Hands on Geography: Learning the US States with Quarters

Maybe your child is learning about the names of the states this year, or perhaps just figuring out where everything is on the map for U.S. Geography.  A map and a handful of quarters is all you need for this activity. Credit goes to my 7 and 9-year-olds for coming up with this fun game.

Hands-On United States Geography

My 9-year-old was counting out some change and began to list all the state quarters that he had. State quarters? This was news to his 7-year-old sister. She grabbed her piggy bank and started examining all her quarters, too.  [Read more...]

Learning About Polar Animals

learning about polar animalsWe’ve spent a week with the polar bears, penguins and seals, with the help of our friends at Safari Ltd. We set up fun and easy habitats to go along with some great learning resources.

And, Safari Ltd has generously offerred to give away to my readers, your choice of an animal replica or one TOOB of figures, up to a $40 value. You can enter the giveaway at the end of this post.

Books and Video Resources We Used and Loved

 

Our Tacky Penguins. Craft inspiration and printable template courtesy of I Heart Crafty Things.

Our Tacky Penguins. Craft inspiration and printable template courtesy of I Heart Crafty Things.

A chunk of ice cubes from the freezer made the perfect ice floe for our polar bear to rest on, floating in the water table.

A chunk of ice cubes from the freezer made the perfect ice floe for our polar bear to rest on, floating in the water table. This is the Step2 WaterWheel Activity Play Table.  

    • National Geographic Young Explorers Listen and Read Books, penguins and polar bears. Free, on-line books. These were a big hit with my 4 and 6 year olds.
    • March of the Penguins companion book. The book is more suited for younger children, whereas the movie, showing the harsh realities of Emperor penguin life is more appropriate for older children and adults.
Shaving cream in half the water table, water and ice in the other, made a great wet habitat for our polar animals.

Shaving cream in half the  Activity Play Table,
 water and ice in the other, made a great wet habitat for our polar animals.

A plastic bin covered with white cotton material and a collection of stones and large water beads made up a dry habitat for our polar animals.

A plastic bin covered with white cotton material and a collection of stones and large water beads made up a dry habitat for our polar animals.

Love these large water beads, found in the floral section of a hobby store. They are nearly the size of eggs! They made great pretend ice and snow for our polar animal habitats. What a fun sensory experience we had with them!

Love these large water beads, found in the floral section of a hobby store. They are nearly the size of eggs! They made great pretend ice and snow for our polar animal habitats. What a fun sensory experience we had with them!

Polar Animal Science  How do polar animals stay warm?  We used Crisco shortening to simulate animal fat, a large bin of ice water and our science thermometer to find out why polar animals can swim in such frigid waters.  This experiment was inspired by Tunstall’s Teaching Tidbits .

Inserting our hand in a plastic bag, inside another bag filled with shortening, then into the icy water.

Inserting our hand in a plastic bag, inside another bag filled with shortening, then into the icy water.

For more learning ideas, visit our Polar Animals Unit Study Pinterest board.

Safari Ltd makes so many lifelike models of toys, perfect for pretend play. We’ve used them a lot in our homeschool this year and they’ve truly enhanced our learning.

Recently, we used the Safari LTD Jamestown Toob figures in our early American history studies.

Recently, we used the Safari LTD Jamestown Toob figures in our early American history studies.

Enter to win your own selection of one Safari Ltd replica or TOOB, up to a $40 value. There are so many to choose from:  horses, pirates, knights, fairies, dinosaurs, farm animals and so many more. Which one will you choose?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received the polar animal products pictured in this post for free from Safari Ltd in exchange for this review.

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Over on Kiwi Crate this week, we made Sparkly Shamrock Sun Catchers. Some mixing and pouring fun, with some glitter added for sparkle are decorating are windows for St. Patrick’s Day.
IMG_1321 IMG_1362 IMG_1376

Australian Unit Study

Australia Unit StudyWe’ve been Down Under for two weeks, learning about the wonderful animals and geography of Australia. We could’ve gone on for several weeks more, there’s so much to learn about this wonderful continent. Here’s a peek at some of the learning activities we did.

Australian Animals
My kids love animals and it’s a great way to introduce them to learning about a new place in the world. Since Australia has so many unique and interesting animals, we learned about one or two each day of our unit study.

Koalas

Kangaroos

Other Animals of Australia

  • Platypus:  Wild Kratts Platypus Café episode.
  • Frilled-neck Lizard: We watched a great Discovery video about these lizards. Also, it is very fun to pretend to be a frilled-neck lizard. Try it.
  • Wombat:  Nat Geo video showing a pudgy, sleepy wombat.
  • A great resource for many Australian animals are the Bindi and Robert Irwin Growing Up Wild videos on YouTube. Type in “Bindi and Robert Irwin” and the name of the animal you want to learn about.

Geography of Australia 

The Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef habitat

The Outback

Filling our water table with sand turned it into a desert and we had fun identifying which animals live there and which do not. We used the wonderful Safari LTD The Land Down Under Toob animals for this activity.

For more information on our Outback set-up, visit this post. 

handsongeographyanimalshabiats

More Geography Resources 

cookiemaps

More ways to learn about Australia:

geography magnet boardWe used a magnetic cookie sheet propped up in a cookbook holder and our magnetic letters to spell out “Australia”.  Each day, I changed the featured book and the animal cards.  You can find the free printable animal cards from Walk Beside Me.

