Archive for the ‘ Biomes; Animal Habitats ’ Category

Preschool Science: Above-Below Ground

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

In ED’s preschool science we are still talking about plants and animals. On this day we talked about animals and plant parts that live above or below the ground.

We talked about how some animals like the grub or the cicada live part of their life under the ground, then live another stage above the ground. Some animals shelter under the ground when it is cold (like frogs and turtles). Some animals have their young underground for shelter and protection like groundhogs, rabbits and prairie dogs.

ED did a cutting and pasting project, sorting out where various animals lived.

If you are interested you can download the pictures I used. I created a pdf and uploaded it for anyone who might be interested:

Click here to download: Where Do Animals Live? Above or Below Ground

The girls also colored an animal habitat project that we got on sale from Teacher Express (for $1.00) It has picture of the creatures and plants above and below the ground. They didn’t finish the projects but here’s a quick glimpse at what they worked on:

I’ll show you some of the things they did with plants in another day or so.


 You can visit some of our other preschool posts by clicking on this link (or by going to categories in the right sidebar and selecting preschool – age 4).

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Rain Forest Plants

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

On Tuesday I shared the biomes pin map that the kids and I used. We looked not only at where the desert, tundra and grassland regions were, but took note of the rain forest regions of the world.  Next I brought out the rain forest plant cards I had made several years ago.  Although our main goal was to look at a history of chocolate to go along with our study of the Aztecs, we also learned about other spices and plants that are grown in the rain forest regions.  In this global world, plants may have originated in one region but can be grown in similar climates elsewhere.

I gathered whatever foods and spices we had on hand to show the diverse set of plants we use in our kitchens regularly. (We almost always have two bunches of bananas on hand, but I hadn’t made it to the store and we only had this lame half-banana left from breakfast!! Guess I could have used a bit more advanced planning! I could also have bought ginger root or cane sugar, but didn’t.)  I distributed the plant cards for everyone and we took turns reading the card, showing everyone and smelling/tasting each food. The kids then placed the card (and the food/product if we had one) on our continent cards.

The kids really enjoyed smelling and tasting everything because spices like allspice, nutmeg and ginger have such rich smells. They were fascinated by the bitter taste of unsweetened cocoa powder and chomped on the peppercorn. Yikes! Spicy! They were happiest when we got to  sugar!

If you are interested learning about rain forest plants feel free to use the cards I made. I’ve uploaded them to google docs to make them more accessible to everyone:

Rain Forest Plants Page 1

Rain Forest Plants Page 2

Rain Forest Plants Page 3

Tomorrow I’ll share the highlight of our week — the history of chocolate which included a chocolate making session!


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World Biomes Pin Map

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Are you asking yourself, “What in the world is a biomes pin map?”  It’s a map that shows where the rain forests, deserts, grasslands, forest and tundra regions are located. A pin map is when you stick straight pins into the labels so kids can pinpoint where things are located. There you go, sounds fancy, but really it’s not! :)

Before we really delved into our study of rain forest foods (and chocolate!) and where they came from, we stepped back to look at the world’s biomes.  I pulled out the world biomes pin map I had made a few years ago.

First, we reviewed the seven continents song for ED (to the tune of Frère Jacques) :

Listen to the kids sing the seven continents song at this post!

Then I had the kids guess what the colors were on the map (because it’s been a couple of years since we used this map). Then I showed them the map legend and let them explore that for a little while.

We talked about the different biomes in North America and placed those pins onto the map. We talked quite a bit about the difference between deciduous and boreal (or coniferous) forests.

We then pulled out the Rain Forest pins and talked about the regions of the world that are covered with rain forests.  We noted that the rain forests are near the equator and talked about the climate (being hot, humid, rainy).

I created these files several years ago and uploaded them onto another platform, but decided to upload them to google docs as well because scribd sometimes requires a fee. See the links below.

 If you are interested in making your own world biomes pin map here are the printables (We have moved to

World Biome Map 

Pin Map Pieces Page 1

Pin Map Pieces and Legend Page 2

This activity was done in conjunction with our study of the Aztecs. We looked first at the world biomes map; then we looked at plants of the rain forest regions; and finally talked a lot about the history of chocolate (first consumed by the Ancient Mayans and later the Aztecs).

I’ll share the printable about rain forest plants on Thursday and will talk more about our chocolate activities then too! Yum!

Stayed tuned tomorrow for an interview with the well known unschooler, Dayna Martin.



