Wild and domesticated animals are favored topics of study for young children. Through the Language Arts themes provided by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich’s (HBJ) Treasure Tree, these creatures are studied annually in my Kindergarten classroom. The parallels of family structure, eating habits and habitat between animals and humans evoke a multitude of inquisition and interest. Familiar animals such as dogs and cats are studied first. Their eating habits are covered in the Treasure Tree unit entitled “Pet Show.’’
Less familiar animals, such as tigers, bears and other wild creatures are discussed in the unit “Animals Animals.”
Animals that provide food for humans are also studied with the aid of an HBJ unit entitled “On the Farm.”
Yet, attempting to thoroughly cover the many aspects of animal life in a Kindergarten classroom is impossible without the aid of models, photographs, videos, computers and live specimens. Through the research and planning of my unit, “LIONS and TIGERS and BEARS. . .Oh My!” Animals of Connecticut and the World, I am able to provide the materials and experiences necessary to enhance present classroom curriculum supplied through HBJ’s Treasure Tree.
Beginning in late January and continuing through March, the HBJ themes mentioned above (“Pet Show,” “Animals Animals” and “On the Farm”) introduce my students to the gamut of wild and domesticated creatures. These themes highlight specific groups of animals according to their habitat: house pets, wild animals, and farm animals. Family life and eating habits are taught within each specific animal unit. As the three animal units are completed, an overlap is found when discussing animal subgroups such as reptiles, birds, mammals and the like. The children, through this simultaneous overlap and theme separation can better understand the many types of creatures living in the world and can better determine which animals should live among humans and which should not. My unit, “LIONS and TIGERS and BEARS. . .Oh My!” utilizes the required curriculum and enhances it’s specific elements to enable my students to better understand the creatures they are studying.
The first animal theme, entitled “Pet Show!” takes the most familiar creatures, pets, and analyzes their eating habits and lifestyles while constantly comparing the time, expense, and responsibility required to care for these animals. The “Pet Show!” theme requires 3 to 4 weeks of classroom time and contains a specific sub theme for each week .
Figure 1: Subject Web for Pets
(figure available in print form)
The first sub theme discusses the variety of animals available as pets and compares the size, food intake and nurture time required by each animal. A subject web is drawn to produce a list of familiar types of pets from the children. As each type of pet is mentioned, the pet’s name is written in a ‘bubble’ connected to the word ‘PETS’ as illustrated in Figure 1. Once all of the familiar types are written onto the subject web, empty bubbles are filled with less familiar pets as they are introduced through the various activities and lessons in the theme. The song “Bought Me a Cat” is used to introduce and review the many types of familiar and not so familiar pets available for care in our homes.
Bought a cat, the cat pleased me,
Fed my cat under yonders tree,
Cat went fiddle-i-fee, fiddle-i-fee.
Cat went fiddle-i-fee, fiddle-i-fee.
As each verse is repeated, the name of the animal in the song is changed through the aid of pictures. Illustrations of hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, ferrets and other less familiar pets are integrated into the song’s lyrics. Each time an animal name is replaced, so too is the sound replaced at the end of the song, (i.e.: Hamster went scratch, Gerbil went peep, Guinea Pig went squeak, ferret went sniff). This simple introduction through the use of a song, enhances the interest of new and unfamiliar pets for the children. Further investigation is therefore welcome and nearly demanded by the students!
The book, “Teach Me About Pets” by Joy W. Berry, is read as a reference book for finding information about the food intake, nurture time and size of these new and unfamiliar pets. “Can I Keep Him” by Steven Kellogg is also read to reinforce the necessary tasks required by pet ownership. A tour of Pets Unlimited, Inc.
is planned as a culminating activity for the week’s sub theme. The tour allows the children to see and to interact in a hands-on fashion with the many pets discussed throughout that week. Photographs of the pets viewed at the pet store, as well as samples of various pet foods are taken for future use in the classroom. The tour guide discusses each pet’s eating habits and living conditions. The children then take this information and add it to the subject web about pets, extending the web to include each pet’s traits, food preferences and living space requirements (See Figure 2).
Figure 2: Extended Subject Web for Pets
(figure available in print form)
The second sub theme of “Pet Show!” concerns itself specifically with animal health, and includes a tour of the New Haven Central Animal Hospitals. The book, “A Fish Out of Water” by Dr. Seuss highlights the importance of proper pet care by comically illustrating what would happen to a fish if it is overfed. A review of the pet subject web presents the realities of overfeeding and improper caring techniques of pets. The children are encouraged to discuss the differences between the story, “A Fish Out of Water” and real life. A ‘DOs and DON’Ts’ pet care guide is devised on chart paper and displayed in the classroom, with smaller copies of the ‘DOs and DON’Ts’ recopied by the children and displayed throughout the school. See Figure 3 below for a simple example of this chart.
