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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What's For Dinner?

Carnivores, Herbivores, and Omnivores... Oh My! 

The rain, wind and chilly fall weather did not deter our class from enjoying the great outdoors as we learned about what animals eat last Wednesday. After sorting animals into their respective food categories, labeling them as either a carnivore, herbivore, omnivore, decomposer, or plants as producer, we examined a couple skulls. We learned that you can tell what an animal eats based on their teeth. If they have sharp teeth they are a carnivore; if they have flat teeth they are an herbivore and if they have a combination they are an omnivore. 
 Every living thing needs energy in order to live. Every time animals do something like jumping, running, or climbing they use energy. So how do we get energy? They get it from the food they eat! A food chain shows how each living thing gets food and how the energy and nutrients are passed from creature to creature.We played around with these fun stack-able food chain cups to illustrate the food chain and then, using puppets, they acted out different food chains.
We ended the day dissecting owl pellets! They had so much fun finding all the little bones in the pellets. 
They are such great little scientists!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Adaptations- They help me to live!

This week's class was all about adaptations. An adaptation is anything that helps an animal to survive. We learned that an adaptation can be physical, like webbed feet and sharp teeth, or behavioral, like migrating and hibernating. Animals develop adaptations to help deal with their ecosystem climate, to move better, to prevent being eaten or to successfully catch their food.
After introducing the idea, we examined a raccoon fur and discussed how the fur not only helps the raccoon stay warm during the winter but also helps it to camouflage or blend in with its surroundings.
We examined hawk talons and an owl feather and they brainstormed how those physical features help the animal. We learned that animals will also develop behaviors that help them survive. For example, Virginia Opossums will play dead when encountered by a predator in hopes they will appear unappealing and Bluebirds will freeze when hawks are nearby in hopes that they will not be spotted. To avoid the cold food-less winter months, animals have even adapted to hibernate. To illustrate these adaptations we played a couple of active games including "Opossum Tag" and "Bluebirds and Hawks".
After returning from our hike, we read a story called "Dig, Wait, Listen: A Desert Toad's Tale" and spent some time studying Ms. Toady and learning all about how she is perfectly adapted for her forest ecosystem. As a class we brainstormed her adaptations including her camouflage, her breathable skin, and her poison glands. 
Experiment Time!
To illustrate how the Polar Bear survives living in the Arctic Tundra, each of the kids stuck their bare hands in a bucket of ice. It was so cold! After they experienced the frigid water with their bare hand, they each put their hands in a glove filled with Crisco and then stuck their hand back in. This time they could have kept their hands in the icy water all day! Just like the Crisco filled glove, the Polar Bear has a thick layer of fat underneath its heavy coat of fur which keeps it nice and toasty in its very cold habitat! 
What a great adaptation!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Exploring Ecosystems!

This week's class was all about introducing the idea of ecosystems. We learned that an ecosystem is a place that is a home or a habitat for many different animals. Examples of ecosystems include forests, meadows, oceans, ponds, and deserts. After brainstorming different ecosystems and the animals that would live in each, we used different puppets to act out how those animals would interact.
On our hike we visited three different ecosystems at Riverbend including a meadow, forest and a pond and talked about their different physical attributes. The class made some fantastic observations and comparisons. They noticed that the meadow gets lots of sun and is full of tall grasses and flowers while the forest is very shady and has more trees and bushes. We also noticed it was much cooler in the forest than in the meadow. 
We also learned that there are living and non-living things in ecosystems and that animals depend on these non-living things to survive. Water, air, sunlight, soil, and rocks are all non-living things that play an important role in an ecosystem.
At this time of the year, Riverbend's grounds are covered in walnuts from our Black Walnut trees and the kids absolutely love them! So after a delicious snack of homemade granola, we played a couple rounds of "Walnut Bowling".  We then harnessed our artistic powers and cutting skills to work on an ecosystem activity where they cut and sorted animals into their appropriate ecosystem. 
Next week we will begin learning about adaptations- my favorite topic!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Habitat, Habitat, Have to Have a Habitat!

This week's class was all about habitats. We learned that a habitat is another name for an animal's home. Animals need to be able to find food, water, shelter, and have enough space in their habitat. On our hike, we found lots of shelters and food sources. We even saw a group of deer in the woods!
After we read "Box Turtle at Long Pond" by William T. George and enjoyed our snack of homemade applesauce, we met Bubbles the Box Turtles. We discussed her different habitat needs and spent some time writing in our journals.
The class had a lot of fun during the "have to have a habitat" activity in which each child was given an animal and a list of their particular habitat needs. To complete the activity they had to collect cards that matched their animal's different habitat needs. We learned that every animal has different habitat needs. The black bear had very different habitat needs than the mouse and the duck.
Next week we will begin our discussion of ecosystems!