How do whales, polar bears or even penguins stay warm? The ocean can be a chilly place, but there are many mammals who call it home! How do some of our favorite mammals live in such cold conditions? It is to do with something called blubber.

While you and I don’t need much of it to survive, creatures like polar bears, whales, seals, and penguins definitely do! Test out how blubber works as an insulator right in the comfort of your kitchen with this blubber experiment for easy ocean science!


How do whales stay warm in the ocean? Whale blubber science activity for kids.


Get ready to explore whale blubber for your next ocean science activity this season. If you want to learn how sea animals survive in frigid temperatures, let’s dig in!  While you’re at it, make sure to check out these more fun ocean activities. 

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Let’s explore blubber!

This blubber experiment asks a couple of questions.

  • What is blubber?
  • How does blubber keep animals such as whales warm?
  • Do all whales have the same amount of blubber?
  • What else makes a good insulator?


  • Large bowl
  • Ice
  • Cold water
  • 4 zip top sandwich bags
  • Thermometer (optional)
  • Vegetable shortening
  • Spatula
  • Towel

materials needed for blubber experiment


STEP 1: Fill a large bowl with ice and cold water.

STEP 2: Turn a zip top bag inside out, place the bag on your hand, and use a spatula to cover both sides of the bag in vegetable shortening.

Coat a bag with vegetable shortening.

STEP 3: Place the shortening coated bag inside another bag and seal.

STEP 4: Turn a clean bag inside out, place it inside another clean bag and seal.

STEP 5: Place one hand in each bag and place your hands in the ice water.

place your hand in ice water

STEP 6: Which hand gets cold faster? Observe how your hands feel and then use a thermometer to check the actual temp inside each bag.

take the temperature of the air inside each bag


To make this into a true science experiment, let’s test some variables!

First, you want to make sure to test the temperature with a plain bag on your hand. That will be your control!

What are other kinds of insulators could you test?  Choose a few other materials to observe and record the temperature within the bags.

What variables will you keep the same?  Make sure to test the temperature within each bag at the same length of time after being covered in ice.  What about the amount of ice?  Make sure to have the same amount of ice in each bowl.

These are great questions to ask your kids.  Get them to think about what variables need to stay the same and more importantly, how you will do that.

Further Extension: Present the kids with a challenge, keep the ice cube from melting!

How can you insulate an ice cube to keep it from melting?  Or what makes ice melt faster?

what is blubber


Whales and Arctic mammals like penguins and polar bears, have a thick layer of fat under their skin called blubber. This fat can be anywhere from a couple of inches to a foot thick!

Learn more about the ocean and the Arctic with Biomes of the World.

The blubber keeps them warm and also stores nutrients their body can use when there isn’t much food. Different species of whales have varying amounts of fat, which is why some whales migrate, and some do not.

The Humpback whale migrates out of cold waters but lives mostly off of its blubber until it returns! The Narwhal, Beluga, and Bowhead whales generally stick around the colder temperature waters all year!

What is blubber? Fat!

The fat molecules in the shortening act like an insulator, just like the blubber. Insulation slows the transfer of heat, keeping the whale warm in very low temperatures. Other animals that use this feature are the polar bear, penguin, and seal!

Could you test other materials you have on hand to see if they make good insulators too?



Discover more fun and easy science & STEM activities right here. Click on the link or on the image below.

Best ever STEM and science activities for kids.

Looking for easy to print activities, and inexpensive problem-based challenges? 

We have you covered…

Click below to get your quick and easy STEM challenges.