As the Animal Hospital trip approaches, parallels are drawn between care for humans and care for animals. Preventing illness through regular medical check-ups is a major concept in this sub theme. Inoculations, or ‘shots’ are reviewed for their purpose for both children and pets. The school nurse is summoned for a discussion on disease and health topics. Operations, medications and exercise are also included in this discussion. At the end of the week, a copy of the ‘DOs and DON’Ts’ chart and our classroom pets accompany the class on their tour of the Animal Hospital. The observation of an operation is the final stop during the tour, allowing the children a unique opportunity for understanding the seriousness of caring for a pet and how pet care truly parallels human care.
The third sub theme for “Pet Show” concerns itself with determining which animals make the best pets. Information recorded from the pet store and animal hospital trips is analyzed and charted. Matching a pet to a specific home is the final step of the week. This includes which type of pet would be the best for our classroom. Although the classroom already houses a newt and a rabbit, the children are encouraged to choose a new pet to care for daily. The pet subject web, with its facts about each pet is used as the foundation for determining which pet is most suitable for the classroom.
The nursery rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb” is read and used as a reinforcement for the topic of finding the best pet for their home or classroom.
Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow,
And everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go.
It followed her to school one day,
Which was against the rule.
It made the children laugh and play
To see a lamb at school.
The rhyme’s lighthearted approach to Mary’s pet lamb is carried into reality through the many resources utilized for understanding pets throughout the “Pet Show” theme. The children are encouraged to alter the nursery rhyme to reflect what might really take place if Mary had a lamb for a pet. An example of this would be similar to the following original classroom poem:
Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow,
And every time Mary fed it
The lamb was sure to grow.
It followed her to school one day,
Which wasn’t very cool,
It almost got hit by a car
Right in front of the school.
The images evoked through the reading of this new version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” represents the reality of housing a lamb in an inappropriate environment and what may happen if you don’t understand the responsibility of caring for such a large pet. An activity such as this also lends itself to be an effective instrument of evaluation. The children’s understanding of the concept of pet care is easily measured by the choice of replacement words and verses in the new poem.
The “Pet Show” theme ends with a classroom pet show. The book, “Pet Show!” by Ezra Jack Keats is read and a similar pet show is planned and implemented at the end of the school week. The children and their parents, grandparents, etc. bring their pets to school for a light-hearted competition. The award categories, such as The Biggest Pet, The Quietest Pet, The Pet with the Most Legs, The Cutest Pet, etceteras, are determined by the panel of judges who consist of faculty and pet-less classmates. (See Figure 4)
(figure available in print form)
Blue ribbons are distributed and photographs are taken for a classroom display. Parallels to the events of the book, “Pet Show!” are made following the award ceremony.
The second animal theme, “Animals, Animals,” expands beyond the realm of house pets and enters the world of the wild. “Animals Animals” stresses the differences between wild animals and pets. This theme requires 3 to 4 weeks of study and includes visits by the Zoomobile
, tours of the Peabody Museum
and the Beardsley Zoo.
Poetry, storybooks, videos and computer programs enhance the comprehension of the many species of wildlife in Connecticut and the world.
The first sub theme studied in “Animals Animals” is animal identification. This practice is aided by the reading of “Who is the Beast?” by Keith Baker. Through thought provoking illustrations the children are encouraged to identify animals in the book without seeing the entire creature. Discriminating characteristics help the children to determine the differences between tigers, lions, leopards and other similar animals. Animal pictures from magazines and other sources are laminated and cut into puzzle pieces which are placed in a learning center for further practice in identifying animals from partial illustrations.
Animal types are determined by obvious characteristics such as fur, number of legs and how the animal travels. A bulletin board is divided into several sections and used to display animal names and their physical characteristics. Simple drawings created by the children are used to illustrate the characteristics for each specific animal.
A poem entitled, “The Animal Song,” is introduced to familiarize the children with animals from all over the world. An illustration of each animal mentioned in the poem can be found on a poster included in the HBJ Treasure Tree (Poster 7) used in Kindergarten classrooms throughout the city of New Haven. A copy of this poem and poster is found in Figure 5.
(figure available in print from)
The animals listed in the poem, “The Animal Song,” are also included in the ‘Animal Traits’ bulletin board created earlier in the week.
