Monday, June 26, 2017

Weekly Learning Theme: Under the Ground/Inside the Earth

If one thing is true, it is that Carter likes to challenge me. One day we were playing outside and he told me he wanted to learn about what's in the ground. So I started a little discussion about dirt and worms and everything in topsoil that we can find and see. He told me, "No, I already know about that. I want to learn about what's under that like the water in the ground and stuff." I immediately felt overwhelmed when I thought of attempting to explain the layers of the Earth to a preschooler. How could I take the complexities of what we will never see with our own eyes and explain to him the mysteries that lay deep down inside this planet? But the more I thought about it and tried to decide what I wanted to put into this learning theme, the more excited I got. We could talk about different kinds of rock, about volcanoes, and about caves. The great thing about such a broad theme is I can include introductions to lots of different things without getting too in depth and confusing for a preschooler. So after a nice little break from learning themes at the beginning of the summer we jumped right into what is under the ground/inside the Earth! The way this post is split up into the different kinds of activities makes it seem as though we jumped around a lot but really we started with talking about the earth's layers, soil, and ground water. Then we moved on to volcanoes and then ended with caves. So we learned in a more organized manner than what it seems in this post. 

Listed below are the objectives I am focusing on for the themed weeks.  I have revised our objectives to really hone in and focus on specific skills Carter will need to master before kindergarten and are appropriate to his age and development right now. I plan to continue to implement activities to practice and reinforce our previous objectives while putting more emphasis on our new objectives.  Some of them won't necessarily be targeted with specific activities during our weeks, but I wanted to list them to help me remember to practice them continually. I have added working on his name as his teachers at school have asked us to work on it at home and I want to remember to include working on it in some form during each of our learning themes. I'm also adding in a section for Elise now that she is a year old. I don't considers her bullet points objectives, they are experiences I want to make sure to expose her to frequently. Her experiences are listed below Carter as bullet points rather than numbers.

