Friday, October 31, 2014

Temperate Forest Biome Unit

We have finally reached the end of our Biome unit study! It has been a very educational and fun unit to cover with our girls. So far we have covered the Rainforest, Tundra, Grasslands, Desert, and Marine biomes. That leaves Temperate Forests to cover this week.

We had a bit of a leg up on this unit since we live in a temperate forest! A lot of the information was a review for the older girls but I tried to add in some new information throughout the unit. I started out at my go to location for kid friendly facts, and made up some simple fact sheets. I included the locations,  animals,  plants, and climates of the temperate forests.

We were not able to find a Magic Tree House book the covered the temperate forests. I guess since the story is set in a temperate forest in Pennsylvania the author didn't feel the need to travel to another forest in the time traveling tree house to learn about the habitat. We did however read our food chain book What If There Were No Grey Wolves and studied our library copy of National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia.

Since we live in an actual temperate forest this weeks field trip was super easy. We walked out of our front door and 100 yards down out street to the State Forest that surrounds out home.

We found several different types of mushrooms, moss, grasses, and of course trees.

 We didn't have a lot of luck finding animal tracks since it is fall and the ground was covered in leaves and pine needles. We did however find a former Beaver habitat. I loved the look of amazement and excitement I saw on the girls faces when they found the signs that the Beavers had been there making dams.

Total for this unit was $8.50 for our food chain book. If you are studying the Temperate Forest I would love to hear all about it!

Marine Biome Unit

This has been a busy month with several different biome studies back to back. So far we have studied the Rainforest, Tundra, Grasslands, and Desert biomes. Time to move on to the Marine biome!

For this unit I again hit up for the ground work information and then made up some simple fact sheets for the girls notebooks. This weeks unit had lots of possible hands on activities so we went with it.

 We started with covering what the four main Marine biomes are and drawing picture to represent them.

 We made diagrams of the three levels of the ocean and did research in our library copy of the National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia to discover which animals lived in each layer.

Then we did the same with the lake ecosystems.

 Our books for this unit included What If There Were No Sea Otters, Dark Day In The Deep Sea, and Dark Day In The Deep Sea Fact Tracker.

We learned about vertebrates and invertebrates while working on making paper jellyfish.

And the little kids got in on the action by completing a fish bowl craft for their notebooks.

We of course could not study the Marine biome without a trip to our local aquarium to see and touch some real marine animals!

The kids favorite part of the unit I am sure was the trip to the beach! Not really educational however the aquarium was right on the beach and there was no chance we were going to walk by the ocean and not stop by to play in the water.

Total for this unit was about $4 for craft supplies thanks to library books and a gifted trip to the aquarium.

If you are doing a study of the Marine biome I would love to hear about it!

Desert Biome Unit

So far this month we have studied the Rainforest, Tundra, and Grassland biomes. We decided to move on to the Desert biome this week. I took some help with this weeks unit and purchased a completed unit from teachers pay teachers. I really can't say enough good things about this wonderful site. It is amazing! Included in the unit were all the things I would have covered on my own. Maps of where the deserts are located throughout the world. This one totally shocked our girls. It  took some serious convincing before they would believe that the Arctic and Antarctic were deserts. I think they finally believed me....maybe.

 There were several information sheets and activities centered around the different animals that can be found in the desert biome.
 There were also two hands on activities included.  First up was a succulent observation project. The girls were rather shocked at the amount of goop that came out of then section of succulent.  The second hands on activity was an experiment concerning how the waxy coating on the succulent keeps the moisture inside the plant. It was very simple and just used sponges dipped in water. One was coated with Vaseline and the other left as it was. The two sponges were put out in the sun for the day and at the end of the day we tested to see which sponge retained the most water. I didn't get a picture of this since it was also swim lesson and art day. We were running around like chickens with our heads cut off setting up the experiment, packing lunch, and finding swimsuits. It was a really interesting experiment however and the girls found it really interesting.
Our books for this unit consisted of our library copy of the National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia and  Magic Tree House Season of the Sandstorm.

We of course studied different desert animals at our local zoo. There were several exhibits set up for the kids to touch actual animal shells and skins. A few of our kids were actually brave enough to do the touching!
Overall this was a pretty easy and laid back unit thanks to our purchased materials. Totally worth the $6 total for the week!

If you complete a desert biome study I would love to hear about it!

Grasslands Biome Unit

After studying the Rainforest and the Tundra we decided to move on to the grasslands. I couldn't find any prepared unit studies that were within my price range (free!) so I designed one myself. I started out at (love them!) and pulled some interesting facts about the grasslands. I didn't want to present just dry facts so Finding free clipart was simple enough. It took me about an hour to make up some pages with lots of white space and larger font making it easier for the kids to read.
 I like to include art in all of our subjects, even science. So after studying the plants of the grasslands we did some google image searches for prairies and the Savanna. I included a large empty box on their fact sheet and had them draw a picture of what they felt the grasslands looked like. Not surprising my girls both went with drawings of the amazing flowers found in the prairie.
 I didn't take pictures of all of the fact sheets I made up just because it seemed a bit  boring to post them all. We covered the major topics: What is a grassland, Animals of the grasslands, Plants of the grasslands, Locations of the Savanna and Prairies,  Climate of the grasslands, and a sheet with interesting not so commonly known facts.
 As I have mentioned before we like to add in a Magic Tree house book on the subject matter whenever possible. It really helps the kids "see" the ecosystem we are discussing. This weeks book was Lions Before Lunchtime. I personally found the migration information very interesting. For some reason I could not find a study guide for this book. I am sure there is one out there but I was not able to locate it. I did however find this lesson plan centered around the book. I personally just ignored the common core standards....cause honestly I just don't care about common core.

