Friday, August 31, 2012

Prehistory and The First Dog

This week, we traveled back in time. Way back in time.

We spent a week learning about prehistoric man (and woman, and child, and even dog!) through books, videos, projects, and play-acting.

Throughout the week, we rowed The First Dog by Jan Brett. Brett is an amazing writer and illustrator so, despite this book not being available on, it was super easy to row it.

The story is about a cave boy named Kip who finds Paleowolf following him around, sniffing and whining for his leftover Wooly Rhino Rib and  getting him out of trouble with the other dangerous animals. It's not until Paleowolf saves Kip from the Saber-Tooth Cat that he realizes that he and Paleowolf would make excellent companions.

Day #1: Art

On early Monday morning, I made a cave behind our living room couch. I cut apart paper bags, crinkled them, smoothed them out and makeshift-wallpapered them. When Aidyn woke up, he climbed around in his cave, and that is where we read our book for the first time.

Afterward, we cracked open Cave Paintings to Picasso,  a children's book about art. I read about the cave art discovered in Lascaux, France by four boys and their dog. As I read, Aidyn colored a picture of cave art for our timeline.

On Monday, we also watched Walking with Cavemen, a spectacular show about early man, starting with Australopithecus afarensis.

Of course, the episodes garnered many questions.
Why did they live in trees?
Why did they have so much hair?
How did they change?
How long did it take us to change like that?

He was particularly irritated that it did not show a clear metamorphosis, that it just jumped from one species to another. We consulted The Best Book of Early People to see a clearer progression of our march through time.

Day #2: Math and Science

While reading The First Dog on the second day, we counted the different illustrations of wolves, mammoths, and sabor-tooth cats. Afterward, we counted the bone beads and arrowheads we had picked up at The Bone Room In Berkeley and made patterns and letter shapes.

Aidyn also watched an episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy on evolution. Here's part one of the episode we watched:

We kept up the dialogue about cave people and read Mammoth by Patrick O'Brien.

We learned all about mammoths and that they were one of the last prehistoric creatures to die off!

We also read a chapter or two from The Magic Tree House: Sunset of the Sabretooth  each day.

Day #3: Language Arts/Poetry

On Day 3 of reading The First Dog, I asked Aidyn to keep an ear out for descriptive words. I gave him some examples, and he was able to locate others pretty quickly. We discussed the power of description, how it can help us visualize sights, scents, sounds, tastes, and feelings. We compared the two sentences:

I have some food.
I have a big bowl of steaming, hot, buttery popcorn.

He was eating a bowl of celebratory ice cream at the time so he went into a full-on description of its yummy goodness. Then we read two poems about color, "What is Pink?" by Christina Rosetti and "What is Orange?" by Mary O'Neill. After discussing them, we talked about the color brown and what it looks and feels like. The result was this dictated poem:

Brown looks like beans, a roof, worm food, and caramel.
Brown sounds like dust.
Brown feels like dirt and mud.
Brown smells like mud and poop.
Brown tastes like dirt and the "worms in mud" that my Mama makes.

Inspired by Bill Nye, we also conducted a light science experiment. In his episode, Bill Nye explained that some plants have adapted to survive practically any condition. Moss is one of those die-hard plants. We found some moss growing near our home. As instructed, we tossed some clumps of moss in the blender with some milk and liquified the poor thing.

Aidyn, adding the milk.
Apparently it is hilarious to disintegrate moss and taunt it to survive.
After, we poured it outside. And now we play the waiting game to see if moss has, in fact, evolved to survive any kind of harsh treatment.

Day #4: light animal study

On the fourth day of reading The First Dog, Aidyn made a wolf mask and colored a wolf picture for a mini-book. He roamed in his cave and play-acted as a hungry paleowolf.

Later in the day, we played History Bingo, with cave people-related words and phrases in the boxes and pulled questions from a hat. Types of questions included: What did scientists name the Australopithecus afarensis skeleton they found? Early people used this type of plant as a wick for stone lamps. Homo habilis was the first to use stones as what?
In our freetime, we also watched a couple episodes of the Walking with Beasts series, particularly the one on Australopithecus and sabretooth cat. We also watched Clan of the Cave Bear twice, though I kept alert to fast-forward through certain scenes.
We also ate "cave food." I made roasted mini-mammoth legs (chicken drumsticks) and wild turkey soup (a mix of celery, carrots, onion, turkey, broth and wild rice).
We had such a blast learning about early people and prehistoric beasts! I could have probably stayed with the subject for another week, but he's bugging to move on to Egypt.

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