Monday, December 9, 2013

Preschool Lab: Animals in Winter

This post is cross-posted at the Nonfiction Monday group blog. Head over there to see what nonfiction bloggers have been reading this week!

Preschool Lab is a new program we're offering for preschoolers at my library. In the past, we've done Changing Leaves and Magnets, and in November, we talked about what animals do in winter. I stole most of my activities and ideas from Christina Jones's wonderful animals in winter program at Knowledge Matters (see part 1 and part 2).

We started by talking about three new words: adapt, hibernate, and migrate. These three words came up over and over as we read our books and talked about what animals do to survive the winter. I also included these words on their take-home packet with simple definitions (provided by one of our children's dictionaries).

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello - this is our standard opener and signals to everyone that it's time to start listening.

New words: We talked about adapt, hibernate, and migrate.

Book: When Winter Comes by Nancy Van Laan. I love the rhyming text and the wintry illustrations in this picture book. Each stanza features a different animal and my kids already knew (or could guess) what a lot of the animals did in winter. This provided us a great opportunity to talk about all these different animals, and of course it's great for them to hear those rhyming words.

Rhyme: Five Red Apples. I talked about what bears do in the winter: hibernate (one of our new words!). Before they hibernate, bears eat lots and lots and lots to build up fat to keep them warm. I used my bear puppet to eat each felt apple off the board as we counted down. At the end, I had bear fall asleep and told the kids that if they wanted to hear the rhyme again they'd need to wake him up!

Book: Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit by Il Sung Na. Before we started this book, we talked about the picture of the rabbit on the front and back of the book. On the back cover he's brown for spring and on the front cover he's white for winter. We practiced our new words again as we went through this book that shows many different animals preparing for winter.

I had planned another book here, Animals in Winter by Martha E.H. Rustad, which talks in more detail about some of our new words and shows real photos of animals. My kids were getting a little antsy, though, so I skipped right to our last activity.

Felt Activity: I passed out the animals from our woodland creature felt set (made by laminating pictures of the animals and putting felt on the backs). I sang a little song ("If you have a fox, a fox, a fox. If you have a fox, bring him up right now!") and the kids brought their animals up and put them on the felt board. As each animal was placed on the board, we talked about what the animals do in the winter. I used bear, raccoon, squirrel, rabbit, fox, and deer.


Which insulation works better? This is straight from Christina's post. I made up bags with feathers, yarn, and fat (vegetable shortening) and put them in tubs of ice. Children could predict which insulator would keep their hand the warmest, experiment, and then write down their conclusion.

Animal tracks in the snow. My wonderful Miss T made me some stencils of animal tracks that you might see here in Indiana. I put out paper and markers and let the kids trace animal tracks and label them. They loved this station and spent quite a bit of time here. This activity is great for fine motor control (using the markers and writing) and vocabulary (learning names of animals).


Getting dressed for winter. Miss T also made me some animal silhouettes in brown paper (representing their spring fur) and I put out cotton balls and our glue sponges and let the kids get the animals dressed for winter. As I circled around to this station, I talked about how these animals adapt by changing the color of their fur. I was worried that the glue sponge might not provide enough glue, but IT DID and it was way less messy than any of the other glue ideas I had.


Felt station. I put out the felt pieces we had used and let the kids play with them. I printed the words to our Five Red Apples rhyme so the kids could say that with their grownup. I also put out the forest animals set, which is great for sorting, counting, and vocabulary.

Dramatic play. I put out all the woodland creature puppets we had and just let the kids play with them. They were very into this station and came up with some creative (and science-based) ideas! We have a screen with a forest scene painted on it (to hide a small storage area) and many of the kids used that as a backdrop for their play. They also played predator and prey with the fox eating mice. And yes, I had one little guy singing "What does the fox say?" at the end of our program. :)


Of course I had displayed some books about winter animals, many of which were taken home. I also put out flyers for our other upcoming programs and a take-home packet with some additional activities. I included our three new words short directions (and web addresses) for: 

We had a blast this month and the stations were all very well-liked. This was our last Preschool Lab of the year; we'll take a storytime break from mid-December to mid-January to give us some time to plan for the spring. I'm looking forward to continuing our science learning this spring!