ANIMALS IN WINTER UNIT
By: Carmen Willings
Students may wonder how animals adapt to colder weather, where they live and how they find food. In school, students learn about migration and hibernation but these may be confusing concepts. Pre-teaching and reinforcing this information with the student may help the student gain a better understanding of this concept.
Interaction with real materials is critical in developing an understanding of concepts for students with minimal or no vision. Possible materials for this unit include, but are not limited to:
Animal fur (see if you can borrow some from a local taxidermist), casts of animal tracks, berries, birdseed, evergreen branch, feathers
Animals in the Winter Vocabulary
Possible Vocabulary Words for this unit include but are not limited to (select words appropriate for your student):
Adapt, Animal, Bark, Bear, Berries, Bird, Butterfly, caribou, chipmunk, coat, cold, den, elk, evergreen, feather, footprint, fox, fur, heartbeat, hibernate, insulation, log, mammal, melt, migrate, migration, north, paw, quill, rabbit, reindeer, roots, skunk, snow, snowshoe, rabbit, south, survive, temperature
Animals in the Winter Discussion
Objective: The student will gain knowledge and understanding through topic discussion.
Discuss with the student not only people, but also animals and birds do different activities during the winter. People stay inside, wear warm clothes when they go outside, turn on heat and tend to eat warm food. But what do animals do? Some animals hibernate (sleep) or go to warmer areas in the winter, some animals migrate (go to warmer areas) while other animals adapt.
Some animals migrate prior to winter. This means they travel to other places where the winter is warmer and they can find food to eat. Some birds, but not all, migrate. Other animals migrate including some bats, caribou, elk, and whales. Some fish and insects migrate as well.
Many animals remain and stay active in the winter and adapt to the changing weather. The animals make changes in their behavior or bodies. To keep warm, they may grow thicker fur. Many animals prepare for the winter by storing up food to eat later. Other animals like rabbits and deer, spend winter looking for bark, leaves, moss, and twigs. Some animals eat different kinds of food as the seasons change. The red fox eats fruit and insects in the other three seasons, but eats small rodents in the winter. Animals find shelter in holes in trees or logs, under rocks or leaves, underground, or in caves and dens.
Animals that are active during the winter leave tracks when there is snow on the ground or when the ground is soft. It is possible to tell what animal left the tracks because their tracks are unique. An animal track is a mark left by a moving animal. You can find the path, route, or course of the animal by examining its track. Tracking is a technique that scientists and hunters use to find and follow animals.
Some animals hibernate for part or all of the winter. Animals that hibernate go into a very deep sleep. The animal’s body temperature drops, and its hearbeat and breathing slow down. It uses very little energy. Animals hibernate to save their energy and don’t need to eat. Animals prepare for hibernation in the fall by eating extra food and storing it as body fat. They use this fat for energy while hibernating. Some animals also store food such as nuts or acorns to eat later in the winter. Some squirrels and mice hibernate. Bears are nappers as they wake up to move around little but not to eat. Raccoons and skunks are nappers and snackers. They store food, hibernate, but wake up to have snacks.
Animal Track Molds
Objective: Student will follow directions to make animal track molds.
Find animal tracks in the mud or snow. Make a circular wall around the track using a plastic or cardboard ring or strip that is at least 1 1/2" wide. Press the strip into the soil deep enough so the plaster doesn't run under it. Make the plaster mixture by mixing Plaster of Paris with water following the package directions (the mixture should be similar to pancake batter). Pour the plaster into the frame. To protect the track, pour the plaster onto the surrounding ground and let it run inside the track instead of pouring directly into the track. Let the cast set until firm, and remove. The cast may need to set for a few days before it is completely safe to handle.
Real World Experience
Objective: Student will develop a more concrete understanding of unit and their world through direct interaction with their world.
Arrange for the students to visit a nature center. Arrange for a guide to show the students about tracks. If you are unable to take a field trip, take a nature walk around the school campus and look for signs of animals in winter. Bring a animal track identification guide and a portable recording device to record any sounds. Feed and observe winter birds and animals. Study animal tracks with magnifiers when possible. Prior to walk, point out the possible birds the students may hear or see on the walk. Possible birds include: bluebird, blue jay, cardinal, dove, eagle, gull, hawk, owl, snowbird, woodpecker.
Discussion Following Winter Walk
Objective: Student will reflect on their experience and communicate what they are able to recall (demonstrate memory) including what they heard, saw, smelled, felt, etc.
Upon return to class/indoors, encourage students to discuss what they saw, heard, touched and experienced during the experience. Encourage the student to provide details and describe any signs of animals they saw or heard during the experience. Play back audio record from the experience. As you listen, pause it to have the students identify the sounds. Encourage them to communicate feelings or ideas related to the experience. Make a list of these items/experiences, write a short story about it, or just retell the experience.
Objective: Student will be able to match sounds.
Fill a variety of matching containers with items from the unit. Consider placing the following items in containers: pinecone, birdseed, dried corn, twig, evergreen branch, berries. Check to ensure that each container has a unique sound. Create a matching set. Encourage the student to shake the containers and pair up the matching sounds.
Hibernating Animal Hide-n-Seek
Objective: Student will localize to sounds, move toward the sound and obtain it.
Obtain a stuffed bear or other animal that hibernates in the winter. Carefully open the animal at a seam and insert a beeper. Attach Velcro to allow you the ability to open and close it. Hide the bear and encourage the student to listen and locate the hiding bear. Take turns with the student and allow them to have a turn hiding the bear. Encourage the child to invite peers to play!