The highlighted objectives below are ones Carter received exposure to during our theme this week:
  1. Begin to organize and focus on writing. (Dictate stories, plan out a story, draw pictures and scribbles to create a book).
  2. Understand same and different.
  3. Accurately tell stories as well as retell the story from a book. 
  4. Use age appropriate scissors.  (I'm moving on to looking for a thumb and forefinger grasp with writing tools and holding scissors appropriately)
  5. Develop a better understanding of time (for example, be able to describe when things happen using morning, afternoon, night)
  6. Group objects based on a category (sort by defining feature).
  7. Count with one-to-one correspondence, begin to identify numerals, being to use ordinal numbers (first, second, last). 
  8. Recognize the letters in name, arrange them to spell name, begin to write name.
Experiences Elise was exposed to during our theme this week are highlighted below:
  • Play make believe/Imitate the behaviors of others (adults and children).
  • Know the names of and be able to point out body parts.
  • Groups things together by size or color/matches like objects, understands hard and soft.
  • Names common objects and is able to point them out.
  • Begin to hold writing tools and scribble spontaneously. Can draw a line. Differentiates between a circle and square.
  • Follows simple instructions (focusing on words such as in, on, beside, under).
  • Others: counts to two, refers to self by name. These I want to start to expose her to, but she isn't quite ready to master then yet.
  • I wrote "under the ground" on a sentence strip. I showed it to Carter and told him what it said. Then I asked him to point out which word he thought was under, thinking about the beginning sound. I then did that with each word. Then I had him point out all the u's on the strip and we discussed how capital and lowercase u's look the same and how they look different.
  • For this learning theme we practiced with the letter Uu for Under. Carter worked on writing capital and lowercase u's while I made them using yarn for him to feel. Then I hung them on the door for practice as he went in and out of the house.
  • Carter's initial interest in what is underground came from where water goes when it rains. He wanted to learn about the water that is underground. We started our learning theme by talking a bit more about groundwater. We read an online book about groundwater here. Carter liked seeing the pictures and discussing it as we read.
  • One of the first things we did was explore the ground that we can get to. We dug a hole and the kids looked at what was under ground. We discussed as they played and Carter found dirt, sand, roots, and worms as we dug. Then they played in the dirt and we discussed how it felt and what we noticed about it. Carter noticed that the dirt seemed to have some sand mixed into it and pointed out that was different from the dirt we used to plant our flowers in our backyard planter. Later we read a book all about different kinds of soil and Carter was excited that sand was listed!
  • I found a really neat experiment on how stalactites form here. The kids helped me set it up by adding the baking soda and stirring it up until it dissolved. Then we observed it every day and recorded our findings in a notebook. Most days Carter drew what he saw and then described it to me so I could write it for him. A few days he didn't want to draw so I drew for him. It was so cool! I made sure to really tie the meaning in, even bringing out our book on caves and pointing out stalactites and stalagmites and discussing how dissolving, dripping, and evaporation works in the cave setting.
  • After reading a book about caves we created stalactites and stalagmites out of paper. I showed Carter how to roll the paper and then staple it together to look like a tube. We used those as stalagmites. As he worked on his, I folded some into cones for stalactites. Elise colored and tried folding. When Carter would finish a stalagmite, he'd hand it to her and she'd run it down the hall to set it up in our pretend cave. It was so cute how they worked together! Carter went to check on her and ran back telling me, "Elise is even putting them in the right place!" We used lots of scrap paper to make them and Elise referred to the little ones as babies.
    Carter placing some stalagmites in our hallway cave.
    Elise trying out scissors.
  • We talked about fossils and the different kinds of fossils that exist. We discussed how a fossil can be remains like bones or impressions left as a mold or cast in rock. We read books about fossils and talked about how they can be found when we dig up the ground as they are found underground. Then we made our own "fossils" by making rubbings of objects on paper to see what they would look like as fossils. Carter took it a step further by getting out some Play Doh so he could push his sea shells into it and make impressions just like those that would be left on rock!
  • I knew one of Carter's favorite activities would be making a volcano erupt. We read books about volcanoes first and discussed how they were formed as well as what they were made out of. We made a volcano out of some of our Play Doh that was close to dried out so we could throw it away when we were done. The only problem was that it was really hard to mold since it was pretty dried out. I put a cup inside the volcano with baking soda in it and we then poured vinegar into the volcano. Carter loved yelling, "The magma is coming out as lava!" He'd also tell Elise not to touch it as it was hot. I had him feel it and notice it was cold. We talked about how that is different from real volcanoes and then we discussed how our volcano was like real volcanoes and how it was different from real volcanoes. The kids loved playing with the vinegar/baking soda mix so I poured it into a container for them to play with. I also added some food coloring and sprinkles to add some fun. We did a few more eruptions in the cup inside the bin.
  • Carter loved learning about volcanoes and found them fascinating. He really picked up all the terms and would talk about lava, magma, and ash. One day just for fun he drew a picture of a volcano. We talked about how what he drew was a diagram because he showed what was inside the volcano when we can't actually see that when we look at a real volcano. He was very proud to point out all the parts of his volcano and described it to me.
  • We turned our hallway into a cave and I decided to rip off a large piece of paper so we could make cave drawings. I told Carter that back when people lived in caves, they used to draw on the walls of the caves to tell stories. I thought of a story and told it to him in 3 different parts as I drew pictures to tell my story. Then I drew a box around my story so we could tell it was one story. I asked Carter to think of a story and he did, even breaking it into a beginning, middle, and end without me asking. He drew his story on the paper. We did all this by the light of a flashlight since we were in a cave. While I was working with Carter, Elise was drawing up a storm on her side of the paper. It wasn't until I turned the flashlight toward her to see her picture that I noticed she had accidentally drawn past the paper onto the wall! Luckily it was a quick clean up! She said her picture was of her daddy.
    Carter's story was that we were driving in the car. Then an eagle flew right by the window. Carter was scared.
  • When we were putting out the stalactites and stalagmites I had Elise put one on different parts of her body to show me she knows the names of her body parts. She thought it was pretty funny! 
  • When we talked about things under the ground we also started learning about caves since they often times form underground. When we were reading about landforms and came across caves I asked Carter what animals live in caves. He listed bears and bats. I told him we could make some bats out of toilet paper rolls. He loved decorating the toilet paper rolls and then taping on the wings and ears. I found this adorable idea on Pinterest here so we added pipe cleaner legs to our bats. It worked out so wonderfully because it made it really easy to hang our bats wherever we wanted. I showed Carter how to hang the bat by its feet, just like how real bats hang and he loved hanging all his bats up. We counted to see how many bats we had and then we played hide and seek with them. He'd hang the bats throughout the house and I'd go find them, counting to make sure I found them all. Then I'd hide them and he'd find them just like we'd done before. It was such a fun game and it was all Carter's idea. He was so excited to hang the bats throughout the house to surprise Ty so he could find them when he got home.
  • We were painting one day and Carter was so excited to show me he had painted a dinosaur fossil. I thought it was neat that he used fingerprints to create the bones in the dinosaur's neck.
Special Snack:
  • When I was searching activities to teach about groundwater I found an awesome website full of ideas. I was so thankful because I knew Carter's interest in what is underground stemmed from wanting to know about groundwater and I felt like I didn't have much knowledge on the topic. We did this awesome edible aquifer activity I found here. I described everything to Carter and told him what it represented as we worked and he talked about the items not as what they actually were but as what we were using them to represent. We put gummy bears into our cup to represent the rocks and sand under the ground. Then we added Sprite as water and I had Carter observe what happened. He pointed out that the water filled in the spaces between the rocks. Then we added sherbert as a top layer or soil. Next I added some green dye to the Sprite and told him it represented dirty water. We talked about how the water got dirty. He thought maybe with bugs or poop and I expanded on that to gasoline, oils, and other chemicals. Then we poured the green Sprite over the sherbert and Carter was excited to point out that it turned all the water green. I told him that meant dirty water that goes into the ground contaminates or dirties all the water that is under there. We also put some sprinkles on top and then poured more "rain" over the soil. We watched as they made their way under the soil as well, either dissolving in the water or pushing their way through the dirt. It was a neat activity and I liked how it illustrated groundwater better than I could have described.
Make Believe:
    • Using the stalactites and stalagmites we created, we turned the hallway into a cave. Once we had all the stalactites and stalagmites set up, we checked our book about caves to see what else we needed to put in our cave. Carter wanted to make some troglobites (any animal that lives entirely in the dark areas of caves) so I drew a fish and a salamander on white paper. We cut them out and he chose where to put them in the cave. We used bats we had made a few days beforehand in the cave. We hung some from the wall and I taped a few from the ceiling. Then we looked at the pictures in the book to see what gear spelunkers used. Carter decided we needed hard hats and flashlights. We used bicycle helmets as hard hats and each got a flashlight. We went down the hall closing all the bedroom doors to make it dark in the hallway. Then we put blankets over the windows in the living room and the front door. It was really dark! Carter took us on a tour of the cave and then he went into each room pretending it was also a cave. That turned into Harper being a bear and us running from her in the cave. As we walked through the cave the first time I had Carter count to see how many bats there were and then point out the difference between stalactites and stalagmites.
    Preparing to enter the cave.

