Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Help! Paisley Polar Bear is Freezing!

Human Problems Can Be Solved by Mimicking Animal Solutions

Patricia Turner, Sara Andis | Published: June 30th, 2022 by Oklahoma Young Scholars/Javits

  • Grade Level Grade Level 1st
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts, Science
  • Course Course Life Science
  • Time Frame Time Frame 30 min sessions
  • Duration More 3-4 class periods


In this lesson, students will be given a picture of a polar bear missing some fur. They will also receive a handout with a picture of a cartoon person missing a coat in the snow. Students will be provided with art supplies to give the polar bear some fur and design a coat for the cartoon person so they can both be warm.

Essential Question(s)

How do humans mimic animals to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs?



Students are shown ice they can see and touch. Students then describe the properties of ice and watch a short video clip of a polar bear living in an icy habitat.


Students listen to a book about polar bears and add information to an Anchor Chart. Then, students create a coat to keep a polar bear cutout warm.


Students look at a picture of a cold child. Then, they use the information they learned about polar bears and how they stay warm to help them create clothing that will keep a person warm.


Students revisit the essential question and listen to the story Snowy Bear by Tony Mitton. Then, they complete a handout showing how each character in the story stays warm in the winter.


Students work in groups to match animal structures to human inventions with cards. As students match the cards, they talk in groups and share their reasoning for why that human idea came from that animal. Then, students write a sentence about one of the card matches.


  • Ice and ice bucket

  • National Geographic: Polar Bears by Laura Marsh or a polar bear book from Epic! books

  • Anchor Chart paper

  • Paisley Polar Bear photo (attached)

  • Polar Bear Cutout (attached; one per student)

  • Art supplies (crayons, markers, glue sticks or glue, white yarn, fabric

    , buttons, pipe cleaners, pompoms, cotton balls)

  • Freezing Cold Child photo (attached)

  • Children Without Coats Cutouts (attached; one cutout per student)

  • Snowy Bear by Tony Mitton

  • Snowy Bear Warm in Winter Handout (attached; one per student)

  • Biomimicry Card Match (attached; one set per group)

  • San Diego Zoo Data Collection Sheet (attached)


10 Minute(s)

To begin the lesson, show students ice in an ice bucket. You can distribute the ice in small cups so that the students have a chance to touch it. Next, ask students to describe the ice.

Follow up with these additional questions:

  • What is ice made from?

  • Where do we find ice?

  • When do we have ice in our yards?

Next, show students the polar bear video and have the class discuss how cold the ice is.

Using the information from the video, ask students to help fill in the Anchor Chart about polar bears. Across the top of the chart paper, write "Information About Polar Bears." You will add more information to this chart later on in the lesson.


30 Minute(s)

Read a book about polar bears with students, such as National Geographic Readers: Polar Bears by Laura Marsh or a book about polar bears from Epic! Books. After finishing the book, ask students to help you add facts to the Anchor Chart you created earlier.

Next, show students the attached Paisley Polar Bear photo.

Use the Think-Pair-Share strategy and have students think about what they have learned that helps the polar bear to stay warm and live where it is cold and icy. Have students share with a partner and then as a class.

The class will most likely agree that the polar bear's fur is important. Explain to students that a polar bear's fur has several layers that help keep them dry when they swim.

Next, pass out the attached Polar Bear Cutout to each student. Have students use the materials provided to add "fur" to the polar bear. As students are working, ask them to explain the purpose of what they are adding to their polar bears. Encourage layering and remind them not to forget about the bear's head and paws.


30 Minute(s)

Now, share the attached Freezing Cold Child photo and ask students how they think the child is feeling and what makes them think that.

Ask students what information they learned about polar bears could be used to help make the child warm. Revisit the information they added to the Anchor Chart.

Guide students with questions such as, "What did you do to help Paisley Polar Bear stay warm?" and "What do people do to keep themselves warm?" Help students focus on details like layering, additional clothing, and using warm materials.

Pass out a copy of the attached Children Without Coats Cutouts to each student. Have students use the materials provided to create some clothes to keep the child warm.

After they have completed their characters, have students talk in pairs or table groups and compare their polar bear coats and their human coats. Then, have students write a sentence about comparing the polar bear's fur and the person's coat.


30 Minute(s)

Revisit the essential question by asking students, "Do you think humans learn things from animals that help them solve problems?" Have students share their ideas with their Elbow Partners, then have a short share out with the class.

Before reading Snowy Bear, explain to students that some animals stay "indoors" to stay warm and dry. Give students examples such as mice, shrews, and voles making underground tunnels and using snow like a blanket to shelter them from the bitter cold.

Next, read the story Snowy Bear by Tony Mitton. Explain to students that some of this book is true, but some of it is fiction.

As you read the story, pause to discuss how the fox had fur to stay warm and used a burrow underground to shelter from the cold. Follow with the how the owl used its feathers and its hole in a tree for warmth.

Then, discuss with students how humans sometimes stay indoors and use a heater or fireplace to stay warm.

Have them complete the attached Snowy Bear Warm in Winter handout with drawings or sentences to show how each animal stays warm in the winter.


20 Minute(s)

Divide the class into small groups or pairs and use the Card Matching strategy. Give each group a set of the attached Biomimicry Card Match cards you prepared prior to the lesson. Have them match the animal and the human invention based on what humans have learned from that animal.

As students work on matching their cards, circulate the room and ask students why they matched certain cards together. Listen carefully to their justifications for their matches. Students may correctly match the cards, but have incorrect reasoning.

Next, have students write a sentence about one of card pairs they matched together.

Alternatively, provide students with different scenarios and ask how we learn from animals to solve problems.

For example:

  • Birds can fly to travel more quickly. What did humans build? (Humans built airplanes so that they could fly and travel to places quickly.)

  • Fish have gills to breathe underwater. What did humans develop? (Humans developed scuba diving gear to breathe underwater.)

  • Sharks have sharp teeth to eat their food. What did humans create? (Humans created forks to eat their food.)

Opportunities for Advanced Students

45 Minute(s)

Have students view different animals using the live cams at the San Diego Zoo. On the attached San Diego Zoo Data Collection Sheet, have students record the name of the animal, what they saw them doing, what structure (part of the body) they were using, and how humans might adapt that structure.

Example: Hippopotamus, swishing flies away, using his tail, fly swatter