Beat the Cold with these Science Experiments about Ice, Blubber and More!

Today many of the public schools are closed because of the incredible cold front that has come sweeping through.  I thought I should share some science experiments we did that might really get kids intrigued about the cold weather!


Freeze water in a cottage cheese or large yogurt container. In one of the cartons you can place a wooly mammoth plastic creature if you have one!

Have the kids guess how much of the  ice block will remain above the water and how much will remain below. Then  drop the block in.


As we looked at the huge amount of ice that was under the water, we talked about the Titanic and pretended to drive our boat near the iceberg. We also talked about the fact that wooly mammoth remains have been frozen in the ice. A wooly mammoth calf was found in Siberia, Russia just in the last five years. We talked a bit about the Ice Age and what other animals lived then–the saber toothed tiger, etc.


How do mammals protect themselves from intense cold?

Blubber as Insulation:

Once the water is pretty cold you can try the famous blubber experiment… the one where you place shortening in a plastic bag and then put another plastic bag inside the other bag. The kids took turns wearing the shortening glove and slipping both hands into the cold water.   The PBS website had a good overview of this experiment and we talked about the background information provided at that website. I also printed out some other information about blubber I found online and read them excerpts from that. We talked about how blubber acts as an insulation.


What makes good insulators?

Another experiment you can do relating to insulation was suggested at the back of the Magic School Bus book about the Arctic.  We took a half-dozen piece of bread and toasted them. Then we wrapped the hot toast in various items to see which kept the toast warmest.  The kids made predictions about which items were the best/worst insulators. They made a list predicting in order what would keep the bread warmest down to which bread would lose the most heat. For us we found that LD’s down jacket kept the toast the warmest while the toast wrapped (badly) in the black construction paper was coolest.



You could do a variation of this experiment by placing several bottles of water outside in the intense cold… one just outside on its own, one wrapped in a jacket, one wrapped in thin socks, one wrapped in paper (you get the idea). Check frequently to see which bottle of water freezes first.

Blubber and Buoyancy:

Another cute experiment we did involved olives with the pits still in them and shortening. I had to hunt pretty carefully to find olives with the pits still in them (and used green olives).  This experiment was to show how blubber helps whales come to the surface for air.

First we dropped an olive into our bowl of water. It immediately sank to the bottom.

Then we smeared shortening on the olive as best we could and dropped it into the water.  As long as the shortening stayed on, the olive bobbed and floated at the surface of the water.  Even when the shortening/olive dove down into the water when it was dropped in, it immediately jumped back up.  It was a really cute activity!


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6 Responses

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