One of the ways that animals get ready for winter is by making adaptations. Science teachers can make adaptations to these fall science lesson plans as well to make them work for preschool, kindergarten or elementary age students.
Review the Four Seasons:
In order to consider animals begin to prepare for winter, it is helpful to review the four seasons. Introduce the season of fall and the fact that it is sometimes also called autumn.
Ask students, which season came before fall? (summer)
What did you do in summer? (swim, play ball?)
What did you wear? (swim suits, shorts?)
What will we do in fall? (play in the leaves, pick pumpkins)
What will we wear now? (long sleeves, long pants)
Continue this sharing time and review winter activities and clothing and spring activities and clothing. Here is an original poem to help review the four seasons and introduce the idea of animals planning for each season.
Weathering the Seasons
Winter, summer, spring and fall,
Boys and girls play through them all,
Rain, snow, clouds and sun,
Animals plan for each one.
Original poem by Angela W. La Fon
Introduce New Vocabulary:
There are three basic ways that animals will prepare for winter. Introduce these three new vocabulary words one at a time. For younger age groups you may spend one or two days on each before adding a new concept. Either way, plan to review each new concept several times during your fall science lesson plans.
Migration: Flying to warmer climates. Many birds and butterflies fly south for winter.
It is very helpful to show students a map and mark where you live as well a show a migration pattern of where birds and butterflies will go. Examples, Monarch butterflies may fly to Mexico and geese may fly to Florida.
During outside playtime in fall, encourage students to watch for groups of migrating birds. It can even be helpful to mark south on the playground with an arrow and a big “S” to introduce direction.
Hibernation: Many mammals such hibernate, or sleep for the winter, to rest while food is hard to find. Many reptiles, such as turtles, hibernate under the mud. Many amphibians hibernate under the mud as well.
Explore more. Why is food harder to find in winter?
(Plants are “resting” as well and not bearing berries, fruits or leaves. Grasses and seeds can be covered by ice and snow.)
Extra vocabulary for older science students:
For older students you may also want to introduce a new vocabulary word “torpor.”
Torpor: Torpor is long naps taken in winter by animals that do not hibernate through out winter. Skunks are an example of animals that torpor during winter.
Adaptations: Animals can also make adaptations, or changes, to survive the winter. Some examples include mammals like deer, get thicker fur and other like the weasel even change colors from brown to white to hide in the snow.
Gross motor activities for fall animal lesson plans:
You children want, and need, chances to move. You can reinforce lessons while also including a movement game. Here are some examples.
Group activity: Make a V and fly like the geese.
After reviewing the letter “V” and showing the students photos of birds flying in a v formation, have the students line up in a v formation and hold hands and attempt to walk forward and hold the line. As birds do, periodically send last bird in the back of the v formation to the front of the line until everyone has had a turn to move.
Gross motor game: Animals get ready for winter “Simon Says”
This game can be played indoors or outdoors. Review the rules for Simon Says and offer prompts that reinforce the ways animals get ready for or survive winter.
Here are some examples:
“Foxes stay active in winter to stay warm. Simon says jog in place.”
“Turtles hibernate in the mud in winter. Simon says dig a whole with your hands.”
“Bears sleep, or hibernate in winter. Curl up and take a nap.” (Oops. Simon didn’t say it!)
Recommended Books for Fall Animal Science Lesson Plans:
Moon Glowing by Elizabeth Partridge and Joan Paley
Mouse’s First Fall by Lauren Thompson
Digger: The Story of a Mole in Fall by Tessa Potter
Animals in the Fall (Preparing for Winter) by Gail Saunders-Smith