Wonderworks: Animals in Winter

Occasionally, I get the opportunity to fill in for other regular storytimes at my library. I don’t often have the chance to work with preschoolers, but last week I presented our weekly Wonderworks storytime. This STEM storytime is designed for ages 3-6 with a collection of station-based activities afterwards allowing attendees to explore that week’s theme.

Whenever I get a chance to present Wonderworks, I typically connect the theme to animals. Last week, we talked about what animals do in winter, particularly hibernation, adaptation, and migration.

There are many great books on this topic, but I was right in predicting that my audience would be young (it was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and we had a ton of first time families and mostly children that were either 2-3 or 7-8).

We used a big book to read Sleepy Bear by Lydia Dabcovich. While the book is quite simple for the intended age range of this program, we were able to talk about the illustrations and the behaviors of many of the animals on the pages. We had a lengthy conversation about how we know the seasons are changing, and what we saw in the pictures that reflected that.

The flannel rhyme “Five Little Penguins” was definitely the hit of the storytime. We didn’t get to the book Mother Bruce, which we were going to watch via the Weston Woods video, due to lack of time, which I expected.

My full storytime outline is below.

Wonderworks STEM Stations

After storytime, folks were welcome to participate in a variety of activities that allowed them to further explore that week’s theme. These included:

Animal Tracks in the Snow

I cut out accurately-sized outlines of a polar bear track, deer track, raccoon track, and bird track out of thin foam. Attendees used markers on white butcher paper to trace and color in animal tracks in the snow, with the option of practicing writing skills by writing the name of the animal beside the track they made.

Blubber Experiment

Whenever possible, I like to include a small “experiment” in Wonderworks station-based play, where kids can learn more about a topic, make a hypothesis, and then test their hypothesis to see if it was true.

This week, we learned about blubber. We talked about this briefly during storytime when we talked about how animals, like polar bears and penguins, adapt during winter.

A coworker brought me a small bag of ice just as station play was beginning, which I dumped into our pre-set bin of water. Three kids at a time stopped by my station. They put their hand in the water and determined that it was, in fact, cold. We talked about how many winter animals in the Arctic and Antarctic swim in much colder water than this every day.

They then could test out three possible blubber substitutes–cotton balls, powdered sugar, and shortening. Quart sized ziploc bags were lined with each substance, and another quart size bag was placed in the middle inside-out, with the bags duct taped shut. That way, the child’s hand was protected from both water and the blubber substitute.

This is where science failed me–according to the internet and my own tests of this experiment, shortening acts as the best insulator. For whatever reason that morning, all three substances provided the same amount of warmth. The idea of explaining blubber still worked overall, even if the specifics of the experiment didn’t quite work.

This was definitely a popular activity, though I did have to manage it the whole time, since water was involved and our audience skewed young.

Find the Goslings Scavenger Hunt

Ten goslings were hidden around our activity center, and little ones had to practice their counting skills to find them all.

Download geese to hide around your room or library here.

Polar Bear Craft

Art is far from my favorite subject, but I like to include something art related in station-based play. I would have preferred something a bit more open-ended, but since I knew I would have to stay with the experiment station, I included an activity that was a little more straightforward in this polar bear craft.

Preschoolers practiced their fine motor skills by cutting out their own polar bears, and many got creative in coloring their bears and camouflaging them to match their backgrounds.

Polar Bear Craft printable outlines can be downloaded below:

App Play: Endless Alphabet

My last station incorporated technology. The Endless Alphabet app is definitely expensive ($8.99), but it is a high-quality app that helps little ones expand their vocabulary and practice identifying letter and recognizing letter sounds. During the storytime, we used the app as a group to talk about the word “camouflage.” Attendees were free to explore the app and and vocabulary words they liked. All ipads were locked to only allow access to that app.

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