by Hazel Stark
When the weather turns cold, some Maine critters hibernate, others take shelter and never leave home, and still others leave outright during an annual migration. In icy, snowy, rainy, and windy conditions of the winter of 2018-19, the intrepid Milbridge elementary school 3rd and 5th grade students spent time outside each week figuring out how other species adapt to winter.
They compared physical adaptations, like insulating, waterproof fur, with behavioral adaptations, like seeking shelter. They not only found evidence of various adaptations in nature, but also practiced these winter adaptations themselves. Prepared with hats, mittens, snowpants, warm boots, and waterproof jackets (thanks to the support of the TREE program) and practicing building small shelters and learning how to snowshoe, students were able to experience human adaptations and relate those to the other species that survive winter alongside us.
How can humans mimic the physical adaptations of snowshoe hares to walk on top of snow? They snowshoed to find out, thanks to EdGE for providing snowshoes for the day.
How can camouflage be both a physical and behavioral adaptation? They played a hiding game in the woods to find out.
How can humans adapt to challenging conditions? They played a blindfolded tree identification game with a student in a different grade to find out.
How does the carbon cycle influence winter behaviors? 5th graders became carbon molecules to travel through the carbon cycle to find out.
Where is the warmest, safest spot for a small mammal to spend the winter? They measured snow depth and temperature at different snow layers to find out.
While many students at the beginning of winter thought snow was harmful to living things, they realized at the end of winter that snow can be helpful to creatures by providing shelter, insulation, and good camouflage to some species.
You can learn about what happened during Milbridge Thursday Forays during the fall of 2018 here.
Thursday Forays in Milbridge during the 2018-19 school year have been entirely funded by the Cobscook Community Learning Center’s Transforming Rural Experience in Education (TREE) program, which you can learn about here.
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