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Habitat art: rainforest, desert

Our class has always enjoyed every habitat that we have studied.  We usually incorporate a slideshow, puzzles, games, field trips  and anything else we can into our studies.  However, we find that the art activities that we do related to each habitat are always some of the students' favorites and most memorable.  Here are some that we have done for our study of the rainforest and the desert. 

Rainforest habitat model:  We explain to the class that we will be making a model of the rainforest.  The children brainstorm what should be included in the model and we made a list.  First we made the background on butcher paper.  This was done by student volunteers and a teacher to make sure that all levels of the rainforest were depicted.  Then each child made an animal.  They looked through pictures and books to find out what their animal looked like.  Over the years, I have collected many pictures of animals and landscapes from friends' old calendars.  Next volunteer writers made labels by copying the names found in books.  We added a desk, some writing materials, magnifying glasses, binoculars and a few other things to make a scientists' center.  Then the children played in the area.  It was a great success!

Rain back1   Rain back2    Rain back3   Rain back4                 Painting animals1   Painting animals2  Painting animals3  Painting animals4

Rain final1-09   Rain final2              Scientist1   Scientist2  Scientist4  Scientist5

Desert paintings:  At the end of our desert unit we asked the children to make a picture depicting the desert.  First they closed their eyes and thought of what they wanted to include in their pictrures.  Then they used craypas and watercolors do create their pictures.  We provided pictures and books if they wanted to use them as reference.  At the end we gave them the option of glueing on real sand. 

IMG_9402      IMG_9404      IMG_9403      IMG_9405      IMG_9406     

Desert animals:  This is another project that we have done at the end of our desert unit.  The children picked an desert animal that they then created using clay.  We provided pictures and books if they wanted to use them as reference.  We baked and painted the clay.  Some children made a background for tehir animal.

IMG_6597      IMG_6598     IMG_6599     IMG_6600

IMG_6625 IMG_6626 Georgia O'Keefe:  We studied Georgia O'Keefe as the artist of the month since she was inspired by desert landscapes.  Then the children created a piece inspired her art.  They used craypas and watercolor.  They had the choice of painting bones, flowers, shells or a combination of those elements. 

To see an example of other activities that we do for a habitat unit please visit our post on the polar habitat.   

Please share with us any other art projects or ideas you have for these habitats or any other.  Thanks!

Learning about habitats: polar

We find that winter is the perfect time to talk about habitats, starting with the polar regions.  Children generally love animals so learning about them is usually something they really enjoy.  In our classroom, the teachers too love animals and nature and we feel that the more our students know about them the more they will respect and protect them in the future.  As part of our winter study and a precursor to polar habitats we learn about the water cycle. 

Liquid, solid, gas sort:  We put out various items or pictures that represent liquids, solids and gases.  The children help sort the items and discuss the characteristics and difference between the three groups.



Evaporation experiment:  We ask children what happens to water after it rains.  They usually know it dries out so we discuss their ideas about how this happens and where the water goes.  We ask them to think about what will happen to the water in the pot once it's heated.  We boil a pot of water in order to observe evaporation and condensation.  The children record their observations in their science journals.  This year we pasted a picture of the pot in their journals beforehand, but usually we let them draw everything. 

Freezing experiment:  We discuss what happens to water in the cold.  We place a cup of water along with other liquids and non-liquids in the freezer to see what will happen.  The children tend to hypothesize that everything will freeze.  The conclusion is that in general liquids freeze, especially if they have water in them like juice.

Introduction of "habitat":  We show the children pictures of various habitats and animals and ask them to match each animal with a habitat.

Polar habitat slide show: We use the smartboard to show them a slide show (Download Polar slideshow)  we created on the Arctic and the Antarctic.  Please download the interactive viewer here

Keeping warm experiment:  Ask the children if they think all animals could survive in the polar areas.  Why not?  Write down their responses.  Ask students what keeps them (students) warm in  the winter.  Have them draw in their science journals the clothing that keeps them warm.  Explain that polar animals have fur and/or a thick layer of fat called blubber that keep them warm.   Fill a bin or bowl with ice.  Each student feels the ice with a naked hand.  Then they feel the ice with a glove (fur).  Ask them which feels colder.  Next they feel the ice again with a naked hand.  Then with a blubber layer (a zip lock bag filled with Crisco).  Students compare which feels colder.

        Blubber1    Blubber experiment2                Polar journal3   Polarjournal1   Polar journal2   Polar journal1

Ice and animals Ice bin play:  We fill a big bin with a lot of ice and a little water.  We put in polar animals for the children to play with.  The students asked to put in unfix cubes too so we let them.  We use the Polar and Tundra Animal Collection by Lakeshore.  They have a variety of animals and also a little bit of information about each one.  The kids LOVE them.

