Animals that live in cold environments are specially adapted to cope with the extreme conditions. Arctic wolves for example have a thick fur undercoat and shorter ears, nose and legs than wolves who live in warmer climates.Some animals huddle together in groups (which is also a useful form of protection against predators), some hibernate, some migrate while others such as the Polar Bear have a blubber layer as well as insulating fur. Fat is a much better insulator than muscle, which is why the blubber layer is so effective at keeping the Polar Bear warm. This together with a coat of long fur, which traps air heated by body heat, protects the Polar Bear from its extremely harsh environment.This activity demonstrates the effectiveness of fat as an insulator. 

Learning Outcomes

  •  To understand that animals have special adaptations to survive harsh environments.
  •  Understand that living things live in habitats to which they are suited.
  •  Understand that fat is a good insulator.





  • Place ice and water in a washing up bowl.
  • Carefully place your hands in the ice water and time how long you can keep them in the water before it gets uncomfortable using the stopwatch – be careful not to leave your hands in the water for too long.
  • Put the glove on and cover with lard.
  • Put the gloved hand in the ice water and time how long it takes to feel uncomfortable.
  • You should find that the lard acts as an insulator protecting your hands from the cold of the icy water.

Extensions Ideas

  •  On a cold day try wearing one thick jumper and then lots of layers, which keeps you warmer?
  • Can you measure the water temperature before and after adding the ice?
  • How many different adaptations that animals use to stay warm can you remember?