Waterfalls Unit Study

Waterfalls Unit Study

After our cave adventure we’ll take the rest of the week (Wednesday – Friday) for a mini-unit on waterfalls (student-requested topic).


How Waterfalls Work from HowStuffWorks.com.

After reading and discussing the article together we’ll read and color this printout (page 1).

Victoria Falls
A little video of Victoria Falls (Amazon Prime video). Visualizing the scale of Victoria Falls and some gorgeous photos via PBS.org.

Niagara Falls
A couple of fiction books from the library to go along with our unit.

We’ll use the Power of Speech worksheet from this TPT freebie to discuss why authors use certain dialogue for their characters and what character traits we can infer from their speech.

We’ll take a virtual field trip to Niagara Falls and a few local waterfalls via Google Earth.

I found this story paper with a picture of Niagara Falls that we’ll use to write about our virtual field trip.


Another great library book – How Does a Waterfall become Electricity? – will be the basis for our science portion of this unit. We’ll use a portion of the non-fiction text to identify the main idea and supporting details of a passage/chapter.

This YouTube video explains how a hydroelectric power plant works clearly enough for my 1st graders to get a good overview of the process.


Norris Dam State Park  is about 30 minutes north of us. As we were finishing up our lesson on Thursday the news reported that the Dam would be spilling water to lower lake levels. It was such a perfect fit that we took a picnic lunch and headed out the next morning. We stopped at three different observation points and took pictures and got a real feel of the power of the water. The kids saw the size of the powerhouse and the transformers, just like we had read about! While there were quite a few spectators at the dam viewing sites, our picnic area was empty and beautiful! We also visited the Old Grist Mill, watching how the water moved the wheel and then going inside to see the gears moving. The Lenoir Museum was also interesting and educational. The kids enjoyed seeing, touching and even using some the of the tools used “a long, long time ago”, as the kids put it. Here are some pictures from our trip!

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Cave Unit Study

Cave Unit Study

In preparation for our field trip to The Lost Sea this week we’re studying all about caves!

First up was a “what do we know about caves?” brainstorming activity. Brainstorming is not a very popular activity around here for some reason. It seems to go much smoother when we use www.wordle.net and I do the typing of the ideas. Then we tinkered with the design of our wordle until everyone liked it and came up with the image above. (Our wordle is saved online here.)

Our main text for this Caves Unit Study is from the USGS and is designed for grades K-3 (get it here). It’s a tremendous resource and the story is very engaging for my kids who love reading adventures and mysteries. It is very text-heavy so I transferred the pdfs to my iPad and am reading them to the kids. At certain points I’ll stop and ask them to predict what might happen next. We covered lessons 1 & 2 on the first day, using some, but not all, of the suggested follow-up activities.

We created a 3-part foldable to remember the differences between troglobites, trogloxenes, and troglophiles. We also started decorating lapbooks for the unit.

cave lapbook cave dwellers flapbook

Day 2 I have planned to help my mom around her house so I’ve got some independent work for the kids lined up for after we read lesson 3 together. Today is all about bats!

After reading the story we’ll practice Spanish directional words together with this little book from TPT. Then we’ll review what we learned yesterday about water creating cave through erosion with this fun activity using sugar cubes and clay.

EDIT 5-1-13 – We actually changed this experiment up a bit. I demoed wrapping the sugar in the clay and each of the kids then made their own, so we ended up with 3 “caves”. We applied water to the sugar in different ways to see how different conditions would affect the rate of erosion. Cave 1 was placed in a shallow bowl of water to simulate a cave lake. Cave 2 was misted with water to simulate slow erosion from rain water. Cave 3 had water poured directly onto the sugar to simulate a continuous flowing river. 

For independent work I’ve printed out copies of the non-fiction selection “Joni Adapts to the Dark” from the USGS lesson 3 pdf and a non-fiction response page from this packet. I’ve also printed the poetry strips for this cute little bat poem, a bat can-have-are foldable & question sheet,  and this In the Cave subtraction activity they can do together (with Skittles!)

Day 3 will be our field trip to the Lost Sea!

Lesson 4 deals with stalactites and stalagmites. We’ll try this experiment from TLC’s How Stuff Works to create our own versions. We’ll also talk about cave preservation and why caves are important and do a writing activity about our field trip.

Lesson 5 talks about cave paintings, which goes really well with the Native American studies we did last week & the first part of this week. We’ll look at images of cave paintings and then create our own “cave” paintings on the huge rocks in our backyard using chalk and inspiration from the symbol worksheets here.




Moon Unit Study

Moon Unit Study

Today was a migraine day & part of our more relaxed “Spring Break” week. Since I didn’t feel up to heading out anywhere fun with the kids today we started out the day with a movie – Despicable Me. That inspired a day’s lesson on the moon. I’m sure we’ll add more to our study of the moon when we start an in depth space unit later (I scored a massive reproducible space workbook at a consignment sale for $3), but here’s what we considered today.

We used these writing prompts for a bit of creative writing –
The “Facts about the Moon” and “Phases of the Moon” went nicely with this free download:


We went on a virtual field trip to the moon using  Google Earth. We use Google Earth a lot when doing geography and the kids love the feeling of walking or controlling a rover on the moon.

We also incorporated the reading, game and quiz at:

This one day obviously isn’t a full unit study but I’ll add more resources here later.

Iditarod Unit Study

Iditarod Unit Study

The Iditarod Sled Dog race stars March 2nd. We’ll be including some fun projects about the race & dogs in general in the week before and the 10-17 days the race lasts, or until we lose interest, whichever happens first.

General Info & Projects

Iditarod Official Website – Student Pages

Musher Tracking Pages


TPT: Iditarod: Math, Science & Literacy Activites

IditaNature is a fun way to encourage outdoor play while learning about the amazing Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. From March 3rd to March 17th, 2012 children are each challenged to play outside for 1,150 minutes, while the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is underway.

Popsicle stick dog sled and diarama

Iditarod worksheets

Friction Online Activity BBC – Schools Science Clips – Friction

Language Arts:

Library books that we’ll use:

Other LA resources:


Scale  – Translate real world measurements (race is about 1000 miles) to a scale that will fit on a large poster.
Elementary math & logic problems


National Parks Unit Study

National Parks Unit Study

Unit Wide Resources

National Park Service
WebRangers.us park ranger games & activities
National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide U.S.A.:
The Most Amazing Sights, Scenes,
and Cool Activities from Coast to Coast!
 (library resource)

National Geographic National Parks website

NPSEducation on Twitter

Lesson plan, graphic organizer & travel brochure planning guide from the US Mint

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea – Video (free for Amazon Prime members); lesson plan & clips from PBS.com

Individual Park Resources…