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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.

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

Have you looked into nonfiction picture books about the solar system for preschoolers lately? There's a trend to use less-than-serious illustrations to capture the reader's attention, for example images of the earth, moon, sun, and other planets with expressive faces, mixed with text that contains serious science vocabulary, facts, and concepts.

At a recent STEM story time for preschoolers, I read Nerdy Babies: Space by Emmy Kastner.

 

Follow the "Nerdy Baby" astronauts as they travel into space (floating), orbit around the sun, go back to the moon, then discover each of the planets in the solar system, with one significant fact noted about each.

The format is question and answer. For example:

Do you love the moon?
Earth sure does!
They travel around space together.

The pacing, vocabulary, and information presented all work perfectly for preschoolers in the 4-5 year old range.

The only thing that was off-putting was that the author included the Nerdy Baby branding in the text, which starts with:

"Hello, Nerdy Babies!"

Preschoolers might not like to be called babies (or nerdy), so decide how you want to deal with that part.

Overall, Nerdy Babies: Space is a sweet, well-paced introduction to our solar system.

Related Activity:

Find the coloring sheet at the author's website. Color the planets, then cut them out. Use the planets to make puppets (tape to craft stick), a solar system mobile (tape string to back and hang), or create a solar system poster to mount on the wall.

Series: Nerdy Babies
Board book: 32 pages
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (May 7, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1250312051
ISBN-13: 978-1250312051

Our second book is Moon! Earth's Best Friend by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Stevie Lewis.

On the surface this picture book looks similar to the one above. There's a moon with a sweet face on the cover. Open it up and begin to read, however, and you've entered an entirely different world, one more appropriate for older children.

First of all, Moon! is narrated by the Moon (in first person). Next you will find some big numbers.

Average distance between Earth and me:  238,855 miles.

There's also a summary or the most recent ideas about how the moon formed when a planet-like rock the size of Mars crashed into the Earth.

On the other hand, there's a lighthearted discussion of why cows can't really jump over the moon.

Overall, Moon! is for serious young readers who enjoy learning science facts. However, it might also be a good choice for older reluctant readers who will be sucked in by the more creative aspects.

Related:

If you enjoy this book, check out the others in the series, Sun! One in a Billion by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Stevie Lewis, and Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years by by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by David Litchfield.

Also, check out our STEM Story Time space activities,

and be sure to visit our growing list of children's books about the moon and lunar landings


plus our list of children's books about planets and the solar system
at Science Books for Kids.

Age Range: 4 - 8 years
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (June 11, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1250199344
ISBN-13: 978-1250199348