Posted in DIY, Education, fun, Library, teaching, Uncategorized

A Polar Bear named Chuck

I haven’t done a lesson/educational post in a while but a week ago I had the privilege of teaching a small class of about twelve elementary aged students a STEM class. My daughter attends a co-op one day a week and the deal is parents have to chip in, which I think is fantastic.

However, STEM is not my strong suit. I’m a words person, not a numbers person so at first, I was a little panicked. Then I started to realize, why can’t I do both?

*This post contains affiliate links because I like to eat

So I started thinking of science-related issues that I cared about, since that would obviously be easier to write about and decided to do something on global warming. Thus, Chuck was born. Here is the lesson plan and what you need to recreate for a class or in your own home.

The story-

(We made the story into a game to keep the student’s interest. If you are doing this with just one child you may want to tweak that part. The game was that each group of students received a folder with a habitat picture inside. They had to give clues as to what their habitat was to the other students to guess. When the correct answer was guessed, the picture was taped to the front of the class.)

 

A Home for Chuck

One polar bear’s escape from the melting ice

Page one: Have picture up of Arctic landscape

(Does anyone know, or want to take a guess, about how many cubs a polar bear usually has? Answer: two)

When Chuck was a wee lad he lived on the ice of the Arctic with his mom and his sister Chucklette. He was born in a small den, in December and came out to see his Arctic home in March.

Everyone repeat after me- Polar bears live in the Arctic. Not the Antarctic. The Arctic.

Repeat- Penguins and Polar Bears do not live together!

Chuck was a little bit bigger than his sister but they would play and wrestle in the snow.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbILj_CYqno

****Change pictures- picture of Arctic melting

At the ripe age of 30 months old, or close to three years old, Chuck went out on his own to be a man. He would catch seals and fish. He did this by waiting near a melting ice patch in the land. This would be the best place to find seals because the freezing, then melting of the patch gave seals a place to pop up and breathe.

Chuck, like most polar bears, was a great swimmer. But because swimming takes up so much energy, he would need to get back to the ice to rest. So he would wander around on a large home of snow and ice.

Only, his home wasn’t so large anymore. Chuck started to notice that the older he got, the smaller his arctic home became. He liked the water for hunting but he couldn’t live on it. His home was getting thinner, smaller, and more wet.

“Well,” said Chuck one day, “I have had enough!

I’m a big ole Polar Bear, I need land, lots of land to roam. I think I should set out to find myself a new home.”

As luck would have it, there was an abandoned researcher’s site nearby and it had a tarp, some rope, and a large tub.

So Chuck fashioned himself a parachute and decided to see the world!

(Now, everyone is going to get a super secret folder that has a picture of a habitat inside, along with a number on the outside. You will work in pairs or threes, just for a minute. When I call your number you will look at your habitat, then you and partner will have to describe it to the rest of the class to see if we can guess which habitat it is. For example, if I opened my folder and it was a picture of a living room I would say something like: Well, Chuck couldn’t live here because he would bang his head on the ceiling. Notice I didn’t say anything about it being a room or a living room. So we will NOT say what our habitat is, we will give clues. Repeat after me “I will NOT say what my habitat is”. Can someone define habitat for us? Answer: Natural home or environment for animal, plants, or any organism. *Handout folders)

When habitat is guessed, student tape the picture to the board.

First Group: Parachutes to Mountains

After a long day of floating through the sky, Chuck sees something below him and starts his descent.

Group one, open your folder and tell the class why you think Chuck couldn’t live there, or just something about your habitat without saying what it is. *student tapes their habitat on the board.

*Class discussion *Clap- one two three

So Chuck saw the snow and thought, “hmm this might be a good place to land.” And land he did, with a thud. The mountain was quite uneven, as most mountains are. Whoa, whoa. But Chuck got steady.

“Wow, it’s hard to walk on these rocky mountains.” Chuck weighed as much as 10 men, and trying to climb any higher on the mountain was a very hard and scary task. “Maybe I should just climb down instead.” Slowly he made his way to the bottom of the mountain. Once he was on safe flat land he realized how hungry he was. He looked around and didn’t see any animals he could eat. Just some scattered green things. He looked back up and saw some birds flying overhead. “Well, how am I supposed to catch those for dinner?”

