabit that region have special adaptations that children should enjoy learning about. Some common animals to focus on are polar bears, seals, and walruses.

1 Building on Background Knowledge

Begin by finding out what the children know about the Arctic and start a KWL (what we Know, what we Want to know and what we Learned) chart. After you've established the children's level of background knowledge, build on it and see what they would enjoy learning about most. Locate the Arctic on a globe. This is a great time to read a story about the region, such as "The Arctic Habitat" by Molly Aloian. Children need to know what the Arctic is like because it impacts the animals that call this place home. For instance, it's very cold and covered with snow and ice all winter.

2 Who Lives in the Arctic?

Seals are fun to learn about.
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Use a computer and projector to show children pictures of animals that live in the Arctic. Read a story about arctic animals, such as "Amazing Arctic Animals" by Jackie Glassman. Lead children to discover that arctic animals have traits that help them survive in the cold climate of the Arctic, such as blubber and thick fur to keep them warm and white fur to blend into the snow. Create a Venn Diagram comparing arctic animals with desert animals. Show pictures of various animals and have children guess if they are arctic animals. Plan to spend more time reading about polar bears, seals, and walruses.

3 Animal Adaptations

Show how blubber keeps polar bears warm.
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Teach children about specific adaptations that help animals live in the Arctic. For instance, tell them about camouflage by having them observe most arctic animals are white, like snow, to blend into their surroundings. Fill a bag with white objects such as cotton balls, tissues and pieces of paper, and then hide white polar bear pictures and brown bear pictures and have children look to see which is easier to find. To demonstrate how polar bears use blubber to stay warm, fill a small tub with ice water and fill a bag with cooking fat. Have a child put a plastic glove on and put their hand in the bag of cooking fat and then in the ice water. They will experience for themselves how the fat helps keep their hand warm.

4 Activity Centers

First graders learn best with hands-on engaging activities. Center activities done in small groups help them solidify learning. For an arts and crafts activity, have students create an arctic scene. Use blue construction paper for the background and let them glue on cotton for snow and use construction paper to create animals for their scene. Another project can be creating a polar bear using an empty water bottle filled with cotton balls and adding a polar bear face and paws. Create a sensory tub by freezing water in a plastic tub and letting students play with arctic animal figurines.

Katrice Morris is an educator based in Georgia. She has six years of classroom teaching experience in the primary grades and certified to teach grades Pre-K through 8 in the state of Georgia. She holds an Master of Education in instructional leadership from the University of Illinois at Chicago.