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Investigation: How Fat Helps Arctic Animals

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Maya Billingham | The Independent School | Wichita, Kansas

This is a science experiment about the importance of fat to arctic animals. The goal is to demonstrate the property of fat and the benefits of having fat stored in an arctic animal’s body.

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This experiment is for you to learn what most arctic animals have that helps keeps them warm.

Fur?

No, it’s fat! What do we call it on animals?

Blubber!

Blubber! Everyone say it–blubber!

Right! Walruses have lots of blubber, polar bears, the whales, the seals; they’re all covered in a layer of fat that helps keep them warm. You’re going to feel, with this experiment, how the fat keeps you warm. What you’re going to do, is we’re gonna put a glove on one hand, and you’re gonna put it in the fat. Fat also helps these animals–what is this fat doing? It’s floating. So you’re going to put one hand in this fat and see how it helps this hand stay warm. Your other hand…you’re going to put right into the ice. And you’re going to see how long you can leave that hand in just the ice. It is really, really cold in this ice water. My hand is already starting to hurt. I can’t handle it any longer than that. But this hand in the fat? Guess what? It’s nice and warm.

So the purpose of this experiment is for the kids to put their hands in a bag of fat, and in ice water, to see how fat or blubber in an animal can keep them warm. Which hand is warmer? The fat hand? Is it keeping your hand nice and warm? How does that hand feel? Is it very cold? How long can you stand it? Twenty seconds! You made it. If you had to go swimming in the Arctic, which would you rather have? Fat, or no fat? Fat? Would you want a little fat or a lot? A lot. It demonstrates how the fat keeps them warm and how that’s what they’d want if they were an Arctic animal.

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