These classroom activities are designed to complement the Hibernation topic on BrainPOP Jr.
Host a Pajama Day, where students imagine what it would be like to sleep through the winter. First, have students research the change in hibernating animals’ body temperature, heart rate, and breaths per minute. Have students lie down on the carpet and count how many times they breathe per minute. Have them imagine what it would be like to breathe only once or twice per minute. Take one student’s pulse, which should be anywhere between 80 and 130 beats per minute. Now have the student imagine that his or her heart was beating only 5-10 times per minute, like a hibernating animal’s. Have the students think about how hungry they are for breakfast in the morning, and imagine how important food is for animals that are preparing for a long hibernation. Have students write or discuss their experiences.
To extend the activity, you can throw a Groundhog’s Day party to celebrate the end of hibernation. What foods would hibernating animals eat after waking up? Discuss what happens to animals when they come out of hibernation and what may or may not be different about their environments.
Divide students into pairs or small groups and have some students imagine they are tree squirrels, and other students imagine they are ground squirrels. Explain that tree squirrels stay awake in the winter, while ground squirrels hibernate. Have pairs or groups write skits where the tree squirrel describes what winter is like to the ground squirrel. Students can also write skits where the ground squirrel describes what hibernation is like. These skits can be scientific, with students sharing their observations of winter, or descriptive, with students sharing all the funny things humans do during the winter (sledding, caroling, catching snowflakes on their tongue, etc.). Students can perform the skits in front of the class.
To extend the activity, students can write skits about how other animals survive through the winter. Students may discuss animals that migrate, grow thicker fur, change their eating habits, etc.
Have students write hibernation poetry in the form of haikus, acrostic poems, or shape poems to decorate the classroom. Collect the poems and make a class book of hibernating animals. Each student can decorate his or her page with different hibernating animals.
Many interesting hibernation statistics can be explored as math problems at your student’s grade level. Find statistics on several different hibernating animals. Pose math inquiries that will prompt charts, bar graphs, and pictographs. Possible questions might be: Which animal hibernates the longest? Which animals gain and lose the most weight? How does the animal’s hibernating heartbeat compare to its normal heartbeat? Which animal breathes the slowest? From the data they’ve compared, can students make any conclusions about all animals that hibernate?
Play a hibernation sorting game. Using animal pictures or photographs, have students sort the animals into different categories, such as animals that hibernate and animals that do not. If your students have already studied migration, they may want to make a category for animals that survive the winter by migrating. What are the similarities and differences between migratory and hibernating animals? Have students label their categories and paste them onto poster board to display for the rest of the class.