Mammals can be carnivores, omnivores, or herbivores. They also appear at every level of the food web. But… what is a mammal?! Let’s find out!
In our Mammals Family Unit Study, we found out what makes a mammal a mammal, and learned all about some very interesting mammals—including bats, blue whales, and the platypus!
Below you can see the ten topics from the unit study, as well as the hands-on activities we enjoyed for each topic.
What is a Family Unit Study?
But first… what exactly is a Family Unit Study?
This unit study, like all of our ever-growing library of unit studies, takes one big topic—Mammals—and breaks it down into ten manageable, bite-sized learning topics. This format gives you the freedom to dive into learning at a pace that works for your family.Perhaps you do one topic per day, perhaps one per week. Whatever suits your fancy! You can learn about mammals and explore a topic from start to finish in about 1-2 hours each.
Dive in and watch the sparks of wonder ignite. Watch the child-led learning take off. Watch what happens when children are engaged in what they are learning!
Each of the 10 topics included with a unit study contains everything you need for that topic, including:
- a curated YouTube video,
- suggested information to read,
- a “what’s happening” section,
- an interesting fact,
- a discussion questions
- literacy and math extension questions,
- and an ultimate-can’t-be-beat hands-on activity!
Get a FREE Family Unit Study Sample
Want to see what our unit studies are like? You can download a sample from the Stars and Constellations Family Unit Study right here:
What is a Mammal? Learn with the Whole Family!
Here are some of the hands-on learning activities you and your little ones will enjoy as you learn about mammals with the Mammals Family Unit Study:
Topic One: What is a Mammal?
Did you know that you are probably sitting next to a mammal right now? In fact, you ARE a mammal! Mammals are a group of animals that all share certain characteristics. Mammals typically breathe air, have a backbone, have hair or fur, feed their babies milk, are warm-blooded, and give birth to live young. Let’s explore…
Hands-On Activity: To start this unit study, we will begin by learning all about what makes a mammal a mammal. Look through an animal book, or choose an animal, and look at the list of characteristics to determine whether it is a mammal.
Topic Three: Types of Mammals
We now know what makes an animal a mammal, and we have also seen the large differences in this big group of animals. It can be helpful to further break down this group so we can look at more similar groups of mammals as we learn about them. Mammals can be further broken down into three subgroups. Let’s explore…
Hands-On Activity: For this activity, we will learn all about the three types of mammals: monotremes, marsupials, and placental mammals. Get out the art supplies, and let’s write and draw pictures in a Venn Diagram to compare!
Topic Three: Three Middle Ear Bones
Another way mammals are unique cannot be seen outside the body: mammals have three middle ear bones. This allows them to be more sensitive to sounds. The middle ear bones are called the malleus, incus and stapes. They are nicknamed the hammer, anvil, and stirrup. Let’s explore…
Hands-On Activity: Print out your Middle Ear Bones Printable (included with the Family Unit Study). Do you see the three middle ear bones? Can you tell which bones might be nicknamed the hammer, anvil, or stirrup? Let’s get out the playdough and recreate them!
Topic Four: Body Temperature
One of the classifications for being a mammal is being warm-blooded. This means that mammals don’t need to rely on their environment for warmth, as cold-blooded reptiles do. Mammals can maintain a fairly consistent body temperature, no matter their environment. Let’s explore…
Hands-On Activity: For this activity, we’ll explore how mammals warm up and cool down through some simple experiments. Be sure to get your Unit Study Journal to write or draw your findings like a scientist!
Topic Five: Bears
Bears are mammals, so they are warm-blooded, meaning they can regulate their body temperature. Before winter, bears stock up on fat so they can hibernate. Since they can regulate their body temperature and they are nice and fat, bears don’t need their dens to be warm, they just need to be sheltered from the wind and snow. Let’s explore…
Hands-On Activity: Let’s make a bear den! Using hot glue and popsicle sticks, make a bear den, then test it out! Does the inside of your bear den stay dry when you pour water on it? What happens if you put it in front of a fan?
Topic Six: Bats
You may not think a bat is a mammal, but it is! Bats are, in fact, the only freely flying mammal. Bats use echolocation to allow them to “see” in the dark. They let out a high pitch sound, and it bounces off objects, then the sound returns, providing them with all sorts of information. Let’s explore…
Hands-On Activity: Let’s use some paper towel rolls, tape, and a tin plate or aluminum container to demonstrate echolocation! We can even play a game using our echolocation tubes, where one person whispers an animal in the tube, and the listener has to whisper back if it’s a mammal or not.
Topic Seven: Elephants
Elephants are the largest land animal that exists today! Since they are mammals, we know they must have hair or fur—but why? They are so big and live in such a hot environment—doesn’t hair make them too hot? Sparse hair actually helps cool elephants down! Let’s explore…
Hands-On Activity: It’s craft time! As we learn all about elephants in this topic, we’ll paint and construct our very own elephant face using paper plates, paint, and construction paper.
Topic Eight: Blue Whales
The largest animal in the world is a blue whale, and it is—you guessed it—a mammal! Blue whales can weigh up to 400,000 lbs. Let’s explore…
Hands-On Activity: The smallest mammal is the bumblebee bat, weighing only 2 grams! The blue whale is the largest mammal, sometimes reaching lengths of over 100 feet long. Despite appearing very different, these two mammals actually have a lot in common! We’ll be looking into all of the ways these two animals are the same—and all of the ways they are different!—with this activity.
Topic Nine: Humans
Earlier in this unit study, we looked at six things to ask when figuring out if an animal is a mammal: Does it breathe air? Does it have live young? Does it have hair or fur? Does it have a backbone? Do females produce milk for their young? Is it warm-blooded? Looking at these questions, we can figure out that we are mammals too! Let’s explore…
Hands-On Activity: Humans are mammals, just like all of the other animals we have learned about in this unit study. Humans breathe air, have a backbone, feed their young milk, are warm-blooded, and have hair. But there are a few things, of course, that make humans unique. For this activity, you will be writing an illustrating a poem about what makes a human a mammal—and what makes us unique!
Topic Ten: Platypus
The platypus is an exception to the rules of being a mammal. Platypuses are indeed mammals, but they do not give birth to live young—they lay eggs! Let’s explore…
Hands-On Activity: Did you know that platypuses don’t have stomachs? Instead, they have a gullet that connects directly to their intestines. And did you know that while bats use echolocation, platypuses use electrolocation? A platypuses bill is so sensitive it allows them to detect the electric fields generated by all living things. In fact, it is so sensitive a platypus can hunt without using its eyes, ears, or nose! For this activity, we’re going to learn all about these amazing animals and fill out our Platypus Poster with all of the fascinating information we learn.
And there you have it. The ten bite-sized learning topics that make up our great big Mammals Unit Study! I hope you will pop on over to check it out and consider purchasing it for you and yours.
Grab your Complete Mammals Unit Study right here: https://shop.howweelearn.com/collections/family-unit-studies/products/family-unit-study-mammals
Thank you so much for reading!