World Biomes #5: Marine — The Ocean, by Cheryl

 

Previously: The Taiga

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Two years ago we took the kids to the beach for the first time. They loved searching for shells and playing in the waves. I timed this biome study for the two weeks before we left for our second trip to the ocean. We studied the animals, plants, and more before we left – and then we experienced them in real life!

Our library held a plethora of books on this subject! We also found a few interesting books on our trip.

Down, Down, Down in the Ocean by Sandra Markle describes the four levels of the ocean and what is found in each.

About Habitats: Oceans by Cathryn Sill was a fun, quick read that introduced us to many ocean creatures!

Who’s at the Seashore? by John Himmelman has beautiful illustrations with a look at animals living in and near the ocean.

Looking Closely Along the Shore by Frank Serafini provides close-up pictures and a guessing game. I love that our library has several books in this series. It has been a great way to keep my six-year-old interested in our study!

Coral Reefs by Jason Chin has beautiful illustrations and great information on food chains and webs in the coral reefs.

Even an Octopus Needs a Home by Irene Kelley has information on animals from many biomes and where they live. It covered a couple of ocean animals but also provided us with a review of animals we have already studied.

Life Cycles: Ocean by Sean Callery has a lot of information. We did not read this together, but my eight-year-old used it as a reference for a report he put together on sea turtles.

Ocean Seasons by Ron Hirschi covers a year in the ocean and how the animals migrate and live in the different seasons.

Seashore Life by Herbert S. Zim and Lester Ingle is a book we picked up on vacation. We used it to identify the many shells we collected at the beach!

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We also included some videos in our study:

The Wild Kratts Ocean episode is a favorite in our house. We also watched Finding Nemo as part of our study. I think my kids absorbed and recalled more from these cartoons than from any book we read!

DK Eyewitness DVD: Seashore gave us a good introduction into ocean life and allowed me to get some other work done while we studied!

Who Lives in the Sea by Annie Crawley was another DVD I picked up as an intro to our study.

Marine Wildlife

The world’s oceans support an immense variety of wildlife of all shapes and sizes. Some of the world’s most intriguing creatures live in the oceans. We learned about arrow worms, herring, salmon, sharks, seals, shrimp, hatchet fish, salp (which looks like one big creature but is really a colony that is connected!), sperm whales, giant squid, sea cucumbers, gulper eels, angler fish, viper fish, clams, crabs, tube worms, barnacles, sea stars, anemones, Portuguese Man of War, blackwing flying fish, octopus, lobsters, and penguins.

On vacation we went on a dolphin tour! It was amazing to see these animals up close!

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Plants

Algae and seaweed are plants found in the oceans. Much of the ocean is void of plant life due to a lack of light.

Vocabulary

Crustaceans, Sand Dollar, Conch Shells, Microclimate

Fun Fact

The oceans are divided into four zones or levels: the ocean surface, the twilight zone, the midnight zone, and the ocean floor.

 

Cherycheryll–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

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World Biomes: The Taiga, by Cheryl

 

Previously:  The Rain Forest

The taiga or boreal forest has been my favorite biome so far. The variety of animal life within these forests is amazing! Much of the variety is due to migratory patterns of birds and other wildlife. We spent some time studying migration as we read about the wildlife in these forests.

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My son, four years ago, on the timber wolf statue in my parents’ back yard.

Books on this biome were hard to come by in our library system. We found a couple of general information books and then selected some specific animals from the biome to study more in depth. Some of our favorite books were:

Life in the Boreal Forest by Brenda Z. Guiberson was a quick read and a great introduction to the biome. We loved the illustrations and the many interesting animals it introduced.

Ecosystems: Boreal Forests by Patricia Miller-Schroeder was more in depth than our first book. We read and studied portions of the book. For older children, this would be a great place to start.

Forest by Frank Howard offered a couple of pages on each type of forest. We reviewed our rain forest knowledge and got a hint of what is to come with our other studies.

Look Inside a Beaver’s Lodge by Meagan Cooley Peterson gave us a fun look at the life of a beaver.

A Moose’s World by Caroline Arnold went through the first year of life for a moose.

