Wednesday 9 January 2013

Preparing for winter: Hibernation

We are now officially in winter, so we learn about how animals get themselves ready for the season by reading,

and learning about their different strategies to get through winter. One of the strategies that we often hear about is hibernation.

We also earned much from watching the clips from Snow Watch.  The clip on tracks would have been very useful last winter to identify the many tracks we saw in the snow, but it might still come in handy in a few days' time when it snows again.

We then decided to go out into the garden and look for signs of animals preparing for winter, by turning over big stones, flower pots, looking behind the ivy... etc.

Not much luck, except for a few earthworms and slugs under some rotting pieces of wood...

Although we know that there is a 3-feet grass snake living somewhere behind/under the shed, I was certainly not going to disturb it.  We then came back into the house and learned about the winter behaviour of the animals that we have seen around here:
To understand how animals insulate themselves in the winter, we conducted a few experiments on hibernation science

For the first experiment, we used the following materials:

Materials: a bucket of ice water, petroleum jelly, two plastic bags, a rubber band
Tiger put his hand in one of the bags while I spread a thick layer of petroleum jelly on the bag before putting the second bag over the first, and securing both bags in place with the rubber band.

Then the fun begun.  First, Tiger submerged his bare hand into the cold water and managed to hold it in there for 40 seconds.

Next he put his insulated hand in and held it for 3 minutes 4 seconds.

That was a long time difference due to the extra insulation, demonstrating how animals keep warm in winter by either growing extra fur or put on extra fat by eating more in autumn.

We also verified for ourselves how difficult it is for animals to find food in winter due to frost or snow.  The materials needed are a few pieces of fruit (we used chopped pineapple chunks) and an ice cube tray.

Put each piece of fruit in each cube of ice cube tray.


Smell the fruit and note how strong the smell is, and how delicious it smells.


Then put water into the cubes and put the tray in the freezer.

Once the ice cubes are formed, try to smell the fruit and note whether the smell is stronger or weaker compared to before.  Then try to eat the fruit.  You should find that the smell is weaker when the fruit is iced over, and much harder to eat.  This explains the condition for animals finding food in winter, which is why we do what we can to feed our birds these days.

We also went outside to try out the best ways to stay warm:
  • in the wind versus out of the wind
  • curling up versus not curling up
  • on the grass versus on the stone
  • huddling together versus standing alone
  • running around versus standing still

Just for fun, Tiger also played the matching memory game with hibernating animals, watched the hibernating bear clip, and completed a maze leading the hibernating bear to its winter supplies.

This post is linked up to:
1) Look What We Did: January Link-Up
2) All Year Round Blog Carnival: Winter
3) Enchanted Thursdays Blog Hop #43
4) Homeschool Mother's Journal: January 11, 2013
5) Collage Friday - A Great Start to 2013
6) Weekly Wrap-U: The First One in 2013
7) Share it Saturday - Linky Party
8) The Sunday Showcase 1/12/13
9) Science Sunday: Studying Primates
10) Homeschool Science Share & Tell - January 2013


  1. I've been wanting to try that blubber experiment - looks fun for the kids!

  2. What a great post! Im pinning it for future lessons!!!

  3. I love all of the experiments you did with this! I need to remember these for our upcoming rodents unit.

  4. These are such visual ways of demonstrating hibernation and the difficulties of finding winter food.

  5. Thank you so much for linking up your post at Apologia's Homeschool Science Share and Tell! We appreciate your participation!


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