“I don’t think the mountains are for me.” Chuck got in the tub and threw up his parachute to catch the wind. He drifted and sailed through the sky until he saw another place to land.

Group Two: Parachute to the Ocean

 

Down he went. Group two, open your folder and tell the class why you think Chuck couldn’t live there, or just something about your habitat without saying what it is.

Now polar bears, are actually the only bear that is considered a marine mammal. Polar bears can swim for hours and hours to get from one piece of ice to the other. But this water wasn’t as cold as he was used to. It was warm and salty. Saltier then he had back in the Arctic.

“Well at least there’s some fish,” Chuck thought. He dove down and got a fish to eat. Then looked around. He was getting tired. But there was nowhere to get out of the water!

“I can’t live in the ocean ALL the time,” Chuck said. “This place can’t be my new home. He swam back to where his tub and parachute were floating and waited for a strong wind to blow. “Let’s try again,” he said and off he floated into the sky.

 

Group Three: The desert

Group three, open your folder and tell the class why you think Chuck couldn’t live there, or just something about your habitat without saying what it is.

Now Chuck was used to not doing much when it was hot outside. During summer in the Arctic, polar bears have “walking hibernation” where they do less activity. But this heat was TOO much. Chuck’s thick fur and skin made him so hot.

“There’s got to water around here somewhere.” He thought. He walked and walked. He passed a strange looking animal that had two humps on his back. (What animal is that?)

“Excuse me,” Chuck asked the camel. “Is there any water around here? Or a place to cool down?”

“Cool down?” the camel laughed. “Certainly not. There is some water about two days walk that way.” He nodded behind him.

“Two days!” said Chuck. He couldn’t walk for two days without water. “How are you able to go so long without water?”

“Oh I have these humps and I’ve lived in the desert all my life. I’ve adapted.”

Chuck shook his head. He couldn’t adapt to all this heat and the dryness. He went back to his parachute and waited for the wind to blow.


Group Four: The Rainforest

Group four, open your folder and tell the class why you think Chuck couldn’t live there, or just something about your habitat without saying what it is.

When Chuck landed this time he was surrounded by green! He had never seen so much green in his life.

“Well, it’s still really hot here. But at least it seems like there may be water around.”

He was getting tired from all this traveling and decided to take a nap.  As he laid his head down he heard sounds of all kinds: birds chirping, monkeys howling, bugs and frogs clicking.

“This is much louder than the Arctic,” Chuck said. (Why do you think it’s louder in the rainforest than in the Arctic?) He thought maybe he should try to hunt for another snack before deciding if he could live here.

He sat and waited. There were so many animals nearby that he could hear but nothing was coming near him. At home, in the Arctic, Chuck could just sit still and blend in with the snow so his prey didn’t see him, but now! (Why would that not work now?)

“I can’t live here,” Chuck said sadly. He went to his parachute to try again.

 

Group Five: The Northern Forests or Woodlands

Group five, open your folder and tell the class why you think Chuck couldn’t live there, or just something about your habitat without saying what it is.

As he looked around at first he thought he was in the same place as he just left but the air was much cooler and the trees were all different.

“At least it’s getting colder,” Chuck said. He was finally able to take a short nap before deciding to try again for a snack.

“It sounds like everything is up in the trees, maybe I have to climb up to get some food.”

So Chuck went to the nearest tree and put his paws on the trunk. HEAVE, he tried to lift himself but could barely get his bottom off the ground. HEAVE he tried again. 

By and by he saw another animal walking towards him. Not as big as he was, but was still pretty big and furry. (What do you think he saw?)

“Oh Mr. Bear.”

“Ahem, I am lady Mr. White Bear. What are you?” she answered.

“Oh sorry, I’m a polar bear.”

“A polar bear? What are you doing here? You can’t live here.”

“Well, why not if you do? You’re a bear too.”

“Yes but I can climb quickly and hide. You can’t sir.”

No he couldn’t. He couldn’t hide here just as he couldn’t hide in the rainforest.