The Zoomobile, from the Connecticut Zoological Society in Bridgeport, visits the children at school with wild animals that can be touched. A dove, a rabbit, a tortoise, a snake and a tenrec interact with the children. Other animal related objects such as a feather from a peacock, a turtle shell, and an ostrich egg enter the classroom and encourage the discussion of animal size and habitat. A comparison of the animals studied during the previous “Pet Show” unit and the present “Animals Animals” unit is drawn. Animal size, habitat and food preferences are compared. Physical characteristics relating to the ‘cuteness’ of an animal or the size of an animal are highlighted. The determination of the care and habitat for an animal is stressed. The book, “Come Here, Little Hedgehog” by Tilde Michels convinces the children that not all cute and tiny animals can live happily outside of their natural habitat.
Wild life habitats are the focus of the second week of “Animals Animals.” Using the information gathered from the Zoomobile’s visit and from the ‘Animal Traits’ bulletin board, the children are able to better determine an animal’s home. “The Mitten” by Jan Brett provides the perfect backdrop for matching a specific animal to its home. The story fits unusually large animals into a typical sized mitten during a snowy day. The children, with their knowledge about animal habitats, are encouraged to define each animal’s proper habitat and include it on the ‘Animal Traits’ bulletin board.
A tour of the Peabody Museum’s third floor further enhances the children’s understanding of animal size and habitat. The animal dioramas illustrate the habitat and size of each animal, encouraging the comparison of now familiar animal traits and living conditions. The third floor collection depicts twelve major habitats: Timberland, Tropical Savannah, High Arctic Tundra, Shortgrass Plains, Kaibab Plateau, Tropical Rainforest, Sonoran Desert, Cold Bog, Forest Margin, Salt Marsh and Lowland Farm.
Each diorama contains wild life from the respective habitat, allowing the children to view the animals as they would be viewed in real-life. Each diorama contains a main focal point or animal. The Timberland habitat shows two bighorn sheep and the Tropical Savannah shows a wood stork as well as other birds. The High Arctic Tundra presents a musk-ox family while the Shortgrass Plains focuses on three bison. The Alaska Tundra houses an Alaska brown bear, the Kaibab Plateau shows three mule deer and the Tropical Rainforest contains a jaguar. The Sonoran desert presents many small creatures such as a collared peccary or javelina, a ground squirrel, a Gabbers quail, a roadrunner, a gila monster, a desert horned lizard, a rattlesnake and a scorpion. The Cold Bog, the Forest Margin, the Salt Marsh and the Lowland Farm all house creatures that are indigenous to Connecticut. A snowshoe rabbit, a white-tailed deer, a meadow vole and a black duck are all found in these final displays of Connecticut habitats. A room of birds adjoins the Connecticut habitats to the habitats of the world.
The multitude of creatures and the various habitats contained in the Peabody’s third floor collection complete the “Animals, Animals” puzzle. The vicarious experiences through photographs, filmstrips and the like are enhanced through the first-hand viewing of the animal dioramas. All that remains is the viewing of live animals at the zoo.
Preserved animals, similar to those viewed at the Peabody Museum, come to life in various cages and buildings throughout the Beardsley Zoo. Any remaining confusion regarding animal characteristics and habitat is eliminated through the zoo orientation and tour, which takes place at the end of the third sub theme. A discussion of Connecticut’s seasons, weather and land type aids in determining which animals listed on the ‘Animal Traits’ bulletin board will be seen at the zoo. During the tour the children get to see amount of space necessary to house a wild animal, as well as the possible dangers of an up-close encounter with such animals. The animal names mentioned in the poem, “The Animal Song” are replaced by the names of the animals seen at the zoo, allowing the children to compose their own lyrics as a follow-up to the Beardsley Zoo tour.
Finally, the theme “On the Farm” is taught for two weeks. The pets and wild animals of the previous two themes are compared to the animals on a farm. Storybooks like “Farm Noises” by Jane Miller give new information for the embellishment of familiar songs like “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.” Hackneyed rhymes take on a new meaning as the children study the purpose of cows, horses, chickens, ducks and other animals on a farm. Videos and filmstrips like “The Midnight Farm’’
provide the necessary information for distinguishing between farm animals and wild animals.
