Thursday, December 13, 2018

Mammals, Reptiles, and Amphibians Preschool Lesson

Mmkay, the title already sounds like a doozy, right? I hosted preschool this week, and the topics assigned to me on the master calendar were insects, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Sheesh! That's a lot to cover in two days (fish and birds carry over into next week.) I happily reused my Very Quiet Cricket Lesson from last year (after consulting with SourPatch to see which parts I should change. He said the whole thing was great. He's such an endearing kid...) I added a more comprehensive introduction to insects and had them label a cricket in lieu of the salt painting, but otherwise, it was pretty much the same, butterfly snacks and all.

After reviewing our Letter and Number of the Week (J & 11) and doing circle time (welcome song, calendar, weather, etc.), I asked the kids to feel down their back for their backbone. I explained that many creatures, like the insects we discussed last time, have no backbone (or bones at all!) I showed them pictures of a medley of invertebrates and had them name them. I then said that animals with backbones are divided into different groups, and we were going to discuss three of them today. First the mammals:

Admittedly, this section was the hardest for me. I think it's because mammals can seem more diverse than some of the other groups, and my time was limited. I did find a few books that make great introductions to the characteristics of mammals (forgot to picture Is a Camel a Mammal?; it's also a winner.) In the end, I just had time to read About Mammals by Cathryn Sill.

I wanted something large motor for our activity, so we played "mammal charades." I had several of SourPatch's toys in a sack, let each child take turns taking one out where no one else could see and then acting it out for the rest of the children (sounds allowed, but no talking.) After they correctly identified the animal, we set it up front and discussed the mammal characteristics it has.

Since they were still full of the wiggles, I put on Hop Little Bunnies. Now, this is Gumdrop's favorite song, and he is 2 to 3 years younger than these kids. I was worried they'd think it was lame to hop like bunnies. Not so--apparently this song transcends age and was a blast.

Next, we introduced reptiles with Miles and Miles of Reptiles. It's a long one, but they were attentive. We felt due for a song, so we watched this video of I'm Getting Eaten by a Boa Constrictor two (and then three) times to learn the words and sing along.

We then watched some Planet Earth: Jungles (it's currently on Netflix; I haven't checked to see if clips are available on YouTube.) These kids were mesmerized by Planet Earth; they could have watched it all day. Specifically, we put on the clip of the Draco lizard roughly from minute 8:40 until 11:50. When the lizard leaped into the air, spread its skin flaps, and soared away in a daring escape, the kids "ahh'd." Adorable.

Next we read Blake the Snake, an endearing if not very educational snake book. It segued into my idea to have the kids trace J's and 11's in glue and then, like Blake in the story, have their yarn "snake" make the letter and number. We also utilized our time at the table to do this simple (and free) mammal/reptile sorting page to see if they understood the difference. I'd say half the kiddos could actually do it on their own, but it was a good review for everyone anyway. This is a good age to practice using glue sticks, too.

What was our snack? We had "snakes" in the dirt: chocolate pudding topped with crushed Oreos and a few gummy snakes (okay, they were worms, but the kids went with it.)

Did you know almost 90% of amphibians are frogs (toad are frogs, come to find out.) That's what wikipedia says, anyways. Go figure; I couldn't think of any amphibians but frogs and salamanders. There's also a creepy creature called a caecilian that looks like a slimy snake. That's about all there is, folks.

Luckily, I love frogs (and salamanders! Jury is out on the caecilian...) I used the beginning of this video as an introduction with some hesitation; it makes some generalizations that aren't 100% true about all amphibians. Still, it was an efficient sum-up, and then I again turned back to Planet Earth and the jungle at minute 29:55ish to 35:24. There's this tiny, see-through frog that bravely guards his eggs from wasps. I did skip over the middle where the wasp eats some of the eggs (these are sensitive kids) but absolutely showed the part where the dad frog fends off the next batch of wasps with his kicks. Atta frog! Again, the kids couldn't look away (and begged for more.)

No time for more! Actually, we were running out of time. We didn't get to sing 5 Little Speckled Frogs or watch Caribbean Amphibian, nor did we hope across the living room on felt lily pads. We didn't read any of these great books, either:

Instead, we had time to do our salamander scratch art. After showing photos of how beautiful and colorful salamanders can be, we returned to the table to make some of our own. Do you remember doing scratch art in school? I do, and I remembered it was amazing. Turns out, it still is. My original plan was to DIY the paper with crayons and black paint. After practicing beforehand with SourPatch, the result was lackluster, so I caved and bought this paper instead. It came with four wooden styluses, and I made a few more out of kabob skewers for the rest of the children. I had preciously scratched out the outline of a salamander for each child, but they could then decorate it and the paper as they chose. I was thrilled that they really seemed to love scratching off the black surface to find bright colors beneath.

That's it! It's always a little hard to tell how much the kids absorbed, but when one mom picking up her son asked what he learned today, he enthusiastically said, "A lot!" Right you are; that was a lot of information, and I'm glad you'll take some of it with you.