“I guess you’re right,” he told the lady bear.

So Chuck got his parachute and decided to go home…

 

Group Six: Antarctic

Group six, open your folder and tell the class why you think Chuck couldn’t live there, or just something about your habitat without saying what it is.

So, this is a hard one, the hardest one. Why couldn’t Polar Bears live in the Antarctic? It’s cold, it’s ice, it looks so much like the Arctic!

But it’s not.

Chuck walked around, seemingly confused. “It looks kind of like home but not completely.” He shivered, it actually felt colder here than back in the Arctic.

For miles and miles, all Chuck could see was more snow and ice. The ground was so hard and frozen solid, Chuck didn’t think he’d be able to build a den here. He also didn’t see any other polar bears or any animal for that matter.

Up ahead he saw water and started to get excited. Maybe there’s some seals nearby, although he couldn’t smell any even with his great sense of smell. But he smelled something else. Was that chicken? Definitely a bird. (What bird lives in the Antarctic?)

They were so funny looking like they were wearing suits. Chuck didn’t think he would like penguins very much and not having anyone else to talk to he decided to really go home this time. It was too cold, maybe even for him.

Chuck went back to the Arctic and decided to make do with his shrinking home.

“I hope everyone tries to help us save our Arctic home,” he thought to himself. As he looked around he saw another bear’s den and felt happy to be back.

 

Now, Chuck’s home is shrinking. Do we all know what that is?

Map of global warming.

*From here we talked about ways to stop global warming, lower pollution, and recycle. Then we made DIY parachutes out of used plastic grocery bags, twine, tape, and small polar bears I ordered off of Oriental Trading.


Lastly, I had built a wind tunnel that we used to launch our Chucks across the room. This was obviously the most fun part of the lesson but if building a wind tunnel isn’t possible for you the parachutes work just from being thrown as well.

Image may contain: drink and indoor

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Education, Family, teaching

Kind of-Sort of-Unschooling

Unschooling seemed too out there for me when I first read about it. To be fair, homeschooling seemed too out there when I first thought about actually doing it. But unschooling was waaaaay out there. I read two or three articles about it and just went on my way. No curriculum? No lesson plans? No schedule? I can’t function like that, how would she even learn?

After a few months of homeschooling in the traditional sense (ie curriculum that mirrors traditional school) for my five-year-old, I am now thinking more about the theories behind unschooling and why they could be helpful for us. I have become a huge fan Sir Ken Robinson over the past few months and have done a lot of research for my continuing education on our public education system. That alone made me question why I was breaking up our learning the way that I was…because I was trying to copy what traditional school was doing. But why? Is that really the best way for them to learn? Who says? (more about that in my book *insert shameful plug here*)

One book about unschooling I enjoyed—>

I had planned our curriculum for the year by August. I had broken it down weekly. Now I wish I could have those two weeks of my life back. It’s been quite the road of frustration and learning on my end. Some of the lessons and ideas Gigi clicked with, others she didn’t. She does have special needs so I try to be as flexible with the timing of things as possible but I wasn’t caving on what we were learning. Maybe I should be? That’s the point of homeschooling in a broad sense is to cater better to your child’s educational needs.

For those of you who may be thinking about it, or just curious about what unschooling is, here’s what I’ve gathered and what I’m concerned with (maybe experienced unschoolers can correct any misconceptions I have):

Interests lead learning- this part makes sense. My daughter digests lessons that she’s picked out better than ones that I do. That seems like a no-brainer. If she’s interested in something she will want to learn, therefore she will learn.

So we are starting to implement that. I’ve left my type A, list making, yearly schedule on hold and asked her what subjects she wants. I had everything planned in the order I assumed she’d be learning at public kindergarten. Plus some extra stuff just for fun. We finished up mammals and we’re going to move to birds. She said no, she wants to learn about frogs. So frogs it is. Frogs and nutcrackers are our focus for December. We will see how the learning develops as we paint nutcrackers, watch the ballet, and maybe go frog hunting if it’s not freezing.

Subjects shouldn’t be divided- The idea is that is all subjects can stem from one original interest. This is not as concrete but as I continue to learn about the concept it is understandable.

