Sunday, August 11, 2013

Exploring Life at the Arctic Circle

For this small world we were focusing on life in the arctic circle. We used a glass pan filled with pretend snow and created a small "fishing" hole at the center of their home. We made the pretend snow out of frozen baking soda that we have also used in other activities like Arctic Small WorldFrozen Dinosaur Excavation Sensory BinFrozen Fizzy Cubes and Frozen In Ice. It is made by mixing baking soda with a small amount of water and put in the freezer for a few hours to freeze over (add water depending on your preferences). You can also use this snow without freezing it and it will still have a snow-like texture, but we like how cold and solid it is. After hours of playing with it, it will still be as cold as ice. It will not be moldable at first, but gradually as it is played with more, it will be. 

To learn about life in the arctic circle Bean and I watched a short documentary on our tablet and she was fascinated by these holes in the ice that can form miles away from the edge of the ice. Sometimes whales will be trapped and need to use these holes to pop up for a breather. In that instance, they usually have to remain there until the ice melts and they are able to swim back to open ocean. She kept asking why the whales were stuck there and I told her about how ocean mammals can't breathe underwater and need to come up for air. 

Her favourite part of the documentary was when a polar bear found the fishing hole. She was amazed when the polar bear jumped into the small hole to try and catch a beluga whale. The beluga whale was bigger than the polar bear, but the polar bear was able to wait on the ice until the beluga whale was too tired to fight back (which is super sad, but that's nature and we need to respect that). 

Bean created a natural community. She told me that the Eskimo lived in the igloo with the mushers and their dog, a husky she named Fang (after White Fang). The walrus and seal were best friends and the arctic fox followed the polar bear around a lot. The rabbits were brother and sister and she named them after herself and Munchkin. The wolf was always on the move looking for the caribou who kept disappearing (into Munchkin's pocket). 

Whenever the whales had to hide from the polar bear, Bean would submerge them in the water. She would count to ten and then let them up again for air. She would hold her breath and then breath out in a huge gust to make it sound like the whales were breathing through their blow holes.

We talked about camouflage and how it helps animals blend into their natural surroundings. I asked Bean to find all the animals that she felt blended in with the arctic tundra snow. 

She really likes learning about the food chain ever since we read a book on food energy, which is why I try to incorporate some type of food chain into each small world we create. Caribou migrate to where the food is and their natural predators, wolves, follow them. It's possible for one wolf to take down a caribou, but typically wolves work as a pack to bring them down. She also had the fox hunting the rabbits (none were caught, they were too fast), polar bear caught the beluga whale (for the high-calorie fat), and the Eskimo was out hunting for whale and caribou too. 

These mushers finally made it home after traveling through a blizzard! Living in the arctic is completely different than living in New England. We looked at a few pictures of weather examples and compared them. This past winter we had a few huge snow storms that filled our street with several feet of snow. The arctic tundra has just as much snow and some animals burrow in the snow and some have to dig through the snow to find food underneath. Bean really liked the little lemmings who live in the arctic snow, although we did not have any figures for her to play with. Summers in the arctic are really beautiful and completely unlike what we experience here. I would take an arctic summer over our heat waves any day. 

We compared several of the animals, but these two were the most similar. Dogs are descendants of wolves, although some dogs do not look anything like wolves. Our dog is a Shiba Inu and she looks more like a fox than a wolf. We also looked up a few videos to listen to the sounds the animals made and Bean's favourite was an arctic wolf howl (and everyone was amused when Kaede went crazy trying to look for the source of the howling). She also really likes listening to the song of the orca, so we had to play that one several times.

At one point, a big gust of wind blew a few of the animals into the ocean and the mushers had to jump in to save them.

This little guy came over from the south pole for a visit. Munchkin had him sliding around on the ice and swimming through the ocean.

These mushers had so much fun racing around the fishing hole!

Everyone had so much fun playing at the arctic circle! Bean learned a lot about the animals who live there and about the weather in the tundra. Munchkin simply enjoyed playing with the animals and the mushers and the snow. 

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