Monday, June 17, 2013

Desert Small World Habitat with Oasis

As promised, we have created a desert small world featuring an oasis! This time we used corn meal instead of sand... Let me just say that corn meal was definitely the way to go! It has a great gritty texture, amazing colour just like real desert sand and it is so much easier to clean up than sand. Now, if I had used actual water for this small world then I would have used sand, because inevitably the water would be dumped and the sand would eventually dry. But being corn meal, it would be ruined for future use. So instead I used a sheet of blue foam and cut out a small oasis. Nothing fancy, it just looks like a small pond. 

I used a large clear bin for this small world and filled it with 1 1/2 containers of corn meal (24 oz each). For a smaller bin I would have only used one container, but this bin is quite large. While pouring in the corn meal I noticed that it created really nice "desert waves" as Bean calls them, so I tried not to disturb them while I added rocks, palm trees, the oasis and our desert buddies. 

I added smooth rocks to one side of the bin, so that some of the lizards would have a place to bask in the sun ("cook on the rocks"). Bean chose these two lizards to live on the rocks.

We also added some snakes and our friendly red scorpion. Bean says that he doesn't bite and that's why he's nice. Bean loves the way snakes move. She slithered the snakes around to watch the trail they created in the sand and then had the scorpion follow them.

The blue lizards spent a lot of time swimming in the oasis while their green lizard friend kept watch on top of the palm tree.

Many lizards came from all over the desert to take a drink from this oasis! We talked about what creatures needed water to survive. Some questions we went over were: Which creatures got their water from eating other creatures? Which creatures got their water from plants? Which creatures lived near or in the water? And which ones came from miles around just to take a drink? Although we didn't add them at the time, we talked about how camels store fat in their humps and that's why they can survive so long without eating or drinking. And we also discussed why oasis' are important for people traveling in the desert.

Our oasis is formed from an underground spring. Underneath the oasis is another piece of blue foam cut in the same shape and they are connected by a small piece of blue yarn (I just taped it). I buried the bottom piece when I filled the bin with the corn meal. After Bean played with the lizards, she decided to move the oasis and that's when she found the hidden spring. :) So I explained what it was and she kept the oasis where it was.

It was a particularly windy day here, so at one point Bean decided to blow on the corn meal and she loved watching the corn meal scatter, saying she was making it windy. I pulled up a video of a desert sand storm on the tablet and showed her what they looked for. She decided she had to make a storm happen and did her best blowing the desert around. Eventually she used her hands to scatter the rocks and lizards and a palm tree had the misfortune of being knocked over. Bean is a force of natural disasters in most of our small worlds, but no lizards were harmed. She picked up the little lizard that got knocked over and put him back on the rocks. She said the storm was over so he was all better.

We brought out this bin when their step-brothers came over to play. They all had a lot of fun, even little S who just liked touching the corn meal sand. L especially enjoys joining our small world play. He takes it very seriously and tries to keep everything where it is set up. I set up the desert small world the same as I had previously, although I removed the spring from the oasis (I expected that it would be ripped apart if found), so that it was only the top of the oasis.

This kept them busy for quite a while. But when they are all gathered like this, there is no way the small world will stay intact.

Because eventually the world was reorganized. A hill was formed on one side of the bin.

And the oasis was used as a scoop to easily transport the desert sand.

This small world was so much fun to play in that I expect it will be asked for many times in the future!

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