Thursday, July 21, 2011

Learning about Forests

Now that we have looked at forest artistically (see previous post) I thought it was time to delve in and learn some facts. I had "A" start out by watching another video by Univ. of Illinois called Trees are Terrific. This video is more geared towards younger children and has some really useful tips and facts. One of the activities in the interactive video is looking at the shape trees make. I decided to take this a little further for "A" by making tree print-outs. I then made a tri-fold with the three shapes in the video and had "A" match the print-outs to the shapes.

During the Walk in the Woods video from earlier, fungi was talked about in detail and their role as decomposers. This led me to try to broach the topic of producers, consumers, and decomposers and a simple forest food chain. I would have liked to do a food web but that is too advance for a five-year-old. I found a fairly simple Temperant Forest Food Chain that clearly shows the three roles living things play in a biome. I explained the food chain and how a producer is anything that makes it's own food which are plants, trees, bushes, etc. For a producer to grow it needs sun, water, and nutrients. Then I told him consumers need to get food from something else. I told him that there are three types of consumers: herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores. He could name them with little help from his background knowledge of dinosaurs. Then we talked about decomposers and how those provide the nutrients for the producer. When talking about food chains you do need to discuss death because it is part of the life-cycle. Since "A" is only five I say that when the animal dies from old age over time the body breaks down and only the skeleton is left (that is why we only find dinosaur bones). The mushrooms, worms, and other decomposers help make the body part of the soil and dirt. The body helps the dirt super strong and healthy, and that is how the producers get their nutrients.

After the discussions, I had "A" look at some other print-outs I found that are either producers, consumers, or decomposers. He then had to sort them in another tri-fold. Next, I had him create his own food chain based on the one we just learned about. He wanted a ladybug to be the first consumer but we researched and discovered that ladybugs don't eat plants but plant eating bugs. So he had to change the food chain to add an aphid and then the ladybug. We then researched what ate ladybugs and he chose to do a spider next. We finished up with a bird and mushrooms. He did pretty well considering this is a pretty advanced topic.

Our last learning activity had a little craft component to it, hooray! At Fun Crafts for Preschoolers I saw an idea of making a hallow log from a coffe container (I used a baby formula container). We painted the container brown to look like a log. Then "A" had to tell me what he thinks he would find in a fallen, hollowed log. I reminded him that logs are dark, wet, and since it is a dead to think of decomposers. Here are some of the things he chose:worms, fungi, conks, mushrooms, spiders, beetles, tree frogs, salamander, and chipmunk. I found images and we taped them on the "log" (I couldn't find my Elmers).

Then Daddy had the idea for one final craft. Daddy is not the crafty one in the house, so this made it especially fun! We found some large pinecones and then using feathers, googly eyes, and orange construction paper we made some pretty cute owls.

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