PacSci Perspectives

DIY Polar Science Activity

by | Feb 21, 2016

Have you ever wondered how animals survive in sub zero climates? Through this activity, you will learn how to make your own “blubber mitt” and see how it protects you from the cold.

People have followed examples set by animals for ages. For instance, the design of our winter parka imitates the ways the various animals stay warm. The muskrat, for example, has to stay warm in icy waters and in the cold air, so it grows double layers of thick fur. The fluffy, inner coat traps warm air and keeps it close to the muskrat. The long, outer guard hairs are waterproof, so the muskrat stays warm and dry even when there’s ice in the water. Whales and seals depend on a thick layer of body fat called blubber to keep them warm in the cold New England seas. The blubber on a large whale can be up to 24 inches thick. It is almost impossible for the cold to get through the blubber and chill the whale.

How to Make Your Own Blubber Experiment:

One cup solid shortening
Two zip-top sandwich bags
Duct Tape

Put one cup of the shortening into a zip-top bag.
Put your hand into the empty zip-top bag.
Put your hand with the bag on it into the bag containing the shortening.
Keeping your hand in the first bag, squeeze and spread the shortening until it surrounds your hand like an oven mitt. (Take care to keep your hands dry.)
To make sure the shortening doesn’t escape, seal the tops of the bags together with duct tape.
Put the mitt on and test it out by sticking the protected hand in a bucket of snow or ice water. The “blubber” in the mitt will protect your hand from the cold. Hold an ice cube in the palm of the mitt. Can you feel the cold?

Credit: All Rights Reserved, New England Aquarium, © 2011