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Animal Adaptations

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Biology Volunteer Activities

Students have the opportunity explore different ways that animals insulate themselves to stay warm in winter by testing different insulating materials in ice cold water (e.g., fur, cotton balls, foil, thermal sock, etc.).

What You Need

Materials:

  • Clear containers - 1 per group
  • Ice Water
  • Plastic Bags or wrap - 2+ per group
  • Insulating materials: fake fur, cotton balls, foil, thermal sock - 1 per group
  • Lard Mitt - 1 per group
  • Balloons - 1 per group 
  • Straws - 1 per group
  • Paper towels

Guide:

What To Do

  1. Split the class into groups of 3-4 students each.
  2. Hand out a container of cold water/snow, and the insulation testing materials.
  3. Walk through the activity with the students before they begin.
  4. Show a demonstration of how to test the insulation properties of air by a balloon over your finger and filling it with air with a straw.
  5. Explain to students that they will be testing each material by wrapping each finger with a different material, put your hand in a plastic bag, dip it in ice water/snow and see which material keeps your finger warmest (note: the blubber mitt covers an entire hand). As a group, they need to decide which materials were the best at keeping your finger/hand warm?
  6. Show a demonstration of how to test the insulation properties of air by placing a balloon on one finger without air in it. Then, insert the straw into the balloon (keep it on your finger) and blow some air into it. Test.

Discovery

What's Happening?

Insulator is another name for a material that is a poor conductor of heat. Insulators slow down the transfer of heat from an object or place that is warm like your hand to an object or place that is cooler. Heat always moves from hot areas to cold areas in an attempt to even out the temperature between the two places. Insulation is used to keep hot things hot and cold things cold. In order to reduce energy consumption, proper insulation is necessary to cut heating/cooling costs, while maintaining comfortable temperatures. Although covering a building in blubber would not be an effective way to insulate a building, trapping air in material, like birds do with their feathers, is a commonly-used strategy. Fiberglass, a material made from very fine fibers of glass, traps air in its fibres and is used to insulate buildings and homes.

What's Happening?

Insulator is another name for a material that is a poor conductor of heat. Insulators slow down the transfer of heat from an object or place that is warm like your hand to an object or place that is cooler. Heat always moves from hot areas to cold areas in an attempt to even out the temperature between the two places. Insulation is used to keep hot things hot and cold things cold. In order to reduce energy consumption, proper insulation is necessary to cut heating/cooling costs, while maintaining comfortable temperatures. Although covering a building in blubber would not be an effective way to insulate a building, trapping air in material, like birds do with their feathers, is a commonly-used strategy. Fiberglass, a material made from very fine fibers of glass, traps air in its fibres and is used to insulate buildings and homes.

Investigate Further

For older students, you may want to use more precision. Instead of using your finger, try filling a small water bottle with room-temperature water and placing a thermometer in the bottle. Pack plastic bags with insulating materials and place the bottle in the bags. Record the temperature of the bottle before placing it into the ice water/snow. Measure temperature changes every 5 minutes for 25-30 minutes. Repeat with different insulating materials. Each group could test a different material.
 

Investigate Further

For older students, you may want to use more precision. Instead of using your finger, try filling a small water bottle with room-temperature water and placing a thermometer in the bottle. Pack plastic bags with insulating materials and place the bottle in the bags. Record the temperature of the bottle before placing it into the ice water/snow. Measure temperature changes every 5 minutes for 25-30 minutes. Repeat with different insulating materials. Each group could test a different material.
 

Resources

Guide: