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Alberta Parks

Winter Ecology

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Winter outdoor learning provides unique learning opportunities. Play active nature-based games, hone observation skills, and consider scientific inquiry. Getting outdoors in the winter has some barriers but these simple activities, broken down by grade level, will help students explore and actively engage in the outdoor classroom.
January 27, 2021

Grades K-6

Curriculum: Literacy, Numeracy, Science, Physical and Outdoor Education

Mouse-sicles - Outdoor Activity

In this activity, students will attempt to keep a ‘mouse’ from freezing in the winter. This engaging activity helps students to consider how small animals stay warm in the winter. Extend student learning by exploring insulating material and how animals lose heat to their surroundings.

Activity Instructions Here

Life under the Snow - Outdoor Activity

Exploring the magical world under the snow is an exciting adventure for young children. This activity can be used as a provocation to explore how animals adapt and survive under the snow. It can be done in your schoolyard or in a natural area by your school.

Activity Instructions Here

Camouflage - Outdoor Activity

The game of “Camouflage” is an engaging winter activity exploring animal adaptations. This game is well loved, simple to facilitate, and allows students to “play out” this important winter survival technique. It can be played in all seasons and in many different habitats. Engage students in a short game (5 minutes) or an extended version (20-30 minutes) with several rounds.

Activity Instructions Here

Stories in the Snow - Outdoor Activity

In this activity, students will look for stories in the snow. The snow provides an incredible canvas where animal evidence is left behind, making it the perfect story-making tool. Tracking examples are provided, as well as, a story planner to help students develop their own snow stories.

Activity Instructions Here

Winter Wildlife Game - Outdoor Activity

The Winter Wildlife Game is a predator-prey game in which adaptations to the cold and snow conditions are emphasized. Participants become predators and prey where both must endure a series of winter conditions that may result in them gaining or losing food. The introduction of humans into the game demonstrates the positive or negative effects that humans can have on an ecosystem during critical periods of late winter and early spring.

Activity Instructions Here

Winter Scavenger Hunt - Outdoor Activity

Winter abounds with signs of animal and plants who adapt to the long, cold winter months. Use this scavenger hunt with younger youth to simply look for signs of winter or delve deeper and explore the elements of snow, cold, radiation, energy and wind that all animals and plants must adapt to or die.

Activity Instructions Here

Grades 7-12

Curriculum: Science, Literacy, Numeracy, Biology, Physical and Outdoor Education, Career and Life Management, Social Studies

Animal Tracking - Outdoor Activity

Winter provides the optimal tapestry of snow to discover what animals we share our environment with through the art of tracking. Learn the basics of how to identify animal tracks and how our Park Ecologists use this technique to gather wildlife data to support a deeper understanding of wildlife movement patterns. Learning extensions include a simulated wildlife transect study, connecting students to place through exploring tracking with an Indigenous lens or an art track casting activity.

Activity Instructions Here

Decision Tree (adapting to winter factors) - Indoor / Outdoor Activity

This indoor or outdoor activity provides teachers with a resource for exploring the many ways plants and animals adapt to winter. All resources are provided, including a short 3.5-minute video demonstrating how the Decision Tree is laid out and can be explained in the field.

Activity Instructions Here

Snowshoe Hare / Lynx - Outdoor Activity

The predator-prey relationship of the Snowshoe Hare and Lynx comes alive in this active outdoor game. Students will gain an understanding of population dynamics in a playful, energizing game. Snowshoes recommended but not necessary.

Activity Instructions Here

Winter Inquiry - Outdoor Activity

Alberta Parks promotes all educators to use our Provincial Park system and near by nature, as an authentic learning landscape. In this activity, a model of how Alberta Park Educators use Inquiry, a video demonstrating one application of the model and possible overarching questions to start a winter inquiry are provided.

Activity Instructions Here


Vicki Perkins and Andrea Barnes
Andrea Barnes is passionate about teaching and learning outdoors. She has been the Formal Education Coordinator for Alberta Parks in Kananaskis Country for over 15 years where she has been developing, delivering and evaluating nature and field experiences for students and professional development workshops for teachers. Andrea is also a contractor and a classroom teacher. She worked with an outdoor school in Canmore as their Nature Immersion Curriculum Specialist and most recently stepped back into the classroom to teacher during the Covid 19 online learning period in the spring of 2020.

Updated: Mar 1, 2021