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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.

2

Our post today is inspired by a book I spotted at our local library: Sneed B. Collard III's Most Fun Book Ever About Lizards by, you guessed it, Sneed B. Collard III (for a full review, see Wrapped in Foil).

We have many different kinds of lizards here in Arizona. I love how this book starts out with an introduction to "Joe Lizard," a western fence lizard, which is the kind we see in our yard all the time. The author also discusses other lizards common to Arizona, such as Gila monsters, horned lizards and western whiptails.

What are lizards?

Lizards are reptiles with over-lapping scales. They also have moveable quadrate bones that allow them to open their mouths very wide. Finally most lizards (but not all) have legs, which distinguishes them from the snakes.

Lizards also have the ability to drop their tails if they are attacked by a predator. You can see the discolored area of the tail where this one has just grown its tail back.

Western fence lizards can be found climbing on trees, where they lend in perfectly with the bark, as well as on fences. The males have bright blue bellies, which they show off by doing push-ups.

Whiptails have particularly long and slender tails.

Collared lizards, named for the black band at their neck, are often brightly-colored.

Activity 1 :  Lizard body temperature

Lizards and other reptiles are ectothermic, which means that their internal body temperature is controlled by the temperature of the environment around them. Another word for this is "cold-blooded," although lizard don't really have cold blood. Lizards move from sun to shade and place to place to keep their temperature in the optimal range.

Children may assume that when the outdoor temperature is 78° F, it is the same temperature everywhere. In fact, many surfaces will be colder or warmer than the air temperature depending on sun exposure and other factors. These differences are called "microclimates."

Gather:

  • Thermometers (enough for every participant, if possible.)
  • Lamp (if doing this activity indoors), or sunny day outdoors
  • Dry play sand (or soil if not available)
  • Water
  • 2 containers to hold sand (enough for small groups of participants to share)
  • Timer or watch
  • Pencil and paper

Place a similar amount of sand into each container. Moisten the sand in one of the containers with water. Set both containers in the shade or indoors with the lamp off for a a few minutes to allow it to stabilize. Now take the temperature of the sand just under the surface with the thermometer for both containers and record the results.

Move the containers to a sunny place or under a lamp. Take the temperature after five minutes and again after ten minutes. Did it change? How did the temperature of the wet sand change in comparison to the dry sand? (The temperature of the wet sand should change less than dry sand).

If outdoors, encourage the children to check and record temperatures in several locations, both in the shade and in the sun.

If you were a lizard that should have an internal temperature about 80 °F, where would you spend your time? How about if your preferred temperature was 90°F?

What do lizards do when it is too cold out? Our Arizona lizards hibernate during the coldest months of the year.

Activity 2. Lizard in the Sun (Under a lamp)

See how a "lizard" absorbs heat. Appropriate for younger children.

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.

 

(See more activities for preschoolers in our newer post.)

Citizen Science:  More opportunities for studying lizards

And don't forget,

Sneed B. Collard III's Most Fun Book Ever About Lizards

Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing (February 1, 2012)
ISBN-10: 1580893244
ISBN-13: 978-1580893244


Disclosures: The book was from our local library. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.

Where is your favorite place to watch lizards?

(*Note: It was entirely the lizard’s own decision to climb up this person. It was not picked up or handled.)