    • I found a song called Our Earth Inside Out here. I planned on just listening to part of it but Carter enjoyed it so much we listened to the whole thing.
    • We also sang Home on the Earth: A Song About Earth's Layers which was a book I found by Laura Purdie Salas. The tune of the song was Home on the Range. Carter really liked it and wanted me to sing it over and over.
    • I checked out a CD at the library by the Earth Co called Songs of Higher Learning and we listened to a song called Groundwater.
    • Another song we sang was called Big Volcano and went like this:
    Big volcano, big volcano
    Getting hot, getting hot
    Now the lava's coming, now the lava's coming
    Out the top, out the top.
    • To learn about the layers of the Earth I found a little interactive story book online here. I just wanted to touch on the basics of what is inside the Earth but not go too in depth and this was perfect. Carter found it interesting that the Earth is made of solid and liquid parts. He also was amazed by how hot it is inside the Earth!
    • Carter also played a Magic School Bus game about volcanoes here. In the game you are the school bus starting deep inside the Earth. You have to navigate your way to the top of a volcano through a maze. As you pass through each layer of the Earth it tells you facts about that layer of the Earth.
    • Carter was really interested in volcanoes so we watched a video of a volcano eruptting here. We also watched a video of lava flowing very slowly over a town. We talked about what we could see that indicated the lava was hot and I was impressed when Carter told me the lava had orange and red parts on the ends that weren't black. He then said, "Red, yellow, and orange are hot colors so I know that part is hot."
     Field Trip/Interactive Experience:
    • After Carter became really interested in caves I was super excited to take him to see one in real life. The closest cave to us that I found searching was almost 2 hours away and we didn't have a free weekend during this learning theme so we are planning to go at some point later in the summer when we have a weekend day to travel. Instead of visiting a real cave we went to the zoo and walked through the cave inside their forest building as well as the cave inside the rainforest exhibit where we got to see bats hanging from the ceiling.
      Carter was excited to tell his friends the names of the different cave features as we walked through.
    • Another fun trip we took was to the newly renovated library downtown where they have a table with different kinds of rocks on the surface with their names so we looked at the rocks and discussed which kinds of rocks they might be.
    • The Earth Book by Todd Parr
    • Soil by Christin Ditchfield
    • Homes in the Ground by Mary Reid
    • Wonderful Worms by Linda Glaser
    • Magic School Bus: Inside the Earth by Joanna Cole
    • The Wonders Inside the Earth by Jan Stradling
    • Planet Earth, Inside Out by Gail Gibbons
    • Under the Ground by Louise Spilsbury
    • Hidden Under the Ground: The World Beneath Your Feet by Peter Kent
    • Rocks by Robin Nelson
    • Rocks: Hard, Soft, Smooth, and Rough by Natalie Rosinsky
    • Home on the Earth: A Song About Earth's Layers by Laura Purdie Salas
    • Under Earth Under Water by Aleksandra Mizielinska
    • Different Kinds of Soil by Molly Aloian
    • If Rocks Could Sing: A Discovered Alphabet by Leslie McGuirk
    • Fossils by Grace Hansen
    • Caves by Ellen Lebrecque
    • Caves by Marcia Zappa
    • Volcanoes by Lisa Magloff
    • Volcanoes by Chris Oxlade
    • Volcanoes by Franklyn M. Branley
    • Volcano Wakes Up by Lisa Westberg Peters
    • How Do Volcanoes Make Rock? A Look at Igneous Rock by Ellen Lawrence
    • The Magic School Bus Blows Its Top by Gail Herman
    • I Am A Story by Dan Yaccarino


    1. Sounds like a lot of fun. And the bear did get in the cave and destroyed all the stalagmites. Well, the mountain lion probably helped. :)

      1. I figured out later that it was Skippy. He was eating the paper! Crazy kitty!