Ocean Floor Map

Magic School Bus books are fantastic.  I remember doing a book report on a Magic School Bus book in 3rd grade over 20 years ago!  My husband was a big fan of the TV show and we both love that our sons get to experience the same shows and books that we did.  The books are so engaging and also so educational it really is a rare combination.  After reading The Magic School Bus: On the Ocean Floor my son used a large sheet of paper to draw a map of the ocean floor, completely unassisted.  After he finished, he pointed out and named areas like “continental shelf,” “7 mile trench,” and “deep ocean floor.”  I asked him if I could label his map.  He agreed and continued to point out each landmark or animal that needed labeling.  Here is his finished product…

Drawn Map of the Ocean Floor

I was amazed at all the correct terminology he remembered and impressed that he drew the whole thing from memory.

Later, when we were putting his lap book together he wanted the information from the map, but didn’t want to draw another whole map.  (He said, “It was a LOT of work, Momma!”)  So, I created a map on the computer, complete with labels, for him to cut out and glue on.  I included all the animals on the map in the book, but he chose one bird, one tidal pool animal, and one hot water vent animal to include in the picture.  I doubt we could have fit them all on the map.  Here is the printable: Map of the Ocean.  Dimensions are 8.5″x 4″


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Ocean Animal Sort

One of the most confusing areas of our Ocean Unit was that not all animals that swim in the ocean are fish.  The ocean is full of fish, sure, but it also includes mammals, invertebrates and plants… as well as some reptiles and amphibians.  For this activity we focused on fish, mammals and invertebrates.  I printed off 24 pictures of animals that fit into one of these 3 categories.  The first question we asked is, “Does it have a backbone?”  If the answer was No! then we knew it was an invertebrate.  If the answer was Yes!, we set it aside.  After sorting out all the invertebrates, we moved on to separating mammals from fish.  First, we discussed characteristics of each.  Fish have scales, gills, breathe water, and lay eggs.  Mammals on the other hand, have skin, hair, breathe air, and have live births.  Then we looked at each animal and classified it as either a fish or a mammal.  The animals we used were:

Invertebrate: horseshoe crab, lobster, octopus, sea jelly, sea star, shrimp, snail, squid (*Note that sea stars used to be called starfish and sea jellies used to be called jellyfish.  Since they aren’t fish, they’ve been renamed more appropriately)
Fish: angelfish, blowfish, catfish, clownfish, eel, manta ray, salmon, and shark
Mammals: beluga whale, dolphin, manatee, orca, otter, sea lion, seal, and walrus

I made a large sorting sheet for all the pictures to fit and a smaller one to include in his lap book.  You’ll find instructions on the first page of the pdf. (links at the bottom of the page)

The large display is 24″x 5″ and folds to 8″x 5″

The small display is 9″x 6.25″ and folds to 3″x 6.25″

Ocean Animal Sort
Ocean Animal Sort- Pictures

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Nature Exploration Bin- Beach

We don’t live close to the ocean, but we aren’t far from the Great Lakes.  At the beginning of our unit we took a trip to Lake Ontario.  In just a few minutes I collected everything for our Nature Exploration Bin.

Driftwood pieces
Sea Glass
Flat stones
Pretty stones

After putting together the bin I found a package of 6 unique shells at Michaels on clearance for $0.50 so I added those as well.

To introduce the bin I picked up each type of item, told the children the name of the item and described it a little.  I passed around the sample, showing them how to carefully handle it.  They all sat and explored together for quite awhile, and revisited it throughout the month.

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Ocean Sensory Bin

Our bin was pretty easy this time, but still a HUGE hit.  I bought blue water beads from Michaels, but Amazon has similar ones here.  They take a few hours to absorb water.  Once they were ready I added some plastic shark, whale and fish toys we had on hand, but this Ocean Toob or Coral Reef Toob would have been nice!  I wanted something to represent seaweed, but couldn’t think of anything that was ok to get wet.  Any ideas? 

Blue water beads- $3.99
Plastic sealife- on hand

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Toob Deals at Michaels

While shopping for our ocean unit at Michael’s today I stumbled upon a couple great deals… both the Space Toob and In the Sky Toob were on sale for $2.49 each!

In the Sky:

They usually retail for $7.99 at Michaels and $8-9 on Amazon.  Since we’ve already finished our space unit and won’t be doing flying vehicles for awhile, these will be stocking stuffers…. if I can remember where I hid them come December ;-)

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Fire Tower Challenge- Mount Arab

Last week we tried to climb Cathedral Rock, but it was raining when we got there so we detoured to Mount Arab instead.  Mount Arab was actually the first mountain in the Fire Tower Challenge we completed, but it was before Jeston was born so we decided to hike it again.

Mount Arab
2545 foot summit
1 mile climb

At the trail head register there are brochures with information about landmarks on the way up.  This large boulder is about 1/2 way up the mountain and was a perfect resting place before finishing up the climb.  On our climb we saw several little frogs, a couple garter snakes, hummingbirds, and a baby chipmunk.  My almost-5-year-old climbed the whole way up, and my almost-2-year-old climbed a good chunk of it.  They both enjoyed climbing the tower.

