Arctic Exploration


Day Five Experiment: Exploring Conditions and Questions of Arctic Life

on October 23, 2017
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Arctic Exploration


  • Rulers, several per table
  • Non-latex gloves, 1 pair per child
  • Large bowl of ice water (in the center of each table)
  • Large can/bowl of vegetable shortening
  • Question Cards (see DVD-ROM or download below, 1 set per table)
  • Timer


  1. Photocopy the question cards and put each set on the tables, along with the other supplies. Adult table leaders will lead question card discussion after experiment is completed.

Class Time Directions

What's your favorite Arctic animal? Today, we're going to explore questions people often have when they think about animals living in the Arctic. Our first question is: how do animals, like seals, walruses, and whales, stay warm in the icy waters of the ocean?

One idea people have had is that all these animals must have a thicker layer of skin or fat that helps keep them warm. This special layer of fat is called "blubber." Blubber is a thick layer of fatty tissue that acts as a heat insulator and stores energy. An insulator keeps heat from moving from one place to another. In the Arctic, that would keep heat from leaving the bodies of these animals, so they wouldn't feel the cold of the air and water. Blood vessels in the fatty tissue get smaller, so that reduces blood flow and helps reduce the amount of energy needed to heat the body. Animal blubber covers the entire body, except for the fins and flippers. Blubber may be one of the main reasons why these animals stay warm and survive from year to year in the Arctic.

Let's do an experiment to see how fat can be a good insulator of heat. This will help us think about our question—how do animals, like seals, walruses, and whales, stay warm in the icy waters of the ocean?

  1. Put one glove on your hand. When I say, "Dip," dip your gloved index finger into the bowl of ice water and leave it there for one minute. Ready, DIP! Start timer for one minute.
  2. Remove your index finger from the ice water. On a scale from 1 to 10, 1 meaning "I really couldn't tell any difference" and 10 meaning "It's so cold, my finger hurts and I can't feel anything with it," decide your level of cold.
  3. Put the other glove on your other hand. Cover that index finger with vegetable shortening. Use your hand to mold it around the finger. Use the ruler to measure the thickness of the shortening. Be sure it's about 1/4–1/2 inch thick all around the finger.
  4. Put the vegetable shortening finger into the ice water for exactly one minute.
  5. On a scale from 1 to 10, how cold does this finger feel? How does it feel compared to the finger not covered in vegetable shortening? Was it warmer, colder, or the same as the first finger?
  6. Before we discuss our results and conclusions, let me show you how to remove your gloves. Demonstrate how to pull gloves off so they are inside-out. Have explorers put them in a pile in the center of the table for later clean-up.
  7. Now let me read to you the main ingredients in vegetable shortening—soybean oil, hydrogenated palm oil, and palm oil. These oils contain saturated fat. Does that sound familiar? That's right. Blubber and vegetable shortening both have fat in them. How many of you found the vegetable shortening finger was warmer? Does this help you understand how God created these Arctic animals with the ability to survive such extreme cold?
  8. Let's explore other questions people ask about animals in the Arctic. Read the questions (download below) and share your thoughts. Then turn the cards over to read the answers.

Related Downloads

Day 5 Experiment: Question Cards

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