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Fun Penguin Facts and Resources: An Elementary Teacher's Guide to All Things Penguin

Updated on May 19, 2014

Are you up for the challenge?

After reading this hub, test your knowledge! Can you pass our penguin quiz at the end? Hint: the quiz questions come from the information in the blue boxes.

"It's practically impossible to look at a penguin and feel angry."

- Joe Moore

Penguins are fascinating birds! Are you interested in learning more about these adorable flightless birds or teaching about them? In this hub we will share some of the fun facts we have learned about penguins. We hope you will learn:

  • Why April 25 is World Penguin Day
  • Where penguins live
  • The smallest and largest penguins
  • The only penguin that lives on Antarctica year-round
  • The only nocturnal penguin
  • The fastest penguin

In addition to these penguin facts, the second part of our hub also contains excellent resources for elementary teachers. I have utilized some of these resources before as an elementary teacher myself. You will find:

  • A link to a downloadable children's education CD about Antarctica (including excellent factual songs)
  • A free printable penguin book
  • A free set of printable 3-part Penguin Identification Cards
  • A link to a set of downloadable Montessori Parts of a Penguin Nomenclature cards
  • Links to free online penguin cams

Let the celebration of World Penguin Day begin!

Tidbit 1: Why is April 25 World Penguin Day?

Just another day for an Adelie penguin.
Just another day for an Adelie penguin. | Source

Around April 25 each year, as winter is approaching, Adelie penguins migrate 350-400 miles north of Antarctica.

While March in North America marks the start of spring, it marks the start of autumn in Antarctica. As winter is approaching, there will be less sunlight. For the Adelie (uh-del-lee) penguins, this simply will not do. They live in southern Antarctica most of the year, but around April 25 each year, they begin their journey northward toward more sunlight. They will waddle and toboggan their way about 350-400 miles north of Antarctica!

What Else Makes Adelie Penguins Unique?

  • Adelie Penguins have a white ring around their eyes.
  • They breed the furthest south of any penguin.
  • They like to make their nests with stones.
  • They lay two eggs.

Watch Adelie penguins in action!

Tidbit 2: Penguins live on all the continents of the southern hemisphere (South America, Africa, Antarctica and Australia)!


All penguins live in the Southern Hemisphere!

Typically penguins are associated with Antarctica. While seven of the sixteen known species of penguins do live in Antarctica, the rest do not!

There are not any penguins in the Northern Hemisphere, but the Galapagos come the closest. They tend to live close to the equator by the Galapagos Islands in South America.

Below is a chart of the range of penguins throughout the Southern Hemisphere. These are their typical homes, however, penguins do migrate and can be found on other continents. This chart is merely a guide.

Penguins by Continent

South America

Tidbit 3: The largest penguin is the Emperor Penguin.

While it is the largest penguin, The Emperor Penguin is also the only penguin that lives on Antarctica year-round!

Perhaps one of the most well-known penguins, the Emperor stands about three and a half feet tall and can weigh up to 90 pounds. They are one of seven penguins native to Antarctica, however of the seven, they are the only that stay on the continent year-round, even during the bitter winter! They are dedicated, to say the least.

What Else Makes Emperor Penguins Unique?

  • Emperor penguins do not build nests. Instead, they carry their egg on their feet to protect the egg from the ice.
  • Male and female Emperors work as a team. When the female lays the egg she leaves for about two months to get food. During this time the male carries the egg. When the female returns, she carries the chick on her feet and the male goes off to get food.
  • During the winter, a colony of Emperors gathers together in a close huddle to keep warm.

What a year in the life of an Emperor Penguin looks like:

Check out the Emperor Penguin's life cycle!  They are the only penguin that stays in Antarctica year round.
Check out the Emperor Penguin's life cycle! They are the only penguin that stays in Antarctica year round. | Source

Tidbit 4: The smallest penguin is the Little Penguin (also called Little Blue, Blue, or Fairy Penguin).


In addition to being the smallest penguin, The Little Penguin is also the only nocturnal penguin!

The Little Penguin is the world's smallest penguin. It is typically about 13 inches tall! They live in Australia and New Zealand. Interestingly, they are the only nocturnal penguin. That means they do not usually swim until after dusk and return home just before dawn.

What Else Makes Little Penguins Unique?

  • Little Penguins make their nests in a burrow, cave, or under bushes.
  • They usually live in small groups of about 10 penguins, but sometimes they live in larger colonies.
  • Their upper feathers are usually pale blue which is why they are sometimes called Little Blue Penguins.

Tidbit 5: The fastest penguin is the Gentoo Penguin.

These Gentoo penguins are "porpoising" by jumping out of water.
These Gentoo penguins are "porpoising" by jumping out of water. | Source

Gentoo Penguins are the fastest penguins! They swim up to 22 mph.

If you might already know something about penguins it might be that penguins do not fly. Their "wings" are flippers and designed to help them swim underwater. Usually penguins swim around four to seven miles per hour. According to the Smithsonian, Gentoo Penguins can swim three times as fast--up to twenty two miles per hour! They are the fastest penguins!