Objective: Student will explore a variety of wet/dry textures and transfer materials using tools.
Fill a bin or container with birdseed, twigs, pinecones, acorns and other items that can be found in nature in the winter. Provide the student with empty containers to use to scoop and pour or to transfer items into.
Matching Animals Tracks
Objective: Student will use textures to match, sort and name objects.
Create a set of tactual animal prints on cards and label with the animals name that made the track. Encourage the students to match the words and track.
Sleeping Bear Case Match
Objective: Student will locate and match letters that are the same or upper case to lowercase.
Create file folder activity using cave cutouts. Place a lower case letter on each cave. Prepare cutouts of bears with uppercase letters on their bellies. Encourage the student to match the correct bear to the cave. If using Velcro, be sure to use the soft Velcro to the cave and the “scratchy” Velcro to the back of the bears (This will allow you to present the bears on a felt board such as the Wheatley.).
Bird Migration Sequence
Objective: Student will sequence numbers from 1-10.
Create a file folder activity of a V formation across the sky. Provide the student birds numbered from 1-10. Have the student place the birds in sequence along the V from 1 – 10.
Animals in the Winter Worksheet
Objective: Student will identify activities associated with the unit and gain experience completing worksheets in braille or using accessible materials.
Present student with a worksheet using words and facts from the unit. Have students read the article and practice completing worksheets as they continue to develop concepts form the unit. Provide assistance as needed as students complete multiple choice, true and false, fill in the blank and short answers.
Animals in Winter Mad Lib
Objective: Student will select or generate parts of speech on request (ex. Adjective, adverb, noun, verb, place, exclamation, etc.)
Practice parts of speech through a fun Winter Mad Lib. Use the Animals in Winter Mad Lib in the Supplements or use your own. Prompt the students to provide parts of speech to complete the Mad Lib. Provide the student with words to pick from if they have difficulty generating words.
Animal in Winter Poster
Objective: Student will write ideas and experiences related to the topic in various formats (ex. opinion, informative, persuasive)
Encourage the students to create a poster about animal behavior in the winter. Have students include information about the three choices animals have in the winter: hibernate, migrate, or adapt. Alternatively, students could create a poster about identifying animal tracks in the winter.
Visual Efficiency & Optical Aid Use
Objective: Student will use monocular to visually attend to information and describe what is seen.
If there is an area on the school campus (or when you are on an outing) where the student can observe wildlife, encourage the student to sit outside and watch the animals. Encourage them to describe how they look. Attract birds and other animals by placing food out for them.
Copy the Poem
Objective: Student will copy materials presented at a distance.
Write the poem Something Big Has Been Here by Jack Prelutsky, or other winter poem, on 1” ruled chart tablet. Place the chart far enough away so the student needs to use the monocular to see it. Provide the student with paper and pencil or pen to copy the poem.
Objective: Student will examine objects and describe what is seen.
Collect several pinecones and small branches from various types of evergreen trees. Using the magnifying glasses, have the students examine the pinecones and branches and compare/contrast the them.
Objective: Student will examine objects, compare to pictures and locate a match.
Obtain a track identification guide book, poster, or online resource. Go for a walk around the school campus and have the student use the magnifier to examine trees and pinecones and to access the information in the nature guides.
Animal Treasure Hunt
Objective: Student will access small print using optical device or video magnifier.
Create a treasure hunt with clues presented in small fonts to encourage the student to use a magnifier. Student must follow the directions to find the next clue paired with an wilderness animal. Have a small treat at the end for the student to find.
Hidden Animals in the Snow
Objective: The student will visually scan and locate partially hidden objects.
Place pictures of forest animals on a tray and cover partially with artificial (or real) snow. Encourage the student to identify the animals before removing the snow.
Animal Habits Categories
Objective: Student will visually discriminate pictures and group similar pictures.
Provide the student with pictures of a variety of animals depicted in the unit. Encourage the student to create a diorama or collage depicting migration, hibernation and adapt. Have the student place the animal in the correct area.
Objective: Student will gain experience helping animals in the environment.
Create pinecone birdfeeders by placing peanut butter on the pinecone, and roll it in birdseed. Hang on a branch near a window with a ribbon so the student can watch the birds eat from the feeder.
Literature Related to Animals in Winter
Animals in Winter – Henrietta Bancroft
Animals in Winter (All About Winter) – Martha E. H. Rustad
Bear Snores On – Karma Wilson
Big Tracks, Little Tracks- Granklyn Branley and Millicent Selsan
Flocks of Birds - Charlotte Zolotow
Hibernation - Margaret Hall
How and Why Animals Prepare for Winter (How and Why Series) – Elaine Pascoe
Mysteries of Migration - Robert McClury
Over and Under the Snow – Kate Messner
The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto - Natalie Standiford
The White Wolf - Ron Roy
Tracks in the Snow – Wong Herbert Lee
Where Do they Go? Insects in the Winter - Millicent Selsam
Wild Tracks: A Guide to Nature’s Footprints – Jim Arnosky
Winter Walk – Virginia Snow
White Fang - Jack London
Field Guide to Animal Tracks - Olaus Murie Franklyn
Information from websites on animals in the winter
Peterson Field Guide to Animal Tracks: Third Edition
Scholastic has online activities, lesson plans, discussion guides, and other teaching ideas specific to how animals adapt in the winter.
Brighthub Education offers lessons on hibernation and animals in the winter.
Science Made Simple provides information on how animals survive in the winter.
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