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How Does a Penguin Stay Warm?

Main Core Tie

Science - Kindergarten
Standard 4 Objective 1

Time Frame

1 class periods of 45 minutes each

Group Size

Small Groups


Utah LessonPlans


Students work together as a class to generate a science fair project. The students use the steps of the scientific method to ask a question, form a hypothesis, design a test, collect data, and draw conclusions. Their findings are presented to the class and placed on a science fair project board for the school science fair. The topic of this project is how penguins survive in the icy ocean.


  • gallon Ziploc bags (2 per group)
  • large bowl filled with ice water (one per group)
  • one large container of shortening (one can will work for 4 or 5 groups of students
  • one thermometer per group
  • several half sheets of paper per group
  • one science fair presentation board
  • headings made for the presentation board: what we want to learn, what we think will happen, how we did it, what we saw, what we learned

Background for Teachers

How does a penguin stay warm in the Antarctic waters? Penguins are warm-blooded animals that need to keep their internal body temperature between 95 -- 107 degrees Fahrenheit. Penguins have a fat layer called blubber that insulates them and keeps them warm in the ocean. The feathers on the penguin with the blubber keep it warm while on land. Penguins also stay in groups while on land so that they can block the wind and use each other's body heat to stay warm. We can test if this blubber layer keeps a penguin warm by using shortening.

Intended Learning Outcomes

  1. Framing questions. Designing investigations. Conducting investigations. Collecting data. Drawing conclusions.
  2. Developing social interaction skills with peers. Sharing ideas with peers. Connecting ideas with reasons. Using multiple methods of communicating reasons/evidence.
  3. Ideas are supported by reasons. There are limits to ideas in science. Differences in conclusions are best settled through additional observations and investigations. Communication of ideas in science is important for helping to check the reasons for ideas.

Instructional Procedures

Pre-lab Discussion:

Show the students pictures of penguins and ask them how penguins stay warm in the ocean. Ask them how long they would stay warm in the freezing water. Discuss with the students what a science fair is and tell them that they will complete a science fair project today in the classroom.

Instructional Procedures:

Experiment: Complete the experiment first and then work on the project.

  1. Have students place their hands in the ice bucket for 20 seconds. Some students will not be able to make the entire time. Discuss how that feels and how long they think they could survive in Antarctic waters.
  2. Place a thermometer into the ice water mixture. Leave it for one minute and then read the temperature. Go over how to read a thermometer with the students. Place this temperature reading in a data table.
  3. Have students place their hand in the inner bag of the blubber bag. Have them take turns putting the bag with their hand into the ice water. Discuss how this feels and how long they think they could survive in Antarctic waters if they had a layer of blubber around them.
  4. Have students predict the temperature reading inside the blubber bag.
  5. Place a thermometer into the inner bag of the blubber bag. Be sure the thermometer is covered with Crisco. Place it into the ice bucket. Leave it for one minute and then read and record the temperature.

Science Face Display Board:

Assign each group a different section of the class science fair display board. Each group can decide what to write and then help the students take turns writing the different words on a half sheet of paper. Students will write up their section and then place it in the appropriate area on the display board. If you take pictures of the students working on the project you can put them on the board as well.

  1. Why we did the project -- In a couple of sentences, write the purpose of the experiment. For example, we want to find out how penguins stay warm in the Antarctic.
  2. What we think will happen -- We will do this as a group before we do the experiment. An example, we think that blubber will keep a penguin warm in the cold ocean. If they predict a different outcome then use their hypothesis.
  3. How we did our project -- Simplify the experiment. Put it in number format of no more than 3 steps.
  4. Title --make a title that is catchy and describes the experiment
  5. What we saw -- Place each group's data table on the project board. Students can also draw some pictures at the same time to add to the board.
  6. What we learned -- In a few sentences, explain whether our prediction was correct. Explain what that tells us about penguin's blubber.

Display Board Sections:

Left Panel Center Panel Right Panel
why we did the project title what we learned
what we think will happen tables, pictures  
how we did our project drawings name of teacher


Rio Tinto Hands-on Science Curriculum Team

  • Ms. Rae Louie -- Administrator, Principal Beacon Heights Elementary
  • Emily Mortensen -- Grant writer, teacher outreach, 2nd grade teacher at Beacon Heights Elementary
  • Ruth Li -- Curriculum design, K-6 Science Educator at Indian Hills Elementary
  • Deirdre Straight -- Curriculum development, K-6 Science Educator at Beacon Heights Elementary
  • Tim Rausch -- Website development, Library Media at Beacon Heights Elementary

Created: 04/07/2013
Updated: 02/02/2018