If you’re not following a set curriculum, sometimes it can be hard to come up with lesson plans. While we enjoy doing unit studies that follow our interests, I’ll admit that sometimes I find it overwhelming to have to put them together. Nor do I have a lot of money to buy pre-made unit studies. But then sometimes, they literally seem to fall into your lap, they come together so easily. Like our upcoming study on Habitats.
Yesterday we went to a local store called Marden’s, which is a salvage/surplus store. You never know what you’re going to find in there! While browsing the school aisle, something caught my son’s eyes – a bulletin board set. I looked at it closer, it was a 68-piece Animal Habitat Bulletin Board set, complete with activity guide for only $2.99! Needless to say, we snatched that up, despite the fact that we do not have a bulletin board.
I immediately started thinking how we could use this as part of a unit study, and jumped on the internet for some ideas. I was not disappointed. Since I know how overwhelming and time-consuming it can be to put together some of these units, I thought I’d share what I came up with:
1. Our “spine” book will be titled Habitat Spy by Cynthia Kieber-King, published by Sylvan Dell. During a quick look at the preview of the book online I was directed to the publisher’s website where I found a gold mine – teaching guides for all of their books. Available for free download is a 70-page teaching guide that goes along with the book. It is filled with great activities including language activities, compare and contrasting, comprehension and learning questions, classifying, mapping, journal pages and other reproducibles.
2. Since my son loves hands-on activities, I found two books that we will use to add in crafts, art projects and experiments:
3. While there are many more out there, I found these two books to go along with our study:
We wiill also use some of my son’s animal encyclopedias to help us learn more about individual animals.
4. Conveniently, only the day before a fellow homeschooler had given me the link to a company called Spirited Autumn Hope. They offer pre-planned unit studies, and have many on different habitats, however, at $25 a piece, they were just not in our budget. However, they do have a nice resource you can download for $9 called Diorama Page Pack. This pack includes 32 full color pages to help you create stand up or box dioramas of seven different habitats.
5. Lastly, I will use the activities that came in our bulletin board set, which I will share here:
– Contrasting Activities using Venn Diagram: savannah/desert, pond/ocean, cheetah/jaguar
– Using a world map, locate the different continents ant/or countries the habitats can be found in. Learn more about the countries if you choose. (Galloping the Globe could be an excellent resource for this, and would allow you to do a combined science and geography study).
– Have the students draw a picture of a habitat, along with some animals and/or plants that may be found in that habitat.
– Ask students to talk or write about how the animals that live in this habitat have adapted to it. Ideas include:
Color of the animal (camouflage), habits of nocturnal animals (ex. to avoid the extreme heat desert animals burrow underground during the day and hunt at night), eating/drinking habits, migration habits
– Study food chains of the particular habitats and the roles of plants and animals in keeping the habitat in balance.
– If possible, plan a field trip to a habitat (pond, for example) to study it more in depth. Observe not only the habitat, but also the areas surrounding it. For example, is the pond next to an industrial area or farm? What effect could the surrounding areas have on that habitat (waste spillage, noise, local animals)? How could those surrounding areas change the habitat for the better? For worse? Have students create a field guide, drawing and/or writing about what they observe – animals, plants or even objects like feathers and rocks they may find.
I’m not sure yet how long we will spend on the unit, it probably depends on how many rabbit trails we follow. We’ll aim for an activity every day. However, I am sure that we are going to have fun as we embark on this new journey! For those of you who may have done habitat studies in the past, please feel free to add in your favorite resources and ideas in the comments section!