Nature camp!

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We found bones in the grass. There were some claws on the foot bone, so my children decided the bones must have belonged to a tiger. No amount of talking about how tigers don’t live here mattered. There were claws, so it must be a tiger.

It is Spring Break in the school system here so lots of places are having camps over this week. Nicholas got signed up for a day of nature camp at Effie Yeaw Nature Center. He had a blast at the camp learning about frogs and reptiles. They built a toad house – although I tried to tell him that we don’t have toads. He still wants to put in the yard, so I said okay.

What else is there to do? We ate a picnic after camp. That was fun. All three of us sat down and ate – with half the other families who had kids at camp. We also went on a hike, climbed trees, walked through a Native American village, looked for tadpoles in a pond, and drew images of things we had seen in the mud. The drawing things was something Nicholas picked up form his counselors, who had the kids draw a fish with sticks in the mud near the pond. We had to do it too – after all, Nicholas got to be the pond director.

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Nicholas liked climbing all the trees. They had ones with lower branches that were perfect for the young climbers.

One of the coolest things we saw was a set of bones hidden in the grass. The kids wanted to take them home, but I made sure to repeat the “Take memories and leave footprints” mantra I’m trying to teach them about hiking. There was also a flock of turkeys – 4 of them. One was a big old guy with all the colored feathers. Three were women. He was chasing the women turkeys and my kids thought it was so cool. They kept yelling “Bock bock” after the turkeys as they were chasing them.

There were also butterflies that flew really close to us. Nicholas wanted to know why the butterflies weren’t super colorful like the ones I draw at home. That led into a discussion of nature and camouflage.

Abby decided making "leaf showers" was an awesome thing. It was super cute.

Abby decided making “leaf showers” was an awesome thing. It was super cute.

We had a blast having leaf showers. Abby thought this was great fun because she could pile the leaves, toss them up and yell, “Leaf shower!” It was fun watching this occur. I’m also glad she was wearing a hat because her hair would’ve been filled with dirt and leaves otherwise. Nothing a bath won’t cure, but since she doesn’t like her hair washed, I prefer not to have to do it every night.

They had a playground filled with stumps over different heights. My kids loved running around and jumping on each stump. Abby made  a big production of jumping off them. Nicholas made a big deal of jumping from one to the next. It made me a bit nervous. I had images of blood and cuts and all kinds of nice injuries, but I let them do it because it is important for them to explore their boundaries. If they are wrapped in cotton, how are they going to learn?

What does all this teach the kids? To appreciate life and the natural world. Who knows if they are going to be ecologists or biologists, but it is important to expose them to nature. I have great plans to do a walk a week over summer. It won’t be too far – Abby lasted for a mile on the hike before wanting to be carried. But hiking and nature are an essential part of life that they need to experience. It i as important as book work.

Also I need to remember that you can never have enough sunscreen or snacks. My kids might not eat the sandwich I packed for lunch, but if I have raisins for snacks they will chow down.

Anatomy #6: Random things about our bodies.

We did some of the major systems and things in our bodies, and it was time for us to review, then move on. We did this worksheet to review some of our bones. We colored this worksheet to review how our blood flows through our bodies. We finished off by matching the bones of the arm to the correct spots on this worksheet.

Now it was time to move on. We have two more things to cover – major organs and muscles. We started with muscles.

I used this worksheet as the basis for our muscle work. I had Nicholas read the worksheet to us. I wrote the word “muscle” out on an index card. He had to go through and circle the word muscle everywhere it appeared. Abby was in charge of coloring the letter M on her worksheet (we got some other letters colored too, but she aimed mostly for the M’s).

Next, we drew muscles on our skeleton – which has been named “Fred.” I handed them purple and red crayons and they drew muscles over the bones. I named them off  the worksheet, and we pointed out where they are on our bodies, and then we drew them.

We discussed how some exercises can make our muscles stronger and help us do things. Then we did some activities:

1) Running: I had the kids run around our yard. Then we named the muscles we used. Then we did some stretches so those muscles wouldn’t get hurt. Lastly, we did some exercises (squats) to strengthen the muscles.

2) Push-ups: We did push-ups (and watching the two kids do pushups made my day). We named the muscles we used, and then did some more to strengthen them.

3) Planks: Lastly we did planks. We named our abdominal and back muscles, since those are the ones we use. Then we did some stretches to keep them healthy. Sit-ups was the activity to strengthen them.

Then we did some sun salutations from yoga. I simply looked it up on the Internet and we followed along with the YouTube video. Yoga strengthens and stretches our muscles. I want my kids to be healthy and learn these habits early, so yoga it was.

