ALEX Lesson Plan


Solutions from Nature, Insulation

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Deborah LoBue
System: St Clair County
School: Springville Elementary School
The event this resource created for:ASTA
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 34654


Solutions from Nature, Insulation


This is one of three lessons that can be taught alone, or as the first part of a series, "Solutions from Nature."  In this lesson, students explore characteristics of animals that provide insulation.  They experiment with different materials to build a "glove" that can protect their hands from a cold ice bath. A YouTube link to a similar demonstration is provided below.

This lesson results from a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and ASTA.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 1
5 ) Design a solution to a human problem by using materials to imitate how plants and/or animals use their external parts to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs (e.g., outerwear imitating animal furs for insulation, gear mimicking tree bark or shells for protection).*

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement::
L4.3: Organisms interact and are interdependent in various ways, including providing food and shelter to one another. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their needs are met. Some interactions are beneficial; others are detrimental to the organism and other organisms.

NAEP Statement::
L4.4: When the environment changes, some plants and animals survive and reproduce; others die or move to new locations.

NAEP Statement::
L4.7: Different kinds of organisms have characteristics that enable them to survive in different environments. Individuals of the same kind differ in their characteristics, and sometimes the differences give individuals an advantage in surviving and reproducing.

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
Crosscutting Concepts: Structure and Function
Disciplinary Core Idea: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Use given materials to design a device that imitates how plants and/or animals survive, grow and/or meet their needs.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • materials
  • design
  • solution
  • human problem
  • imitate
  • external parts
  • survive
  • needs
  • insulation
  • mimicry
  • camouflage
  • protection
  • ask
  • plan
  • imagine
  • create
  • improve
Students know:
  • How plants use their external parts to survive, grow and meet their needs.
  • How animals use their external parts to survive, grow and meet their needs.
  • People can imitate how plants and animals survive and grow to help us solve a human problem.
Students are able to:
  • Design a device that attempts to solve a human problem.
  • Use materials to imitate external structures of plants and animals.
Students understand that:
  • The shape and stability of structures of natural and designed objects are related to their function.
AMSTI Resources:
AMSTI Module:
Organisms, STC
Wild Feet, ETA/hand2mind

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.1.5- Match an environmental situation with an appropriate human action (e.g., wearing a jacket when it is cold; animals growing a thick coat during the winter; wearing protective gear like a turtle has a shell).

Local/National Standards:


Primary Learning Objective(s):

Students will:

  • construct an insulating "glove" by choosing from a variety of materials that imitate animal characteristics. 
  • compare the effectiveness of different materials.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

Scientific & Engineering Practices:

  • Asking questions and defining problems
  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions

Crosscutting Concepts

  • Structure and function
 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

61 to 90 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Large container of ice water (wider rather than taller, if possible)

Pair of stretchy knit gloves

A plastic, rubber, or vinyl glove

Timer or clock with second hand

Chart paper and markers for recording predictions and data

Paper towels and/or large bath towel for drips and spills

2 quart-size zipper plastic bags for each set of partners

Duct tape to secure bags together

Spoons for scooping any sticky insulating materials

Solid vegetable shortening (such as Crisco)—about1-2 cups—to use as “insulation”

Additional materials to test as insulation (such as cotton balls, feathers, fur, wool, foam, paper towels, butter, peanut butter, and any others suggested by the students)

Copies of Student Record Sheet for investigation (see attached file)

Technology Resources Needed:

Computer and projector system, if you choose to display the following YouTube video to the students:  

This video clip shows someone testing the “blubber glove” theory.


Students should be familiar with the concept (through a previous study, read aloud, or research activity) of characteristics of various animals. It would be helpful if students have some prior knowledge of arctic animals. Other vocabulary that will be taught in this lesson: imitate, survival, and insulation.


**Before the lesson, watch the YouTube video and review the following procedures for assembling the “blubber glove," which will work very well at insulating from the cold water.  This procedure will be used in creating various gloves with different materials.

  1. Open one of the zipper bags, and use the spoon to place several scoops of shortening inside. 

  2. Take the second bag and turn it inside out on your hand.  Place the second bag inside of the first bag containing shortening.  [Some bags will be able to “zip” together, so they create a layer of shortening in between the two bags.  If your bags don’t zip well, just secure the edges with duct tape, so the students can place their hand inside the nested bags without touching the shortening.]

  3. Remove the excess air and evenly distribute the shortening, adding more or less shortening if needed.  Zip the bags together and secure the top with duct tape.  Ensure that the shortening makes an even layer in between the two layers of the plastic bag.  This will act as the layer of “blubber” to insulate the students’ hands when they “wear” the glove and place it in the tub of ice water. 

