The penguin is a bird that does not fly. Birds have feathers and a backbone and they hatch from eggs. Unlike most birds, penguins swim gracefully in water or waddle clumsily on land. This bird spends most of its life in the ocean and webbed feet help them move as fast as 25mph. This allows the penguin to escape from bigger predators like the shark, orca, and leopard seals. Penguins also use their speed to catch and eat fish, squid, crab and krill (a penguin favorite).
There are 17 species (types) of penguin in the world and they have various physical characteristics. Some penguins have colored hair, striped chests or even colored eyes. The tallest penguin can be as tall as a fourth grade student and the smallest penguins can be the size of a young duck. All penguins have streamlined bodies with strong flippers for swimming. They use their feet and tails to steer while in the water. They have a white belly and a black back similar to a whale. Penguins have two layers of feathers that keep them protected from the weather.
All penguins live in colonies in the southern hemisphere. The colony is a group of penguins that live close together to fight the odds against solo birds. The colonies allow for predators to be spotted easily and the colony provides a greater chance of survival when predators attack. The chances of being caught are lower when there are many penguins in the same place. Almost every colony of penguins can be found on a coast because it is a short distance to hunt and travel back home. These penguin colonies can be found in Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and in areas outside of South America.
Penguins breed once per year and the different species have different parental responsibilities. The mother emperor penguin lays two eggs and only one egg will survive. The father emperor penguin incubates that one egg for two months. While the father penguin keeps the egg warm, the mother hunts and brings food back for the father to eat. All other species of penguin take turns incubating their eggs while the partner hunts for food. After 33-64 days of incubation depending on the species, a baby chick is ready to hatch from its egg. Penguin chicks are fed regurgitated fish and krill from the parent penguins. As the chicks grow, the parents take turns finding food and caring for the young. A young chick is ready to fledge and take to the ocean after at least 50 days of nurturing from parents.
In relation to human families and child-rearing, a few dynamics come to mind. The emperor penguin raises their young in a way that humans would consider "the working parent". Although both parents love their young, in an effort to provide the best life for them, they work opposite shifts allowing only one of them to be physically present at a time. The hardworking mother will leave her egg with the father penguin to go and bring food home for the family to eat. She is the ultimate breadwinner and at times she can be misunderstood as too busy for her baby or not engaged in the rearing of the child.Often, the working mother is assumed neglectful. However, in some cases the mother is the sole provider who is obligated to work long hours for days on end. As a teacher, we encounter parents that are not present as much as we would like them to be, however there are a few things we can do to accommodate the parents to allow them to be engaged in our classrooms. Teachers can correspond via mail, email, texts and phone calls inviting them to events, keeping them informed of the topics of study and allowing them to visit and volunteer in the classroom when they are available. There are resources and ideas for parental involvement in the Parent Outreach section of the unit.
The sea horse is a fish that lives in the ocean where the water is shallow and warm. The characteristics of a fish are: they live under water, they have a bone skeleton, they are cold-blooded and they breathe under water through gills. Fish also have fins that help them to swim under the water. This means that the sea horse is a fish. The sea horse does not look like an ordinary fish. Its head looks like a horse and that is where it gets its name from. The scientific name for a sea horse is Hippocampus which means "horse-like sea monster" because for a long time, no one could classify the sea horse into a class. The sea horse is also known as the shyest fish of the sea.
The sea horse swims standing up straight and it swims very slowly using small fins on its head and one large fin on its back. Since the sea horse swims slowly, it must camouflage to hide from predators like other bigger fish. The sea horse can change color to blend in with its surroundings. They can come in many sizes and colors depending on where they adapt and live. The sea horse lives in corals at the bottom of the ocean. The smallest sea horse is a half inch tall and the biggest sea horses are as tall as fourteen inches tall. The long tube-shaped snout of a sea horse sucks up its food from the floor of the ocean. They like to eat tiny shrimp, krill and plankton. This fish is covered with stiff bony plates rather than being covered by scales like many other fish. Sea horses have sharp spines and knobs on their bodies to help fend off predators.If a fish bites a sea horse, the fish will be poked and might leave the sea horse alone.
The sea horse is born from the father, not the mother. The parent sea horses do a dance together and the mother sea horse lays her eggs in a pouch on the father's stomach. The mother can lay up to three hundred eggs at one time. The eggs grow inside of the pouch and it gets bigger and bigger until they are ready to hatch. Once the baby sea horses are born, they wrap their tails around each other's and spin around while exploring the ocean for the first time. After a few hours the sea horses go off on their own to find their own homes and start their own families.
The parenting process of the sea horse is similar to human single parenting by the dad. Like human single dads, the sea horse dad is a caretaker for his young and he has the important job of protecting his young until they are old enough to fend for themselves. The father seahorse uses his body as a shield for his eggs and he takes them where ever he goes until they are ready to hatch, then they swim off on their own. Although the mother seahorse lays the eggs, she is not present for the birth of her babies and if at all, she does not return to the home until the babies are hatched and have gone off on their own.
