Penguins

 

emperor penguin

Penguins are such an engaging topic for young children that they can be presented as a sole theme or as part of a unit on polar animals.

When presenting science/nature topics to children, I try to focus on a few main facts that will stick with the children or ignite an interest to explore more in the future.   I like to think that one day in elementary school, a subject will trigger a little memory of something they first learned with me in preschool.

Three Simple Facts to focus on:

–Emperor Penguins

Why?  They are unique and interesting to children because of  1) their size and 2) the fact that the father penguins are in charge of caring for their eggs/chicks while the mothers swim off for weeks at a time in search of food.

–North Pole vs. South Pole

Why?  A great way to introduce a globe and vocabulary words of locations like Arctic (North Pole) and Antartica (South Pole) and directional/positional words like Up/Down and Top/Bottom.

One of my favorite facts to share with little ones is that many of our favorite, well-known polar animals (polar bear, walrus, seals, beluga whales, Arctic fox, etc.) all live together at the North Pole (Arctic), but many our penguin friends live at the South Pole (Antartic).

A question to ask:  Why can’t penguins play with polar bears?  You’ll get many answers, such as polar bears would bite/eat the penguins (probably true), but it allows you to illustrate with your globe that polar bears live way at the very top of the world (North Pole), and penguins live way at the very bottom of the world (South Pole).  It is definitely a fact that clicks with children and stays with them.

–Penguins are Birds (but can’t fly)

Why?  Introduction to common bird traits — wings (but can’t fly), lay eggs, and they feed their babies through regurgitation (a wonderful vocabulary word that brings lots of “ewwwws”).

Two Favorite learning activities that leave an impression:

  • Math:  Measure/Compare children’s size/height with life-size Emperor Penguin and/or average penguin.

emperor penguin

  • Science:  Rescue the penguins from an iceberg (individual icebergs or group cooperative activity) using salt, salt water and friction (paint brushes) to melt the ice.

 

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Group Activity – Free the Penguins

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Group Activity – Free the Penguins

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Group Activity – Penguins in a Block of Ice

Process:

-Freeze penguin figures in individual plastic cups or large container overnight using food coloring or Liquid Watercolors to tint water.  Remove a few minutes before using to allow ice mold to release.

-Provide salt, cups, droppers, mini squeeze bottles, and paint brushes as tools to help release the penguins.  For larger group project, we used spoons toward the end to help chisel the penguins out.  We did not use spoons for individual projects, as there would be less science involved and more whacking at the ice, possibly sending everything flying.

Supplies needed:

Learning Goals:

  • Science:  Awareness/Experimentation of liquids/solids (water can be both); the affect of warmth/heat (temperature) on ice; making predictions
  • Geography:  Pole locations and Continents

Theme tie-ins:

  • Polar Animals
  • Winter
  • Continents

Books Used with these Activities:

book peng

book emp

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Animal Tracks (in the Snow)

Here in Rhode Island we have pretty snowy winters, so this is my variation on the themes of Forest Animals and Animal Tracks that other schools might introduce in the muddy season of spring.  The day after a fresh fallen snow, my small suburban backyard is covered in tracks; birds, squirrels, rabbits, and possibly a neighborhood cat or other animal.  Young children often wouldn’t even notice these everyday happenings if not for introducing the topic of animal tracks.  Examples from my backyard:

My approach to teaching young children is not to try to cram in all the possible information or projects I can surrounding each topic, but to choose a few basics that will leave a lasting impression and possibly spark an interest in learning more in the future.  At the very least, I hope that when they visit these subjects again in elementary school, they will remember a little bit about what they learned in preschool.

A favorite hands-on activity:  

Tracks in the Snow

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Supplies Needed:

  • Safari brand Toob Animals (we used North American Animals and also used some Arctic Animals later)
  • Crayola Model Magic – White                                                                                            Frugal Tip:  Wait for a 40-50% discount coupon to Michael’s or other craft store to purchase a large tub at a discount, rather than individual packages.  For about $12.50, you’ll get about 5 packages in the tub.   This also works for the Safari brand Toobs, although they occasionally go on sale for half price.

Options – you can also use any type of homemade or store bought play dough you have on hand.  However, I love to introduce this type of dough during the winter months.  It has a different, light-weight texture and really holds the animals’ footprints and shows them in more detail than a softer dough.  Because Model Magic can be allowed to dry, we often use it for Christmas ornament projects and for making homemade snowmen to take home.  It does get drier each time you use it, even if you store it carefully, so it is a one time per year purchase and seasonal experience for my students.  

Some of my favorite books for this theme:

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Salad Spinner Painting

spin art galaxy 2

 

Salad spinner painting is such a simple, yet engaging activity for young children. You don’t need any special materials or major preparation.  Children practice many important skills, and have fun while doing it!

You can tie this activity in with many different themes, depending on the colors and shapes used (Easter eggs, Valentine  hearts, 4th of July, snowflakes, etc.).  Photos on this page are from our Space and St. Patrick’s Day themes.  I wanted to tie-in color mixing the first time we tried this; which explains why we used red, blue, and yellow paint for shamrocks!  We can’t wait to try it for Earth Day using shades of greens and blues.

Supplies needed:

  • Salad spinner – Ikea has an inexpensive option that works well, but we used an older one we had on hand
  • Tempera paints or any other types you want to use up
  • Children’s Scissors
  • Card stock is best for this project (heavier/firm weight plus absorbent)  Tip:  I purchase in advance when on sale at craft stores like Michael’s or JoAnn’s.  Recycled Materials:  Old file folders can be used in place of card stock
  • or Water color paper

spin art galaxy 3

spin art galaxy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Age/Developmental Levels:

  • Beginner – Adds shape to spinner, squirts paint, spins handle
  • Intermediate – child cuts out traced shape, adds to spinner, squirts paint, spins handle
  • Advanced – Child traces and cuts out own shapes , adds to spinner, squirts paint, spins handle

Skills/Learning Goals:

  • Fine/Gross Motor – large arm movements – squeezing paints, turning spinner handle, tracing and cutting out shapes
  • Science:  Awareness/Experimentation with centrifugal force and color mixing (if desired)

Theme tie-ins (endless):

  • Shamrocks, St. Patrick’s Day
  • Space, Solar System, Galaxy, Planets
  • Earth Day
  • Snowflakes, Winter
  • Hearts, Valentine’s Day
  • Easter, Easter Eggs

spin art shamrock2

 

 

spin art shamrock

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