A chart is created with three categories: PETS, WILD ANIMALS, and FARM ANIMALS. A brainstorming activity yields the names of the many different animals studied during the last two months. A purpose is given to each of the three animal categories, defining the placement of each animal under that category heading. The PETS category is defined by the animal’s ability to live with humans. A pet’s purpose is explained as being the provider of love and friendship for a human. The WILD ANIMALS category is defined as animals that would be unable to live with or near humans without causing a conflict. The purpose of a wild animal is to live independently from humans. The category of FARM ANIMALS is defined as animals that live near humans, without conflict. The purpose of farm animals is to provide food and clothing for humans. The use of livestock and other farm creatures for human sustenance is discussed and the origin of hamburgers, bacon, and chicken wings are covered. Dairy products and eggs are also included in this discussion. Animal care and habitat are compared once again at the end of the farm unit. A visit to Field View Farm
in Orange is planned as a culminating activity. Butter is made by the children from heavy cream purchased during the farm tour. Eggs, from the farm, are also incubated in the classroom as a culminating activity for the unit.
The similarities and differences of wild and domesticated animals to human life becomes common knowledge by the conclusion of the three animal themes in my classroom. The parallels of family structure, eating habits and habitat of many pets and animals to human life are drawn. Thorough coverage of the many aspects of animal life in my Kindergarten classroom reaches closure with the incubation and hatching of chicken eggs. As the eggs hatch, the children are requestioned about the proper habitat for the baby chicks. As a measurement of comprehension for all three animal themes, and their separate concepts, the habitat of the hatched chicks is determined, using the charts, bulletin boards and other sources of animal facts as a guide to the chicks’ placement. The decision to keep or return the chicks is the major determinate for unit comprehension.
Through the research and planning of my unit, “LIONS and TIGERS and BEARS. . .Oh My!” Animals of Connecticut and the World, I am able to provide the materials and experiences necessary to enhance present classroom curriculum supplied through HBJ’s Treasure Tree. Class projects, charts, bulletin boards, photographs, videos, computers, trips and live specimens all contribute to the success of the unit. “LIONS and TIGERS and BEARS. . .Oh My!” culminates with a hands-on, decision-making project that exemplifies the integrated, multi-resourced, animal unit, by providing an active purpose for the study of animal life in my Kindergarten classroom.
How Many Pets?
Cover a small bulletin board with a scene of a house and a yard. Place cut-outs of pets in groups of varying size on the bulletin board. Provide the children with a pocket chart and identical cut-outs of pets for graphing the number of pets in each group. (Alternative: A sheet of 1” square graph paper may be substituted with the children coloring squares on the graph paper corresponding to the number of pets in each group). Vary the group numbers daily or after each use of the center.
Learning Center Background without Pet illustrations
(figure available in print form)
Be certain that the window and door can be opened to see the pets inside of the house.
(Alternative: Display a cross-section of a house to see the pets inside each room).
Learning Center Pet Illustrations
(figure available in print form)
Display sets of each pet, varying the size of each set.
Pets that live indoors should be displayed inside of the house.
Pets that live outdoors should be displayed in the yard.
(Animals: snake, rabbit, fish, cat, dog, mouse or hamster, lizard or newt (without a tongue), bird).
*The above illustrations are altered versions of clip art from the computer program entitled, Creative Writer 1.0.
Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag (Weston Woods).
Audio Visual Aids:
Millions of Cats, Combination
(4 filmstrips/1 record) The Game of ‘How Many’, Filmstrip
To identify and list the different types of pets owned by the children in the class.
To graph the total number of each type of pet owned by the children in the class.
*There are many different types of pets.
*Some pets live indoors and some pets live outdoors.
*The place where a pet lives is called a habitat.
*The total number of pictures for each type of pet in the pocket chart is the same as the total number of that type of pet owned by the children in the class.
pet, home (Any unfamiliar pet type)
chart paper/ pocket chart (or graph paper)/ crayons/ pictures of pets/ drawing paper cut into 3” x 3” squares
Ask: What is a pet? (Define the word ‘pet’). Does anyone have a pet at home? (Make a list of the various pet types on chart paper).
Today we are going to talk about our pets. On chart paper, write the names of the various types of pets owned by the children in the class. Distribute one square of drawing paper to each child. Explain that they must draw a picture of their pet on the square. (If a child has more than one pet, give the child one square for each pet he/she owns. If a child does not own a pet, encourage them to draw a pet the would like to own). When the pet drawings are complete, place the squares in the pockets of the pocket chart, grouping in vertical columns according to pet type. Label each vertical column with the appropriate pet name. Display the graph for future use.
Where Does an Animal Live?
Provide the children with empty shoe boxes, straw, leaves, colored paper, magazines and old books. Have the children draw or cut-out a picture of an animal. Using the materials listed above, encourage the children to create the appropriate habitat for the animal they have chosen. (Variation: Display a different animal picture daily and encourage the children to create the appropriate habitat for the displayed animal).
