A Brrrrr Unit Study
Heart to Heart

      What do Ork, Quork, Gork, Gook, and Gawk have in common? Why penguins, of course! Last winter, after one of our snows, I pulled out a book I had been saving for just such a day and started reading about Mr. Popper’s Penguins. He accumulated twelve of these adorable creatures, but although adorable, with twelve more mouths to feed, he had to think of some way to support them and his family. His idea of training them for the stage was a big sensation, but still costly at that. In the end he goes off with his penguins on a polar exploration for a few years leaving his family behind. His wife, however, was content because the house was much easier to keep clean without him. Sad, very sad!! The penguins’ antics were cute, but the family was a mess. However, I did not let this dash my expectations or daunt my exhilarated winter spirit.

      I finished the book in less than an hour from commencement, which left plenty of time to expound on “cold weather, snowy day” learning experiences. From here we went to our encyclopedias and read about polar exploration, the Arctic, and Antarctica. We read about explorers Robert Edwin Peary who discovered the North Pole; Roald Amundsen who was the first man to reach the South Pole, sail around the globe within the Arctic Circle, and fly over the North Pole; and Captain James Cook who crossed the Antarctic Circle for the first time.

      Getting out the globe and maps, we surveyed the regions and then began studying some of the wildlife in these regions—polar bears, reindeer, seals, and, of course, penguins. The children copied what they learned in their notebooks, and then I read them two cute stories about Eskimos and the Lapps in Lapland. We ended by making penguins out of construction paper and dressed them in stocking caps, woolen scarves, mittens, and rubber boots (the proper clothing for such bitter cold temperatures, you know).

      If the new Penguin and Puffin Coast had been opened at the Zoo, we would have gone. Unfortunately, it had not opened yet. However, we have gone since and would highly recommend this as a great addition to a study of the Arctic. The Penguin and Puffin Coast transports you to the walk-through habitat of these adorable birds where you can watch around 100 of these playful little butler-looking creatures waddle, slide, careen, soar, snooze, dive, and swim in their frigid surroundings. Once you leave this really Brrrrr environment, swing by the polar bears and watch them play.

      For some more great ideas to add to this Brrrrr Unit Study, consider the following:¨      Paint snowmen with adorable hats and mittens.¨      Paint snowmen and when dry, glue on hats and mittens made of felt, scarves made of plaid wool, and pretty buttons down the front of them.¨      Paint snowmen and decorate with hats, mittens, and buttons cut out of pretty Christmas wrapping paper.¨      Make snowmen out of marshmallows.¨      Make a snow castle out of sugar cubes.¨      Quill beautiful snowflakes for your windows.¨      Spray snow on your windows.¨      Cover your dinner table with a white tablecloth.¨      For an edible centerpiece, make egg meringue cookies to look like mounds of snow. Place on a mirror or silver tray sprinkled with powdered sugar. Intersperse among the mounds little Playmobil or Lego people holding toothpicks for ski poles.¨      Make skis out of popsicle sticks. Decorate and then paint each person’s name on a pair of skis to be used as place cards to identify each person’s place at the dinner table.¨      Make snowball coasters for everyone’s glasses.¨      For dessert make cookies using snowmen and snowflake cookie cutters. Make ice cream balls and then roll them in coconut. Allow to freeze for several hours before serving. You could also make coconut sorbet.¨      Go ice skating.¨      Make piping hot New England clam chowder and white rolls for dinner. Serve with piña colada drinks.¨      After dinner, have everyone put on his mittens. Then on the count of three, have everyone race to see who can dress themselves in their winter clothes the fastest.¨      While still wearing their mittens, have races holding cotton balls in spoons.¨      Then give an abundance of white scratch paper to each member of the family and have snowball fights by rolling the paper up in balls and throwing them at each other.¨      Watch a travelogue on the Arctic, Antarctica, or Alaska and then watch Iron Will while eating popcorn.¨      End this perfect winter day snuggled together reading aloud a great book while sipping hot tea and munching fat, warm cookies.¨      Then place everyone’s pajamas in the dryer for a few minutes before bedtime. When everyone is dressed, snuggle together in bed for a while to warm up after such a Brrrrr day. This is sure to warm your hearts as well. Y