Around the World with FIAR: The Very Last First Time

Ribbet collagefiar

We are currently studying the Arctic circle, using FIAR books as our core.  Although we use the text from FIAR, I will only be posting the extra activities we do.  The Very Last First Time chronicles a young Inuit girl’s very first time mussel gathering under the ice of the oceans.  I particularly like the illustrations in this book, with animals hidden on the cave walls and ocean floor.

Geographical Theme for the Term

This week was an easy area of the arctic to choose because the book is actually set in Canada!  There was no need to stretch the truth this week!


Theme for the Very Last First Time

Arctic animals especially polar bears:

polar bears

In my book box



I am using my photos from my other FIAR posts.  We did the same activities each week and it saves me time if I use the same photos 🙂


Besides reading the above books we made up an animals of the world map and looked out for any of the animals we pictured in the book:

katie and the snow plough

We also built up our large foam map of the world.  I had the little ones spray shaving foam onto the map to show where Antarctica and the Arctic circle were.  They used the appropriate plastic animals and played for a while in the ‘snow’:


To reinforce the names and position of the continents and oceans they played spin the continent:


and a great little board game called Atlas Adventures:



We read the following book as well as this very interesting list of facts about Polar Bears and then did an experiment to show how the Polar Bear’s dark skin helps to keep it warm:

polar bears

Although Polar bears look white, they are not.  If they were, it would be very hard for them to stay warm in the harsh conditions in the North Pole.

In order to survive in such a cold environment the polar bear has a layer of blubber (for insulation), dark skin (to absorb the heat from the sun) and translucent fur (to insulate and to blend in with the snowy environment).

We had already carried out an experiment to show how blubber prevents a Polar bear becoming too cold:

Ribbet collageblubber3

and the little ones already know how fur keeps in the warmth and keeps out the cold.  The following activity will show that dark colours absorb more heat than light colours and therefore dark skin will keep the Polar Bear warmer by absorbing more heat than pale skin.

An Experiment to Investigate the Absorption of Heat from the Sun by Dark Colours and by Light Colours

We gathered the following:


  • Two glass jars
  • Strong coffee
  • White plastic wrap
  • Clear plastic wrap
  • Food thermometer
  • Sunny day


Step one: We poured equal amounts of black coffee into each jar and allowed to cool to room temperature:


Step Two: We covered one jar with white plastic and one jar with clear plastic:


Step three: We placed the jars in the sun for a couple of hours:


Step Four: We checked the temperatures of both jars:


What did the girls think would happen?

It was obvious that A6 understood this well, as she told me the white would reflect the light and therefore the coffee would remain cool and the one with the cling film would remain dark and absorb the heat from the sun and therefore become warmer.  I’m not sure B4 understood the concepts as well as A6 but she was able to guess that one would remain cool while the other would become hotter.

What actually happened?

The jar with the white plastic was 26 degrees

The jar with the clear wrap was 38 degrees

Why did this happen?

The white plastic on the first jar reflects the sun’s rays and therefore its heat, preventing the heat from being absorbed, whereas the jar with the clear plastic maintained the dark black colour of the coffee which absorbed the heat from the sun and therefore increased in temperature.

The hairs in a polar bear’s coat are translucent.  However, the hollow center of each hair absorbs light from the sun, and then scatters and reflects it back away from the bear, making it seem white to the naked eye.

Each pigment free hair carries heat from the sun down to the polar bear’s black skin, which in turn absorbs it thus keeping the bear warm.

Polar Bears are like the clear plastic-covered coffee in the experiment above: that is clear on the outside and black on the inside, creating the perfect environment for maximum heat.

Arctic Lap Journal

Although there are many lap pieces available for each individual FIAR book I have decided that my primary learning goals for the girls are geographical.  Therefore with each continent we study we will be slowly completing one large continent lap book, adding various lap pieces each week, linked to the goals of that particular week.

This week we added a Polar Bear diet mini book, a Polar Bear family name lap book piece and the family names of a Polar Bear:


Art and Craft Activities

Polar Bear Adaptations Picture

We created a picture of a polar bear, using the adaptations it has to enable it to cope in the cold.  First we collected lard, black paint, cotton wool and a polar bear picture:

Ribbet collagepolarbear1

The girls mixed the black paint with the lard.  This would represent the layer of blubber and the black skin.  The children painted this onto white card:

Ribbet collagepolarbear2

Over the top we placed some shredded cotton wall balls which represented the see-through hair which reflects white in the sun.  Hopefully this would remind the children how the polar adapts to living in the freezing cold arctic:

Ribbet collagepolarbear3

Colour by Numbers Painting of a Seal (we did this earlier this year):

Ribbet collageverylastfirst1

Further Inspiration

For more bear activities take a peek at my posts from BFIAR:

  • We’re Going on a Bear Hunt:

Cute lil' sisters

  • Jesse Bear


  • Very Last First Time

  • Arctic and Antarctic

Tot School


    1. Thank you Elizabeth, I shall have to look for that. I kind of agree. As a mother, I would be very concerned if it was my child under all that ice!

  1. Looks like so much fun, Claire. We are going to do a study like this in Nov/Dec timeframe. You have inspired me :-). Question for you…..Where did you get the spin the continent game…..that would be so much fun and I think I would enjoy that too, LOL!

    PS Been reading all your posts, just busy with summer and planning and decluttering and ……, LOL! Thank you for sharing your journey ……love all the posts. You are such an encouragement to me :-).

  2. I love the coffee experiment. I wish I knew about it when we did the blubber experiment a few years ago. You are such a great resource for home schoolers.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.