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Anytime Lesson Plan: The Emperor Penguin's Egg


In this at home lesson, students will learn to use their balancing and group skills to protect their Emperor penguin egg in harsh conditions.  Students will read a story read aloud about penguins and pretend to be an Emperor penguin carrying an egg (using a ball or any other object) using their feet to understand how they care for their young.


In this activity, students will:  

  1. read a story read aloud about penguins.
  2. pretend to be an Emperor penguin carrying an egg (using a ball or any other object) using their feet to understand how they care for their young.
  3. learn how harsh conditions can make it hard to survive.


  • soft ball or toy to resemble a penguin egg ( 1 pound and about 4 inches)
  • standard size pillows
  • rope or string
  • flippers or slippers
  • painter’s tape or masking tape
  • thick blankets
  • poster boards or other objects to create the harsh winds (optional)
  • books: A Mother’s Journey by Sandra Markle or Penguin Chick by Betty Tatham
  • DVD: March of the Penguins



  1. Borrow A Mother’s Journey by Sandra Markle or Penguin Chick by Betty Tatham and March of the Penguins from your local library
  2. Find an area in your home where you can play the Emperor Penguin’s Egg activity
  3. Mark the beginning and end of your activity space by placing a line of tape at each end.
  4. You will be working in pairs, so make sure you have an even number of participants.
  5. Have all participants place a standard size pillow in front of their bodies and have them wrap rope to tie the pillow around them. This will act as your penguin belly.
  6. Distribute one soft ball or toy to be used as the egg per group.
  7. Lay a couple of thick blankets on your activity space to resemble the harsh conditions the penguins have to walk on during their parenting process.
  8. Have one person on the side creating wind by making a fanning motion with a poster board, or you can use a fan or any other object you have around the house.
  9. Each participant should put on flippers/slippers to waddle like a penguin.
  10. You can make it into a relay race if you’d like by seeing which group makes it to the end first.


  1. Before you begin your activity, take a moment to read A Mother’s Journey by Sandra Markle or Penguin Chick by Betty Tatham.
  2. Go to the beginning of your activity space (marked by a line of tape), and stand facing your partner a few meters apart with your hands by your side and your feet together.
  3. Balance the soft ball or toy (the penguin egg) on top of your feet.
  4. Waddle towards each other always staying on the blankets while keeping the egg precariously perched on your feet.
  5. Now, here is the tricky part! Pass the egg to your partner’s feet, without using your hands or letting the egg touch the ground. If the egg touches the ground and stays there, it will freeze and won’t survive.
  6. It’s not easy to do, so keep practicing. As an Emperor penguin, you want your egg to survive so it can hatch as a penguin chick.
  7. Once you’ve experienced being an Emperor penguin parent, gather around to watch the documentary, March of the Penguins.


Discuss as a group what you learned.  You can ask the following questions:

  • What would happen to the egg if it wasn’t protected on top of the male’s feet?
  • Would the baby penguin survive in its environment if it was left behind?
  • What are the external features of the penguin and how do they help with survival?



  • Markle, S. 2005. A Mother’s Journey. Charlesbridge Publishing.
  • Tatham, B. 2008. Penguin Chick. HarperCollins Publishing.
  • Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.   Emperor penguin. Retrieved February 9, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emperor_Penguin
  • Pioche, B. and the National Geographic Society (producers). March of the Penguins. 2005

California Content Standards

Grade 1

Life Sciences

  • 2a. Students know different plants and animals inhabit different kinds of environments and have external features that help them thrive in different kinds of places.

Grade 2

Life Sciences

  • 2a. Students know that organisms reproduce offspring of their own kind and that the offspring resemble their parents and one another.

Grade 3

Life Sciences

  • 3a. Students know plants and animals have structures that serve different environments, such as growth, survival, and reproduction.
  • 3b. Students know examples of diverse life forms in different environments, such as oceans, deserts, tundra, forests, grasslands, and wetlands.



Emperor Penguins are monogamous, meaning they only have one mate and stay faithful to that mate. They begin courtship during March and April when the temperature can be as low as −40°C (−40°F). This courtship involves a courtship call by the male, which attracts the female. Once in pairs, couples waddle around the colony together.

After laying her egg, the mother becomes very exhausted and she very carefully transfers the egg to the male, before immediately returning to the sea for two months to feed. The egg of the Emperor Penguin is 12 × 8 cm (4¾ x 3 in) and somewhat pear-shaped. The female penguin lays one 460–470 g (1 lb) egg in May or early June. The transfer of the egg can be awkward and difficult, and many penguin couples drop the egg during this process. When this happens, the chick inside is quickly lost, as the egg cannot withstand the freezing temperatures on the icy ground.

The male spends the winter incubating the egg, balancing it on the tops of his feet and covering it with a thick layer of feathered skin, for 64 consecutive days until hatching. The Emperor Penguin is the only penguin species where the father takes sole responsibility for incubating the egg.  By the time the egg hatches, the male will have fasted for around 115 days since arriving at the colony. To survive the cold and winds of up to 200 km/h (120 mph), the males huddle together, taking turns in the middle of the huddle. They have also been observed with their backs to the wind to conserve body heat.


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