Students will understand what animals need in order to survive the winter.
Students play the part of animals and winter "threats" in an exciting game of tag.
A bundle of coloured popsicle sticks: Food is represented by green sticks; Water is blue; Energy is red; Shelter is yellow; and Hiding Spots, orange; five pilons or other objects to mark four corners and the centre of the playing area; signs to identify Food, Water, Shelter, Energy, and Hiding Spots; coloured headbands for students that play the part of Big Freeze, Starvation, and Predators.
Just like humans, wild creatures need water, food, shelter and space in order to survive. The four basic habitat elements also need to be arranged in a particular way to suit each species. A moose, for instance, needs far more space than a mouse. Some desert creatures can survive very nicely without ever drinking water, but many species would die without an abundant supply of H2O.
Winter complicates all this for wildlife. Snow and ice cover up food and water; while biting winds, frigid temperatures or blizzards drain animals of precious energy and make it even more difficult to find crucial shelter.
Some animals adjust their habits in order to cope with winter. Without tender plants to nibble, creatures such as deer, rabbits and elk, make do with twigs and bark. Beaver store bark in their lodges, while other animals stock up and hide seeds and nuts in winter caches.
Keeping warm can be a big problem. Some species migrate and others hibernate to escape the big freeze. Those that stay active all winter, adapt in many ways. Mammals grow thicker fur coats, and birds, like ptarmigan, fluff out with more feathers for insulation. Ladybird beetles sometimes huddle together in a sheltered spot for warmth, so do many other animals.
Some bird species conserve heat with a counter current heat exchange system. Arteries that carry warm blood to the feet are very close to the veins that carry cooler blood from the feet to the body. Because the two vessels are so close together, the warm blood warms the cold blood so that the bird loses very little heat. That's why a bird's skinny feet and legs don't freeze in winter!
The colder it is, the more energy it takes to stay warm. This means that if animals must use more energy than usual to find food, or to run from predators, they are in more danger of dying from the cold.
- Playing area can be inside or out, but should be approximately 20 steps by 20 steps square.
- The four corners represent Food, Water, Energy and Shelter, while the centre represents Hiding Spots. Place a supply of coloured popsicle sticks at the appropriate five spots.
- Have each child decide which creature it would like to be. You can supply them with a list of animals in your area that remain active in winter, such as red fox, great horned owl, snowshoe hare, coyote, deer mouse, and so on. The goal of the game is for creatures to survive winter.
- Pick three to six students to represent Big Freeze, Starvation, and Predation.
- First, have students move about the playing area collecting the popsicle stick survival elements one at a time.
- Introduce into the game, one by one, and in the following order: a) Predators (wearing red headbands); b) Big Freeze (wearing blue), and c) Starvation (wearing green).
- Predators, Big Freeze and Starvation can "tag" animals, one at a time. Big Freeze can then take one water or energy token (popsicle stick) from the tagged animal; Starvation can take one food token; and Predator can take a hiding spot. The captured popsicle sticks are to be returned to their respective posts on the playing area.
- Animals continue to collect as many popsicle sticks as they can while being chased by the winter "threats".
- If any of the players step outside the boundary, they are penalized one minute out of the game; or by running once around the outside of the playing area.
- At the end of the game, each animal will need a minimum of three each of Food, Water and Energy; at least one Shelter and three to six Hiding Spots in order to have survived winter.
- List some of the ways in which animals cope with winter.
- Describe some of the threats to winter survival of an animal living in your area.
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