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Winter Lesson Idea: Subnivean Critter Tag

December 10, 2013

I’ve said more than once that I believe winter to be one of Canada’s greatest teaching resources. With snow on the ground across the country early into December I thought I would share a favorite winter activity that can be done with classes of different ages to study animal adaptations, habitats, microclimates and more.

I have heard the game called Fox and Geese and believe it goes back more than a century – but when I teach it I instead make the geese into some sort of field mice.


1. Begin by asking all the students to line up behind you and stay in a straight line …
2. Lead the students in a single line format to make a big circle in the unblemished snow in your school yard or nearby park.
3. Continue to have students follow single file as they add “spokes” to the wheel that they’ve made. There should know be a large class sized wagon wheel on the ground.
4. Pick one student to be a Red Fox. The rest of the students will be mice who are chased by the fox.

jumping fox

Many folk have seen a fox jumping in the field and sticking their noses face first into the cold snow. Those foxes are listening for, and trying to catch mice and other creatures that are hiding beneath the snow. These creatures are Subnivean, which means “beneath the snow” – they create tunnels, sleep and spend much of their day hidden from the sun under the snow which acts like a warm blanket.

Give the game a try and let me know how it works out! 


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