Sunday, 30 August 2015

Coral, jellyfish and seahorses: Learning about the oceans

It looks like a new interest is emerging around here: Ocean life. It all started when Finn spotted the children's book "Old Shell, New Shell" (by Helen Ward) in a charity shop and wouldn't leave without it. I highly recommend it by the way. It tells the story if a hermit crab looking for a bigger shell. The illustrations are very realistic, picturing an incredible number of different sea creatures. The last few pages at the back of the book give the name of each and every animal pictured, as well as a few facts. 

Old Shell, New Shell by Helen Ward

This book naturally led to him making connections with another book we own and that I have mentioned previously on here, "Skeleton" by Steve Parker. He excitedly showed me the double page with pictures of crustaceans, asking me to read the words to him. We talked about animals with their skeleton inside their body (humans), outside their body (crabs) and animals with no skeleton (jellyfish).
He was interested in shells in particular, what they are, where they come from. We compared the shells in our collection and I explained how one shell (of a scallop for example) is actually just one half of the complete shell. We tried to pair our specimens with their matching halves. We then researched how molluscs eat and how they use their shell. We talked about the difference between crustaceans and molluscs.
He took a special interest in starfish and tried to figure out where their mouth is. I let him figure out how to find out that fact and he did find it in one of our books.
We also talked about coral reefs, the location and names of the world's oceans, how fish and shellfish consumption damages the eco-system, food chains, food webs, life cycles, different reproduction techniques used by sea creatures, why a seahorse is a fish, why it is dark at the bottom of the ocean, and so much more. This boy is so curious!

Fish by Sabine Krawczyk
Under the sea, by Kate Davies

His interest for this fish skeleton puzzle was renewed.

He also enjoys this brain teaser puzzle, which has a fish theme.

A few more things I'm planning on offering him on the topic of oceans:

- Watching  Big Blue UK about Seashores (available on BBC Iplayer until 26th sept if you are in the UK)
- Making a plastic bag jellyfish
- Learning about ocean zones 

And as usual, he'll lead the way as well!

Monday, 24 August 2015

All about the human body

One of Finn's current explorations is the human body. It started with him being very interested in skeletons at the start of the year, though I never understood where it came from. So, I gathered resources and ideas from Pinterest, and we set off to learn about skeletons. Little did I know that 8 months later we would still actively be learning about the topic. Actually, it has extended from skeletons, to the digestive system, the circulatory system, the brain, muscles, nerves, senses and everything in between! Our ressources have multiplied and I'd like to share my best finds as well as the various activities Finn and I have enjoyed.
We started with a skeleton puzzle printable. I draw Finn's body outline and we filled it in with the bones in the correct places.

We also did the "boneless hand" experiment, where you fill a washing up glove with water to show what our hands would be like without bones.
Observing that the interest was only stronger after those activities, I ordered Look Inside Your Body and the Eyewitness guide, Skeleton. Look Inside Your Body was amazing to introduce him to other parts and functions of the body, while Skeleton made it really easy to observe the features of different animal skeletons and compare them with ours. Best of all though, are the What's Inside Animals? cards, which allow the child to see the outside of a selection of animals as well as the skeleton when held against a light.

We also have the Beleduc cat layer puzzle, showing the skeleton, organs and muscles of a cat.

After exploring skeletons in great detail, Finn became naturally interested in what else the body books were showing: the digestive system. I found a great activity on several places on Pinterest, which we really enjoyed as it clearly showed what happens to our food inside our body.

I put a Weetabix inside a food bag and let Finn turn it to crumbs with a pestle, mimicking the chewing action (minus the saliva). Then we added water to the bag to act as stomach acid and Finn massaged the mixture for a few minutes. After that, we had to suck the water out as does the large intestine, so we sieved the gloopy mess. Of course Finn thought it was hilarious that we had made poo!

We bought him the Leapfrog Human Body discovery pack, which he has used most days in the past months. The child uses the electronic pen to touch the pictures in the book and listen to facts, songs, and play games about the human body.


Below he was observing his fingernails with a microscope we borrowed from a friend.

We came to have so many ressources related to the human body, that we created a theme basket.

Here are the contents that I haven't mentioned above.


See Inside Your Body, Usborne
The Incredible Human Body Activity Book (Finn is too young for this but he loves it anyway. I'd recommend it for a child aged at least 5)
Where Willy Went by Nicholas Allan (human reproduction in a matter of fact way, which we highly recommend)
I know why I brush my teeth by Kate Rowan
Inside your outside, The cat in the hat's learning library
Watch me grow, Professor Stuart Campbell

Hands-on materials:

Edu-toys human torso
Wood and plaster skull
Skeleton 3-part cards 

 It may look like we spent a lot of money on ressources, but those purchases were done over close to a year, with many of them bought second hand on Ebay.

In May we went to @Bristol, Bristol's wonderful hands-on science museum. There were many exhibits about the human body, which we all really enjoyed. Below are some photos from our visit.

That's a real brain!

Incredible "see-your-veins" machine

We are by no means finished with this topic, as Finn has asked to learn about how the body fights diseases next. Having chickenpox right now, I can't think of a better time!

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Exploring Japan

I love it when an interest opens a whole new world, which happens frequently with Finn. He has been extremely interested in trains, and in particular Japanese high-speed trains. His curiosity has been piqued at the mere mention of Japan recently, and he was the one suggesting we make a Japan display.
We collected a few relevant artefacts from our Asia continent box: A small buddha, children's chopsticks, a bookmark with a picture of a Japanese lady.
I added a white felt top to our volcano model to make Mount Fuji, wrote a Haiku on a blackboard, and grabbed two books: I live in Tokyo and Children Just Like Me.
We discovered riddle haikus, which we found quite amusing.

We made origami cats, a flag of Japan and a Japanese carp streamer. The books really interested Finn and he asked many questions. We watched this video about making Kokeshi dolls. Of course, we also had to watch a video of Japanese bullet trains.
We had noodles, which he ate with his chopsticks, and are planning on making sushi together.
Japan has of course cropped up in Finn's role play. He rehearses his trip to Japan most days, pretending to row a boat while escaping sharks. He has even converted quite a few playmates to this exciting game!

Who said geography can't be fun?

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