Nature Study: Ocean Life
One of the reasons I blog is to keep a record for myself of various resources we use when homeschooling. I hadn’t planned on writing about our vacation this past week, but we ended up having so many great learning experiences I decided to go ahead and write them all down. So to those of you who subscribe to my blog, forgive me if this post doesn’t apply to you in any way. I just wanted a record for myself, and this is the easiest place for me to keep track of it.
We spent the week in Dana Point, California, courtesy of generous grandparents who gifted us a week at their timeshare. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!) It was just a 5 minute drive from the Dana Point Harbor, where we ended up going almost every day for various reasons, including the fabulous “Baby Beach” with plenty of waveless shallow water and super soft sand.
One of the first things we did was visit the Ocean Institute, which is only open to the public on weekends (they do school field trips during the week). Although much of it was over the heads of our preschoolers, there was still plenty to interest them:
- whale skeleton
- a tank with a lobster that had just shed its shell (and a number of empty shells to look at in another room)
- a squid dissection (They refused to touch it, but they watched me work with another dad and his son to do most of it. I know Ian learned a lot because he kept bring up things we had talked about during the dissection.)
- discovery pools where they could touch sea stars
- tanks with fish
- microscopes with slides of various things, including krill (We had to drag Ian away from these.)
- a wave machine that showed how shifting tectonic plates can cause tsunamis
- a remote controlled underwater vehicle with a camera that they could maneuver in a tank
Ian kept asking to go back all week, but we told him it would have to wait for another trip.
I meant to get to the library before we left, but it didn’t happen. I really wanted the boys to have some context for what were looking at when we went whalewatching, so when we visited the Ocean Institute gift shop I splurged more on new books than I normally would do. I’m glad I did. The boys really enjoyed the books I picked out, and we read them over and over again throughout the week. I was really impressed by how much Ian gleaned from them and really understood. Here’s what we added to our family library:
- A Whale of a Tale: All About Porpoises, Dolphins, and Whales by Bonnie Worth from The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library series (both boys LOVED this book and asked for us to read it to them several times a day)
- If a Dolphin Were a Fish by Loran Wlodarski
- Baby Whales Drink Milk by Barbara Juster Esbensen
- In One Tidepool: Crabs, Snails, and Salty Tails by Anthony D. Fredericks
- Water Sings Blue (a collection of ocean-related poems) by Kate Coombs
There are a number of different companies to go out with, but a few of them had age restrictions, so we went with Dana Wharf, though we purchased half-price tickets from Goldstar rather than going through their website. Elijah did get seasick (lesson learned: don’t go inside in choppy water!), but other than that we all had a great time. We even got to spend a lot of time watching a blue whale, the largest animal God ever created. I’ve been whalewatching in the past, but this was the first time I’ve seen a blue whale. (They’ve only been coming around this area for about the last 7 years.) We prepared Ian by talking through most of the K-2 pre-trip information from these curriculum packets for all ages/grades that a friend recommended. (They have material for K-12. The post-trip pages were a little advanced for Ian.)
Ian really enjoyed exploring the tidepools behind the Ocean Institute. (Eric and I each carried a little one in an Ergo because Elijah wouldn’t have been able to climb on the rocks very well.) I found some helpful information about the different things we saw here. I wish I’d remembered my camera!
I initially went looking for a few coloring/activity sheets to take with us on the whalewatching trip in case the boys were bored stiff. As I went searching, however, I decided to make each boy a little book about whales, dolphins, and tidepool animals that they could work on throughout the week. There’s no shortage of coloring pages available on the web, so I won’t bother posting links to those. I found a couple other fun resources, though, and I wanted to take note of them here:
- Busy Bee Kids Printables: Ocean Animals theme (I loved that I could choose different levels of mazes, dot-to-dots, word searches, and more. They even had extremely simple mazes that Elijah could do.)
- Color Mountain: whales (When you click on a picture, you can choose various ways to use it–copywork, math sheets, wordsearches, and lots of other choice. I just did plain coloring pages for Elijah and then used the same pictures with a simple sentence for Ian to trace.)
I really hadn’t planned on turning our vacation into school time, but as you can see, we had a busy week full of learning. Next time I’d also like to spend some time at the Doheny State Beach Visitor Center (it was under renovation) to visit their aquariums and tidepool. We’ll definitely be back!