Lastly, we had to eat some healthy foods – we made smoothies – to keep our bodies strong.

It was a fun, and active, lesson. Which was nice for us.

We also did our math and language arts activities. We don’t neglect the basics just because we are having fun learning about everything else.

Anatomy #5: Circulatory system.

I promised the kids we would learn how blood fits into our bodies, and the circulatory system does that.

This webpage was very helpful for my lesson. I found videos and pictures here.

I took this picture  and printed it out, then made bigger drawings of the various veins/arteries by hand. I drew the veins and arteries on white paper, and was going to make the kids color them in with blue and red – although we ended up painting them with the dot art paints. Then we watched a video on the circulatory system.

This picture was my heart picture. I printed it out (3 times) and did various things to it. First, I cut it out and let Nicholas glue it to the skeleton where the hear goes. Then we, using the circulatory system picture as a guide, laid down the veins and arteries around the body. Really I just wanted them to know that where there is blue blood, there needs to be red blood too. After all, blood comes and goes in our whole body.

Secondly, I cut the heart into 8 pieces and had the kids put it together in a puzzle. That was fun. We named things as we went through putting the puzzle together. Lastly, I had a picture of the heart with the words on it for Nicholas to draw lines from the correct words to the right portion of the heart. I used the nice “erase” feature in our drawing program to remove the lines that connect the words to the correct locations so he had to draw them himself.

Lastly, we put together this maze. It was fun to do. Once we had watched videos and discussed how the heart helps and what blood does as it travels, I figured this would be a good review. I had to help with some of the harder words, but otherwise Nicholas did it on his own.

Abby got to paint in her letter C today, and Nicholas practiced writing “vein,” “artery,” and “heart.” We had a nifty snack of spaghetti and pretended we were eating blood and blood vessels. I know it is gross sounding, but the kids loved it.

Anatomy #4: Blood.

We are back on track with lessons. We’ve had a month or so to get over illnesses and now we are heading back on track with lessons and more – rather than just doing worksheets and play. Not that there’s anything wrong with worksheets and play, but I still like to try and get lessons in so the kids learn some organized things and have to focus on learning.

We are on blood and the circulatory system.

There are some great YouTube videos on this whole process and they can be found here. We watched all three. They made for some fun viewing and introduced the topic to the kids in a way that I can’t.

The I borrowed the following information about blood from this website:

What are the components of blood?

The components of blood can be divided into plasma and cells. When blood is placed in a container and spun at high speeds in a process called centrifugation, the heavier and denser cells settle at the bottom while the lighter plasma remains on top. Plasma is composed of water, ions like sodium, potassium and calcium, and proteins like albumin and globulins.

The cell component consists of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets.

 

  • White blood cells (WBCs). White blood cells, also called leukocytes, are made in the bone marrow but undergo maturation in the thymus. They are bigger than red blood cells. When you have a cold or a fever, these cells are activated and they hone in to the infection. Think of them as your personal army against invaders like bacteria and viruses. When a WBC called macrophage encounters an enemy, it “eats” up the enemy and digests it. Other WBCs are called lymphocytes. T lymphocytes are called killer cells because they destroy the invaders. B lymphocytes are also called plasma cells because they produce globulins or antibodies. Antibodies attach to invaders and mark them for destruction by macrophages and lymphocytes.
  • Red blood cells (RBCs). If red blood cells are removed from blood, it would appear light yellow. This is because it derives its red color from red blood cells or erythrocytes. RBCs contain a structure called heme, which has iron. Blood appears red due to the reaction of iron and oxygen. RBCs are mainly produced in the bone marrow but they can also be manufactured by the liver, kidneys and spleen. When you breathe in, oxygen enters the lungs. The red blood cells in the blood then get the oxygen molecules by binding them with heme. When the red blood cells reach your other tissues, they release the oxygen they are carrying.
  • Platelets. Platelets are from big cells called megakaryocytes, which are present in the bone marrow. Therefore, they are not really cells but are cell fragments made of cytoplasm. A proof that they are not cells can be observed through electron microscopy—they do not contain nuclei, mitochondria and ribosomes. However, platelets are still important because they contain alpha and dense granules. When you get a cut, platelets release these granules in order to prevent bleeding and seal your cut through the process called clotting.

 

While I was reading the information to the kids, I had them draw a picture of what I was reading. Abby just drew some blobs on the page (her normal point of view if I’m asking her to draw) but Nicholas actually got some of the ideas into his drawing. The red cells were red, the white cells were white (I had given them yellow paper) and he wrote p’s all over the page for plasma. He drew some lines for the platelets. I’ll take that.

