• Why Not Winter

Regional Science Center

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  • Why Not Winter

    The Regional Science Center's Why Not Winter program begins during the third week of January and ends the last week of February.

    Opportunities are available for Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, map/compass and winter ecology.

    If you have any questions or are interested in registering for this program, please contact Tony Bormann at bormann@mnstate.edu.

    Dressing for Your Visit to the Regional Science Center

    The secret to staying warm and comfortable is layering. Like fluffed up fur or feathers on animals, layers of clothing trap air to prevent heat loss. Layers also allow you more freedom of movement. You can shed outer garments when you're more active and generating extra heat. Remember, sweating can be like falling into a lake. Heat loss is rapid when your skin becomes wet. To be really warm when it's cold outside you should wear:

    • A hat that covers your ears
    • A T-shirt (wool-blend is best)
    • A wind-proof jacket
    • Wool-blend underpants
    • 2 pairs of socks
    • A scarf to keep your neck covered
    • 1 or more thin sweaters
    • Mittens
    • Wool of insulated slacks
    • Winter boots

    Winter Safety Concerns Regarding Hypothermia and Frostbite

    Hypothermia and Frostbite are preventable by dressing appropriately for outdoor activities and recognizing the initial warning signs. See the weather cancellation policy for details on what weather conditions will necessitate cancellation.

    Hypothermia is the lowering of the body core temperature that can result in the following physical effects:

    • 98.6 degrees F - Normal temperature
    • Below 96 degrees F - Muscle coordination deteriorates, shivering increases
    • Below 93 degrees F - Violent shivering, loss of ability to move muscles and to reason
    • Below 87 degrees F - Lose consciousness
    • Below 75 degrees F - Death

    Warning signs include: uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. Medical care should be sought if person's temperature is below 95 degrees F.

    Frostbite is the formation of actual ice crystal under the skin. Usually effects exposed areas and extremities first. It appears as grayish or yellow-white spots on the skin.

    Animal Adaptations

    The Animal Adaptation lesson delves into how animals adapt to the winter time conditions of our region. The objective of the lesson is to identify what makes winter winter and search for evidence of resident animals that have adapted to our winter conditions. First, we will define winter and the conditions that create the sometimes harsh environment that necessitates adaptation for survival. During our hike on the day of your visit, we will search for signs of active winter animals.

    It is a myth that nature sleeps in the winter. Not only are many animals quite active, but the lack of leaves and presence of snow helps us see many signs the animals have left behind. These signs tell a story of how wildlife can adapt and survive the winter.

    How Animals Move

    When ground animals move across the snow, they leave behind tracks or foot prints that can help us identify what they are.

    • Tracks can be a single impression called a print.
    • A series of these prints made by one animal is called a trail.
    • An accumulation of many trails form a path.

    Other Animal Signs

    • Scat/Pellets - These droppings can be studied to determine what the animal has been eating.
    • Fur/Feathers - Stuck on branches or found on the ground.
    • Chew Marks - Indicate that an animal was eating at that spot.
    • Tunnels/Holes - Show that some animals move under the snow.
    • Sounds - the still winter air carries animal sounds quite a distance.
    • Food Caches - Shows that some animals stash food for later.
    • Animal Remains - May tell a story of food chains.
    • Homes - Holes, nests, tree cavities are all signs of animal activities.


    The Orienteering lesson objective it to teach students the basic skills of using an orienteering compass and a simple map.

    The folks at the River Bend Nature Center in Faribault, MN have put together an outstanding webpage on compass use. Rather than try to re-invent the wheel, I encourage you to visit their site at this link.

    After learning the compass parts and terminology on-line, use the following lesson along with the compasses we send you to help prepare your students for your visit to the Regional Science Center.

    In-class compass activity