The view from the top was amazing!

The top picture is the view to the west, of Eagle Crag Lake.  The picture in the lower left is the Raquette River valley.  At the top we met a volunteer from the Friends of Mount Arab who gave each of the boys a wildlife postcard and a certificate for climbing the tower.

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Fire Tower Challenge

Although we love living in the city, and all the opportunities it affords us, we also love to get outdoors away from people and exploring nature.  We find that having a goal to work towards helps us be intentional about our plans.  Someday we hope to climb the 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks, but since we have very little ones, for now we’re focusing on the Fire Tower Challenge.  The challenge is to climb 18 of the 23 mountains with fire towers in the Adirondacks, as well as the 5 mountains with fire towers in the Catskills.

Of course, the best part is the view…

Arab Mountain- May 2008 & July 2012
Azure Mountain- July 2011
Bald Mountain (Rondaxe Mountain)- Oct 2010

Overlook Mountain- Oct 2011

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Patriotic T-Shirt Tutorial

My kids loved the shamrock shirts we made so much, that we decided to make patriotic ones for 4th of July.  It took us about 3 hours to make 4 shirts, including drying time.

- White shirt(s)
- Red fabric paint (I used Tulip Soft Fabric Paint- Red Velveteen)
- Blue fabric paint (I used Tulip Soft Fabric Paint- Royal Blue Matte)
- 3/4″ wide painters tape (or masking tape)
- Star stickers
- Paintbrush

Step 1: Tape flag outline

Use the tape to create the flag outline.  I started with the top piece of tape.  Then I made the short stripes.  The official flag has 7 short stripes, starting and ending with red, but I couldn’t fit that many on the boys’ shirts, so they just have 3 short stripes, 2 red and 1 white.  Next I taped off the box where the stars and blue paint will go.  I taped for the long stripes next, the official flag has 6, starting with white and ending with red.  On the size 5/6 shirt I did 4 stripes, on the 2/3 shirt I only did 2.  Finally, tape the right and left edges of the flag.

Step 2: Paint the red stripes

Use a paintbrush to paint the short and long red stripes.  As we painted we talked about why there are 13 stripes and what a colony was.  After painting let the shirt dry for an hour  or so.  You can also use a hair dryer to speed up the drying process.









Step 3: Add stickers

Peel off the tape on the right side of where the blue square will be and move it over an inch so it is on the red paint.  Next, add star stickers to the square, being sure that they are firmly attached.  I didn’t have enough room or stars to give each shirt 50, but we did fill the squares.

Step 4: Paint blue square

Use a paintbrush to spread the blue paint all over the square.  I started in the center of each star and brushed outward, then filled in between the stars.

Step 5: Peel off tape

Let the blue paint dry (or use a hair dryer) and then carefully peel off the tape and stickers.

Enjoy your new patriotic shirt(s)!

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Outer Space Book Review

I was a little concerned that we wouldn’t find enough space books with updated Pluto information, but we actually found several.  We rowed Space Boy, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and There’s No Place Like Space.

The Planets
by Gail Gibbons

After explaining what a planet is, how we discovered them, and a basic description of the solar system, the book dives into a more in depth planet study.  Beginning with Mercury, each planet is described by size, material, year length, distance from the sun and defining characteristics. My preschooler LOVED all the details about the planets and quoted them for weeks.  Pluto is included, but correctly classified as a dwarf planet.


by Gail Gibbons

This book gives a solid background on stars: sizes, distances, and colors.   We spent quite a bit of time on the page that shows why we see different constellations at different times of year.  We also used that picture to explain why we see different constellations in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.  My preschoolers favorite part was the constellations.  The history and outline of the Big and Little Dippers, Orion and Canis Major are all covered.  The book also compares refracting and reflecting telescopes.  The back of the book has a “Stargazing History” timeline.

Galaxies, Galaxies!

by Gail Gibbons

I didn’t realize I had 3 books by the same author when I was gathering them for this unit, but we clearly like her style.  I appreciate how informative she is, without overwhelming the kids.  In this book she covers the Milky Way, gravity, and the solar system.  She also includes her refracting/reflection telescope comparison in this book.  I had no idea that galaxies were classified by shape, but she discusses the differences between spiral, barred spiral, elliptical, lenticular, and irregular.  She explains how we discover more information through telescopes (both on earth and in space) and space probes.

There’s No Place Like Space: All About Our Solar System
by Tish Rabe

Join Cat in the Hat on one of his wacky adventures, this time through the solar system.  He covers each planet with a little rhyme like,
“Next, here is Mars.
It’s the color of rust.
We sneeze here because
it is covered with dust.”
He also teaches us about constellations, the sun, and the moon.  We studies this book Five-in-a-row style using the plan here.

