Natural History Lessons

Mini-Book of landforms and Bodies of Water

Purpose: To introduce and reinforce the learning of physical geography terms using a student-created booklet.

Standards Addressed: CA History/Social Science 3.1: Describe physical and human geography 3.1.1 Identify geographical features found in their local region. National Geography Standards: 1. Characteristics of geographic representations. 4. Physical and human characteristics of place. Language Arts: 2.1 Use titles,tables of contents, chapter headings, glossaries, and indexes to locate information in text.

Materials: World map or globe, stapler. Each student will need: fine line markers, glue sticks or glue, six pieces each of 4 1/2" by 6" blue and green construction paper.

Procedure: This is a positive/negative torn paper project. Students will need to carefully follow directions modeled by the teacher. NOTE: It is important that the students turn their papers from side to side, rather than top over, so that the finished booklets are oriented correctly.

1. Ask students to set aside the six pieces of blue paper - they are the water. These will be used to glue the green pieces of "land."

2. Taking a green paper, students carefully tear an irregular patch out of the middle - about two inches around. Glue patch onto the middle of a blue paper. Label it ISLAND. Take the remaining green paper and glue it on the back side of the same blue paper. Label it LAKE. Point out a large island on the map, such as Madagascar, and a large lake, such as Lake Tahoe or the Great Salt Lake as examples.

3. Taking a green paper, students carefully tear a thumb-shaped piece from one of the sides. Glue piece onto a blue paper, making sure the straight edge lines up with one of the sides(I usually have them glue it coming down from the top long side). Label it PENINSULA. Glue remaining green paper to back side of blue, aligning the sides carefully. Label it BAY. Point out Florida and San Francisco Bay as examples.

4. Taking a green paper, tear a large rounded C-shaped or triangular shaped piece from one of the short sides. Glue torn piece to top long side of blue paper. Label it CAPE. Glue remaining piece to back side, aligning the sides. Label it GULF. Point out Cape Horn or Cape of Good Hope and the Gulf of Mexico on the map as examples.

5. Taking a green paper, carefully tear a C-shaped piece from each of the long sides. This will create a piece that is somewhat "I" shaped. Glue onto the blue paper, carefully aligning the straight edges. Label it ISTHMUS. Glue remaining green pieces to back, aligning straight edges, but a little offset. Label this STRAIT. Point out the Isthmus of Panama and the Strait of Gibraltar on the world map as examples.

6. Taking a green paper, carefully tear out 4-5 small pieces from the middle. Glue these to the blue, and label them ARCHIPELAGO. Glue remaining green on the back, labeling this SYSTEM OF LAKES. Find the Hawaiian Island Archipelago, the Channel Islands of California. etc., the find the Great Lakes. Point out how the Great Lakes continue northwest into Canada.

7. On the remaining green paper, write "My Little Book of Landforms, by___ (student's name)." On the remaining blue, write "My Little Book of Bodies of Water." Staple booklets together at the sides, making sure all landforms face in the same direction with that cover on top, and vice versa for water bodies.

Extension: Older students can insert a 4 1/2" by 6" white paper between colored pages and write the definition of the term using the glossary in their social studies text or a dictionary.

Evaluation: Teacher can make an unlabeled book to use for individual testing, or include these physical geography terms on a regular test.

*Adapted from a lessons shared by Mike Murphy of Clovis Unified Schools.

What Am I?

Purpose: A game to enhance descriptive, listening, critical thinking, and awareness of clues skills.

Standards addressed: History/Social Science 3.1.1: Physical and Human geography; identifying features of the local region. Science 3.3b: Examples of diverse life forms in different environments. 4.3: Living organisms depend on one another and on their environment for survival. Language Arts: 3.2.2 Ask questions and support answers by connecting prior knowledge with literal information found in text (web pages). National Geography Standards: 4. Physical and Human characteristics of places. 8. Ecosystems on the Earth's surface.

Materials: 3" x 5" or larger index cards, crayons or colored pencils, printed copy of natural history pages.

Procedure: Working with a partner, students make a assigned cards for a deck of index cards listing the natural features of the San Bernardino Mountains including terms from geology, plant life, and animal life. Divide the class into two teams. One team leaves the room. While gone, a card is drawn from the stack which the remaining team will represent. When the other team returns to the room, they must ask questions to figure out which natural resource is. Questions must be able to be answered with a yes or no response. When the team guesses the answer, it is their turn.

Alternate Play: Students may play this game as individuals. When a member of the class guesses correctly, it is their turn to play.

Where in the World Am I?

Purpose: To introduce or reinforce the geographical theme of location.