The Mitten by Jan Brett (Putnam, 1989).
Animal Homes, Motion Picture
Let’s Explore a Field, Filmstrip
Let’s Explore a Desert, Filmstrip
To identify the habitat of a specific animal.
To illustrate an animal living in it’s appropriate habitat.
To match an animal with it’s appropriate habitat.
*Animals live in many different places.
*Some animals live in the Woods, in the Desert, in the Arctic or in the Rainforest.
habitat, Desert, Rainforest, Woods, Arctic, (Any other habitat mentioned)
pictures or photographs of animals/ pictures or photographs of corresponding animal habitats/ pocket chart (or scotch tape and chart paper)/ multiple copies of animal pictures/ multiple copies of animal habitats/ markers/ crayons/ scissors/ glue or paste
Display the animal pictures.
Ask: Who can identify these animals? Remind the children about your continued study of animal life and introduce the word ‘habitat.’
Tell the children that they will be playing a matching game with animal pictures and pictures of animal habitats.
Using a pocket chart, place all the animal pictures in a vertical column and all the animal habitat pictures in a similar column. Be certain to mix the order of the corresponding habitat pictures. (Alternative: Use scotch tape to stick the pictures on chart paper in the same fashion as described for the pocket chart). Encourage the children to identify each animal picture. Offer riddles or clues describing the appropriate habitat for each animal shown and allow the child with the correct answer to move the habitat picture next to the corresponding animal picture in the pocket chart. Once all the animal pictures have been matched to their respective habitats, distribute one copy of an animal picture to each child for coloring. As each child completes the coloring activity, have the child choose the appropriate habitat picture for their animal from a selection of various animal habitat pictures. Tell the child to cut and paste the animal picture to the habitat picture. Display for future reference.
Social Studies: Environmental Needs/Shelter
On the Farm
Where Does Butter Come From?
Set up a cooking area with paper plates, a measuring cup, spoons, dull knives, a blender, a hand mixer, small Tupperware style containers, a butter churn (if available), heavy cream, bread, chart paper and markers. Encourage four children at a time to make butter. Each child must use a different method of churning the heavy cream (ie: the blender, the hand mixer, the Tupperwarer containers and the butter churn). Have the children record on chart paper which method churned the heavy cream into butter first. Display the results daily for comparison. Encourage the children at the cooking area to serve the butter to the children in the class.
Pancakes! Pancakes! by Eric Carle
Audio Visual Aids:
Story of Milk, Filmstrip
Life in a Pasture, Filmstrip
To review the facts stated during the class trip to Field View Farm.
To make butter from heavy cream.
*Cows produce milk.
*Raw milk can be separated into cream, butter, cottage cheese and other types of dairy products.
*Butter originates from a cow.
cow, raw milk, separate, dairy products, churn, cream
photographs of animals viewed at Field View Farm a butter churn (or small Tupperware style containers) heavy cream markers bread chart paper
Display a container of heavy cream purchased at the farm. (Alternative: If your class does not visit a dairy farm, purchase heavy cream from a local grocery store and ask the children what they think is in the carton). Ask: Who remembers what is in this container? (heavy cream) What dairy product can be separated to make heavy cream? (raw milk) What animal gives us the milk that we drink?
Display a butter churn. Ask: What do you think this object does? Does anyone know the name of this object? Empty the container of heavy cream into a butter churn. Today we will make a dairy product that comes from heavy cream. The dairy product that we will make is smooth, usually looks yellow and is spread on bread or toast. Who can tell me the name of the dairy product we will make? Explain to the children that the machine which made butter on the farm churned the heavy cream. Explain that churning is a process similar to shaking. Encourage the children to share their thoughts on how the heavy cream in the butter churn can be churned without the help of a machine. Begin vigorously jerking the handle of the butter churn until a small, solid ball of butter is seen. (Alternative: Distribute a small, empty Tupperwarer style container to each child. Pour no more than a half inch of heavy cream into each container. (The more heavy cream used, the longer the process will take to produce butter). Explain to the children that the machine which made butter on the farm churned the heavy cream. Explain that churning is a process similar to shaking. Encourage the children to share their thoughts on how the heavy cream in their small containers can be churned without a machine. Begin vigorously shaking the containers of heavy cream until a small, solid ball of butter is seen). Serve the butter on bread. The translucent white liquid surrounding the ball of butter is buttermilk. Encourage the children to drink the buttermilk.
Social Studies: Farm Life