Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Oo Octopus

Today we finished our Oo Octopus unit. Obviously we studied octopi, but we also studied several other ocean creatures as well as the ocean itself.

I found a neat book at the library called Cut and Paste Sea Creatures that, not surprisingly, gave step-by-step instructions for making a variety of incredibly cute ocean creatures. I let Hannah look through the book to decide which creatures she wanted to study during the week. She chose an octopus (not negotiable), a seahorse, a jellyfish, and a stingray. She wanted to study sea turtles, but I told her that was double-dipping because we just talked about them in our Tt Turtle unit. Each day we studied a different type of animal.

Here's a summary of what we covered this week:

Octopus. First and foremost, Hannah learned that an octopus has eight tentacles. I'm not exactly sure why we've never talked about that before, but apparently we haven't. Once she mastered that essential octopus fact, she also learned that each tentacle has little suction cups on it that help the octopus to climb rocks or hold things, and that octopi can move rocks around to build caves for themselves. We were both surprised to learn that they don't have any bones in their bodies so they can stretch themselves out like rubber and squeeze between small cracks, then go back to their original shape; and that they can change color to blend in with their surroundings. Hannah's favorite part was learning that an octopus can squirt ink out of its body when it needs to hide for a quick escape!

Seahorse. I knew nothing about sea horses, so this was all new information for both Hannah and me. Typically, seahorses are around 3 to 6 inches long, so they're pretty small. Their snout is like a straw that is used to suck in food, and their tail is used to grasp seaweed so they don't float away. (They're not very strong swimmers.) The most shocking thing we learned is that male seahorses are the ones who get pregnant! The males have a pouch that the female deposits eggs into, and the eggs grow inside the daddy's pouch. The best part is that the males have to go through labor. (YES!!! A whole 72 hours' worth!!!)

Jellyfish. Hannah already knew that jellyfish can sting, which I guess she learned from her trip to the beach with MeeMaw and Kimpaw. What she didn't know (and neither did I!) is that certain kinds of jellyfish can actually kill people! We were also both surprised to learn that jellyfish don't have a brain, but I guess that explains how they can go around killing people without feeling guilty about it. We talked about jet propulsion since that's how jellyfish move through the water. This was a totally new concept for Hannah and, understandably, only somewhat grasped.

Stingray. This was fun to talk about because I got to get out some old cruise pictures and show Hannah pictures of my Mommy and Daddy swimming with stingrays. We talked about the odd shape of their bodies, and I explained to Hannah that they might look really weird, but their bodies are perfectly designed for the way they live. We talked about how they graze along the bottom of the ocean floor, and the eyes on top of their bodies help them see any enemies sneaking up on them, while the mouth on the bottom of their bodies allows them to eat small creatures off the bottom of the ocean floor. I told Hannah how strange it feels to feed a stingray because their mouths are like vacuums that just suck the food right out of your hand! We talked about the long tail at the end of their bodies and the barb at the end of it that is used for protection. Hannah and Millie have been watching Wiggly Safari a lot lately, which guest stars The Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin. I chose to go ahead and tell her about how he died when a stingray that felt threatened used its tail to protect itself and ended up sticking its barb into The Crocodile Hunter's heart. I had a tough time deciding whether or not to share that with her; it kind of felt like running into a room full of kindergarteners and telling them there's no such thing as Santa Claus. But I think she's old enough to understand that death is a part of life, and it also gave us an opportunity to talk about how important it is to pray both that his family would know God personally and intimately if they don't already and that they would experience His peace and comfort when they feel sad because he's gone.

As we were studying the animals each day, we would end our lesson by making the animal from the Cut and Paste Sea Creatures book we got from the library. The only one we didn't make was a stingray. At the end of our unit, we glued all of our creatures onto blue paper, sprinkled glue and sand along the bottom, added some seaweed, and made a really fun ocean mural! (If you think you see clutter on my kitchen counter, it must be a figment of your imagination!)

In addition to studying ocean animals, we took a quick look at the oceans themselves. We talked about how most of our planet is covered with water and how all of the oceans are connected. Then I gave Hannah a black and white map and together we colored in the oceans and the land.

When I was thinking through our lessons back in June, I thought it would be fun to take the kids to Galveston this week. That plan, however, fell through for obvious reasons. My next best option was the aquarium in New Orleans, but then I remembered that I've been to New Orleans before and that's the last place I want to go by myself with two small children. So we ended up settling for the fish tanks at Wal-Mart. (Ahh, I'm nothing if not adventurous!)

We read several books this week, but our favorite was Swimmy by Leo Lionni. In this book, a school of black fish is eaten by a tuna. The lone survivor found a school of red fish to hang out with. Fearing that the tuna would come eat those fish, as well, he came up with a way they could arrange themselves to scare off the bully fish! After we read it, Hannah and I drew a picture of their clever solution.

I helped her draw the fish because she was really struggling with it and getting frustrated, which was completely NOT the idea! I have noticed lately that she doesn't like coloring or drawing very much, and I am thinking about incorporating a rule I recently read about on another blog where the parents did not allow the children to have idle hands while watching TV. In other words, Hannah would always need to be doing something while watching TV. This could be coloring, drawing, sculpting with Play-Doh, building with blocks, etc. Maybe if I do this, she'll practice a little more and feel more confident. I'd love to hear any feedback on that idea!

Our special words to remember this week were "Even the octopus praises the Lord." The picture is really supposed to show you her badge, but you can also see a snack I made her one day. It was an octopus sitting on a bed of seaweed. I wish I had taken another picture about two minutes after this one was taken because, although she liked the look of it, she really hated the taste!

Anyway, back to the special words . . . I have to admit I had a hard time liking these words at first. They seemed a little forced. But after we read Marie Hazell's explanation (that's the author) and the accompanying Bible verses, I loved it! Her explanation was that the octopus is so unique in its appearance and in the things it can do that it points people to a Master Creator simply by being itself. The Bible verses we read that I really loved were Psalm 69:34 (Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and all that move in them) and Psalm 148:7 (Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures). As you can see, we spent some time in the Psalms this week and talked about what it means to praise God.

We added a lot to our unit this week by studying a variety of ocean creatures instead of just octopi and making all of the arts and crafts. True, that is more tiring, but it's the kind of tired that feels good. It's an "I-did-something-extra-with-my-kids" kind of tired, not an "I-shouldn't-have-stayed-up-so-late-watching-Everybody-Loves-Raymond" kind of tired. And it's so, so worth it.

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