Saturday, January 9, 2016

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Penguin Feather Science STEM with Preschoolers!

Penguin feather science! Math! STEM! Preschool! What more could you want?!

First, I have a few comments about STEM.  I love STEM activities, especially with young children.  It is so natural and easy to incorporate these domains that I often find myself wondering why they were ever separated in the first place.  "STEM" simply refers to doing an activity or project that integrates the following subjects: science, technology, engineering, and math.  You may have also seen STEAM, which includes art in the subject mix.  Engaging children in activities that integrate these subjects helps them both develop competence in each subject and the ability to use that competence in problem solving and other challenges.

Today's activity has science, engineering, math, and art components.  I'm also sharing an optional, but super fun, technology idea! And it's all about penguin feathers, which is super fun! 


* craft feathers (or real feathers, if they're clean!)
* play dough
* ruler with centimeters
* optional: old, heavy winter coat
* feather picture below

How To:

We began with a quick discussion on penguins! Do penguins have feathers? Yes! 
How do they live in the Antarctic with its super cold weather? Their feathers help keep them warm and dry!  Penguin feather science is incredibly important if you're a penguin who needs to stay alive!

Image Source

We compared the picture above to craft feathers.  Point out how the half of the penguin feather closest to the penguin's skin is made of fluffy downy feather barbs, and the barbs farthest from the skin fold up into a water-proof layer that covers all the downy fluff.  This traps the penguin's heat inside the feathers and keeps the penguin's skin dry.  (For another discussion of the oil gland the keeps water off the penguin, check out these penguin science experiments).

For this to work, penguins have to have a lot of feathers!  One scientist counted the feathers on emperor penguins and found that they had 9 feathers in every square centimeter!  Your challenge is 

1- To put 9 feathers in 1 square centimeter of play dough and

2- To see how many more feathers you can fit in your square centimeter and

3- To experiment however you want with your feathers and play dough!

Younger kids will need help measuring, but even older preschoolers (and definitely elementary aged kiddos) can grab their play dough, feathers, a ruler, and get started.

It's a lot of fun to sit at a table and work on the same challenge with your kiddos while you talk about penguins...or anything else they want to talk about!

Science Component: Penguins, habitats, adaptations.  You can give them direct instructions, but it is a lot more fun to talk about these concepts as you work.  We also talked about oil and water because we did an experiment with them a few months ago, and the kids remembered!

Technology Component: (optional) Pull out a heavy winter coat and ask the kiddos why they think it is so thick.  Explain that scientists use technology to create special material that is similar to the downy feathers on the penguins.  Let your kiddos cut open the coat and investigate the insulation material. Could penguin feather science be used to make better jackets?

Engineering Component:  Fitting as many feathers as possible in a small space.  This proved more challenging for our preschoolers than I anticipated!  They were very pleased as they figured out that they could pinch the playdough platforms to get better balance.

Art Component: Arranging feathers.  Each child was very pleased with their color choice and how the feathers looked when we were done!

Math Component: Counting, measuring with a ruler.

Do you love penguins?  Be sure to check out these penguin experiments, this penguin art project, my craft stick penguins, my {free} penguin mini book, our adorable Peek-a-Boo Penguins, and the Penguin Preschool Packet!   They all go great with a little penguin feather science!

And if you like science experiments and activities, you will love my collection of over 100 science experiments and activities!!

STEM Saturday.jpg

And be sure to check out our STEM Saturday posts this week:

Building Challenge with Cranberries from Lemon Lime Adventures
Styrofoam Shape Geoboard STEAM Activity from Little Bins for Little Hands
Penguin Feather Science STEM from Preschool Powol Packets

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Unknown said...

What a great lesson!