We used our library copy of the National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia  again for this unit. The girls loved looking through the different animals and classifying the animals by their ecosystem.

Our food chain book for this week was What If There Were No Bees. It continues to amaze the girls that by removing one keystone animal from an ecosystem an entire ecosystem can be altered so severely.

We were also able to see several grassland animals while on our field trip to the zoo. My favorite had to be the big cats. I was not able to get a picture of those however since my phone battery was dying and I desperately needed the GPS to get home from Philadelphia. Seems my husband decided to take my phone charger out of my van without letting me know. Not cool dude, not cool. We did however see a great deal of grassland animals while we were there and learned a great deal of random facts. I now know how to tell the difference between cheetah and leopard spots. I am sure that will come in real handy on my next African safari!

If you have developed a unit study on the grasslands I would love to hear about it!

Total for this unit was $8.95 thanks to our free zoo membership and the local library for the majority of our books.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Tundra Biome Unit

Why not jump straight from the hot and wet rainforest straight into the Tundra? I like polar bears so I might have been a bit biased!

Our information sheets for this unit came from a seller on teachers pay teachers. I love that site! We found this amazing Tundra Biome pack. I loved all the information and illustrations and the kids loved doing the included experiment using shortening to act as insulating blubber.
 We also purchased the book What If There Were No Lemmings to use as our read aloud for this week. It focuses on how taking one small animal, the lemming, out of a food chain would affect the entire food web. I really love this series!
We again used the National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia to find animals for this habitat at discuss the various adaptations they had developed to live in such a cold climate.
You know there is a Magic Tree house Book about the arctic, Polar Bears Past Bedtime  and an accompanying guide book filled with facts and fascinating information. I love that there is an educational series out there that the kids actually LIKE to read.

I think it is really important for the kids to actually SEE what we are studying versus just reading a bunch of facts from a book. Since a field trip to the tundra was out of the question we watched several educational videos on youtube this week as well. I am constantly amazed at the variety of content available on youtube. We watched polar bears and their cubs, snowy owls, and several clips about global warming and the effects of habitat loss on Arctic animals.

We found a few arctic animals at our local aquarium and were very excited to get to watch their antics. This little penguin kept coming over to play with the girls and they couldn't have been more excited.  

We also made sure to checkout any arctic animals at our local zoo while we were there. The polar bear was a bigger hit with mom then the kids...hence no photo of the encounter. I was too busy trying to get the kids to come back to the exhibit and listen to me read the informational signs. As you can tell by the faces when we stopped for lunch they were totally over my taking pictures and rambling various facts about animals
The tundra unit was a lot of fun for sure. Total for this unit was $8 for the book we were unable to find at the local library. If you do a unit on the tundra I would love to hear about your resources!

Rainforest Biome Unit

When we designed our own science curriculum for this year I intended each unit to only last a month. That was until we started working on biomes. It quickly became evident that a month just wasn't going to be long enough. Instead we have dedicated two months to this unit; one biome per week with a week for a final project. I also intended to save up all my unit materials and photos and publish them in one blog post....then I realized it would be a MASSIVE post and probably more than a bit overwhelming. So I reevaluated and decided to do one post per biome. Seems simpler and less overwhelming to me!

We decided to start with the Rainforest biome. I figured it had enough interesting facts and animals to keep the kids attention.

I started out pulling facts from Duckster and then turning them into bite sized nuggets of information. I have found that throwing too much at them all at once means they retain less and less as the days go by.  I started off discussing the difference between food chains and food webs. I found this rainforest food web graphic to add to their notebooks....sorry I can't at the moment remember where I found it! If I remember I will add the link. has free ecosystem printables available. I just keep my worksheet printing to the 10 per month limit to keep it free.
 We also worked on learning the three different levels of the rainforest. I asked the girls to make a visual of the rainforest showing the three different levels and the different animals that would live in each layer. They had a great deal of fun learning about the different animals and deciding where to place them on their visual.
A huge blessing in our house this month has been the National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia. Seriously it is amazing! I would expect no less from National Geographic. We were able to check out our copy from the library and just keep renewing it this month. It has every animal you can think of and the kids LOVE looking through it trying to match animals up with their ecosystems.
Also this week we were blessed to find The Magic Tree House Afternoon on the Amazon with research guide at our local library. Our 8yr old LOVES this series and was more than happy to read and research any subject that Jack and Annie were involved in. The research guide goes very in depth and is a great asset.

We also spent several afternoons cuddled up in bed watching youtube videos about the rainforest. Seeing the ACTUAL rainforest is a big deal I think. I mean you can read about something till you are blue in the face but until you actually SEE it you really don't get the full effect. The kids loved getting to see all the amazing plants and animals and begged to watch "just one more" every time we did videos.

No rainforest unit would be complete without a trip to the zoo to see the actual animals. I think my favorite was the poisonous dart frogs. Something about all those bright colors makes me want to pick them up every time. I obviously would not have lived long on my own in the rainforest!

We were not done with just the zoo however. We also went to the local aquarium to check out their animals. I thought we would see mostly fish but was pleasantly surprised to see that they had several types of parrots, frogs, and lizards from the rainforest biome!

Over all I think we had a very good week studying the rainforest and I think the kids really retained a lot of the information. Total for the entire unit was $0. We used our zoo membership and were gifted free aquarium tickets for our field trips and our local library for our books. If you decide to study the rainforest I would love to hear about your units!

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