For example, one of the first things my daughter said she wanted to learn about was Native Americans. Timing wise that worked out perfectly since we started in October and ended in November. Using videos, books, and worksheets we learned about the Woodland Indians. We learned geography studying a map of America and where their tribes were. We learned science by reading and discussing how they grew crops, the seasons, and the animals in that area. I left out the whole slaughtering of millions of people post the first Thanksgiving and how sordid our history really is. Maybe first grade…

This seems to flow well but the fact that I can’t track what we’re learning ahead of time is something I will have to adjust to. For the purposes of portfolio reviews (every state/county is different but where I live you do two a year and they have to approve your learning milestones) I will have to at least in retrospect try to document what we’ve covered.

Reading and math- My biggest pause with unschooling is the way a child learns to read. Unschooling philosophy says that children will pick it up as you go. Which basically means unschooling uses whole word learning applications. A child learns to read by being read to and then eventually, they will remember words and letters they see and piece them together on their own. Whole word learning isn’t wrong by any means but as a librarian, I feel like the mixed method approach is the best. Maybe? Learning phonics is just as important, at least I’ve always thought so.

Same goes for math. I get that you learn math everywhere- grocery store, counting flowers outside, counting clouds. But what about multiplication? Evens and odds? I get that some mathematical concepts can be a very natural learning process but some may not be so much.

These are the only two areas I think I will continue to try using worksheets and books. To be fair, my daughter does not like writing some days but she really wants to read. We are doing whole word applications with books that she picks out from the library. This has given her the reins on what she is learning to read. We also read My World books or BOB Books.
Are they exciting? No, but I explained to her those books break it down so that she can recognize the words when she sees them again on her own so she asks for them now during our reading time. They do work.

 

Phonics and spelling we will continue to use ABC Mouse, Brainquest, and Scholastic. I use the mix because they all have a different approach. As long as the time we spend on them is not long (like not past ten to fifteen minutes) we can usually get through a letter or sound without any pushback. That was another lesson for me being a first-time homeschooler. I was used to teaching in 45-minute blocks. At home, with one ADHD child with other stimuli around, ten minutes. Get it or get out.

The conclusion to all this is I still am learning the best way to homeschool a special needs child. Our schedule has not been consistent because of my job but that is ending in the next few weeks. I hope to be able to offer her more freedom and more creative learning utilizing her interests. So far, I know we will have to change the spring and summer curriculum I developed. Instead of learning things chronologically to mirror the traditional kindergarten classroom we will be:

A) Doing much more baking and cooking. Gigi loves baking and wants to open her own business. We are going to start writing down our recipes, creating new ones, finding places to bake for (ie nursing homes, her co-op group, family), and how to create more healthy recipes. We have even talked about creating a logo for “business”, she has a thing about logos. This way we are learning math, science, and writing.

B) Gardening/garden planning. We are creating a better play area outside this spring. Part of that play area is going to contain an edible garden. She is going to help with the planning, mapping, design, planting, monitoring, and then cooking with our ingredients. We will be learning geography, science, math, reading, and writing. Also PE!

C) Camping. We tried going camping when Gigi was three and I think my husband and I are still scarred from it. However, I think it may be a field trip idea for this year. Camping provides AMPLE learning experiences.

backyard-bicycle-bike-630770.jpg

After this year is over hopefully I can update you with how it went using her interest as our guide as opposed to the standard instruction of our area. We are basically working off of a very broad schedule of topics. Each month I have two to three main lessons (i.e. phonics, addition, counting to 40) type of goal and then a list of five to ten topics. If she has one of her own that I don’t have then I’ll add it in there as we go. If she doesn’t I will ask her what she’s interested in and we’ll try to steer our learning that way. I think for now it’s a good mix that will allow us more communication together about her education, give her more motivation, and allow me the satisfaction of knowing we are hitting markers and I’m able to report everything that I need to. Since I do still really like schedules and with her diagnosis schedules work well for keeping her anxiety down we will still have a daily schedule. I will post it once I figure out which one works best. We are also adding personal hygiene and life skills in her learning.

Unschoolers with feedback or success stories are welcome to comment 🙂