With all of the problems in the world, most of which we have faced for thousands of years, few if any people have ever made the comment, “I really hate penguins.” Short of the flamingo, ostrich, emu, or the blue-footed booby, there may not be a sillier-looking bird in all of existence. Since many penguins have the dubious honor of being a part of a beloved endangered species, though, it is perhaps no large wonder that observations like World Penguin Day and Penguin Awareness Day have come into existence. World Penguin Day is celebrated on April 25th, and it is an excellent opportunity to help preschoolers expand their worldviews.
First of all, a game of Duck, Duck, Goose can easily be adapted into Duck, Duck, Penguin. Just play the game as you normally would, and have the preschoolers say penguin instead of the word goose.
There are also all kinds of fun arts and crafts which can not only help preschoolers to learn about penguins, but also provide something to give to their parents as a demonstration of what they learned that day. There are various sites like Google Images and YouTube which give instructions on how to make simple origami penguins, for example, and various origami instruction booklets are also available.
If you have access to a stove or kiln, you can have preschoolers decorate clay penguins which you can make ahead of time with penguin cookie cutters which you can either make yourself, find in a store, or find online.
You may also want to read some simple educational non-fiction or storybooks about penguins, like Anne Schreiber’s “Penguins!” or Helen Lester’s “Tacky and the Emperor”, and provide several stuffed penguins with which the preschoolers can play. If you use a ‘nap buddy’ stuffed animal to reward good behavior during naptime, then a stuffed penguin can be a serviceable addition for the day. You can also talk about penguins and the parts of the world in which they live, and possibly give the children coloring or tracing sheets related to penguins and their natural habitats.
World Penguin Day also presents a wonderful opportunity to take a field trip to a zoo or aquarium which has some of these delightful birds, and there are a few songs and rhymes about penguins which can be taught to your preschoolers, some of which go to the tune of nursery rhymes like “I’m a Little Teapot”.
Finally, you could take the lesson one step further by making World Penguin Day into Penguin Week. This may allow you to watch longer movies or read longer books, like “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” or “The Pebble and the Penguin”, as well as provide an opportunity to celebrate the holiday with your class even if it happens to fall on a weekend day that year. You could even present the option to preschoolers and their parents of dressing all in black and white during World Penguin Day to celebrate the penguin theme.
A similar observation, Penguin Awareness Day, occurs on January 20th.