Keeping Warm: Unit Outlines

Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of content in this issue of Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears? Not sure where to begin? We’ve created unit outlines for Grades K-2 and 3-5 using some of the resources found in the Keeping Warm issue. Rather than be a rigid and prescriptive unit plan, the outlines are meant to spark your own creativity and help you integrate these resources into your own particular teaching situation.

The unit outlines follow the 5E Learning Cycle model – engage, explore, explain, elaborate, evaluate.

Have an idea for another Keeping Warm unit? Share it with us – and other teachers – by leaving a comment below!


GRADES K-2 UNIT OUTLINE

Summary of Purpose for the Unit

This unit of study was developed to provide primary grades students with multiple opportunities to investigate how animals and people stay warm in cold environments like the polar regions. It uses nonfiction text and inquiry to answer the following questions:

  • What kinds of animals live in polar environments?
  • How are these animals different from animals in other environments? How are these animals particularly suited for polar environments?
  • How can animals and people stay warm in cold or polar environments?

Standards Alignment

National Science Education Standards: Science Content Standards

Science content standards are found in Chapter 6 of the National Science Education Standards.

Science as Inquiry

  • Ask questions about objects, organisms, and events in the environment
  • Employ simple equipment and tools to gather data and extend the senses
  • Use data to construct a reasonable explanation
  • Communicate investigations and explanations

Life Science

  • The characteristics of organisms
  • Organisms and their environments

IRA/NCTE Standards for the English Language Arts

View the standards at http://www.ncte.org/standards.

1 – Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts.

3 – Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts.

4 – Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

5 – Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

7 – Students conduct research on issues and interests.

8 – Students use a variety of technological and information resources to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

11 – Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

12 – Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes.


Unit Outline

Engage

Use a book about Arctic animals, such as Way Up in the Arctic from the Polar Mammals Vrtual Bookshelf (January 2009), for a read-aloud. Ask students to name animals from the book that live in the Arctic, and list them on the board or on butcher paper. Ask students how these animals are able to keep warm in their cold environments. Or, consider creating a KWL chart for students to list what they know about Arctic animals and what questions they have.

Explore

In this phase, students explore the insulating property of blubber in Polar Bears and Their Adaptations. The lesson calls for a field trip to the zoo to observe polar bears, but images, web cam footage, or even stuffed animals and puppets could be used. This lesson involves taking the temperature of water with a thermometer. If students do not have experience with thermometers, consider devoting instructional time to practice this skill before proceeding with Polar Bears and Their Adaptations.

Students may also need to develop an understanding of fur’s insulating qualities. Use the lesson Animal Coverings to explore fur, skin, scales, feathers, and shells and the purpose of each.

Explain

In this phase, students develop an understanding of adaptations that enable animal survival in polar environments through reading and writing. Repeated reading of At Home in the Cold – first as a choral reading (grades K-1) or as Readers Theater (grade 2) and again as individual, partner, or small group reading — will help develop fluency and reinforce key concepts. The book Keeping Warm, Keeping Cool from the Keeping Warm Virtual Bookshelf complements “At Home in the Cold.” Students may also want to read about specific Arctic mammals and birds. Question and Answer Books can be created by students or the class to share what they’ve learned about Arctic animals and their adaptations.

Expand

Once students have developed an understanding of animal adaptations, extend the learning to include humans living and working in polar environments. The lesson Dress Like a Polar Bear asks students to apply what they’ve learned about polar bears as they create a winter outfit for themselves. Students can also view images of cold weather gear in our online photo gallery and in the photographs of Survivor’s Science at the Polar Regions (from the Keeping Warm Virtual Bookshelf).

Assess

The KWL chart and the class discussion in the “Engage” phase of the unit serve as an excellent opportunity for formative assessment of student understanding. The Question and Answer Books created during the “Explain” phase allow for summative assessment of whether students can identify the types of animals that live in the Arctic and the adaptations that allow the animals to survive in the cold environment.


