Our first unit study was a success! Our week consisted of exploring the wetlands, observing critters but most importantly, lots of fun.
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We had a big day last weekend visiting Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery with our homeschool group! The theme was on wetlands and I had the idea to do a a little unit study to go along with it. Since Wyatt is technically only in Pre-K we kept it very simple with lots of play involved.
The field trip was right up Wyatt’s ally (and mine too). We love all things nature, exploring and observing. If it involves water then even better! The goal was to have lots of fun and a bit of learning too of course. I’d call it a success!
Homeschool Wetlands Study Video
Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery Field Trip
The Classroom: Wetlands Metaphors
We started the morning off at 8:30 in the classroom and decided on watching a quick film of the history of Wolf Creek Dam while waiting for others to arrive. Once everyone was there and ready to roll we began the class with a bit of reading on books all about wetlands and then learned a few metaphors. The ladies passed around random objects to students and the kids had to figure out how that object might work similar in a wetland.
Although my 4 year old was oblivious to mostly everything, I thought it was such a neat little lesson. He may have been a bit more interested in the frogs and snakes who were just outside the classroom in their cages but that’s totally okay! Any clues on what he wants as his next pet? Yea, probably not happening.
Learning About The Food Web
After finishing up in the classroom we split into 2 groups. The older kids went on to the wetlands for some exploration while us younger ones learned about the food web. The kids gathered in a circle and each played the part of a different consumer in an ecosystem. One child who stood in the middle of the circle was “the sun.” Of all of the cool animals mine decided to go with Zooplankton… I guess all are important though, right?
The kids took turns with a ball of yarn and passed it to the “consumer” they wanted to eat. After the yarn had been passed around to everyone we pretended that their was an oil spill and had to figure out what would happen to our little ecosystem. We decided that the ducks would fly away to another pond and others just simply couldn’t survive in that type of environment. As one died, more continued because of limited food sources. Soon enough, the food web was gone.
Exploring The Wetlands
Once it was our turn to explore, we gathered our equipment and headed to the wetlands first. We observed and touched cattail, squished around in the mud and tried to find living organisms.
Although not exactly living, the baby snapping turtle I found was once alive. As we were walking along the trail I spotted it on the side halfway in the tall grass. Not initially knowing if it was dead or alive I was a bit nervous to grab it. I’ve seen snapping turtles enough to know I didn’t want snapped at, even if it was a baby! Sadly, the little guy was dead, but fully intact. One of the ladies teaching the class believed that it may have got stuck and died struggling to get out.
Exploring Fishing Creek
After checking out the wetlands, we began exploring the shallow side of the fishing creek next. We picked up rocks and gathered anything we thought interesting into sample tubes and ice cube trays to take back to the classroom. Several tiny snails were found underneath the smooth rocks within the creek bed and although a bit difficult to catch we ended up with a small tadpole. Someone else found a larger tadpole who was close to sprouting back legs!
Back In The Classroom & Feeding The Snake
Once we were back in the classroom we were able to use the microscopes and super magnifying glasses to observe the cool things we found. This took me back to the old anatomy classes from college.
After finishing up our observations it was time for the highlight of our trip, feeding the snakes! Between Wyatt, Wren and myself I’m not sure who enjoyed it more. None of us had ever seen a snake eat a mouse and it was quite a show. We were able to watch the whole thing from start to finish. I found it so interesting how he was able to dislocate his jaw to eat the mouse and then yawned afterwards to put it back in place. How cool!
Additional Lessons To The Wetlands Study
The trip to WCNFH was great enough in itself but I decided to add a bit of extra lessons in for some extra fun and learning. I focused mostly on ecosystems and the frog life cycle. We picked out a few books at the library, a pack of lizards, frogs, and snakes at Hobby Lobby and was all set to go!
Creating Our Own Pond
Our first lesson was to try and replicate our pond near the back of the farm. The kids decided to take along their sand castle buckets and collect anything they thought would be good additions to their own pond. They ended up with several rocks, patches of moss, twigs, and a branch off of one of the trees. I helped the kids arrange everything to look like a pond and then they played!
The Frog Life Cycle With Play Dough
For our second lesson we started out by whipping up a couple batches of fresh play dough. I cut this recipe in half to make the blue and green play dough for our pond since we didn’t need as much.
Print My Simple Homemade Play Dough
Homemade Play Dough
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup salt
- 1/2 tsp cream of tarter
- 2 tsp oil any oil will work. We use coconut oil
- food coloring (optional)
- essential oils (optional)
- Combine the dry ingredients in a sauce pan
- Stir in the water, oil, and food coloring.
- Heat the mixture over medium-low heat. Make sure to stir often.
- When the mixture resembles a dough remove it from the heat and allow to cool.
- Once cooled, add a few drops of essential oils if you choose. I did one drop each of lemon, lime, and orange. Kneed the dough with your hands to thoroughly combine the oils.
- Have fun! Store in an airtight container. (We reuse glass coconut oil containers)
We referred to our two reference books throughout the lesson. I can’t say enough good things about The Julia Rothman Collection. The nature book went over both ecosystems as well as the frog life cycle. You can grab the set of books HERE. Recently, I also made a purchase from Usborne Books and More. After seeing their children’s encyclopedia I knew it would be a great fit for us. My favorite thing about this book is the QR links to additional information. We were able to use this book within our lesson as well! You can grab that book HERE.
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