Angry Birds: Playground: Animals: An Around the World Habitat Adventure by Jill Esbaum covered more than just our taiga animals. My son found it and has made it his extra reading. We plan to hang on to it through the rest of our study.The Angry Birds characters introduce you to animals in a variety of habitats.

Why Do Birds Fly South? another Weekly Reader ‘Just Ask’ book we had at home provided a good explanation of migration. We found that many birds of the taiga are migratory, so we added a short study of migration to this area of our study.

Animals of the Taiga

Non-Migratory – Moose, Beaver, Snowshoe Hare, Brown Bear, Lynx, Wolves, Voles, Great Horned Owl, Red Fox, Ermine, Timber Wolves, Grizzly Bears, and the Stone Centipede.

Migratory – Tennessee Warblers, Whooping Crane, Pelicans, Cross-bills

(It just happened that as we finished up our study of the taiga, my son’s IEW assignment was to write a report on the whooping crane. This made an excellent extension to our study. I love it when things work out that way! This can easily be added to every biome, if your student knows how to write a research report. They don’t have to be long; my son’s was only three paragraphs.)

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Plants

Spruce, Fir, Pitcher Plant, Birch, Larch, Poplar, Lichen, Mushrooms, and Moss

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Vocabulary

Migration, Chlorophyll, Isotherm, Permafrost, Deciduous, Evergreen, Coniferous, and Hibernation

Fun Fact

Boreal means northern, after the Greek god of the North – Boreas. The boreal forest covers approximately 50 million acres.

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Lapbook

Our lapbook entries covered migratory and non-migratory birds, deciduous and evergreen trees, animals, photosynthesis, and migration.

Coverpage, Animals, Birds, Trees, Map, Review Sheet, Migration, Photosynthesis

 

Next time: The Ocean!

 

CherylcherylCheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

World Biomes #3: Rain Forest

by Cheryl

My kids were excited to start on the rain forests! The plants and animals that live in the rain forests are so amazing and varied that we spent a little more time here than I had originally planned. My daughter wishes she were a jaguar living in the rain forest now!

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Books

Again, all of our books came from our local library. Some of them are great and I would suggest looking for them! Every book we looked at had some great information.

Looking Closely at the Rain Forest by Frank Serafini is the second of a series we have used. Just like in the desert book, he shows a close up of a plant or animal and you try to guess what it is. The following page has a full picture and a description of the subject of the photo.

The Magic School Bus in the Rain Forest by Joanna Cole is a fun story about a visit to the rain forest to see Ms. Frizzle’s cocoa tree. We love The Magic School Bus, and this was a great intro to our study.

Who Needs a Jungle by Karen Patkau is a beautifully illustrated look at the rain forest and the creatures that live there.

The Rain Forest Grew All Around by Susan Mitchell is a play on the childhood song, “And the Green Grass Grew All Around.” My daughter loved the repetition and the sing-song nature of the book.

Why Does it Rain? is a Weekly Reader book that walks you through the water cycle. I found this at our library book sale a few years ago.

Draw Write Now Book 7 by Marie Hablitzel and Kim Stitzer contain the lessons that correspond to the rain forest study.

Animals

The rain forest is home to some amazing animals! In our reading we came across howler monkeys, sloths, humming birds, leaf cutter ants, weaver ants, flying frogs, spider monkeys, flying squirrels, sliding snakes, jaguars, tapirs, anacondas, gorillas, red-eyed tree frogs, poison dart frogs, macaws, toucans, harpy eagles, vultures, capybaras, caimans, scarlett ibises, and piranhas!

Plants

Carnivorous plants, huge trees, vines, plants that grow on other plants instead of the ground – the plants of the rain forest are a lot of fun! We learned about orchids, bananas, rafflesia, pitcher plants, cocoa plants, kapok trees, and more.

Vocabulary

Epiphyte, bromeliad, water cycle, evaporation, condensation, precipitation, emergents, canopy, understory, forest floor

Fun Fact

The rain forest is divided into four layers.

Project

We read about rain and the water cycle as a part of our rain forest study. We decided to make a mini-rain forest at home to watch the water cycle at work.

