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In another in our series of STEM story times, let's explore reptile-themed books, learning centers, and activities.

The Books:

To start story time, I began by reading an older picture book from my bookshelf, Lizard in the Sun by Joanne Rider and illustrated by Michael Rothman.


Although this book works well when read one-on-one, it was a bit long for a group of preschoolers. They began to distract each other.

After talking about what reptiles are and visiting the activity stations, we finished with their choice from a pile I provided, Get to Know Gila Monsters (Get To Know Reptiles) by Flora Brett.

STEM Activity Station 1. Lizard in the Sun (Under a lamp)

Explore the concept of "cold-blooded" or ectothermic (having a internal temperature determined by-and-large by the external environment.)

Gather:

  • Two lizard shapes cut from black construction paper
  • Small desk lamp

Place one lizard shape directly under the lamp and one at least three feet away, preferably in a shaded or dark area. Have the children compare the temperature of each.

(Older children could record the temperature difference with a thermometer.)

Optional:  Added graphic of temperature vs. lizard activity on page 3 from Sonoran Desert Museum's Leaping Lizard's handout.

 

STEM Activity Station 2. Box of Reptiles (Sorting activity)

Gather:

      • Toy or model reptiles:  snakes, alligators, lizards, turtles
      • Box or bin
      • A few toy or model animals that are not reptiles:  mammals, birds, insects, fish, or frogs

Mix the animals in the box or bin. Prepare a sign that reads:  Some animals were put into the box of reptiles by mistake. Can you find the ones that aren't reptiles and take them out?

STEM Activity Station 3:  Senses Learning Station

Gather:

  • Images of snakes with prominent heat sensing pits (sense heat)
  • Images of snakes tongues and Jacobson's organs (smell)
  • Point out the eyes (sight)
  • Hearing- although reptiles don't often have obvious ears, they can hear

Place this station near the lizard in the sun station so can compare how we detect heat with how a snake detects heat.

(I included this station because we had previously learned about human senses).

STEM Activity Station 4:  Make a macaroni snake craft (fine motor skills)

Gather:

  • Chenille stems (pipecleaners)
  • White glue
  • Pasta shells
  • Penne (red lentil for color)
  • Marker
  • Red craft foam cut into tongue shape (Y)

Make a loop in one end of the chenille stem to form the head. Feed the penne onto the chenille stem to cover the body. Bend the end back to hold the penne on. Add eyes to a pasta shell and slip over the head loop. Glue into place (do this after the body so it doesn't get dislodged). Glue on the tongue. Allow glue to set before playing with the snakes.

See our previous snake craft using paper beads and a more detailed pasta version at The Pinterest Parent.

STEM Activity Station 5:  Make a reptile book

Gather:

  • reptile book PDF - print out number of copies needed
  • Scissors
  • Markers/crayons/colored pencils to decorate

For instructions how to fold the book, visit the Making Books website or watch this video:


Note:  This project was a bit too difficult for preschoolers, but their parents seemed to enjoy it. The children will color/decorate them at home.

Mini field trip:

The center where the story time was held had a timely exhibit of snakes and lizards, so we made a mini field trip to see it.

The information about Gila monsters probably sparked the children's interest in reading the book about them at the end of story time.

The exhibit included an actual shed snake skin to touch. Cool!

Pointed out the different sizes and shapes of the scales on the bottom versus the top.

This unit was a hit. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

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Visit our Pinterest Board for more reptile STEAM ideas.

Want to read more children's books about reptiles? Try our growing list at Science Books for Kids.

For STEM Friday we are highlighting a fantastic book for upper elementary-aged children, Amazing Amphibians: 30 Activities and Observations for Exploring Frogs, Toads, Salamanders, and More by Lisa J. Amstutz (her website).

If you've never experienced one of the Young Naturalists series books from Chicago Review Press, you are in for a real treat. These books are designed not only for children who are independent researchers interested in a topic -- in this case amphibians -- but also for educators who need information and age-appropriate activity ideas for science lessons.

Lisa Amstutz's text covers everything readers will want to know:

  • What an amphibian is
  • What animals belong to the different families
  • Amphibian anatomy
  • What amphibians eat
  • Their life cycles
  • Some of the threats to amphibians
  • And much more!

It is also filled with amazing facts. Did you know that the North American wood frog can survive being frozen solid? How about that some amphibians can absorb water from moist soil by sitting on it because they have specially absorptive skin on their bellies? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to drink that way?

The activities (30 of them!) will keep young scientists engaged for hours. They range from making fake frog eggs from water beads to making your yard more toad friendly.