GRADES 3-5 UNIT OUTLINE

Summary of Purpose for the Unit

This unit of study was developed to provide upper-elementary students with multiple opportunities to investigate the concept of insulation and the effectiveness of various materials as insulators. It uses nonfiction text and inquiry to answer the following questions:

  • What is an insulator?
  • What kinds of materials are good insulators? What kinds are poor insulators?
  • What kinds of materials are best for use in cold environments?
  • How can animals and people stay warm in cold or polar environments?

Standards Alignment

National Science Education Standards: Science Content Standards

Science content standards are found in Chapter 6 of the National Science Education Standards.

Science as Inquiry

  • Ask questions about objects, organisms, and events in the environment
  • Employ simple equipment and tools to gather data and extend the senses
  • Use data to construct a reasonable explanation
  • Communicate investigations and explanations

Physical Science

  • Light, heat, electricity, and magnetism

IRA/NCTE Standards for the English Language Arts

View the standards at http://www.ncte.org/standards.

1 – Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts.

3 – Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts.

4 – Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

5 – Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

7 – Students conduct research on issues and interests.

8 – Students use a variety of technological and information resources to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

11 – Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

12 – Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes.


Unit Outline

Engage

Begin by picture walking (looking at and discussing the pictures) through Survivor’s Science at the Polar Regions (from the Keeping Warm Virtual Bookshelf) and discuss conditions such as hypothermia and frostbite. How can scientists and people who live in the Arctic survive in such cold environments? Students will probably identify proper clothing as a necessity, in which case you can ask them to consider what types of fabric and clothing are best in cold temperatures. This sets the stage for the inquiry component of the unit.

Next, assess student misconceptions by using “The Mitten Problem” from Uncovering Student Ideas in Science, volume 1 (NSTA Press, 2005). This formative assessment probe determines whether students believe that objects such as mittens and blankets are inherently warm.

Explore

Students read Keeping Warm (from the Keeping Warm Virtual Bookshelf), either as a whole class read-aloud or in small groups, and use the text to define the term “insulator” (or “insulation”). Post this definition in the room so that students may revisit (and possibly modify) it during the course of the unit.

Next, students investigate the properties of various insulating materials in What is the Best Insulator (Grades 3-5) or Insulation Experimentation (Grades 5 and up). Students can use science notebooks to make predictions, plan investigations, record data, link claims to evidence, and draw conclusions. Survivor’s Science at the Polar Regions also includes simple experiments that can supplement the insulation investigations.

Explain

Create a scenario in which students are going to Antarctica to take part in a research study. Ask them to design cold weather gear and justify their choices with data from their investigations. Students might draw a picture and write an explanation to accompany it, or create a prototype for a doll. Students should be able to use the term “insulator” appropriately and correctly identify examples of good insulators. See Snow Shelters and Long Underwear: Project-based Polar Learning for an example of a similar project.

Expand

Ask students to consider the various adaptations that enable animals to survive in the polar regions. Read At Home in the Cold and perform the text as Readers Theater. Life in the Arctic and Extreme Survival: Polar Regions (from the Keeping Warm Virtual Bookshelf) can also be used to build understanding of animal adaptations to cold environments. Ask students to identify similarities and differences between the animal adaptations and human clothing and behavior.

Assess

Formative assessment begins in the Engage phase of the unit with the formative assessment probe. Have students revisit the “The Mitten Problem” at the end of the unit. Has their thinking changed about objects being “warm” or “cold”? Why or why not?

Science notebooks can serve as either formative or summative assessment for science process skills. The content of the notebook entries should not be assessed at this time, as it will serve as the basis for the cold weather gear design and explanation. This product can then be used as a summative assessment. Have students mastered the concept of an insulator? Do they properly identify examples of good insulators?


This article was written by Jessica Fries-Gaither. For more information, see the Contributors page. Email Jessica at beyondpenguins@msteacher.org.

Copyright December 2009 – The Ohio State University. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.

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