What Else Makes Gentoo Penguins Unique?

  • Gentoo Penguins have a white patch around and behind their eyes.
  • They like to build their nests on tussocks, which is a kind of grass.

Penguin Quiz: Test your penguin knowledge!

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Who would you rather meet?

See results

How did you do?

Post your score and your favorite fact in our comments section at the end of the hub. You can always go back and re-read the blue boxes to find the answers and improve your score!

Part 2: Penguin Resources for Elementary Teachers

Fake penguins at Reid Park Zoo, Tucson, 2012
Fake penguins at Reid Park Zoo, Tucson, 2012 | Source

Going to a zoo or aquarium would be the best way to learn about penguins up close! However, as a funny aside, we recently went to a zoo in Arizona (pictured above) and were sad that the penguin exhibit was closed! What made it funny was that they placed fake penguins in the exhibit anyway! While those penguins were not real, the resources below are! We hope you find them helpful in your classrooms and homes.

Antarctica CD


Resource 1: Downloadable Education Songs About Penguins

Music is an excellent resource in the classroom as it aids in memory and having fun! While searching for this hub, I stumbled upon the CD "Antarctica". What a great find! If you need a song right away, you can listen to a clip and download the songs you'd like directly from the site for $0.99 per song. No waiting for shipping! If you are focusing just on Antarctica, I recommend the song "Seven Penguins" as it teaches about the penguins of Antarctica. Click here to check out the CD.

Resource 2: Free Downloadable Penguin Book


I am always looking for free printable books for my kiddos! "A Penguin Is A Bird" is an excellent one about penguins from "Kindergarten Crayons." It would be most useful with preschool through first graders, along with early readers in second or third grade. Mrs. Kramer also has a parts of a penguin worksheet on her site you may find useful. You can download the book here.

Resource 3: Free 3-Part Identification Cards


If you are teaching about Antarctica, this resource is perfect as it includes other Antarctic animals with 4 of the 7 Antarctic penguins (Emperor, Adelie, Chinstrap and Gentoo). If you are focusing on penguins, perhaps print the pages twice, then cut out the animals you are not studying and attach the two halves together before making copies! If you have not used 3-Part cards before, they are a great tool because they are self-checking. I was introduced to these when I worked in a Montessori school.

Part 1: Self-checking cards (these have the picture and label together on the card)

Part 2: Picture cards

Part 3: Label cards

Study the self-checking cards and match the picture with the label. As you become familiar with the animals, test yourself by matching just the picture with the label and then checking you work with the self-checking cards.

You can download these cards for free here.

Resource 4: Parts of a Penguin Nomenclature Cards


Montessori Nomenclature cards and booklets separate each part of what you are learning onto different cards. They are often used to identify parts of animals and plants. Each part is often colored so the learner can focus on one attribute at a time. This creates an opportunity for learners to develop a deeper understanding. Again, this is something I learned about from my time working at a Montessori school. I think they are helpful resources for any classroom!

Click here to download the cards from Montessori Print Shop for $2.49 (as of the publication of this hub). The site also provides more in-depth resources on how to utilize nomenclature cards.

Resource 5: Live Penguin Cams

Perhaps these penguins are just as curious about us as we are of them!
Perhaps these penguins are just as curious about us as we are of them! | Source

If you are unable to go to the zoo to watch penguins in person, with technology you can still observe and study them online!

  • California Academy of the Sciences offers a free 24-hour live online camera. You can listen in as their biologists feed the penguins and answer visitors' questions live every day at 10:30 am and 3:00 pm PST. They also offer their cam in the form of a free mobile app for iphone called Pocket Penguins!
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium offers a free live online camera from 7 am to 5 pm PST. Their site also has lots of great penguin information and resources, including curriculum.

If you enjoy these web cams, consider making a small donation to continuing this service and protecting ocean conservation directly on each of their webpages. After all, it is World Penguin Day!

Happy World Penguin Day!

Now you know...

  • Why April 25 is World Penguin Day (start of Adelie Penguin migration).
  • Where penguins live (all 4 continents of the Southern Hemisphere).
  • The smallest and largest penguins (Little Penguin and Emperor Penguin).
  • The only penguin that lives on Antarctica year-round (Emperor Penguin).
  • The only nocturnal penguin (Little Penguin).
  • The fastest penguin (Gentoo Penguin).

May you have a great day celebrating these amazing flightless birds! We hope these facts and resources have endeared you even more toward penguins.

About the Author

Thefedorows is a regular contributor to Hubpages, an avid pinner, and frequent blogger.


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    • thefedorows profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from the Midwest

      Flyfishmaine and prestonandkate-- Yay! Thank you for your kind words. We had fun researching and writing too!

    • prestonandkate profile image

      Preston and Kate 

      5 years ago from the Midwest

      Great! Well written hub! I learned some tidbits about penguins I didn't know before. :) -Kate

    • flyfishmaine profile image

      Richard Scott 

      5 years ago from Presque Isle, Maine

      Really enjoyable and informative. Thumbs up.


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