I teach at a nature-based preschool. In December we did a unit on 'Animals in Winter'. As a concluding event we had a Hibernation Party on the last day before winter break. Below I included the text of the letter that went home, as well as some additional ideas and few helpful links. I thought some of my blogging friends might like to use the ideas. It's too late (this year) for a hibernation party but could be adapted into a "Waking up from Hibernation Party"!
Note: It's very sad news to kids when you tell them that bears don't actually hibernate. (Many don't believe you!) I explain that bears are TORPOR animals, and sleep soundly for weeks at at time. Bears breathing slows and their body temperature goes down but they do wake up during winter.
We distinguished animals that are 'true hibernators' by referencing books. We learned that in Vermont there are only 3 animals in this category.
Woodchucks (or groundhogs) are a true hibernator and might be a better choice than bears for our focus animal for the Hibernation Party, but it just didn't as much fun! I weighed the pros and cons and decided that bears were more engaging for the preschoolers. (My program is located in a museum and the kids LOVE going to see the bears. They are much less enthusiastic about the groundhog!)
Maybe next year I will go with the groundhog as our featured animal for the hibernation party, and then have a follow up celebration on Groundhogs Day!
-----------Here's the text of the letter I sent home to families:
We will celebrate the arrival of Winter with a "Hibernation Party"!
Friday, December ?
Children are encouraged to wear their pajamas and bring in a teddy bear from home!
Teddy Bears need to be able to fit into a large brown paper grocery bag, which we will transform into bear caves for the children to bring home.
On the day of our Hibernation Party we will start the day outdoors, so send your children with snow pants over their pajamas!
We will get ready for winter with a big "Bear Feast". Children will enjoy fresh berries, nuts, and homemade granola with honey. (Miss April will be providing this snack.)
The entire classroom will be set up to look like a winter scene with lots special bear dens for the kids to crawl into. (white sheets, cotton quilting batting, sleeping bags)
All of our bears will be hibernating by 10:30 and parents are invited to join us at that time. Please tiptoe into the classroom to find your little bear.
We will finish with a Sing Along of all our "Animals in Winter" theme songs: (I provided a song sheet so everyone had the words. This was not meant to be a performance, rather a low-key family sing along!)
Time for Hibernation
Winter's Coming Soon (to tune of wheels on the bus)
The weather's getting cold so bundle up, bundle up, bundle up
The weather's getting cold so bundle up, winter's coming soon.
The bears in the cave sleep all the time............
The squirrels in the trees get lots of nuts...............
The frogs and toads go deep in mud.......
The ducks and the geese fly south........
The kids in the town wear hats and gloves..........
----- Additional teacher notes:
Read aloud - The Bear Snores On
(Previously in out unit we read, "Going on a Bear Hunt" - that was a favorite and I thought about re-reading it but opted not to.
Post signs on the classroom doors that say, "Shhhh...bears are sleeping."
Children will make a "Bear Trail Mix" to take home. Parents are encouraged to send in snacks to add to the mix such as: goldfish, dried berries, nuts, mini teddy grahams, and maybe honey sticks.
Black Bear Game - one child acts as the bear and lies in the middle of the circle with their eyes closed. (If played outside, first lie done blanket.) The bear keeps their eyes shut while the rest of the group sings:
"Black bear, oh black bear, oh sleeping in your den. Please be very quiet, very, very quiet. If you shake him, if you wake him, he will growl at you!"
As the group sings, the teacher selects one child to gently shake or tap the bear. The child shakes the bear and returns to their spot in the circle. Then the bear wakes up, looks at the group, and tries to pick the child that shook him. The bear is given two guesses and then can growl at the bear who woke him. (I tried this game with my 2 year old at home and she DID not like the idea. I think the growling was too much!)
Bear Caves - previously children each made their own cave out of a brown paper grocery bag. For the Hibernation Party, children each bring in their own teddy bears to put into the cave to "hibernate" for winter. Play a game with the bears that reinforces positional words (in, out, over, under, next to, above, below, near). May need to help some of the younger children since this is a new skill.
More ideas for the next time we do a Hibernation Party:
Hibernating Bear Cupcakes / "Cup Cave" snacks - prepare a cake batter as normal and pour into cupcake liners. Before baking, insert one teddy graham into every cupcake. Explain to the kids that there is a bear hibernating in every cupcake.
Shelled nut snack- Another fun hibernation snack could a wide variety of nuts that are still in their shells. (Obviously you would need to check for nut allergies first.) Many children are not familiar with shelled nuts so encourage them to look at the shape, texture, and firmness. Teach them how to crack them open and observe the inside. Many preschoolers will need help breaking the shells but would be able to peel softer shells such as peanuts or partially opened shells like pistachios. Show pictures of squirrels and chipmunks and talk about how they collect acorns and nuts in the fall.
Stringing popcorn and cranberries to decorate a wildlife tree would also be fun!
At the play dough table encourage kids to make animals homes. Add coffee grounds or sand to the dough. Have pictures of a variety of homes (beaver lodge, burrows, dens, and caves). Suggest using some sort of form such as a recycled applesauce cup, yogurt container, or toilet paper tube as a base so the home is stronger. Offer a variety of natural materials such as sticks, leaves, and dried grasses.
On-line Bear & Hibernation theme ideas:
My "Animals in Winter" booklist!
Bear Themed games - http://www.everythingpreschool.com/themes/hibernation/games.htm
Lots of hibernation ideas here - http://www.preschool-plan-it.com/hibernation.html
"We're going on a bear Hunt" sensory play idea here - http://makedoandfriend.blogspot.com/2012/02/were-going-on-bear-hunt-messy-play.html