in the World
by Daniel Postgate
Published by HarperCollins, 2003
Earth Day Theme: Water and Sun
I have to admit that I love this book. I found it going cheap in the supermarket one day as though it was remaindered, but it grabbed me at once and the kids adored it too. It ticks so many boxes in the preschool room!
And look at all those boys' toys that the rich crocodile has to play with! Helicopters, cars, bikes... oh yes, they're listening alright, those sometimes-twitchy and hard-to-settle boys.
If you don't know the story, here's a brief run-down:
The rich crocodile looks out across the plains and sees the other animals having fun horsing around in the waterhole.
He tries having that sort of fun by himself, but he's missing one important ingredient- FRIENDS!
So off he goes with his butler, the giraffe, to join in.
But when he gets there, the waterhole has dried up and the animals are all gone...
...and this, my friends, is where you can start to engage preschoolers with Earth Day.
Of course, you'll finish the book before you do the activities- and you'll discover that it has a great message about the importance of friends, too. But when you finish, turn back to that page with the crocodile and giraffe looking into the empty waterhole.
My favourite approach is to ask leading questions.
Where did the water go? is the first one, and what happens next is up to your kids! There are all sorts of activities that can lead on from this concept of 'where did the water go' and the many possible responses.
Maybe they'll theorise that the animals drank it.
Activity: There's an ideal opening for discussion of where the water goes when we drink it (cue giggling), and why we need water to drink. An understanding of the importance of water to human life is an essential facet of Earth Day.
A baby doll that drinks and wets is a good starting prop for this discussion. The water goes in one end and comes out the other- but what happens inside? What does it do?
This is a perfect lead-in to looking at some anatomy books and investigating what our internal organs do, plus the role of water in moving things around and out of our body. 'Child Art Retrospective' has a whole series of posts showing how an investigation of anatomy led to a layered art project, where over a period of weeks the children first painted their organs, then over the top their bones, then when that was dry added muscles and blood vessels... have a look; you might want to try this as a long-term project.
You can also talk about times that children have hurt themselves and drawn blood- is blood the same as water? Do you think blood has water in it? Where does the water come from in your blood? What would happen to your blood if you stopped drinking water? What does blood DO? And so on. Don't forget to listen to the answers when you ask these questions, and respond to what they say without laughing at anyone- it's all about letting them hypothesise, and gently inserting a little intentional teaching where you can.
If you can get hold of a length of clear plastic tubing and tape it to the mouth of a squeezable clear plastic container (some kids' ice blocks come in these- wash one out and away you go), you can experiment with filling the container with red-coloured water and 'pumping' it like a heart so the water goes down the tube. (This is definitely an activity for the water trough outside!) Have a play around with whatever recycled resources you have at hand to make your little 'heart' and 'arteries'- it's worth the effort.
Oh, and if you have your wits about you next time someone skins a knee, you can seize the teaching moment and talk about how blood is wet, how it runs and drips and oozes... so much vocabulary to use around this intriguing subject.
Children are usually fascinated by blood and after talking about this, you shouldn't be surprised if there's a lot of red paint used in art projects. :)
Activity: 'Growing a Jeweled Rose' has some beautiful photos of their science experiment with white flowers placed in coloured water. The flowers continue to 'drink' the water and the colour will be transferred to the flowers. Magic!
Follow-ups: Set up three seedlings in pots on the windowsill or outside where they'll get light, but no water except what you give them. Anything that grows okay indoors in your climate will do.
Label your plants with pictures and words to show what you're going to do with each one. Each day you'll give one plant no water (a picture of a watering can with a cross through it), one some water- enough to keep the soil damp (normal watering can with a sprinkle coming out), and one lots of water, ie flood it (watering can gushing and splashing)- and see what happens over a week.
Discuss the results with the children. What would happen if the Earth had no water left? What would happen if the whole world was covered in water? Is it important to make sure plants have the right amount of water?
Look at some non-fiction picture books of different types of landscapes- include deserts and rainforests. Make collages of different landscapes, using natural materials including sand and leaves. (Silver foil can be good for 'water', especially with blue or grey cellophane added on top.) This can be a great group activity.
Maybe your kids will theorise straight away that the water dried up because of the hot sun. If not, do a bit of intentional teaching! Talk about sunburn. Talk about peeling noses, where your skin has had all the water taken out and cracks and curls like the mud at the bottom of the crocodile's waterhole. And then it's time for another experiment.
Activity: Let the children choose some items that they think have water in them, and try 'drying them up' on a tray in the sun. You will need to plan ahead- read the book early in the day, and ask the kids to watch out for things to add to the drying tray while playing and at meal times. You might end up with a tray containing a wooden block, a grape, a small plastic toy, a drinking straw, a piece of watermelon, a slice of carrot, an ice cube in a cup, some flowers or leaves... the possibilities are endless, but I would also include a mud pie. Take a photo of your tray.
Now find a nice hot spot where the items won't be tampered with, and observe the tray with the kids each day, taking another photo. You should end up with a series of photos which show how some things dehydrate in the heat of the sun. See if you can keep your experiment going for long enough to make the mud pie crack like the bottom of the animals' waterhole in the book!
If you just don't have enough heat in the day to do this, put the tray in a very slow oven- but make sure you ditch the plastic items or you may have a mess!
Follow-up: How did the water get back in the waterhole at the end of the book? (Note that the book doesn't say- so this is a perfect opportunity for speculation!) Talk about clouds and rain. Look at the sky each day and discuss the clouds you can see. Try to identify which ones have rain in them.
Well, that should keep you all busy for a week, don't you think? :D But just in case you need more... here are heaps of other ideas from fabulous EC bloggers!
Teach Preschool : Child Central Station : Living Montessori Now : Aunt Annie's Childcare : The SEEDS Network : Flights of Whimsy : Pre-K Pages : Kreative Resources : I'm a teacher, get me OUTSIDE here! : Share & Remember : Music Sparks : little illuminations : Greening Sam and Avery : Putti Prapancha : Early Play : 52 Days to Explore : Little Running Teacher : Look at My Happy Rainbow : Rainbows within Reach