At-home and at school learning resources from Learning for a Sustainable Future
Week 23: How do insects and animals adapt to winter?
This week's LIO focuses on all the insects around us during these cold winter months! Learn all about the unique and creative solutions that help many insects survive the harsh elements and how climate change is impacting our ecosystem. Some insects like the monarch butterfly migrate in the winter to warmer climates, but many insects gain shelter and nourishment through the winter in a variety of micro-habitats. Some, like snow fleas, burrow in the soil or in leaf litter to escape the cold. Others, like dragonflies, spend winter beneath the ice. Honey bees remain semi-active in hollow trees with caterpillars.

Even though it may seem like nature is quieting down around us during this time of the year, there is a ton of activity that we can observe and learn about!
Grades K-4
This simple activity offers teachers an easy and enjoyable means of getting students outside in winter. It provides suggestions for organizing a successful search for snow fleas/springtails that include helpful hints about the best times and locations to find and observe these active winter insects in the schoolyard. While written for use in primary grades, the activity itself will be of interest to older students as well.

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Birds fly south, humans bundle up, but what do insects do to survive the winter? From creating antifreeze-like alcohols to burrowing in the ground, insects have a few solutions of their own. Learn more about diapause, natural antifreeze and those that throw in the towel when the temperatures drop, but not before helping their eggs and larvae prepare for the winter. Discover how climate change is affecting the overwintering strategies of some insects.

  • Watch Snow Fleas to learn more about these insects. Get outside with some magnifying glasses and look for snow fleas
  • Walk through the schoolyard or nearby park and have students look for strange things on stems, branches, or plants' leaves. Look for things that are different. Have them remove a gall from a plant for the Bugsicles experiment below
  • Try Bugsicles – A Frozen Insect Larva You Can Find! students will freeze a gall fly larva, open it and observe it as the larva revives
  • Listen to the podcast Popsicle Bugs and Anti-Freeze Fleas: How Insects Survive Winter to learn how insects have many strategies for surviving winter
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Grades 9-12
This engaging outdoor activity will allow students to experience first hand the stress that winter places on many of our iconic animal species. This simulation allows students to investigate further some of the species' key adaptations for winter survival. Students become white-tailed deer and measure the physiological stress that navigating deep snow has on their bodies. Analysis and discussion of the data students collect presents a clear picture of the importance of deer yards.

  • Get outdoors and have students race through deep and shallow snow to simulate how white-tailed deer adapt to winter conditions
  • These lessons plans have students better understand white-tailed deer biology, adaptations, habitat requirements, management, and impacts on forest sustainability
  • Write a persuasive letter to the appropriate provincial government department, requesting forest companies be required to set aside more hectares of crown and privately-owned forest for winter deer habitat
  • Have students create a model deer yard. Students could identify areas for the trails and sites where the deer will obtain food, water and find warmth from the sun
  • Listen to the podcast Snow Fleas: 400 Million Years Old and Still Springing to learn more about this ancient insect and its ability to produce an antifreeze protein that allows them to survive the winter
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About Learning Inside Out

Above you will find a selection of activities, broken down by various grade levels. These guides will be released weekly and archived on our Learning Inside Out page, so you can always access the full catalogue.

All activities have been modified from resources on our R4R database, simplified and adapted for both outdoor learning in the school yard or at-home as needed. The activity descriptions above should contain all the information and links that you need!

If you'd like to view the full original resource on R4R, including curriculum connections for every province/territory, click the activity title.

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Use the feedback button at the bottom of this Guide, or email us at We would also love to see photos of students engaging in the activities, please e-mail us any pictures or videos you have!
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Learning for a Sustainable Future (LSF) is a Canadian charity with over 25 years of experience working within the education system. Our Resources for Rethinking (R4R) database is an award-winning collection of resources that are peer-reviewed by certified teachers and connected to curriculum in all provinces and territories. R4R is recommended on many Ministry of Education websites.
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