Thursday, April 28, 2011

Joy School - Desert

We moved into a new monthly theme of 'Geography' for April, and my assigned week was a desert theme.

A good friend, who did Joy School with us until she moved away last fall, was very good at creating something visual to help the children understand the lessons she presented. I always enjoyed that about her lessons, and as I was preparing myself for my desert day, I tried to come up with ways to be more like that.

Lesson Time: I taught that deserts cover about 1/3 of the entire earth's surface.

To illustrate, I made a construction paper earth and cut it into thirds. I showed the kids that one third meant one of the pieces of the earth. I put the earth back together, and then had a child come up to flip over one of the thirds.

On the back of each piece, I had glued some sandy brown paper. So when we flipped it over, 1/3 of the earth looked like a desert.

Then I taught about what makes a desert and how they are very dry. I used a liquid measuring cup and filled it to the 1 cup mark and showed them that in a desert, only 1 cup of rain falls each year.

We moved on to talk about the adaptations that plants and animals in the desert need to make in order to survive in a hot, dry place. (Yes, I know there are cold deserts, but for time's sake, I focused on hot deserts)

The large cacti are covered in ridges that expand to hold water when it rains. To demonstrate this, I had a piece of paper ready that I had folded back and forth accordion style. Then the kids got to have a turn slowly pulling it open to watch the way that a cactus would expand.

We discussed several different kinds of desert animals: snakes, lizards, elephants, and camels. We learned that kangaroos in Australia deserts, lick their wrists and forearms to help keep themselves cool. Then we all did that to ourselves to see if we could feel our arms getting cooler, which we did.

We learned how foxes have very large ears that are very vascular and help cool them off.

Video Clip: We watched a couple of great videos from our Planet Earth DVDs. The first one was a sandstorm that showed many animals and how they coped with the blowing sand, and also showed how the sandstorms effected the landscape. Very cool.

The next one was about lizards, (I think in Mexico, but I don't remember for sure) that jump to catch the flies in the air. It wasn't as interesting to me, but it was kind of funny to watch, and I thought the kids would like to see it.

Craft Time:

We made potato cacti. Before we began, I had cut the end off a potato so it would stand still without rolling around, and then the kids painted them green. To make the spikes, we used toothpicks and stuck them in. They worked out really well. The kids had fun adding the prickles, and a couple of the boys didn't stop until their creations were entirely covered with them.

Science Time: I loved this science time! My friend who did the great visuals for her lessons also was very good at coming up with great science experiments, and I have to say that I think she would have approved of this one!

We began by watching another segment of Planet Earth that showed the giant cacti literally expand before your eyes as it absorbed water from a recent rain.

Then we moved up to the kitchen table where I had a pie plate with water in it, and a dry kitchen sponge that I had cut into two cactus shapes. We put the sponges into the water, and sure enough we were able to watch them expand and swell as they absorbed it.

Then to demonstrate how they were able to retain that water in the hot desert sun and wind, we took one sponge and set it on the table as it was. We took the next and wrapped it in a layer of waxed paper, like the waxy coating on the outside of a cactus.
To simulate the wind, the kids each took a turn using my hair dryer on the hottest setting and blowing the air on first the unprotected, then the protected sponges.

After each child had a turn to dry out the two cacti, I picked up the first sponge and squeezed out as much water as I could into a glass. Then I unwrapped the second cactus and squeezed it into another glass and we compared how much water they had each been able to save. It was so great. I just loved this science time.

Snack Time:

I made some desert dessert. It was chocolate pudding, and on top I sprinkled some graham cracker crumbs to be the desert sand. This was good, but as the kids ate, they found candies hiding under the sand, just like animals hide under the sand during storms and during the hottest part of the day.

Singing Time:

I had previously made some camel stick puppets and I dug them out to use while we sang 'Alice the Camel.' They were really well received and the kids were swinging and shaking them all over as we sang.

We also sang 'The Animals in the Desert,' which is to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus. We inserted animals we had learned about during our lesson time. So the snake went 'hiss, hiss, hiss,' the kangaroo went 'jump, jump, jump' etc.

Art Time:

To do something a little different, I decided to use chalk as our medium. I gave each child a sheet of black construction paper and we made beautiful desert sunsets.

First the kids coloured a large half-circle at the bottom of the page to be the sun, then they did rings of colour above.

When they were done their colouring, they used their hands to rub and blend the colours together. So pretty. As a final touch, we glued on a construction paper green cactus on the bottom.

Story Time:

I am often able to find books from our own family's collection to go along with our lessons, but I didn't have anything on deserts. So I went to the library and found these two books:

I didn't find either of them to be amazing, but they entertained the kids.

Wiggle Time: We played "What time is it Mr. Snake?" where one child was a snake and the rest were little desert mice.

1 comment:

  1. I always love seeing what you have done for joy school! You have just the best ideas. (I will for sure be using them in the future). I just posted the "arctic" class I did......can't wait to see what else you ladies do with joy school this month.


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