Monday, February 10, 2014

Antarctica Unit for Kindergartners - Part 1

Antarctica week was a blast...of fresh air. This continent is truly different from all the others so it's always refreshing to introduce it. At first, activities are not so obvious to create since fauna and flora seem so limited for example but by "presentation" of a continent is usually tied to what it would be like if we were to go there...which we may someday as we love to travel and have mentioned our interest in seeing the "island". With that in mind, I knew we'd explore topics such as penguins, snow and ice, research labs and life on the coldest continent on earth.

Antarctica map wax resist
Tracing and wax "resisting" Antarctica

Adrian has known for a long time where Antarctica lies and what shapes it has but creating his own Antarctica continent thanks to tracing could be fun. I printed a map of the continent, cut out the continent itself and taped the sheet to another white sheet of paper. Tracing with the finger around the edges was the first step and then, using a white wax crayon, Adrian filled in the cut out completely. The top sheet was then removed and blue watercolor paint went over and around. Voila! A beautiful handmade map of Antarctica. Montessori Teachings used the same technique and shows the step by step process if you're interested.

make Antarctica flag
Creating an Antarctica flag

When asked what he knew about Antarctica, my son could locate the place on the map but also told me  that even though it was very big, it didn't have a country flag. We discussed the reasons for that and explored the various flags that represent the continent. Later that week, we designed flags that could represent the entire continent. It wasn't done initially so we could learn a bit more about the continent and get a better picture of Antarctica. Before hitting the paper, I asked my son what colors would best represent the continent. White and blue it was but as you can see, he added more colors as well. The ocean is drawn, as well as stars.

Antarctica Penguins match up
Matching penguin figures to penguin pictures

We investigated penguins a lot as well. Safari Ltd. makes very realistic looking replicas so we invested in a penguin Toob. I printed some pictures of the penguins to be found in Antarctica (not all birds in the Toob are from the continent) and had Adrian match them. We learned the names of the species as well and thanks to maps, located some colonies. Not all live on the continent itself. Some prefer the islands surrounding the continental land!

Happy Feet Penguin Species
Happy Feet Penguins's Species 

Speaking of penguins, Adrian couldn't help but make the connection in penguin the Happy Feet movie and the penguins from the Toob. I guess some looked familiar! :) Later that week, I pulled out some new pictures featuring Happy Feet's penguins so he could find out which species appeared in the popular animation. He was thrilled! Needless to say, I was glad his brain was making connections but I had to remind him that real penguin don't talk! :) On the other hand, the movie brought on a topic I intended to approach: the long dark winter days...

midnight sun with globe and light
Antarctica's Midnight Sun

We have yet to visit Antarctica but having been to Greenland a few times now (both in winter and summer), I can now imagine that life conditions in Antarctica must be similar in terms of daylight hours. In the summer, the sun did not seem to go to bed at all and in the winter, although my plane landed in the beginning of the afternoon and it was a clear day, the sun the horizon...tucked in bed already. I was told it would not come up anymore than that. How do you explain that? Using a flashlight, a globe that tilts and a room that can be darkened, I showed my son how Earth moves on its axis through the day and how it is tilted, thus causing our friends down in Antarctica to have lots of sun during their summer and dark days in their winters...just like in Happy Feet! :)  He just had to try it himself after.

Snowflake matching cards
Matching Snowflake Cards

Brought these out again from last year's winter unit (originally printed from PreKinders). Not nearly as challenging this year of course but still fun and still a good reminder that no snowflake is alike...

What melts ice fastest? - A game played with a die!

Who doesn't like "making a mess?" When I brought out two big ice cubes and containers filled with different substances, my kids were thrilled. It was one of those activities where my little one would get to be involved in the big one's school "stuff".  Oh happy day. They were each given an ice cube in a plastic bowl as well as a die. Each number on the die corresponded to an action to be done with the ice cube. The goal was to see who could melt their ice fastest but also to observe how different substances would affect the appearance of the ice cubes. I forgot to snap a picture of our container section and die sheet but from 1 to 6, we had different things to pour onto the ice cube as you can probably see.
For example, 1 was for blue hot water (dyed blue so it wouldn't be confused with other substances), 2 was for table salt, 3 was for sand (used blue craft sand), 4 was for a sugar cube to be squished on the ice cube, 5 was for vinegar and 6....was for the number of seconds the ice cube had to held in their hands if they rolled a number 6! :)
Of course I had towels handy and scoops in each bowl so there was no guessing how much of each to pour onto the ice cube. At first, my daughter's cube was melting fastest thanks to the hot water she kept pouring on but in the end, my son's early scoops of salt just ate up the ice cube even though he never got to use much hot water... It was thus determined that salt should be used next time we get and icy porch! :)

* * *

Your comments make my day ! 
(...but won't be visible until after approval due to increased spam...)

* * *

This week, I'm happily linking up to


  1. Pinned to my penguin board for next year - thanks.

    1. You're welcomed Sandi! Glad you found some good ideas here! :)