Icy Illinois

Burrrrr! It was COLD in Illinois!

Grab a hat and coat because this trip back in time is to the Rockford Ice Age! From Mammoths to Giant Sloths, to Giant Beavers, and the humans that hunted them, we will journey to a time that looked quite different than today. We will look at Ice Age survivors we can find in our area today, such as wolves and beavers, and compare them to other animals of the Ice Age that didn’t survive, such as the saber-toothed cats and dire wolves. Compare their skulls, and learn what made this time so unique! Students will touch teeth, examine fur, and learn how glaciers shaped the land we see today.

Key Concepts:

Ice Age, survival traits, early human hunting, glaciers, Illinois landscape, Illinois history


Asking questions, making observations, analyzing and interpreting data


The program includes moving short distances in groups and sitting on the floor for discussion & activities. Chairs and/or tables are available upon request. We believe there should be no boundaries for your students’ Burpee Museum experience. If you have an accommodation request related to a disability, please get in touch with us at 815-965-3433. We look forward to assisting you.

Standards NGSS:

1-ESS1-2, 2-ESS2-3, 3-ESS2-2, 3-LS4-1, 3-LS4-4, 4-ESS1-1, 4-ESS2-1, MS-ESS2-2, MS-LS4-1, MS-LS4-2, MS-ESS1-1, MS-ETS1-3, HS-ESS2-2

Castoroides ohioensis


A huge beaver is found throughout most of North America. It was much larger than today’s beaver and approached the size of today’s black bear. Some studies estimate that the largest giant beaver could reach almost 300 pounds! (1.4 million–11,000 years ago)

Smilodon fatalis


Notice the large forearms on the Smilodon skeleton. They are massively built and used to subdue their prey. Their long canines, or “sabers,” helped to deliver a fatal blow to the neck of the animal.

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Megalonyx jeffersonii


Sloths in Illinois! This mammal stood as tall as 10 feet and had a large, blunt snout, long claws, and teeth with an outer layer of dentine rather than enamel. This sloth was likely covered in thick hair and lived in woodlands and forests.

Comparative Anatomy


Learn about the animals that lived together during the Ice Age, which went extinct, and which are still alive today!