Engage:  Pose an introductory question and create interest. 

  1. Place the tub of ice water in a location where all students can view it, and reach inside it when invited to come and participate.  Ask the students, “What will happen if you place your hand in the water?”  Write this at the top of the chart paper. 

  2. Let students come a few at a time (depending on how many hands can fit in your tub at one time) to test out putting their hands in the water.  You can use the clock or stopwatch to record the length of time students can keep their hand in the water, and record the results on the chart paper. 

Explore: Have students define the problem and discuss possible solutions. 

  1. Tell the students that today they are going to be engineers—scientists who solve problems.  Today’s problem is: How can we find a way to tolerate cold temperatures?  Write this on the chart paper, and you may need to explain what tolerate means.  Tell them that today they will design solutions for this problem.

  2. Ask the students, “What if I worked outside near the cold, wet, snowy ocean for long periods of time?  What could I do, if I needed to keep my hand in this bucket of water for a longer time?”   [If students don’t suggest wearing gloves, pull out the stretchy gloves and show them to the students.] 

  3. Try putting on one glove, and then the plastic glove and testing it in the water.  See if the students suggest putting both gloves on the same hand, then covering with the plastic glove, and testing it again. 

  4. You can allow students to test this out, and describe what happens when they put one hand in the water with all the gloves, and one without. 

Explain: Introduce vocabulary, look for connections to plants and animals, and list various materials to use as insulation. 

  1. Write the word “Insulation” on the chart.  Explain that this means a protective layer to keep the cold air out and allow you to stay warm.  Ask the students to list examples of insulating (putting on layers of clothes, insulation in a house, etc.).

  2. Explain that sometimes humans can get ideas for their problems from nature.  Ask the students, “Are there any examples you know of plants or animals that live in cold places?  They have to stay warm to survive.  They can’t come indoors and warm up.  Do you know animals that have parts that let them keep warm all the time?”

  3. Write on the chart: “Ways That Animals Have Insulation.”  List examples the students give, such as thick fur on mammals, feathers on birds, wool on sheep, blubber on arctic animals, etc.    

Elaborate: Allow students to work in groups to create new models of the glove using the alternate materials. 

  1. Tell students, “Today we are going to design some insulated gloves, which we will test in the ice water.  We need to think of what materials might make good insulation.  What materials will imitate the animal characteristics we just listed?”  Define the word imitate—copy or act like something else. 

  2. Demonstrate the basic procedure for creating the glove—show how students will fill one baggie with an insulating material, then place a second bag inside it to keep it in place.  [see the procedures for “Before the Lesson.”]

  3. Begin making a list of possible materials for insulating the gloves.  Write on the chart “Materials That Might Imitate Animal Insulation.”  Refer to the list of animal characteristics, and allow students to suggest various materials.

    [***This might be a good place to stop the lesson and continue at another time, if your schedule is tight, or if you need time to collect the suggested materials.  It also might be a good idea to enlist a parent volunteer to help these young students with the next phase of building the gloves!***]

  4. Divide students into groups of 2 or 3, and allow them to choose which type of insulating material their group will test. 

  5. Distribute Student Record Sheets, and fill in the top part together (Problem and Materials). 

  6. Begin distributing materials while partners work on completing the Design part of the worksheet and building their gloves. 

  7. Have students record what they think will happen when they test the gloves, on the Predict portion of the recording sheet.

Evaluate:  Test the other student models, compare results, and discuss findings and applications. 

  1. Let partners bring their gloves to the ice water tub and test by putting one hand in the glove and putting both hands in the water to compare if the glove hand feels warmer.  Have them record what happened on the Results section of their record sheet. 
  2. After all the gloves have been tested, let students compare the gloves by timing how long the glove hand can stay in the water.  Record data on the class chart.  You could also test this by having students wear two different gloves at the same time and comparing them. 
  3. Let students think about/write the Reflect section on the Student Record Sheet.  Allow students to share their reflections. 
  4. Conclude by discussing the following questions:  “Which gloves could stay in the ice water the longest?  Which materials provided the best insulation?  How does this compare to the animal characteristics we discussed, and where those animals live?  What kinds of materials do we use today to insulate our homes and clothes?”  


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Assessment Strategies

  • Observe the students using the glove during the test.  Can students use the glove to keep their hand in the ice water for a longer period of time?  How much longer?   
  • Examine the Student Record Sheets.  Did the student include any of the suggested elements of design?  Did the student accurately use pictures and/or words to express the design and test process?  





View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.