As we continued on with our study of Antarctica, we took a closer look at penguins and the emperor penguin specifically. Did you know a male emperor penguin can grow up to 48 inches tall and weigh 90 pounds. The children enjoyed comparing themselves to these penguin statistics. We discovered most of the children were not as tall and none of the children weighed as much as an emperor penguin.
To find out why penguins are so heavy we had to learn a little more about them. The children previously had learned about blubber and how it helps keep animals in Antarctica warm. Adding to that information, we talked about how it makes the animals heavy. Another reason for the heavy weight has to do with the penguins’ bones. Birds that can fly have hollow bones which are very light. Penguins bones are not hollow, they are dense and therefore heavy. To help the children better understand the concept of hollow and dense we used straws in a demonstration. The children examined one straw, carefully looking through it to see that is was hallow. Then they tried looking through a second straw which had been filled with salt-representing the penguins’ dense bones. They held both in their hands to compare the weight and though it was only a slight difference, the straw with the salt was heavier.
Weight is one reason a penguin cannot fly. (However, the weight is helpful when swimming and diving in the water.) Another reason has to do with the wings of a penguin. Birds that fly have large wings. A penguin’s wings, also called flippers, are much smaller in comparison to the rest of its body. The children compared several pictures of various wings to determine if the bird was able to fly or not.
The children have enjoyed learning about emperor penguins and other penguins as well. Many have created books that label the body parts of a penguin. Some children have also created a book coloring and labeling the various kinds of penguins.
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