Materials: 2-liter bottle or a large mouth jar, plant charcoal, gravel, soil, a plant (a fern or tropical plant is best; we used a pepper plant seedling because we had it on hand), packing tape, and water

Cut the top off the bottle, fill the bottom with charcoal and gravel, cover with a thick layer of soil (we did 3 inches and included some of our fresh compost), moisten the soil, place the plant in the soil, spray with water a few times, tape the top of the bottle on, and place in a warm and well-lit spot. Now you can watch a “rain forest” in action!

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Lapbook

Our rain forest section has plants and animals, like the previous sections. We also included a section to label the layers of the rain forest. We added a Water Cycle piece to our general information section, as well. Click the links below to see what we did.

CoverpageAnimalsPlantsMapLayers of the Rain ForestWater CycleVocab Review

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Next time: Boreal Forests (Taiga)

 

Cherylcheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

Deserts: The Next Stop on the Biomes Tour! by Cheryl

 

Previously in our Biomes series: Grasslands

Why did we select deserts as our second biome? Because I found some amazing books at the library that I could not wait to dive into with my kids! Our study of the desert led us on a journey around the world with a look at some fun plants and animals.

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Books

As with our grasslands study, I picked up all of the books at our local library. Click the links to see the books. I will start by listing our two favorites!

Desert Days, Desert Nights by Roxie Munro has beautifully illustrated pictures of the North American Deserts during the day and at night. It is a search a find book that my kids truly enjoyed! For each desert, she has a daytime picture and a nighttime picture that illustrated the diurnal and nocturnal (vocab words from our grassland study!) animals of the desert. It made a fun introduction to our study.

Looking Closely Across the Desert by Frank Serifini takes closeup pictures of things found in the desert and has you guess what it could be. Each close up is followed by a full picture and description of the animal, plant, or land feature.

Life in Extreme Enviroments: Life in the Desert by Katherine Lawrence holds some great information on the topic. We did not read the whole thing; we looked at the plant and animal sections and skimmed the sections on people who live in the desert. Not because the book was a problem–my kids’ focus was a problem that day!

About Habitats: Deserts by Cathryn Sill is wonderfully illustrated by John Sill. We found some fun facts, and thoroughly enjoyed the illustrations!

America’s Deserts by Marianne D. Wallace was another book full of great illustrations!

Draw Write Now Book 8 by Marie Hablitzel and Kim Stitzer contains the lessons that correspond to the desert study.

Animals

We learned about some fun animals who make their homes in the desert. We also discovered that some animals we find in grasslands can be found in deserts as well. The pronghorn was one we found in both biomes. Other animals (and insects) of the desert include: horned lizards, javelinas, termites, ants, giant desert centipedes, stink beetles, roadrunners, desert iguanas, red racers, scorpions, turkey vultures, sidewinder rattlesnakes, jackrabbits, mule deer, kit foxes, gray foxes, and diamondbacks.

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Our favorite desert plant is the saguaro cactus. We even made up a silly game to help my five-year-old remember what it is. Anytime someone yells, “Saguaro!” you must stop where you are and hold both arms up at right angles, like the cartoon cacti we have seen in books and movies.

Other plants to look for: golden poppy, agave, Joshua trees, teddy bear chollas, welwitschia

Vocabulary

Arid, Sonoran Desert, Mojave Desert, Gobi Desert, Saharan Desert, Syrian Desert, Arctic Desert, estivate/aestivate, antivenin, tap root, oasis, wadi

 

Lapbook

We added a desert section to our  lap book. We also added another animal behavior piece. Our books are broken down into sections: Each biome has a section, with a separate section at the front for the general information on plants and animals that we come across.

CoverpageAnimalsPlantsMapAnimal Behavior (hibernation/estivation)

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Our lap book pages for deserts

Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cherylcooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

Next time: Rainforests!

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, by Sarah R

Field Trips

 

The dinosaurs are leaving! The dinosaurs are leaving!

When we heard that, our family headed into Washington, DC to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The dinosaurs aren’t really leaving, but the Dinosaur Hall is closing at the end of April for a five-year makeover and we wanted to see the fossils before it was too late. We hope to make one more trip before they close since it is such a long renovation.

