Want an polar animals theme activity that incorporates STEAM strategies ? Check out these sugar cube igloos for preschoolers! It’s an arctic animals stem challenge that will get your kids fully engaged in engineering (in a super sweet way!)
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A Note About Using the Term “Igloo” with Preschoolers
The term “Igloo,” comes from the Inuit word “iglu,” which means house. Iglu actually refers to all houses built by Inuit people, not just the houses made of snow we usually think of. (Source).
It is important to educate yourself about Igloos/Iglus before introducing them to kids. Please note that terms like “Eskimo” are considered pejorative, and the term “Inuit” should be used instead.
Teaching Preschoolers About Igloos
Snow igloos are an incredible feat of engineering, especially considering they were created in a time with limited tools and technology. They are pretty fascinating to learn about, whether you’re an adult or a preschooler!
Snow igloos were designed to keep cold air at the bottom, and warm air up top, where inhabitants slept on terraced beds. A fire was placed in the middle of the floor, with a vent up top for smoke to escape.
Igloos are made of compact snow cut into blocks and shaped into structures. They keep an internal temperature of about 20 degrees. It may not seem very warm, but when temperatures are below freezing, 20 degrees sounds pretty warm after all!
A snow iglu was typically built at an Inuit hunting site. They provided warmth and protection from predators during the hunting season.
Igloos are still used by researchers today for warmth, and we owe this to the genius of the Inuit people!
Check out this neat YouTube video about how igloos work with your kids to learn more about how Igloos work, and what makes them so incredible!
Gather Your Arctic Animals STEM Challenge Materials
If you’re doing an arctic animals unit with your preschooler, odds are, you’re learning all about polar bears, seals, and puffins.
Let’s create an arcitc animals STEM challenge for preschoolers using sugar cube igloos!
Here is what you’ll need:
- Sugar Cubes (one box per child)
- Arctic Animal Figures or Cut Outs
- A flat surface to work on
- White paper for a “roof”
- Optional: White playdough (storebought or homemade) to fill in the gaps between sugar cubes. This is more realistic, but more difficult. Personally, we skipped it.
How to Build Sugar Cube Igloos with Preschoolers
Remind preschoolers that the strength of a snow igloo is in it’s overlapping blocks design. The snow is smoothed over so there are no gaps, aside from an entrance and a vent at the top for smoke.
Of course, our igloos won’t be perfect. But kids will learn how to make a strong iglu that keeps out predators!
Start by showing kids a video of how igloos are built. Tell them that we are going to make a sugar cube igloo to help protect our arctic animal figures from the wind and cold.
Place an arctic animals figure in the middle of a paper plate to represent a snowy landscape.
Draw a circle around your arctic animals figure, like they do in the video. This will form the shape of your sugar cube igloo.
Start building! Stack the sugar cubes in an overlapping pattern. Make each layer slightly smaller than the last, so that the opening on top gets smaller and smaller.
When you’ve made the circle as small as you can, top it with a small piece of white paper (or a coaster, apparently, if you’re my kids). Or, leave it open like the Inuit people did to make a vent for the fire.
Testing Your Sugar Cube Igloo
Now let’s see how strong your Iglu is!
First, see if you can knock the iglu over using your breath (to represent arctic winds). If it holds, you may want to use a fan or blow dryer to test it further.
You’ll see that I gave my eight year old daughter less direction. At first she let the blocks stack directly on top of each other, which created a weaker structure.
But we learn a lot from our mistakes! If it breaks, rebuild! Try to make your sugar cube igloo stronger than it was before.
This sugar cube igloos for preschoolers are the perfect addition to your preschool polar animals theme. It’s a great way to get kids hands on STEM experience, and teach them about the accomplishments of our indigenous northern neighbors at the same time.
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