Two of my favorite thematic units are the Jungle and the Zoo. These two units are such great companions! I begin with the study of the jungle and then move into study of zoo animals.
Kids love learning about animals, their habitats, and way of life. These fun units weave academic concepts into STEM in fun and engaging ways. Exciting and engaging academic content is also enhanced with this animal based theme. My kids love playing games such as Monkey Food, Zoo Zap, and Zero Zebras to practice targeted skills.
I begin by purchasing a roll of jute and then ask my students to construct large leaves. I staple the leaves to the vines (jute), and weave across the ceiling of our classroom, or learning space. The magic immediately begins at this point. As we create snakes, toucans and more, the vines come alive with jungle life. Many of the students become so engaged with this transformation, they ask to take supplies home so they can create a jungle space in their own home.
Next we move to the transformation of our dramatic play area. This space will now be filled with safari costumes, books, pictures, and realia of jungle animals. Binoculars, sketch pads, and more. I love to have my students involved in the set-up. The space has so much more meaning than if it is magically transformed in the evening when they are at home.
Because we house animals in zoos to study and learn from, the science center is a great place to set up a zoo with a lot of STEM benefits. I have dozens of small plastic zoo animals that I place in the sensory tub, a box of small blocks of varying sizes and shapes, and some other zoo-making supplies. My students love creating and re-creating a zoo each time they step into the science center. I have plenty of books and photos of real zoos, paper pencils, and more, to help those creative juices flowing.
There is always time for some high quality art projects. Creating the animals of the jungle is not only fun, but is a great way to extend reading experiences and build story comprehension skills. These activities below have been created at the end of each animal study.
Hopefully, you have a zoo close to your home you will be able to take a field trip to enhance the learning. These field trips are some of my fondest memories of time-spent with my students. Since I no longer live field trip distance from a zoo, I now take them there virtually by visiting kids.sandiegozoo.org. Although it is not quite the same as that real-life, up-close experience, it is the next best thing. The live video cameras do allow students to see the animals interact with each other in their zoo habitat.
The learning games in our high-quality thematic units are academically challenging in a play-based way, and reach across the curriculum for inner-connected learning. Here is what people are saying about these units. “Wow!! This is an amazing interdisciplinary packet. The children thoroughly enjoyed all of the activities that we used. It was a great resource for me. It is so well organized.”
And don’t forget to top off your study of amazing animals by celebrating with my all time favorite Ms. Frizzle as she takes that bus to the rain forest. *Full episodes are generally found on Netflix and/or Amazon Prime.