All bears hibernate during winter, right? Not quite! Polar bears don’t hibernate in winter. In fact, male and non pregnant female polar bears stay active all winter long. Pregnant female polar bears, however, do build a den where they birth and raise their cubs for the first three months of their lives. Challenge students to design a den for a mother and her cubs with this polar bear STEAM activity!
A Peek Inside a Den
First provide students with background knowledge about polar bears’ dens. This video contains spectacular footage of newborn polar bear cubs and their mother inside their den. It also shows their emergence from the den months later. (This video is a little over six minutes long and focuses on polar bears for the first four and a half minutes. After that it talks about seals for the remainder of the time.)
Polar Bear STEAM Activity
Problem: Design a den for a polar bear and her cubs.
Provide any of these materials or use others of your choice:
- polar bear and cubs template
- construction paper
- liquid or stick glue
- crayons or markers
- pom pom ball (optional)
- clothespin (optional)
Possible materials for snow:
- printer paper
- white tissue paper or napkins
- white paint
- cotton balls
- Give each student or group a polar bear and cubs template. Present students with the problem: Can you design a den for the polar bear and her cubs?
- Show students a diagram of a polar bear’s den and discuss its parts.
- Go over the list of materials students will use. Have students think about, discuss and plan how to best use the materials to create a den for the polar bears. You might prompt students to consider if they should glue the polar bears on the paper first and then build the den around them, or build the den first and then add the polar bears. Would it help to draw the den in pencil first?
- Give students time to create their dens.
- Ask students to evaluate their design and the creating process. Talk about what things worked well and what didn’t work.
- Guide students to reflect on their learning. What did they learn about polar bears or their dens from this challenge?
How to Differentiate the Activity
Young students might just glue the bears on the paper and paint around them. One option is to use a pom pom ball held with a clothespin as a paintbrush. Students dip the pom pom in white paint and then press it on the paper to make the snow.
Advanced K or Grades 1/2
Depending on the level of your students, you might give them three criteria to meet in building their dens:
- It must have an entrance. (Show a way for the polar bears to get in and out.)
- It must have an air hole. (Show a way for the polar bears to get air from outside the den.)
- Enclose the polar bears on all sides with snow. (Show snow all around the polar bears. Don’t create the den at the bottom of the page.)
It’s helpful if students design their den in pencil first.
Now, let it snow! Students may use any materials you provide to create the snow around the den. They might use white paint or tear tissue paper, printer paper or white napkins and glue on the paper. Cotton balls are also a good option. We used torn tissue paper glued down with white paint dotted on top to create the snow in the picture above.
Free Polar Bear STEAM Activity
You’ll find this activity included in my polar bear unit for kindergarten and first grade. This week-long comprehensive unit includes detailed daily lesson plans to make your job easier! Click the button below to download the directions and templates to complete this polar bear STEAM activity with your students.