PS — Someone asked me over on my Facebook page how I made the pin map.  Here’s a post about how I make pin maps (in that case Europe)--   but my blogging friend over at We Don’t Need No Education suggested just using a piece of cork and straight pins.  That works just as well!



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Vertebrates-Invertebrates — and Frogs!

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Last week we spent quite a bit of time outside enjoying the wildlife in our yard.  We are really lucky in that we see a wide variety of critters every day.  We spotted a little Northern Brown Snake, a small mouse that was in the strawberry garden (corralled briefly in an empty pot and then released) and a toad.

We also came across a large millipede (probably four inches or so). [That's our dog, Boomer, who is intrigued by anything that moves. She's a Red Heeler (mix), an Australian Cattle dog we got from the RSPCA when we lived in central Australia.]

I happened to ask ED whether the millipede was a vertebrate or invertebrate and she didn’t know what I meant.  It was time to bring out our vertebrate-invertebrate sorting cards again!  This time I used the set I had made when we studied the forest last fall because many of them are photos of critters we took right here in our yard and the surrounding woods. I worked with ED on her own and we went over the difference between invertebrates (without a backbone) and vertebrates (has a backbone/internal skeleton). Then she sorted the cards into four of the five vertebrate groups (amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals — we didn’t have any pictures of fish in these cards).

If you are interested in our forest sorting cards for sorting into invertebrate-vertebrate groups you can  download them here.  You need to type or write out your own labels, thought (invertebrates, vertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals — remember I didn’t include any pictures of fish in this set).

NOTE: We have moved to

If you’re going into more detail about the five kingdoms or invertebrates and vertebrates here are a couple other links: I really like the vertebrate-invertebrate charts and cards from homemade montessori and have also used the 5-kingdom cards she made as well.

UPDATE: I made some Vertebrates-Invertebrates Montessori Cards and  5 Vertebrate Groups. You can find them here:

When DD and LD sorted through the cards a little while later, we talked a lot about where the eggs of each group are laid (amphibians lay their eggs in or near water; reptiles lay their eggs on land; birds often lay their eggs in nests). We talked a lot about  the eggs we’ve seen this spring — the strings of toads eggs in the water and the birds’ egg ED found a week or so ago where the little chick obviously didn’t make it:

We then pulled out the Transparent Bull Frog kit that the kids got for Christmas. I had set it aside for use in the spring once the frogs and toads were out in full force!  The kids put the skeleton together, but we were daunted by the internal organs so we put it aside for use later:

Finally, we all went outside and made pet-rock frogs.  The kids loved doing this — it had been ages since we made pet-rocks!

  LD and DD finished off this little mini-unit on frogs by reading the chapter on frogs in Real Science 4 Kids, Biology Pre-Level 1. I really love these student texts (we have biology, chemistry and physics) as they are very easy to understand and accessible for my kids. LD and DD were both able to read (and understand) this chapter on their own.  [The kids read the physics, pre-level 1 earlier this semester--LD (age 8) read it on his own, DD (age 6) and I read and discussed it together.]

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Whale Unit (and the Arctic) — Icebergs, Blubber experiment, Buoyancy and more

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Whales are able to survive in the frigid waters of the Arctic. In this series of activities the kids and I explored how that is possible.

First, not directly related to the whales themselves, we talked about icebergs. We took giant cottage cheese cartons and froze big blocks of ice.  One of those blocks had our wooly mammoth plastic creature. I had the kids guess how much of the ice block would be above the water and how much would be below. Then we dropped the block in.  As we looked at the huge amount of ice that was under the water, we talked about the Titanic and pretended to drive our boat near the iceberg.

We also talked about the fact that wooly mammoth remains have been frozen in the ice. A wooly mammoth calf was found in Siberia, Russia just in the last five years. We talked a bit about the Ice Age and what other animals lived then–the saber toothed tiger, etc. (We talked about our trip to see some ice age animal fossil remains in Tennessee last fall.)

Blubber as Insulation:

Soon enough the water was quite cold and we did the famous blubber experiment… the one where you place shortening in a plastic bag and then put another plastic bag inside the other bag. The kids took turns wearing the shortening glove and slipping both hands into the cold water.   The PBS website had a good overview of this experiment and we talked about the background information provided at that website. I also printed out some other information about blubber I found online and read them excerpts from that. We talked about how blubber acts as an insulation. (A few days earlier we had done an activity that talks about insulation. I’ll share that below.)


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