A few basics: Entrance is free since it is a Smithsonian museum. It is easy to get to, either on Metro or driving, if you go on the weekends. If you go during the week I suggest taking Metro, because parking in downtown Washington, DC can be tough to find. On Metro, get off at the Smithsonian Station on the orange line; the museum is about a two-minute walk from there. If you drive, the walk will likely be a bit longer. We drove this time and had a five- to ten-minute walk to get to the museum. The museum has a  couple of dining options, and the food there is surprisingly good, albeit expensive. There are street vendors right outside the museum with much cheaper options, but there’s no good place to sit and eat.

The museum has an IMAX theater which offers a variety of videos to see. We did not explore what movies were offered on our visit, but the website outlines a nice selection of choices. There is a butterfly pavilion that charges a small fee if you wish to go through it. You can, however, look in the windows outside for free to see some of the butterflies if preferred. They also have other activities available listed on the calendar on their website.

The museum is large, with many exhibits to explore. We spent 3 1/2 hours and did not see all of them. Since we had come specifically for the dinosaur fossils, that’s where we started.  We visited the dinosaurs, looked at the different fossils, and peeked into the FossiLab where archaeologists work on the fossils. No one was working when we were there, but the children enjoyed seeing the area where fossils are cleaned and molds of them are made.  After the dinosaur fossils, we moved on to the Ocean exhibit where the children explored and learned some ocean facts.

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From Oceans, we went into the Hall of Human Origins. My five- and seven-year-olds were interested in this area, but it was designed for older children and adults. They did look at various skeletons and exhibits showing how humans have evolved through history, and we got to see the skulls of various early humans. My five-year-old stopped to watch a video about human origins, and my seven-year-old watched a video on evolution. All three of my children enjoyed looking at the mockup of a cave wall showing examples of primitive drawings, which we had discussed earlier in the year during our history lessons. We then moved into the Mammals exhibit where my five-year-old enjoyed looking at the giraffe models.

After the Mammals exhibit, we moved upstairs to the Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals. We learned about earthquakes and volcanoes and then looked at different types of rocks and minerals, those that came from volcanic eruptions and others. The children had a good time playing with a large magnetic rock that is on exhibit.  They watched paper clips stick to it and saw how the metal was attracted to the rock. We then continued through the exhibit to look at the various gems and finally made our way to the Hope Diamond. My five-year-old especially enjoyed that exhibit.

We then headed to the Insect exhibit where the kids saw various types of bugs. Unfortunately the bee hive in that area was closed, but the children still enjoyed looking around. On our way out of this area, we looked through the windows of the butterfly pavilion. They enjoyed seeing the bright butterflies flying around inside the pavilion.

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At that point, the kids were tired so we headed down for a snack and then home. There was a lot to explore in the museum, and we did not see everything. We could have easily spent far longer even in the exhibits we did visit. There were many exhibits with a lot of information about the various topics. This museum would make a good full-day trip for those that have the stamina to explore the different exhibits – and even then you are unlikely to have seen everything. We really enjoyed our visit and hope to make it back at least once more before the dinosaur exhibit closes. Even without the dinosaurs, there is still much to explore at the museum. We all enjoyed learning about rocks, dinosaurs, human evolution, and insects.

Sarah–Sarah is the wife of Dan and mom to Desmond, Eloise and Sullivan (Sully).  She enjoys sarahreading,  board games, D&D, computer and console games, the Oxford comma, and organizing fun trips. Sarah and Dan decided years before they had children that they would be homeschooling and now they are. Their family has enjoyed beginning their homeschooling journey and the early elementary years. There are a lot of fun opportunities upcoming in the next year as well, including Eloise starting Kindergarten at home, numerous trips to Atlanta, and a month long trip to India. They currently reside in a suburb of Washington DC and enjoy all the local attractions available for day trips.

High School Dissection, by Jen W.

Dissection Day

 

Although dissection lab is not experimental science, there are very good reasons for high school students to engage in dissection. First, dissection is very useful in helping students better visualize biological structures. These apply both narrowly and more widely. Dissecting a sheep or cow eye not only teaches the student about sheep and cows, but they can apply that knowledge to the human eye. Secondly, dissection gives students confidence in their later labs. Dissection requires some amount of skill and precision, but there is no expectation of achieving a specific result as with later labs the students will experience in chemistry and other areas of science. Thirdly, when you take dissection in incremental steps, they gradually get used to the “yucky stuff” involved with dissection, which may help them get over queasiness that may be associated with the medical field.

