Winter can be a challenging time to learn outdoors, especially with younger children. I’m not saying that no learning should be happening outside, but with the wind chills and snow depths we’ve had in the Northeast, certainly the outdoor learning time has been reduced. That doesn’t mean that learning about nature should come to a halt. There are so many wonderful things happening outdoors this time of year. One of those great things: hibernation and winter survival. Here is a fun activity that I led at my daughter’s preschool that incorporates not only learning about science and nature, but also includes literacy skills and art. And, it involves important preschool fine motor skills such as using scissors, glue, and crayons/markers.
1. We began with reading Animals in Winter by Henrietta Bancroft and Richard G. Van Gelder.
2. Following the read aloud, we reviewed the different animals mentioned in the story and where those animals spent their winter, turning to the pages in the book where each animal was mentioned (as a visual reminder for the children).
3. Each child then chose an animal from the story that they wanted to draw a winter habitat for, selecting a print-out animal picture that I had available (remember to have multiple copies of each animal so that different students can choose the same animal). For these pictures, I just did a Google image search for line drawings of each animal mentioned.
4. Using crayons, markers, colored pencils, etc. each child drew their winter habitat (as described in the story) for the animal they chose on a blank piece of paper. Prompts from the teacher/adult helper were helpful for this.
5. The students then used scissors to cut out the printed animal and glued the animal to the picture.
6. Each student was asked to describe their picture, and the teachers and adult helpers wrote that sentence on the completed picture. In total, including the reading, discussion, and artwork, this project took about an hour to complete.
Further Reading Suggestions:
- Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner
- Time to Sleep by Denise Fleming
- What Do Animals Do in Winter? by Melvin Berger
- The Animals’ Winter Sleep by Lynda Graham-Barber
Possible Extension Activity:
- At the end of Animals in Winter, the story reads, “When winter is cold and the snow is deep, many animals cannot find food. Here are some ways you can help animals in winter.” The illustrations show different foods and bird feeders that can be created and placed outside for the animals. Try making some of the suggestions. Place them outside – near the playground, or just outside a window. Have the children quietly observe the animals they see visiting. They can draw the animals in an observation journal.