Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Desert: A Unit Study

Our family just returned from a trip to Arizona. While traveling we visited the Grand Canyon, the red rocks of Sodona, and the desert. I decided to use this trip as an opportunity to make my, "The World" study come alive.  Several weeks before the trip we began reading books about the desert, all kinds of deserts not just limited to the deserts in the southwest United States. After we scavenged the shelves at our library and then had books ordered from all over the place through the inter library loan system the three favorites that I used for our formal lessons are the above pictured, The Desert Alphabet Book, The Grand Canyon, and A Walk in the Desert.They featured history, animal, landscape shots, and more.

I also made sure we had storybooks about the desert and we read, read, read them! If you are doing a study about the desert for young ones I highly recommend: The Three Little Javelinas, Tortoise and the Jackrabbit, and the classic Clementines Cactus. These great storybooks made learning about the desert fun. From these storybooks we learned more than we bargained for about  desert animals and that was without even trying!

So, in addition to reading these books we also did art, music, and watched a wonderful Reading Rainbow (throw back to my childhood!) video on Native American art called The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush.

My son's favorite art projects:
Making a cactus out of green playdough and toothpicks.
Using a ruler to measure out and draw a life size tarantula, cutting it out, and hiding it around the house to "spook" us.

Our favorite desert song:
We put this to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus

The tortoise in the desert eats prickly pear fruit, prickly pear fruit, prickly pear fruit...all day long. 
The hare in the desert goes hop, hop, hop.....all day long. 
The tarantula in the desert goes creep, creep, creep...all night long. 
The owl in the desert goes hoot, hoot, hoot....all night long. 

You can keep the song going. We ended up having upwards of fifteen verses to our song. I used this as a good opportunity to teach nocturnal and diurnal too. So, we ended the song with "all night long" or "all day long" depending on if the animal is nocturnal or diurnal.

We did a study on Native American art from the southwest and while in a Grand Canyon gift shop the Moose found examples of the pottery. He was so excited to have made this discovery. It really made the lesson we did at home come to life for him, which is what this teaching Momma was hoping!  Upon coming home we have created a travel scrapbook, written in our family adventure journal, and read once more all of our desert books now that we can combine the pages of the  books with our experience in Arizona.

Up next on our gigantic unit study, "The World" is a study on rivers, lakes, and oceans.  Fun!

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