Teaching About Polar Animals in Kindergarten

Teaching kindergarten students about polar bears is a chilling subject.
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From polar bears and arctic foxes to harp seals and penguins, teaching your kindergarten students about the animals that populate the poles can extend their learning into multiple content areas. Lessons that feature arctic animals may seem like they only fall under the science category, but these nature-based activities can also include literacy, art and even creative movement. Instead of sticking to one realm of content, use arctic animals into areas of study that encourage critical and creative thought.

1 Starting with Science

Although there are endless possibles when it comes to teaching your kindergartners about polar animals, starting with the science and nature aspect may seem like the most obvious. Instead of just showing the children pictures of different animals and talking about why they live in the arctic, try a hands-on lesson and make a blubber glove. Introduce animals that have blubber to keep them warm -- such as seals, whales and penguins. The science pros at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute suggest using an ice experiment to demonstrate how blubber works for animals. Give students plastic gloves to protect their hands, having them each place one of their gloved hands into a baggie that you've filled with shortening. The shortening will represent the fat of the blubber. Have them place their other hand into a plain, unfilled bag. the children can, one at a time, submerge both hands into an ice bath to compare which hand is warmer. This will help them to understand why polar animals have this added layer and how it can protect them from the harsh arctic weather.

2 Arctic Art

You can hang pictures of arctic animals up that someone else drew or you can let your students learn a lesson and create their own versions. After showing your kindergarten students photos of real polar animals, ask each one to choose one and draw it with crayons or markers onto construction paper. Take the art activity one step further and have the children make mini models of their animals using soft air-dry modeling clay. Complete the craft by adding a habitat component, helping students to create shoe-box dioramas. Invite each student to paint a polar scene on the inside of an empty shoe-box bottom using white and blue temperas. When the paint dries, add the animal sculptures to the 3D project.

3 Literacy Learning

Choose a few kindergarten-appropriate picture books that feature polar animals. For example, explore polar bears through Sarah L. Thomson's "Where Do Polar Bears Live?" or discover different creatures -- on the verge of extinction -- in "Animal Survivors of the Arctic" by Barbara A. Somervill. Increase your student's vocabulary use by creating a word wall, from the books or your class discussion, that features polar animal names such as arctic fox, walrus, polar bear or penguin.

4 Acting Up

Kindergarten kids can get creative, in the ways that they move, and act like the arctic animals that they're studying. After discussing polar creatures, have each student move like one of the animals. For example, one student can get down on all fours and lumber like a polar bear while another dashes quickly around like an arctic fox. Add in a layer of drama, and have the children make animal noises or act out a realistic scene that features arctic animals frolicking in the snow.

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.