Dot-to-dot: We put out dot-to-dot activities and coloring pages in the arts and crafts area for the children to use as they please.

Polar animal1 Favorite polar animal:  We ask  the children to share which is  their favorite polar animal and why.  Then they draw that animal in their science journals.  They look at books and pictures to help them with their drawing. 

Guestspekear A traveler from Antarctica:  Our assistant, Marisa Rose, had a friend who recently traveled to Antarctica.  She asked him to come in to share his experience with our class.  Trevor Sumner was really great with the kids.  He created a slide show and brought in some of his scuba diving gear to show the kids.  Needless to say that our students were speechless with both his photos and his stories!

Polar habitat mural:  We explain to the class that we will be making a mural depicting the polar habitats.  The children brainstorm what should be on the mural and we make a list.  Each child makes the item he/she named.  We usually have paper, cotton balls, and thin felt for them to use.  They look through pictures and books to find out what their animal or item looks like.  Over the years, I have collected many pictures of animals and landscapes from friends' old calendars.  Then we paint the background on two pieces of butcher paper. Next the beginner writers make labels by copying the names found in books.  The more advanced writers think of a fact that we have learned about some of the animals in the mural and write it on a flashcard.  We separate the mural into two sides and glue everything on.  One side in the Arctic and the other the Antarctic.

Making animals1 Making animals2 Making labels    Mural   Mural1  Mural2  Mural3

Here are some of the books we used:

Our class really enjoyed this unit.  Please let us know if you have any other activities that we could add to it.  In the near future I will also be sharing about our rainforest and desert studies.

Our year through a tree

Every year, in the early part of the year, we put up a tree in our classroom.  As we learn about the seasons and various other topics in our curriculum, the tree changes accordingly to reflect our studies. We begin the process during our discussion of fall when we talk about the changes in nature.  We always take a walk in Central Park, the park down the block from our school, to look for signs of falls.  While there, our class picks a tree to observe as it changes through the seasons.  After the initial visit, we go back numerous times to collect information about the "KB Tree".  We usually record our findings in our science journals.
Fall tree 2            Tree observation1       Tree observation2       Tree observation3

On our next visit, we take a closer look at our tree.  We talk about the shape, height, width of the tree and make a drawing of it.  We look at the shape and color of its leaves.  When we come back to our classroom we make a tree that has similar characteristics to our tree.  We place the tree right at the entrance of our classroom so it's the first thing people see when they enter or walk by our room.  
   winter tree obs  Observation 2  Observation 7  Observation 8  Obsearvtion 9

Later in the fall we return to collect some of the fallen leaves, do bark rubbings, and measure the circumference of the trunk.  One of the leaves and all our recordings go into our journals.
Tree leaf      Tree rubbings   
In the winter, as it is too cold to stay out long enough to draw, we take a picture of the tree and glue it into our journal.  The children that go through the park on a regular basis never fail to report their observations back to the group.
By spring the children can't wait to go back to visit our tree.  Observation 4    Recording our observations    Observation 6 
Last hug

June tree1At the end of the year we have a farewell ceremony for the summer.  We sit around the tree in a circle and sing a few songs.  The children usually promise to come by and visit the tree throughout the summer.  Then we each give our tree a last hug!

As I said earlier, we make a reproduction of the "KB Tree" that has has a prominent spot in our classroom.  I usually draw the trunk guided by their directions.  Then they paint it.  They draw, cut and color the leaves and other items they wish to add.  
Tree making     Tree making 2
Below are some examples of how our tree changes in ways that reflect our curriculum.  The tree looks different in some pictures because the photos are not all from the current year and our class has picked a different tree each year. 

Tree of thanks

Fall & Tree of Thanks:  We make fall leaves for our tree to show the seasonal change.  Before Thanksgiving, we send one leaf home with each child so that the family can write on it what they are thankful for.  We also give a leaf to our principal and each teacher that our children work with outside of our classroom (Swim, PE, Art, etc).  We share the thoughts on the leaves and then put them back on our tree.

Tree of lights

Tree of Lights:  We study the winter solstice and learn about the changes in the amount and duration of light during winter.  We talk about how people have tried to bring light into their homes for centuries in an effort to remember brighter days.  We also learn about some of the Festivals of Light: Diwali, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa.  We place lights on our tree that we keep up throughout all of winter.  Our school is in a brownstone in New York City so it actually gets really dark in our room at winter.  The lights add light, warmth and coziness to our room.

Winter tree Winter tree:  In January we study winter.  We learn about temperature and thermometers, the phases of water,  and of course snow.  It inevitably snows during this month so we always have a great time making snowflakes to decorate our room. 