Boy, Were We Wrong About the Solar System
by Kathleen V. Kudlinski

We read a similar book about dinosaurs, so my son was excited when I read the title on this one.  The book basically reviews things that we used to believe about the solar system, but now know are not correct.  For example, believing the Earth was the center of the solar system, that Martians lived on Mars, and that Pluto was a planet.  After explaining the original theory, the book explains the train of thought and discovery that led to the truth.  Every so often it reaffirms “Boy, we they wrong about the solar system.”  My favorite part it how it ends, encouraging kids to become scientists or astronauts who make us say, “Boy, were we wrong about the solar system.”  I love how the book emphasizes that just because we think we’ve figured it out now, doesn’t mean our opinions won’t change.

Hare and Tortoise Race to the Moon

by Oliver J. Corwin

In this retelling of Aesop’s fable Tortoise and Hare are best friends that agree on a race to the moon.  In addition to Hare’s speed advantage, in this book Hare has a lot of money and is able to buy a top of the line spaceship.  Tortoise, on the other hand, builds a spaceship himself out of miscellaneous parts.  Since Hare’s spaceship is so fast, after takeoff he visits the North Pole, the African plains, the rain forest, and takes a nap in the clouds before getting serious about flying to the moon.  In the meantime, Tortoise putt, putt, putts slowly to the moon.  As in the original story, by the time Hare gets serious about the race, Tortoise as almost to the finish.  I love how although Tortoise wins, he doesn’t gloat but instead invites Hare to play with him on the moon.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
by Iza Trapani

Beginning with the beloved children’s song, the book adds other verses as a little girl wishes on a star and travels throughout the solar system before returning to Earth.  We both read and sang the book.  My son’s favorite part was when she hangs off the rings of Saturn as if they were a jungle gym.  My toddler loves how the stars “shine” on each page.  We rowed this book using this plan.

Our Stars
by Anne Rockwell

 This is a very basic book, great for older toddlers or young preschoolers.  It covers stars, constellations, the planets and their orbits, the phases of the moon, comets, meteors, telescopes and satellites.  Each page has a large picture and just a couple sentences of explanation.

If You Decide To Go To The Moon
by Faith McNulty

This is a fantastic book!  It begins, “If you decide to go to the moon, in your own rocket ship, read this book before you start.  It will tell you how to get there and what to do after you land…”  The book goes on to teach about gravity, weightlessness, how the moon formed, walking on the moon, and returning to Earth.  It’s all taught from the perspective of a child experiencing it.  For example, while traveling to the moon the child is warned, “When you are thirsty, don’t try to pour orange juice into a glass.  With everything weightless, it would collect into floating liquid balls and become an orange juice blob.  You can drink out of a squeeze bottle instead.” I love how instead of giving a definition of weightlessness, the book gives a practical application.  The book is a little long, but the gorgeous illustrations and captivating adventure are sure to keep your child’s attention.

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Tutorial: How to Make a Child’s Lab Coat

Lately my son has been fascinated with science experiments.  He’s asked me to make several items for his dress-up bin, including a lab coat like Dr. Doofenshmirtz.  I hate making buttonholes and I’m not a big fan of collars either.  Luckily, I had a brainstorm to repurpose a men’s dress shirt instead.  The result was an adorable lab coat in about an hour and I didn’t have to sew any buttonholes.  Score!

Men’s Dress Shirt (I purchased this one at Salvation Army for $1.50)
Fabric scissors
Sewing machine

Fabric markers

Step 1: Cut down the shirt

Lay a pattern on top of the men’s shirt.  I used a police officer shirt from our dress-up bin. A robe or jacket would also work well.  Fold the arms of the pattern in and then cut up the sides of the dress shirt, including arm holes.  You’ll also want to cut across the bottom of the shirt.

Step 2: Cut down the arms

To be sure the sleeve and body of the coat match up, I used the body as a guide.  Just lay the body over the sleeve and cut along the edge.  I also cut a little off the bottom of the sleeve to make it skinnier, but left the cuff intact.

To cut the 2nd sleeve, lay the first sleeve face down on top of the 2nd and cut along the edge.

Step 3: Sewing the Body

Now pin the sides of the coat, right sides together.  Be sure to leave the arm hole open for the sleeve.  Sew together.

Step 4: Sewing the Sleeves

Turn the sleeves inside out and pin the seam, right sides together.  Sew from the cuff to the edge.

Step 5: Attaching the Sleeves

This is the hardest step.  Turn the sleeve right side out.  Turn the coat inside out and pin the sleeve to the armhole.  After pinning, turn the coat back right side out to be sure it’s pinned correctly.  Pin the sleeves so that the buttons by the cuff are in the back.  Sew around the armhole.  Repeat with the other sleeve.

Step 6: Hem the Coat

Finally, hem the bottom of the coat.  I turned it twice so the raw edge was hidden.

You can stop here and be proud of the adorable lab coat to add to your child’s dress-up collection.  I used fabric markers to write my son’s name and draw a beaker on the right side of the coat, opposite the logo.  You could also sew velcro in place of the buttons.

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