Learning About Invertebrates

We love that we are able to investigate things that make us more and more curious! We watched a video about vertebrate animals early in March, and then we heard the word “invertebrates.” We didn’t know what that meant, so, of course, we had to investigate!

We learned a LOT about invertebrates! We watched some videos, and we read a lot of different books about invertebrate animals. Did you know most invertebrates are insects? We also learned that many of the invertebrates that are not insects are those that live in the ocean.

Some of our questions:

  • Which creatures are spineless?
  • Are invertebrates slimy?
  • Are all invertebrates small?
  • Is a jellyfish really a fish?
  • How do invertebrates move?
  • How do invertebrates have babies?

We were able to find some answers to our questions through some research, and that’s when we decided we wanted to each choose an invertebrate animal and make an invertebrate costume!

Because we usually like to just start building things, Mrs. Baldwin helped us to think through our design process first. What do we need to know about our invertebrate animals in order to design a costume? What materials should we use to make our costumes look most like our animals? How will we WEAR the costumes so that we can move like the animal we chose?

We started drawing plans after we did some research about all the parts of our invertebrate animal choices. We also shared our costume design plans with our class. Each of us had a chance to present the design, explain what we know about this invertebrate animal, and answer questions.

We also watched some more videos about other types of invertebrate animals, including an octopus moving through a plexiglass maze!

As we worked in our design phase, we thought about what we should know before we started constructing the costumes. We asked a lot of questions about how we would know the costumes would fit us, so we decided to measure our height, length of arms and legs, etc. We partnered up to use rulers and remembered how to line up the ruler with the edge to what we were measuring. Also, we knew we’d need to do some addition when what we were measuring was longer than the ruler. Finally, we did some trouble-shooting to measure the circumference of our heads, because a ruler can’t measure that. We decided to use yarn to measure our heads, and then we measured the yarn.

After we had our own measurements, we learned to measure the materials to help us begin creating the costumes. This was the most exciting part! We were able to share our costumes, even those that weren’t completely finished, with our class and our school community at Anastasis StoryLine (our end of year sharing of our learning journeys).

Block 6-Sharing the Planet-Water

We started our inquiry about water with the statement: Water impacts life on Earth.

We asked questions about the statement and defined the words “impact” and “life.” Questions we asked:

  • Can “life” live without water?
  • Do mountains need water?
  • How does water keep plants/animals/people alive? Why do we need it?
  • How does water get to houses?
  • How does a flood happen?
  • Where does rain come from?
  • How/Why do we filter water?
  • How do we get water from rain/snow?
  • Where do rivers/lakes come from?
  • Does water stay in the same place? How does it “move?”
  • Whats the difference between fresh water and salt water?
  • How can we stop wasting water?

We watched a couple of videos next – one on droughts, one on how to reduce/reuse/recycle. This made us wonder about the water cycle, too! For some of us, this is a review from last year. We learned that water never truly disappears – it only changes its form: liquid, gas, solid. We learned that the cycle has 4 stages: condensation, precipitation, collection, evaporation. (We also noticed that all 4 of those words include the suffix “tion,” and this makes us sing our TION song!)

To help us see water in action, we traveled to the South Platte/Carson Nature Center. We’re very fortunate that this special place is only a few miles from our school. We took sketchbooks and sketched different areas where we stopped to observe the water. In one special area, there were three different areas to observe the river and inlets. The kids sat in small groups and rotated around the three different areas to notice how the water moved differently in each area, what wildlife they noticed in each spot, what was the same/different in each spot.

We were able to see what we had been learning – the flow of the river, how the riverbanks show the changing river levels, evidence of erosion, and a lot of different river terminology. We also took time to think about the wildlife in a riparian ecosystem.


The Wild Animal Sanctuary

On Thursday, May 9, we traveled about an hour from our school to the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado. This was an unbelievable trip!

When we first arrived, we couldn’t believe our eyes. Driving up to the parking lot, we saw bears, tigers, and wolves in fences right next to the driveway! Our orientation began with one of the many volunteers sharing some history and facts about the sanctuary. After that, we were able to start our self-guided tour.

Did you know that the illegal wildlife trade is a multi-million dollar business? Wild animals are sold to circuses, unlicensed zoos, private pet owners, and even as displays to bring in customers. One example – some of the tigers at the Wild Animal Sanctuary were rescued from cages at a truck stop. The owners of the truck stop thought that people would visit just to see the tigers. The tigers lived in small cages!

In many zoos around the world, especially unlicensed zoos, wild animals are on display in cages that are too small for them. They don’t get enough food or even the proper type of nutrition. Some of them suffer joint damage because they never get to leave their tiny cages. Sometimes, the enclosures are not properly maintained, and the animals escape into the public! Have you ever heard of the Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville, Ohio? 48 animals had to be killed by local authorities because of this type of wildlife ownership.

