Dec 4

These early starts are rapidly becoming a theme! The next chapter in our ARKive On the Road series saw Ruth and I travelling to Bristol Metropolitan Academy to run a workshop with their Year 7 students (11-12 year olds). Entitled ‘Animals over Winter’, it covered the various aspects of how animals cope with the freezing temperatures, reduced daylight hours and scarcity of food typical of the winter season. On a suitably chilly day with a high probability of snow, I started to really appreciate the benefits of hibernation and/or a warm, fluffy coat to keep out the cold…

The workshop itself involved showing four classes different examples of species that migrate and hibernate to avoid the harsh conditions of winter and also those that just plain stick it out in the hostile winter wilderness. Highlights included videos of American bison struggling through deep snow and monarch butterflies migrating 3,000 miles to hibernate in the coniferous forests of Mexico, but by far the biggest “AHHH” came courtesy of the Arctic ground squirrel

Arctic ground squirrel

For the main activity of the workshop, we asked the class to design their own winter-adapted species using the examples we had given them. It could use migration, hibernation or winter behavioural and physical adaptations to survive the frigid cold of our winter scene, and the students really excelled themselves – their species were a lot more inventive than the meagre fayre we designed – for example the sqola bear – a cross between a squirrel and a polar bear, that has a thick coat, small ears and nose to prevent freezing and flat feet to help it walk in the deep snow!

Sqola bear

Sqola bear

Thanks to Kris, Lisa and Mr Downer from Bristol Met for their generous hospitality – especially the cake. Definitely worth leaving the den for in the depths of winter!

Find out more about the STEMNET Ambassadors scheme in the UK.

Charlie Whittaker, ARKive Media Researcher