Blubber Away!

How to show animals have adapted to their environment

Cross curricular links with maths

Year group: Year 6 

Learning Objective

“Identify how animals and plants are adapted to suit their environment in different ways and that adaption may lead to evolution.” NC


  • Washing up bowl - smaller bowls can be used if you are working in groups   
  • Ice cubes - enough to make the water very cold
  • Packet of lard - this can be margarine in case you have children in class who are vegetarians
  • Stop watch.  
  • Table for recording.
  • Thermometer if you are going to record the temperature of the water - not absolutely necessary  

Working Scientifically

  • Planning different types of scientific enquiries to answer questions, including recognising and controlling variables where necessary.
  • Taking measurements, using a range of scientific equipment, with increasing accuracy and precision, taking repeat readings when appropriate.
  • Recording data and results of increasing complexity.
  • Report and present findings from enquiries, including conclusions, casual relationships and explanations of and degrees of trust in results, in oral and written forms such as displays and other presentations.

Length of Activity

1 hour.


Step by step instructions

Step One

Children to work in mixed ability groups to discuss and record any ways they can remember or know of animals (in this case).

Step Two

Children to present their ideas and thoughts to the rest of the group.

Step Three

Prepare the bowl filling it with enough ice cubes to make it very cold to the touch. You may like to take the temperature of the water now and discuss average temperatures in artic habitats.

Step Four

Children working in groups decide who is going to firstly put their fingers in the water and secondly put the lard/margarine around their fingers and place in the water. The other children in the group are responsible for the recording that is going to take place.

Step Five

A child puts 2 fingers in the water without anything wrapped around them. Start recording using the stop watch. As soon as the child takes their fingers out of the water stop and the clock and record the amount of time they were able to stay in the iced water.

Step Six

Another child wraps the lard or alternative around their fingers to completely insulate the fingers. 

Step Seven

Place them in the iced water and record how long the child can have their fingers in the water. Record the time.

Step Eight

Do the experiment again to allow for comparisons of results, this enables the children to work out an average and use these results to record on a chart.

Step Nine

Discuss with the children the results obtained and their initial conclusions and record the results on a bar chart to show the differences between the results.

Questions for Children

1. Estimate how long you would be able to keep your fingers in iced bowl for without any protection.
2. What does the lard/alternative act as?
3. Can you name any animals that have this type of protection?
4. What is the function of this layer of protection?

Expected Outcomes

1. The children will identify that the lard/alternative will act as an insulator.
2. That animals with the thickest blubber 
3. To recognise the word blubber and it is a thick layer of fat called adipose tissue under the skin of all marine mammals.
4. That blubber is important in a marine mammal’s anatomy as it stores energy, insulates and increases buoyancy.
5. To understand that animals had blubber before and after the ice age but animals without sufficient blubber will have died out.

Possible Misconceptions

1. That blubber is a result of eating too much.
2. That it provides warm only.
3. That all animals have blubber.
4. That this is the only form of insulation for artic animals.
5. That the change to the bodies of the animals happens quickly.



Practical, Science

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