In this exciting, albeit somewhat mucky, oh so fun, Science home school activity, we build on our wee ones’ observation skills with three key phrase starters. Those phrases are “I see…” “I think…” “ I wonder.” As always, this activity involves the ever-crucial oral language component, as well as building their confidence in sharing their thinking in a non-judging confidence building way.
Finding Animal Prints: Fun Science Home School Activity
At the beach this summer, my sons and I have had a lot of fun observing (“I see…”) different types of tracks we see in the sand. While we are observing each track’s specific size, shape, position to another similar or dissimilar track, depth, and direction, we discuss what we may think (“I think…”) we know about the creature who left the track. After we think we have learned all we can about the creature, we use the clues to ask questions about and wonder (“I wonder…”) what might have been happening when the tracks were made. These are skills our children will use in Science class as they get older and in life. What a great way to start them on this thinking journey!
Set the Stage for this Science Home School Activity
At home, we thought it would be so neat to see what kinds of tracks we might find in our backyard. One of my thinkers decided we should do the experiment at night in case there are any nocturnal animals. Wow, there is a cool word we could discuss! When he initially mentioned we should do it at night, the busy mama in me could have just said, “We have to get you to bed. We will do it tomorrow,” as I have done before, but I wanted to hear his idea through and asked, “Can you tell me more about that idea?” Well, tell me, he did.
We don’t have sand in our yard, so we decided we would try to make a patch of our gardens as mucky as we could by adding water and mixing it up with spoons and our hands. As I always tell my Kindergarten students’ parents, “If they come home dirty, it has been a good day.” Once the spot was all mucky and wet, we made it as flat as we could so we could see prints better. We could have probably made it flatter, but my sons wanted to do this and were proud of how flat they made it, so I celebrated it with them and left it at that. Besides, if the tracks weren’t super noticeable, we could talk about and brainstorm why they weren’t as easy to see as in the sand…as you will see further on.
Lastly, we set some popcorn and pumpkin seeds near the middle of the muck. My youngest thought if it was too close to the edge, the animals could just “grab it quick like ZOOP! and not even step in the mud, and then we’d have no tracks to look at.” Hmmm…I didn’t think of that. Kids are such thinkers. I love it!
What we Observed
Around 6:00 the next morning, my youngest was eager to look at our muck and seeds. He was disappointed that we noticed absolutely nothing had changed, except the mud wasn’t quite as mucky.
However, between 6:30 and 7:00, I noticed our bounciest of little squirrel friends racing around our yard. We enjoy watching the little one as it parkours from tree to tree to fence and back. Eventually, I saw our little friend make its way to the seeds we had left. As much as I wanted to call my little one to see, I knew he would enjoy using his super scientist skills even more. Once our squirrel friend was finished digging, packing, carrying and parkouring, I called my boys to come take another look.
We found this one little print and part of another. We also found a lot of scratch marks and dig marks. Although there weren’t the beautifully clear marks we had hoped for like at the beach, we still had lots we could talk about for this fun little science home school activity.
Oral Language and Sharing Our Thinking
When we discuss what we see, it is important to say specifically what we see and not just assume. This is hard for little ones to do, so it is okay if we accept some inferences based on what they see, but we can still model stating just observations. In this case, we could observe with seeing and touching. There was nothing to hear or taste or smell…well, in this case, not something I wanted my children to taste or smell. I have put it in a chart for you to see how we moved from our See to our Think and then to a Wonder. We did not write this information down or create a fancy chart. We talked.
With guidance from me, our conversation was based around these ideas.
|I See (Observe)||I Think||I Wonder|
|There was a shape with a backward C.||“Maybe the squirrel doesn’t know how to make a C the right way yet.”
“That is like the palm of our hand but on the squirrel.”
|“I wonder if squirrels write but in squirrel language but not like our language English.”|
|The backward C shape had four lines coming from the top of it kind of like fingers||“Those are probably like fingers but it only has four of them.”||“I wonder why the squirrel only has 4 fingers.”|
|The ends of the lines were darker than the rest of the prints. When we touched it, we noticed the darker parts were deeper and colder than the rest of the print.||“Maybe the squirrel was leaning forward.”
“Ya, and maybe like its toes are heavier so they went deeper in the mud. But, I don’t know why it is colder.”
|I wonder why the deeper parts of the track are colder.|
|The four lines had a small point at the end and one had a small dot at the end.||“Those are where the claws are.”
“Ya. They are pointier not like ours like this…” as he points to the shape of his nails.
|I wonder if squirrels ever cut their fingernails. How do they do it? Do they chew on their nails?|
|The four lines were pointing toward where we placed the food.||“I think that’s because the squirrel was facing the food. Just like our feet point forward.”||I wonder why there is only one footprint.|
You can see why it is important for us to guide our children through these complex forms of thinking of using observations as clues, stating our clues and asking more from them. This is a form of what schools would call inquiry. As our children begin to develop the vocabulary and gain more experience doing these types of fun Science homeschooling activities with us, it helps them to see the world as a wonderful playground full of endless wonders and possibilities of things to explore. We develop thinkers.
Don’t be disappointed if your little scientists don’t come up with answers you think they should. It’s about teaching them the skills by doing and having fun. It is a process. They are gaining great observation and thinking skills, developing their vocabulary, using oral language (a keystone to all forms of language), and having fun with you. My children and I have done these types of fun Science homeschooling activities more than once and each time I have seen a bit of growth in their thinking and greater comfort in sharing their ideas.
I hope you enjoy this fun science home school activity as much as we did. Keep looking for more opportunities where you can practice this with your child while homeschooling. Happy exploring!
Belinda is a mama to two little boys and an experienced Kindergarten teacher. She has a love of using nature and technology to enhance and motivate children’s learning. She values the use and training of growth mindset at home with her family and while teaching. You can follow her along on Pinterest.
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