Science at Sea – How Do Whales Stay Warm in Icy Water?

We are back from our Science at Sea Alaska adventure. About 100 teachers cruised with us to learn about the science and environment of the Alaskan region. Traveling with the teachers were embedded naturalists who gave lessons about Alaska, its people, its wildlife and ecosystems. Steve, one of our naturalists, gave teachers a lesson about whales and their blubber to bring back to their classrooms.

The question is – how do whales survive in icy cold water? The answer is – their blubber keeps them warm. That’s a fun fact, but how do you get kids to really understand this and remember it for the dinner table talk that night? First, place the child’s hand in icy water and tell them to keep it there. See how long can they have it in the freezing water before their hand starts to hurt and they have to take it out. Then take a big glob of shorting and put it in a plastic baggie. Coat the sides of the bag then insert a clean bag inside of the shortening bag, making a blubber layer. Fold over the tops of both bags and tape them down to keep the shortening from escaping. Then put the child’s hand in the bag and place it all back into the icy water. Now see how long they can comfortably hold their hand in freezing water.  Now that’s hands-on learning.

1 reply
  1. Nancy Cavallin
    Nancy Cavallin says:

    I was on this amazing trip with Steve Spangler and crew!! Loved the “sprinkles” demo. Am going to do the same thing in my classroom, along with many other activities centered around the amazing science lessons I learned on this trip. Now that I see Steve do the demo, I think I will let my students watch him and then do it themselves!! They will love it!! I wish every science teacher could spend a week with Steve Spangler.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *