Monday, July 29, 2013


Polar Bear Fur Experiment & Poppins Book Nook

This experiment is so fun...and it makes the principles of insulation so tangible!

We love polar bears!!   The Poppins Book Nook theme this month is Oceans, so we spent some time learning about the arctic oceans and some animals that live there...especially polar bears!

Check out these amazing polar bear fun facts:

  • Polar bears are excellent swimmers and have been known to swim more than 60 miles!
  • When a polar bear is swimming, it can close its nostrils!
  • When a polar bear stands, it can be 8-9 feet tall!
  • A polar bear's foot is as large as a dinner plate!
  • Polar bear skin is black!
  • Polar bear fat is about 4 inches thick!
  • The furry coat of a polar bear can be 1-2 inches thick!
  • Polar bear hair is hollow and clear, but it reflects light and looks white!
  • Polar bear hair is oily--water does not stick to it easily and after swimming a polar bear can shake itself mostly dry!

The polar bear's thick fur is vital to staying warm in the icy arctic water.  We did this fun Polar Bear Fur experiment to demonstrate this insulation concept:

Polar Bear Fur Insulation Experiment

Simple Supplies: 
  • huge pile of balloons
  • rubber band
  • ice water

Easy How-To:

1- Make some polar bear fur by surrounding one of your fingers with the balloons and rubber-banding them together.  Polar bear fur is hollow, just like the balloons.  The "closed" end of the balloons represents where the hair connects to the bear's skin.  Remove the fur from your finger so your kids can slip their finger in the middle of the fur.  This is a little tricky, but you can do it pretty easily!  

2- Let one of your children's fingers turn into a polar bear finger!  This is a two step process:  First, slip their finger inside a balloon.  (Polar bears have thicker skin than you!)  Second, slip their finger inside the balloon fur you just made.  Be careful not to pinch your children's finger with either the balloons or the rubber-band.  Their finger will look like the first picture in this post.

3- Let your child put one kid finger and one polar bear finger into the ice water.  Talk about which finger gets cold faster and why this is.  You can also point out that polar bears have a thick layer of fat under their skin to keep their insides even warmer!

Your kids may also notice that just having a thicker, water-repellent layer keeps their skin warmer in the ice water:

One of my kids' favorite polar bear books was Where Do Polar Bears Live?  I really enjoyed it too--it had tons of fabulous polar bear information in it, and the pictures were wonderfully compelling!  I was a little disappointed by how much time the book spent on global warming, but since I was reading the book to my kids each time, I was able to adjust it to a level I appreciated.

Here are some amazon affiliate links to Where Do Polar Bears Live?  and a few other arctic books you may be interested in:

Do you love polar bears too?  Be sure to grab this {FREE} Polar Bear Preschool Packet.  It's perfect for preschoolers and can be used with older kids too!

Are you interested in other ocean-themed activities and books?  Check out the other Poppins Book Nook posts from these bloggers, and feel free to link up your own activities to the list!

I may share at any of these parties!


The Zookeeper said...

Very neat! I can't wait to click into the other websites to see what they have done too!

Ashley said...

I have seen this done with shortening, but this looks way cleaner! We will have to try it!

Carla at Preschool Powol Packets said...

The Zookeeper, I've been to most of them already, and they are a ton of fun! Enjoy your visits!

Ashley, We've done it with shortening too, but I wanted to represent the hollow, mostly-water-proof hairs this time. They make a huge difference in the bear's temperature, but they don't get as much credit as the fat! ;)

Cassie Osborne said...

We used to see a polar bear at one of the places we went to. But she died. These activities are always so neat to see!

Debbie Jackson said...

Thanks so much for hosting!

Eva - The Multitasking Mummy said...

Very creative! When my son is older I'm sure he'd love this. Thanks for linking up for Mummy Mondays.

Growing Book by Book said...

What a fun activity

Ashley said...

Featured you this week on Mom's Library!

Beth Gorden said...

What a fun idea! Thanks for linking up to TGIF! Hope to see you again tomorrow =)