We made good use of the section in our library that had books on various Australian animals and culture. Each day, we read the book that matched the specific animal we were learning about, as well as a book on another aspect of Australia, such as The Sydney Opera House and the Aboriginal People.

basket of books

Our handwriting practice used the words we were learning:  Australia, koala, kangaroo, coral reef and more, in the stage of handwriting for each particular child:  tracing letters for my 4 year old, printing for my 6 year old and cursive for my 8 year old. One day, we painted our words with cotton swabs.

painting handwriting

  • For cooking ideas, stop by The Educator’s Spin On It for their Around the World in 12 Dishes: Australia!
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    For even more resources, follow my Australian Unit Study pin board on Pinterest.
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    Thank you to our sponsor, Bravewriter. We’ve been using the Bravewriter program this year and it has changed the way we homeschool.

    bravewriter

    This post contains affiliate links to Amazon. When you click on a product and make a purchase, I earn a small commission, which helps me fund this site and support my family. It does not increase the cost of the product to you, the consumer. Thank you!

Anime Momotaro: A Japanese Folktale, at Imagination Stage

Anime Momotaro at Imagination Stage

Tia Shearer as Nakamon, Rafael Untalan as Daimon, Jacob Yeh as Momotaro, Phillip Reid as Monmon. Photo credit: Margot Schulman.

A baby inside a peach.  “Invisible” ninjas that manipulate the props. Sound effects galore. An action packed adventure and a humorous adaptation of a ancient Japanese folktale paired with the modern culture of Japanese animation. That is what Anime Momotaro is all about and more.

In the folktale, a childless couple finds a peach floating down the river. As they are about to eat it, a baby emerges. They are thrilled to raise the child they always wanted. They name him Momotaro (momo means peach in Japanese and taro is a popular boy’s name). Momotaro grows up strong and brave and decides to take on the Ogres that have been stealing things and harassing the people of his village. He sets out with a sword from his father and a bag of millet cakes from his mother. Along his journey, he shares the cakes and befriends a dog, a monkey and a pheasant. Together, the four friends travel to the Ogres’ island.

Momotaro and his mother on stage

Tia Shearer and Jacob Yeh. Photo credit: Margot Schulman.

Being a folktale, there are many versions of Momotaro, but in most, the Ogres are defeated in a violent battle at the end. In the stage production, the story was deliberately changed to emphasize the bullying aspect of the Ogres and the ending provides an alternative solution to dealing with bullies:   Friendship and cooperation triumph.

Alvin Chan and Eric Johnson adapted the folktale for the stage, first at Honolulu Theatre for Youth and now at Imagination Stage, known for its’  award-winning productions and arts education programs, located in Bethesda, Maryland.

Chan and Johnson took the modern elements of anime, such as color, sound effects, action, and movement and brought them to the stage. It is difficult to describe how very well the actors portray the cartoon elements on stage. You will just have to see for yourselves.

You don’t have to be a fan of anime to appreciate Anime Momotaro. My collective anime experiences are few, but I enjoyed this production immensely.  Like everything else I’ve seen at Imagination Stage, it was impeccably well done and highly entertaining.  Everything from the cast, to the creative team, the set and the lighting brought together a professional and polished production.

And, of course, bringing literature together with a stage production provides many learning opportunities for kids, both before and after viewing.

To learn more about Japan…

To learn more about the character traits of Anime Momotaro…

  • Read  the story of Momotaro  prior to the show. We talked about the messages in the story and Momotaro’s strong character traits: honoring his parents, helping his community, sharing with his friends and working together to help solve a problem.

  • Investigate bullying and identify your heroes with the study guide from the creators of Anime Momotaro.
Anime Momotaro (Peach Boy) at Imagination Stage

Tia Shearer, Jacob Yeh and Phillip Reid. Photo credit: Margot Schulman.

Anime Momotaro runs at Imagination Stage in Bethesda, Maryland from January 30 through March 10, 2013. Best for ages 5 to 10. Tickets are $12 to $25 and may be purchased on line at www.imaginationstage.org. Group rates and sensory friendly performances are available.

03 Ogres AnimeMomotaro IStage

Phillip Reid and Tia Shearer. Photo credit: Margot Schulman.

 Imagination Stage provided me with tickets to the show.  All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links for books from Amazon. For my full disclosure policy, click here

Hands-On Geography: Animals and Their Habitats

handsongeographyanimalshabiats

An invitation to learn and play…

This was fun to set up and even more fun to watch my kids explore, hear their questions and find the answers together.

Currently, we are learning about Australia, so we set up a Great Barrier Reef habitat.  I filled our water table and added some shells, pretty stones, plants and Toob toys.

coral reef play set-up

We used the  Coral Reef Toob and some of the figures from the  Ocean Toob.

coral reef toob

I love how each child set up the habitat differently. Our water table is the Step2 WaterWheel Activity Play Table.

playing Great Barrier Reef  Great Barrier Reef in the water table

On our table, we have cards on our magnet board and a basket of themed books to explore together. The laminated animal cards are from Walk Beside Me.

geography magnet board  basket of books

Next, we played with some (mostly) land-based animals.  Here’s our sand-filled table ready to be explored.  We’ve also used rice to fill the table for other habitats we’ve made. The kids made the flags, which can be found at Lessons Learnt Journal. The animal and person figures are from The Land Down Under Toob.

exploring Australia in the sand table

This set-up inspired many questions. “What do dingos eat?” “What kind of lizard is this?”  I sat nearby with my laptop and our basket of books. Together, we’d look in our books and read, or find a short video to watch.  National Geographic Kids has some great options. YouTube does as well (I pre-screened them while they played with the figures and sand in the table). PBS Kids also had some great shows that we watched later.  Our favorite was the Wild Kratts.

Down Under Toob figures  Kangaroo

We talked about the specific types of habitats for each animal and they moved them around the container accordingly:  tropical birds to the north in the palm trees, frill-necked lizard in the desert,  crocodile in the water, koala in the trees and so on.

koala bear Australian outback and more in the sand table

For more Hands-On Learning ideas, follow me on Pinterest.

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