I have been neglecting my blog over the summer. I have been to busy gardening, reading, relaxing and traveling to Hawaii! Now it is time to get back to thinking about school. This year I will be teaching early childhood special education. My science activities will change a little bit. I cannot wait to get into all the different sensory table ideas! I am hoping that the ideas I post will be easily adapted to older children. Just by adding vocabulary like buoyancy, viscosity, weight, density etc. you can appeal to older children.
Spring is a busy time in our science center! I was getting a little stir crazy with this long winter so I planted a mini desert to put in the science area. It is a glass container with a cover (so no one touches the cacti) and three different types of cacti. One is very spiky, one is furry and one is a succulent with smooth leaves. I found the glass container at a Michaels craft store. The cacti were on a clearance rack in Lowes. They were looking lonely and ready for a home. After carefully planting the plants in sand I added some plastic scorpions and some dinosaur bones from an earlier project. It looks something like this.
Meet Larry, Curly and Moe. I wanted to have plants with different textures. The kids were interested in see the different kinds of plants that live in dry areas. The little dinosaur bones tucked in behind the cactus plant were a big hit too.
I also have some tropical plants there were also on the clearance rack. These will go along with our rain forest unit next week. I am planning on adding some poison arrow frogs and snakes to the pots. This kids think it is interesting that the topical plants get watered several times a week and the desert plants rarely get watered.
Spring is also see planting time. We planted a variety of herbs in little terra cotta pots. There are 9 total pots. I am planning on having the kids decorate the pots once they have sprouted and they can give them as gifts to some of our other teachers and assistants. Next week we will plant some herbs for the kids to take home. We might plant sunflower seeds too. I will have to add pictures once they have sprouted. They are not very interesting looking right now.
The biggest excitement is the incubator. We have 18 eggs in a little incubator. They take 21 days to hatch. It is so hard to wait that long. Some of the kids seem a little skeptical about whether there are really going to be chicks in the eggs. We will find out in 17 days……
Last week we were focusing on the Savannah. We discussed what makes a Savannah different than a forest, polar area and desert. We read about various animals that live on the Savannah. We made a big 3D savannah on paper and added animals to it. The kids could have the animals hide in the paper grass or drink from the water holes. They were surprised at how many big animals live in such a dry area. I have been using the posters from oriental trading about the various habitats. http://www.orientaltrading.com/earth-and-habitat-learning-chart-set-a2-62_4377-12-1.fltr?Ntt=desert
These would also be a good addition.
This week we are focusing on desert animals. We made a book about desert animals. I have a box with sand, plastic scorpions, spiders, sand crabs, camels, ostriches and even pyramids. I was looking for little plastic cacti but have not gotten any.
I love the Toob animals. They are very realistic and the perfect size for a water/sand table.
We sorted animals by habitat, number of legs, carnivore/herbivore, mammal/reptile/bird, there are lots of ways to sort them. I have also used pictures from nature calendars to use for sorting or for decorating the room.
We have been digging for dinosaur b0nes this week. The dinosaur dig kits are are blocks of sand around 7 pieces for of a dinosaur. The head, arms, legs, tail and body. The sand is firm so it is taking a while to dig the pieces out. The kids love it! We will work on it more next week. Great lesson on dinosaurs, paleontologists, patience and fine motor practice.
There are some interesting plants that live in the desert. They have some adaptations to help them survive.
Why does this plant have spikes instead of leaves? Is this cactus part of a food web?
prickly pear cactus
The prickly pear can be eaten. Would your students want to eat one? How are they harvested?
Why does the this cactus grow so slowly?
Here is an animal that lives inside the cactus. The pygmy owl
What advantage does this owl have when it makes a nest in a cactus?
How does this animal contribute to the food chain?
I know some of my boys will love learning spiders. The creepier the better. Here are some pictures of desert spiders
Let’s not forget the scorpions
This site has the pictures and more information about the various critters shown above. http://www.arizonensis.org/sonoran/fieldguide/arthropoda/arachnida.html
Some questions that you could ask students are;
-how are the spiders and scorpions the same/different?
-What adaptations do they have in order to live in a desert environment?
-Are all of these harmful to humans?
-What animals prey on these spiders. What do these spiders prey on?
-If one of these spiders or scorpions were in danger of becoming extinct is it worth saving? Why or why not?
There are lots of different desert animals to learn about. I am not sure where to start. Here is a website that has information about desert animals.
Meercats are fun to watch. There is even a show about them.
This site has a cute meercat craft. http://www.daniellesplace.com/html/meerkat-crafts-for%20kids.html
-Measure the temperature above ground. Then dig a hole in the ground and take a temperature below ground. (not an activity to be done in the dead of winter) Ask students what the differences were between the temperatures. What other purpose is there for digging a hole to live in? Why not live in a tree?
-What adaptations do the Meercats have to help them live in a harsh environment? Some examples are frequent litters of pups, the can eat scorpions because they are immune to their venom, live in large family groups, use communication to alert danger.
-How are hyenas like dogs? How are they different?
-What relationship do hyenas have with lions?
-Are hyenas predators or scavengers?
Texas horned lizard
-What class is this animal in? Mammal, reptile or amphibian?
-Why does this animal have horns on it?
Lappet faced vulture
-Is this animal a predator or scavenger?
-Why is the birds beak shaped like it is?
-Where in the desert does this bird live?
-How has this fox adapted to live in a hot environment? Why does it have such big ears?
Experiment that demonstrates how ears keep animal cool.
-make a list of what students know about camels. Read about camels on various sites and see what is true and what is false. (for example the hump is not made of water)
-How does this animal resemble other animals the students are familiar with?
-Is this animal closer to the size of a mountain lion or a house cat? Why do you think it is this size?
-Have students make a desert scene showing where animals live in the desert. Have them sh0w some animals that make burrows underground, in a cactus and under rocks. What colors do you see in a desert? Why are desert animals this color?
-On a world map mark where some of these animals are found.
I like the vocabulary cards on this site
Sort desert animals by class, location, color, size, diet…..
Another good site with information about desert animals.