Then we got to have some real fun and look at blood under our microscope. This was a totally unexpected activity. Nicholas had cut his knee outside during playtime and wanted to look at the blood, so we did. They thought it was really cool.

Everyone was a little upset that they didn’t get to put anything onto our big skeleton with this lesson – but I promised them that we’d learn how blood fits into our skeleton at the next lesson and they could color it in then.

Abby practiced drawing the letter B today, and coloring our big B. Nicholas practiced writing the word blood – and then had to do his word wall for other words that have the “oo” in the middle of them.

Anatomy #3: The brain.

Our brains are important.

The first thing we did was make a list of all the things our brain helps us do. I simply wrote “Brain” on a piece of paper and then asked the kids what our brain helps us do. They gave me all kinds of answers. Here are a sampling:

  • Thinking
  • Moving
  • Jumping
  • Remembering
  • Breathing
  • Knowing
  • Telling mommy things
  • Liking things
  • Playing games
  • Drawing

Then I handed them this worksheet about the brain. I had printed it out twice – once in black and white with the information and once in black and white without the information. They had to color each part of the brain while I read what that part of the brain is named and what it does. Then, after we had colored each part and heard it once, I gave them the stickers one at a time. Each sticker had a part of the brain named on it. I read the names and they placed it on the right part (or not) of the brain.

Why did I do these two activities right after each other? So the knowledge would be fresh. I’m not big on making my 4 and 2 year old remember much for exams. But we do some “testing” activities right after a lesson to make sure they were paying attention. And they did okay. I had to help with a few places, like the cerebellum, but other than that they were okay.

Then we spent some time on the computer at this website: http://www.learner.org/series/discoveringpsychology/brain/index.html

The website had a fun bit of clicking around to learn about the brain. We also watched http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVGlfcP3ATI. It is a bit of a mor serious video. But I have found that my kids don’t mind the serious stuff if they can do it in short doses. Also, with the more scholarly things they are learning the correct words and terminology.

Nicholas chose “If I Ran the Zoo” for his reading time book today. Sometimes I feel like I’m running a zoo.

Math has gone a lot smoother since we got desks for the kids. Both will sit down and do their math. I think we are going to get into the “reading eggs” program on the web. I’ve seen it and it looks like it might be fun for the kids to do.

 

Fun and free Easter download.

Here’s a fun and free Easter packet download for preschool- K children. It’s for the younger set, but it has some word searches, puzzles, and art activities that an older child could do too. It’s just a fun set of activities.

http://www.giftofcuriosity.com/downloads/Easter_Printable_Pack.pdf

Anatomy #2: Skeletal system.

Our second lesson is on the skeletal system. We worked on some things about bones in Lesson 1, but now we are going into depth about the skeletal system.

First we played “Assemble a skeleton” game. This was mostly a review of things that we already knew about bones. Some bones we hadn’t learned yet, but a few good guesses got the bones in the right spot.

Then we did this word search: http://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/TM/WS_human_body.shtml. It has more than just bones in the search, but when we found words that weren’t bones, we located the nearest bone on our skeleton and named that bone too.

We have already learned the purpose of the skeletal system, and now it is time to learn a few more bones. First we did the hands and feet.  Then we did the skull. And lastly we covered what a bone is made of.

This worksheet  was printed and hung above the desks. I had Nicholas help me read the worksheet out loud, and then we hung it back above the desks. Next. we drew bones and what they contained. Nicholas insisted on coloring cells in his bones, it wasn’t good enough to just draw the bones, he had to draw the cells too. Then I wrote the words for the different parts of the bone on the side of his drawing (compact bone, spongy bone, and bone marrow). His job was to draw a line from the word to the correct part of the bone. Abby just continued coloring her bone.

Lastly we got to make bones. I have some bone candy forms from Halloween. We filled them with a layer of chocolate (for the compact bone), red chocolate (for the spongy bone), and sunflower butter for the bone marrow – then covered it with chocolate. We put them in the refrigerator to cool down and harden. Then we ate our bones.

What else did we do?

Math, spelling practice, letter recognition (we did B again for Abby, since B is for bone), reading time (Cat in the Hat was the chosen book), and art. We also went into the garden and pulled up weeds and learned why mommy doesn’t like weeds and wants to replace her garden with a rock garden (far less maintenance).

Lastly, we did some exercise to help make our bones and muscles work well and be strong.

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