The weather continues to be the big story as we prepare for this year’s Iditarod. It seems like the world has turned upside down… at least it looks that way on our weather graph! The line tracking the temperatures in Baltimore keeps dropping down below the lines tracking the Alaska weather!
My students have been learning about Heat Energy with Mrs. Olgeirson, the science teacher, and they invited me in one day as they explored how heat energy affects our bodies. More specifically, they were looking at how cold affects the rest of your body. The boys were easily able to make the tie in to the Iditarod and the frigid temperatures the mushers will face (well, we HOPE they will face).
The first experiment they did was about how cold affects extremities. When your toes or fingers get cold, they send a message to your brain to pump more blood to that area. To test this, the kids wrote their name on a sheet of paper. They then plunged their hand into a bowl of icy water (about 31 degrees Fahrenheit) for sixty seconds and then tried to rewrite their name. Their hypothesis that their signatures would be different proved to be very true! The boys were really surprised about just how hard it was to hold the pencil and write their name when their hand was so cold. Imagine the mushers who have to care for their dogs’ feet and all their other chores that can’t quite work with gloves on!
The boys wondered how the mushers warm their hands up, and Mrs. Olgeirson pointed out that when your hands and fingers are cold, you should move your fingers and not rub them together. The friction caused by rubbing your hands together could actually create heat energy that could burn your skin tissue!
How else to keep warm in on the Iditarod Trail? Well, animals have blubber or fat to help them stay warm, and people wear clothing. The boys were interested to hear that the clothing doesn’t actually make you warm; it insulates you from the cold.
The students then got a chance to try out the idea of “insulating” their hands from the icy water. Mrs. Olgeirson created a “blubber mitten” by coating one plastic bag with Crisco and putting it inside a second bag. The student could then insert their hand into the baggie and plunge it into the ice bath. The temperature of the ice bath was 28⁰F, but the temperature inside the “blubber mitten” was 60⁰F!
The boys really got the idea about how cold weather can affect our bodies through these easy, but effective experiments! A special thanks to Mrs. Olgeirson for hitting the trail with science and for sharing her assignment sheet with you! BLUBBER EXPERIMENT WORKSHEET