Standards addressed: History/Social Studies: 3.1 Physical and Human geography. National Geography Standards: 1. Use of maps and other geographic representations. 2. Using mental maps to organize information. 3. Analyze spatial concepts and information. 4. Physical and Human characteristics of place. Science: 3.4d: The Earth is one of several planets that orbit the sun. Language Arts: 3.0 Literary response and analysis 3.1 Distinguish common forms of literature (such as poetry), 3.5 Recognize the common similarities of sounds in words and rhythmic patterns.

Materials: The Armadillo From Amarillo, by Lynne Cherry (ISBN # 0-15-200359-2 ). Five sheets 9" X 12" sheets of white construction paper per student.

Procedure: Stack the sheets of paper on top of each other horizontally neatly, with top and bottom edges aligned. Pull the sheets apart slightly, so that each is about one inch to the right of the one directly above it. Holding the top and bottom edges together, fold down until paper overlaps itself in a step-like fashion. Staple along the fold. The first step/page will be the cover page, "Where in the World Am I?" by (student name). Label subsequent pages as follows: #1. I live in the community of Lake Arrowhead, a city rather small, #2. Which is in the San Bernardino Mountains, a new range rather tall, #3. They are in the southern part of California, one of fifty states in all, #4 and so on: Continue as in the poem at the end of Cherry's book (United States, Northern Hemisphere, Earth, Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy, Universe).

The Country Mouse and the City Mouse

Visit the Mountain Mice

Purpose: Using the geographical theme of "place," students will compare and contrast the aspects of urban, suburban and rural living.

Standards addressed: Language Arts: 3.1.0 Writing strategies. 3.2.0 Writing applications. History/ Social Science: 3.1.2. Ways in which people have used the resources of their local region. 3.3.2 Describe how each period of settlement has left its mark on the land. National Geography Standards: 4. The physical and human characteristics of place.

Materials: The Country Mouse and the City Mouse: Three Aesop Fables, by Patricia Scarry (Golden Books/Press: New York). Chart paper or construction paper. pencils, crayons.

Procedure: Students are familiarized with the five themes of geography (location, place, human/environment interaction, regions, movement). For this activity, instruction will focus on "place." After visiting the natural history section of the Lake Arrowhead Virtual Museum, students are asked to name some of the animals and plants of the mountain area. With younger students, the teacher then reads the Country Mouse story (older students can read story independently). Students are asked if they can think of anything in the mountains that would be scary to visitors. Ideas are written down, and the class creates their own sequel to the story, based on experiences the two visiting mice might have when coming to see their mountain cousins. Students are then assigned a page to write and illustrate individually or in collaborative groups.

Check this Out!

Purpose: To familiarize students with the local geology, flora, and fauna

Standards addressed: Science: 3.3. Adaptations may improve an organism's chance for survival. 4.4 The properties of rocks reflect the processes that formed them. National Geography: Human and physical characteristics of place. 8. Characteristics of spatial distribution of ecosystems on Earth's surface.

Materials: Teacher will need to either check out the habitat boxes available from the San Bernardino County Museum, or bring in their personal collection of rocks, plant specimens, and animals in the form of pictures, puppets, or stuffed toys representing the local species.

Procedure: Students will read about the natural history of the area on this website. The teacher will then introduce students to the collected specimens, allowing the children to handle and manipulate the items.

Extension: Students will write about living on the mountain--from the viewpoint of one of the local plants or animals.

It's All My Fault!

Purpose: To investigate the tectonic forces at work in Southern California.

Standards addressed: Science: 4.4. The properties of rocks ands minerals reflect the processes that formed them. 4.5a. Changes that shape and reshape the earth's surface, such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

Materials: Each student will need a piece of aluminum foil approximately 12" square. Warning: Kids like to play with the foil. Be sure they leave the foil nice and smooth to enjoy the visual impact of this activity.

Procedure: After reading about the mountain's geology, students will create the physical landforms of Southern California. Begin by pointing out the San Andreas fault system, noting its course through this area. With the students' foil lying flat on their desks, pupils place one hand palm-down on each side of the foil, thumbs barely touching. Pupils are told to slide their left hand upwards about an inch, replicating the slip-strike movement of the San Andreas Fault. A series of wrinkles will appear in the foil. Don't let the kids smooth them out...these are the Coastal Ranges! Now direct student to move only their left hand to the southwest section of their foil. With palms flat against their desks, students rotate their left palm in a counterclockwise direction. They have now "made" the LA/Orange county Basin (where their flat palms were), and the Transverse Ranges (San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains) where their left thumbs should have ended up. Complete the project by having students slowly push the right edge of their foil towards the middle. They will have now created the Sierra Nevada Mountains. After discussion, let students crumple the foil into balls and collect them for recycling.

Extension: Discuss how the mantle is like gooey pie filling. Like in an apple pie, the crust floats on the top of this filling. If someone were to twist the pie crust it would crack and break, much like the fault lines on the Earth's crust.

Return to Homepage