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First challenge for a veteran homeschool mom: finding the dissection kit in the science closet.

To get started with dissection, you will need several items: a dissection kit, a dissection tray, an instruction book and one or more specimens, you might also want to print lab sheets or worksheets. There are YouTube videos available of many different types of dissection that can help walk nervous students (and parents!) through the process.

There are several different dissection kits available. Personally, I really like the advanced dissection kit from Home Training Tools. The set has everything most students will need while keeping the price low. The scalpel is sharp, but easy to handle. The tweezers, probes and everything are made well enough to last through several kids. I added extra pins, extra scalpel blades and a magnifying glass to our kit. Note the instructions on how to change scalpel blades on the site, many people have trouble figuring it out without help.

I own this dissection tray. It is currently being used by my second child, having made it through several dissections with my eldest. It is still holding up very well. I appreciate the reusable aspect because it means that it’s always at hand.

You can see the tray at work dissecting an earthworm with pins in it in the featured photo.

We use this how-to book: How to Dissect by William Berman. This one book contains great basic information on dissection as well instructions for dissecting many different specimens, including all of the specimens that most students will tackle in high school.

I found free dissection worksheets here for most of our specimens.

There are several YouTube channels that provide students with excellent walk-throughs that will ease the mind of anyone nervous about dissection. I feel these two are among the best:

LabCast
Carolina Biological

My kids do at least the following: earthworm, clam, grasshopper, crayfish, frog, starfish and perch. More science focused and/or less grossed out kids also do: a cow eye, a squid, a dogfish shark and a fetal pig. I feel this gives the more timid a solid feel for anatomical structures, and gives the braver and/or more science-focused kids a pretty good range of specimen examples.

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Carolina Biological even has a useful video for dissecting the dogfish shark.

Although I strongly recommend hands-on dissection with real specimens, there are a few students who will be extra grossed-out and/or have ethical issues with dissection. In that case, as a last resort, there are virtual dissections available. Here are a couple of the more popular options:

Earthworm Dissection

Froguts Virtual Dissection

Squid Dissection

  
Jen jen_wW.– Jen is a born and bred Sooner who has spent twenty years following her military husband around the world. Jen started on her homeschooling journey when her eldest daughter learned to read at three years old, and she decided that she couldn’t screw up kindergarten that badly. That child is now a senior in high school, and they have both survived homeschooling throughout. Jen has two more children who are equally smart and have also homeschooled all along.

I Don't Do Dissections…But My Kids Do! by Nakia

Dissection Day

 

I am a nurse.

And I don’t dissect.

I made it through advanced biology classes in high school and nursing school without participating in dissections. I will admit that I am squeamish about it and don’t plan to let homeschooling change that.

My girls, on the other hand, were so excited to dissect last year! My oldest daughter spent a year studying Life Science with my younger two tagging along for the hands-on parts. We ordered a dissection kit that included an earthworm, a starfish, a grasshopper, a clam, a fish, and a frog along with a tray and the tools needed for dissection. The kit also included detailed instructions for dissecting each specimen.

Since I didn’t plan to actually dissect with them, I found YouTube videos that the girls could watch prior to dissecting each specimen. We also watched some virtual dissections online. Our next step was to talk about dissecting tool safety. When we first started, only Anna was allowed to do any cutting, but by the time we got to the frog, Emma and Cora were comfortable and skillful with all of the tools. It was also very important to me that the girls showed respect for the animals that they were dissecting, and they really did a great job with that.

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Anna’s science book included a list of things to look for in each specimen. Armed with that list and the dissection instructions, they were able to start small (with the cricket) and work all the way up to the frog. Most of the dissecting was done right at our kitchen table. They actually ended up dissecting the starfish on the back porch. That shows you can dissect anywhere! For the frog, we got together with two other homeschool families. We had all ages that day – from my seven-year-old up to a 17-year-old, along with the moms. I stayed back and took pictures.

I’m pretty sure they will always remember dissecting at home! And I think they’re ready for more as we plan to study biology in the fall.

Naknakiaia–Nakia is a Southern girl, born and raised in North Carolina. She is married to her high school sweetheart and is in her 9th year of homeschooling her three wonderful daughters. She works part time as a nurse and loves photography, thrift shopping, baking, and autumn in the mountains.