This activity demonstrates how the blubber layer that other marine mammals (like seals, sea lions, dolphins, and whales) have, protects them from the cold. Ask your students line up. Remind them that sea otters don't have blubber and they have a luxurious fur coast to keep them warm. If sea otters fur gets dirty, or if they aren't able groom it well enough, they can feel the cold ocean (like the ice water in this activity). Sea otters have to do a lot of grooming to keep their fur waterproof.
Explain blubber glove activity and ask students to predict which hand will feel the warmest.
Students dip a hand protected in a “blubber glove” in ice water and compare to the other hand dipped in ice water without protection. We recommend students make a fist before putting their hand in the blubber glove to avoid tearing or flooding the glove.You may want to attach a blubber glove to the ice water container using a big clip to avoid flooding.
Which hand is warmer? Does the hand in the blubber glove feel the cold water at all? How would students feel if they were swimming in cold water? What would happen to a sea otter if the cold water got to their skin? If students are familiar with Scuba diving, ask how the sea otter's fur is like a suit divers wear.
Have a towel ready to dry each student's hand an wipe up drips.
How to make the blubber gloves
Gather these materials to make two blubber gloves:
- 4 freezer Ziplock quart bags (2 for each bag)
- 4 sticks of Crisco (2 for each bag)
- sturdy plastic wrapping tape and duct tape (if you want to try that step)
Step by step:
Use the Ziploc freezer quart bags (those are sturdier than the regular quart bags). You will need 2 Ziploc bags for each blubber glove.
It is easier to use the Crisco sticks than to try and scoop the stuff out of a can and in between the bags. You will need 2 Crisco sticks for each bag.
Place one Ziploc bag inside another.
Place one Crisco stick in between each side, being careful to not get it inside the center bag or on the upper edges. You will have to play with it a bit to get the technique down. Gently unwrap the stick except for one side and loosely cover it again so when you are sliding there won’t be globs that get on the outside or top edges.
Once the stick is inside, toward the bottom, unroll the wrapper and remove it, being careful to avoid a mess. Using the sticks is faster and not as frustrating as scooping and inserting. But there is no right or wrong way – whatever works for you is the way to go.
Gently mash the Crisco on each side to create a uniform layer inside the double bag.
We use the sturdy plastic packing tape to enclose the tops. This is tricky too. It can be easier to use smaller pieces than try to wrap all around the entire top in one piece. We start with the long sections and tape those, then the corners (straightening them helps). Several layers are needed to firmly tape the bags at the top. Go down the side a bit in consecutive layers. Optional: Use duct tape to seal the inside layer for added protection and placed duct tape along the inside bottom. Taping the inside bottom is said to protect from ripping by fingernails.
There you go! You are ready for the blubber glove activity!
Blubber: a layer of fat that protects most marine mammals from the cold ocean
Grooming: The things that you do to make your appearance clean and neat (for example: brushing your hair and teeth), OR the things that animals do to keep their fur in good condition.
Marine mammal: a mammal that lives in the ocean. Examples from California: harbor seals, sea lions, elephant seals, dolphins, orcas, gray whales, humpback whales, sea otters.