Wolves are mammals that have live on land. Wolves have live births and are warm blooded which means their body temperature stays the same in all surroundings. Another important characteristic of a mammal is that they have hair. Wolves are covered in hair or fur. Mammals have skeletons and they breathe air through lungs. This is why wolves pant and move up and down while breathing. Wolves are members of the dog family and therefore related to jackals, foxes, coyote and domestic house dogs too.
Wolves look like dogs. They have four strong legs for running and a tail as well as a muscular body covered in fur. They have long snouts to sniff out prey and sharp ears that stand tall to hear when predators are near or when members of the pack are in danger. Wolves are excellent hunters because they have strong jaws and extremely sharp teeth.
Most wolves live together in a group of five to eight wolves that hunt together. This group is called a pack. In some cases, a pack can have as many as thirty wolves in it. Wolves that are born into a pack have a higher chance of surviving because the older pack members help to raise them to be strong hunters themselves. Another benefit of being part of a pack is having other wolves to help capture big prey animals and share the food together. Wolves hunt elk, moose, muskoxen and caribou as well as small prey like rabbits, beavers, squirrels, and even fish.
Wolves use howling as a way to communicate to other animals. A howl can be heard over six miles away. The wolf sticks his nose in the air and lets out wails as other wolves join in to share the conversation. Other sounds the wolf makes include snarls, barks, squeaks, whines, and whimpers. The sound a wolf uses will depend on the message that they are trying to send. Wolves use howls to connect with other lost members of the pack, to gather the pack before a hunt, or even to warn other packs about their "marked" territory. Just like humans, wolves send messages that are kind and affectionate to other members of the pack or family. When two members of the same wolf pack meet, they wag their tails, whine out loud and lick each other's fur.
In the pack, the leaders are known as the alpha male and the alpha female and they are the only wolves in a pack that can have babies. The wolf breeds once per year around the end of the winter so that the cubs (baby wolf) can arrive in the spring. The mother wolf can have up to ten baby cubs in a litter (group) at one time. Newborn cubs only weigh one pound and cannot see or hear for the first few weeks and therefore, cannot protect themselves from harm. In this way, they are just like newborn babies. They need their parents to take care of them and even feed them milk. While the mother protects her cubs and feeds them her milk, the other pack members bring her food from the hunts to help her survive. After eight weeks, the cubs are big enough to eat small animals that they hunt and the mother goes hunting leaving the cubs with an adult wolf that "babysits" the cubs.
Shortly after, wolves are considered grown enough to help hunt and by eighteen months old, they are full sized and can start their own families.
Wolf families are compared to stay at home mothers who stays home to feed and nurture the babies and the father goes off to hunt. In some cases, older siblings are helping to provide food for the young. "Stay at home wolf moms" teach the young how to survive and take care of themselves until they are strong enough to fend for themselves and either stay at home or venture off on their own. Many human children have a babysitter that allows parents to go and get things done while the children stay home. In the cases where the wolf cubs are big enough to stand on their own, the stay at home mom can go work part-time to help the father with hunting while the cubs stay with an older sibling wolf or "babysitter" as humans call it. This can be just like a large community taking care of each others children or having an active extended family that raises the young.
The elephant is the largest land mammal alive. Unlike other mammals, the elephant can grow for their whole life. Ultimately, the largest are also the oldest elephants. The Indian elephant can be anywhere from nine feet to eleven feet tall and the African elephant can be anywhere from seven feet tall to thirteen feet tall.
There are only two species of elephant and they are the African elephant and the Asiatic (Indian) elephant and this is because elephants live only in Africa and Asia with the exception of those elephants living in the Zoo in various countries. The elephant can survive in different habitats or weather conditions. Some can live in grassy savannah, in tropical rainforest, dry lands and even in mountain areas.
Female elephants are called cows and they live in family groups with all of the daughters of the family leader. The leader of the family group is usually the oldest female. Normally, the family group consists of eleven or twelve elephants. Family groups can join with other family groups to eat and travel together forming bonds called kin.
Male elephants are called bulls and at the age of fourteen, the young bulls leave their family group to be with a group of adult male bulls.
In elephant families, as groups are formed, some of the weaker elephants are left behind. If they are sick or have become injured, it is common for the group to keep moving to try and find water holes or food. The abandoned elephants may struggle to keep or or they may rest and get healthy again. In either instance, another passing group could come along and adopt the straggling elephant. The once helpless elephant could get support and love from other family groups and may start a new journey with the new family.
Humans adopt new children into their families and give them an opportunity to be a part of a family again. Due to the leaving and gathering of family members and the constant migrations, some family groups pick up their relatives and some baby elephants are raised by their grandmothers.
Grand-parenting has become a huge family dynamic in families all over the world. In grand-parenting, it is usually the grandmother that raises her grand children in order to compensate for something their children lack. In my classroom, the grandparents that raise children do so because the parents are young and evade responsibility for their children. In other cases, the parents may have passed away and the grandparent is the next in line to take care of their children. Elephant grand-parenting is very similar to human grand-parenting.