Dragon tree Dragon Tree:  When we study Chinese New Year we learn about all the traditions of this holiday.  Dragons are a very important symbol in the Chinese culture so we often do a project around them.  The dragons for the tree are pretty big and have several pieces, so the children work in teams of three.  Each person picks what they will paint and then we put the dragon together.  Since it's a group project we pick a name out of a hat from each group to determine which child will take a dragon home.

Tree of love Tree of Love:  For Valentine's Day each person makes a heart for someone else in our class.  We put all of our names (students and teachers) in a bag.  Each child and teacher picks a name and thinks of something that is great about that person.  If they have a hard time coming up with something, the other people at the table can help brainstorm.  Then they make a picture of their idea and glue it on the heart they pick.  The teachers write the words under the picture.  We share the hearts and then put them on the tree.  When we send them home, each child takes the heart that says something about them not the one they made.
Spring tree
Spring & Butterflies:  Our classroom tree usually reflects the changes of the actual tree in the park that we have been observing, however, during this time of year we tend to "cheat!"  We usually do an extensive study of plants in the spring and flowers seem to take over.  Therefore, the children often want to add flowers to our tree even though the real tree does not have big red flowers!  We also learn about butterflies around this time so they often make it on our tree along with birds, squirrels and bugs!

Earth Day & Tree of Hope:  We talk a lot about the importance of nature and its resources for our survival and that of other species.  We discuss ways in which we can respect and protect the Earth.  We learn about reducing, reusing and recycling.  We give the children a round piece of paper with the globe on one side.  On the other side they draw and write about a way in which they can each help the Earth.  We share and then hang them on our tree of hope.
Shoe tree Shoe Tree:  During our study of neighborhood community we often set up a shoe store in our dramatic play.  One of the things we have in store is a shoe tree.  The children usually don't know what that is and start laughing, envisioning a tree full of shoes!  As a fun project we ask them to decorate a shoe to put on our tree in order to make a literal shoe tree!

The "KB Tree" is one of my favorite things in our classroom.  Not only do I love the feeling it gives our room, I also like how it changes throughout the year.  Parents and guests always comment on it and we get compliments all the time.  The children too love to see how it changes and get excited when they walk in the room and see their work on it.

Do you have something or an area in your classroom that changes in some way throughout the year?  Please share with us or give us any ideas you might have for our tree!

Seed Exploration

We have been studying Nutrition in our class and therefore talking a lot about fruits and vegetables.  The following is a lesson that we’ve done for a few years that both the children and we really enjoy.  I always like to see the amazement and surprise on the children’s faces and hear their comments as they make their discoveries.

Lesson: Seed Exploration or Is it a Fruit or a Vegetable?


  • To practice discussing and recording findings.
  • To explore the following facts:
    • Each kind of fruit has its own kind of seed.
    • Different fruits have different numbers of seeds.
    • There are many ways in which seeds are arranged in fruits.
    • We eat the seeds of some fruits. 
    • Foods that have seeds are called fruits.
    • Edible parts of a plant that do not have seeds are called vegetables.


Fruits and vegetables, knife, recording sheet, pencils, colored pencils or crayons

          Veg_fuit4_3              Veg_fruit_3              Veg_fruit_1_3



We divide the class into three groups since we have three adults in the room.  Each group gets four foods: a fruit with one seed (peach, plum, avocado), a fruit with a few seeds (apple, pear, lemon), a fruit with many seeds (tomato, green pepper, cucumber), and a vegetable (carrot, radish, turnip).  The children first name a food and draw a picture on their recording sheet.  Then they guess how many seeds are in it and record their guess.  Cut open the fruit.  The children count the seeds and record the actual number.  Discuss the arrangement of the seeds.  They may be scattered, clustered, alone, or arranged in rows.  The children record the arrangement on their sheet by drawing half the food.  Repeat the process with the other three food items. 

                             Vegetable_or_fruit_004                       Vegetable_or_fruit_002

                                          recording sheet samples

Ask the children which do they think are fruits and which are vegetables.  The children discover that foods such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers contain seeds and are therefore fruits.  Carrots and radishes, however, are vegetables not fruits.  Come together as a class and discuss your findings.


Have children compare the size, shape, color and texture of different seeds.  They can classify them according to any one characteristic.  You can make a chart showing which fruit seeds have which characteristics.

Have the children sort fruits and vegetables according to which part of the plant they are:  root, stem, leaves, flower, fruit, or seed.

**This lesson is based on classroom activities suggested by the


Botanical Garden


New York City


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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Inside Naomi & Alexandra's Kindergarten Classroom are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.