Some readers may initially think less of the book when they learn the illustrations are color stock photographs, with many coming from Wikimedia Commons. The quality of stock photographs, however, is determined by the person curating them and in this case the photographs are the highest standard, well-matched to the text and to each other.

The back matter is a treasure trove filled with goodies such as a table of the different amphibian orders, lists of resources, and a teacher's guide with even more ideas for activities.

Personal Note:  I absolutely love these Chicago Review Press books and I use them all the time. The activities encourage the type of hands-on learning that develops fine motor skills so useful later in life. They also reinforce learning. Let's face it, touching a fake frog egg made out of a water bead engages more senses than simply reading about eggs on the page.

The bottom line is Amazing Amphibians is an exceptionally well organized and well written introduction to a fascinating group of animals. It is perfect for young naturalists and scientists. It is also a must-have resource for educators. Investigate a copy today!

Related Activities:

Not that a book loaded with oodles of hands-on activities needs any more, but let's celebrate Amazing Amphibians by making a tiny book about frogs, toads, and salamanders to share with younger children.

1. Download the Tiny Amphibian Book Template (PDF) - (click on image that pops up to load).

2. Print out on white paper.

3. Fold using the instructions in the video below. Make the cut along the line shown in the photo.

4. Talk about the illustrations in the tiny book and research any questions that arise. Decorate and add information to your book to make it your own.

Please let me know if you have any problems folding it.

Older children can make a handmade scientific notebook as suggested on page 3 of Amazing Amphibians.

For more frog and toad science activity suggestions, see our previous posts:

  1. Summer Sounds: Frogs and Toads
  2. Frog and Toad Science Activities, includes toad anatomy and building a toad house
  3. A Frog's Life book and activities, includes link to a citizen's science project.

Age Range: 7 - 9 years
Publisher: Chicago Review Press; First edition (January 7, 2020)
ISBN-10: 1641600721
ISBN-13: 978-1641600729

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

In another in our series of STEM story times, let's explore insect-themed books, learning centers, and activities.

First I read Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert.

The children had a blast looking for insects in the illustrations. They were fully engaged in the story.

Check out our growing list of butterfly and moth books for more options.

After reading and discussing, they visited the STEM Stations.

STEM Activity Station 1. Insect Versus Not Insect

Prepare a sign or explain:

Insects have three body parts, six legs, and two antennae.

Gather:

  • plastic insect models
  • plastic spiders, scorpions, centipedes etc.  (often cheap and available at party stores around Halloween)

Have the children sort insect from non-insect.

Also presented live earthworms, sowbugs, and snails.

The living animals were a huge hit.

The rest of the stations I arranged roughly by insect order (groups).

STEM Activity Station 2. Chirp like a Cricket

Gather:

      • Craft sticks
      • Small plastic combs
      • Eric Carle's The Very Quiet Cricket board book (version that chirps when last page is opened)
      • Photographs of crickets
      • Cricket life cycle image (optional)

Crickets chirp by rubbing their wings together. Rub a craft stick across the comb to make a sound.

Although I didn't get any for this day, live crickets are available in many pet supply stores. They are easy to care for (see previous post).

STEM Activity Station 3:  Lady Beetles

Gather:

  • Lady beetle photographs and/or models
  • Lady beetle anatomy diagram (available in previous post).
  • Photographs of aphids
  • Diagrams of lady beetle life cycles
  • Model of lady beetle life cycle (optional)

STEM Activity Station 4:  Ants, Bees and Wasps

Gather:

  • Photographs and illustrations of ants, bees, and wasps
  • Board books
  • Models of honey bee comb
  • Ant life cycle diagram (Ask a Biologist)
  • Honey bee life stages diagrams

STEM Activity Station 5:  Cicadas

Gather:

  • Cicada exoskeletons (collect and save during summer)
  • Cicada models
  • Cicada life cycle diagram (Super Coloring has an amazing assortment of realistic life cycle diagrams)
  • Clicker to replicate cicada buzzing

STEM Activity Station 6:  Butterfly and moth life cycles

Gather:

  • Butterfly life cycle models and illustrations
  • Silkworm cocoons (raised previously and saved)
  • Silkworm eggs (raised previously and saved)
  • Silkworm life cycle diagrams (also from Super Coloring)

 

Also provided assorted crafts and crayon-rubbing templates.

Note:  At this age the templates slid around too much. Consider taping them down with painter's tape to help hold in place.

Also, fingerprint insects are fun, but I didn't have any washable ink stamp pads at home. Need to pick up some for next time.

We finished with We Dig Worms by Kevin McCloskey, which is what the children chose.

Soon they were counting all the earthworms on each page. It was a great way to end the class.

Visit our Pinterest Board for more insect science activity and craft ideas.

pin code insect activities