We were surprised to learn how many people buy wild animals as pets. In many cases, they buy the “pets” to show off to their friends or because they’re really cute when they’re little. These people do not know how to properly care for a wild animal. These animals can be very dangerous to the public when an owner doesn’t know how to take care of it.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary rescues these wild animals. They are brought to a place where they can live in a more natural environment, free to roam, and they never have to worry about eating again.

At the Wild Animal Sanctuary, visitors don’t get to walk along the grounds at eye-level of the animals. It makes the animals nervous, and some of them would even become anxious or aggressive. Even though there are two sets of fences, the animals’ well-being is too important. The people who built the sanctuary created an elevated walkway and observation decks that allow you to move over several viewing areas – all outside – to view the animals in their “habitats.” This ensures that the animals can move around freely in their areas, instead of being trapped into a display area for viewers. They call it “Mile Into The Wild Walkway.”

We decided we would walk all the way to the end of the walkway right away. This led us to the Bolivian Lion Pavilion. We spent a lot of time observing the lions and learning about how they were brought to the sanctuary. Lions live in prides, and family groups are kept together in the sanctuary. There are over 400 acres just for lions!

On our way back from the lion pavilion, we also saw tigers, many different types of bears, arctic and timber wolves, porcupines, bobcats, and even more lions– all in their own living areas. We had time to just stand and observe these animals as they began moving around for the day. Some of them were starting to eat. We especially enjoyed watching some of the tigers and bears eat! It looked like “meatsicles,” different pieces of meat and other food all frozen together.

As we continued observing from the walkway, different volunteers would come to tell us the stories of the different animals at the sanctuary. Every animal has a name! We learned that every “enclosure” is a different size, depending upon the need of the animals in it. We wondered how the animals stayed safe during rainstorms or snow. One of the volunteers pointed out to us that each enclosure has several “den” areas: cement tunnels that are an opening and lead back about 50 feet into the ground. The temperature inside stays around 60-64 degrees Fahrenheit all year. He said that the animals are pretty acclimated to the weather in Keenesburg, but they sometimes head inside when the weather becomes severe.

We really enjoyed learning about all the beautiful animals that have been rescued by the Wild Animal Sanctuary, and we wanted to help, too. Each student in our class wrote a blog post about our experience, and we are currently working on a Public Service Announcement to help raise awareness about the illegal animal trade! (We’ll update our blog here when we post it!)

We hope that you will choose to get involved, too! Ways to help


Here are a few photos Mrs. Baldwin took during our trip. Because the enclosures are so huge, it’s difficult to get a close-up photo with an iPhone.

Notice: there’s a lioness named Tabitha who is the leader of her pride. This is very unusual, as most prides are a male lion leader with several females and younger male lions around him. You can see Tabitha sitting with the males in one of our photos.

Carson Nature Center Adventure

We were very fortunate to spend three whole days at the South Platte River/Carson Nature Center April 23-25! Each one of us is writing our own reflection about our time there, so this post will be a list of each day’s activities.

Wednesday, April 23

We started our day meeting our guide, Beth, in the Carson Nature Center classroom. We began talking about the parts of the South Platte river and the types of things we would find in this riparian ecosystem. We learned about some different vocabulary words through some activities and then went outside for a hike where we could “put it all together.”

  • Biotic – living and once living things of an ecosystem
  • Abiotic – non-living things of an ecosystem (water, sunlight)
  • Process – some force or cycle that affects biotic and abiotic parts of an ecosystem
  • Individual – one biotic part of an ecosystem (ex. one trout)
  • Population – multiple individuals of the same species (ex. a school of trout)
  • Community – differetn populations that depend upon each other in the community

We loved hiking with Beth and learning about the flood of 1965 that “accidentally” created the area of the nature center. In one area near the river, you can find a train car that was carried a few miles to this area. It’s mostly buried in a wooded area, but some parts are still sticking out so that you can see them.

Around the river, we found cut banks, point bars, secondary channels, and backwater areas in the river. There were so many areas where we were able to observe animals in their habitats. We saw ducks, an osprey, hawks, cormorants, lots of insects, and we could hear frogs chirping along the banks of the river. We learned from Beth that there are insects called “midges.” When they are still larva, they live in the water. As adults they are able to fly. They look and swarm just like mosquitoes, but midges don’t have mouths. They can’t bite humans or suck their blood. Adult midges only live for a couple of days.

After our hike, we returned to the nature center to gather around a water table. This was a simulation of rivers and sediment – we discovered how channels are formed, examined erosion and deposition when water levels change, and even simulated a flood to see how the water can be a very destructive force. We had a great morning with our new friend, Beth!

In the afternoon, we ate lunch, then went on a hike ourselves. We found a wonderful area to sit and write in our field journals about our day. In this small area, we had a choice of sitting in a wooded spot or a grassy spot near the river bank. Mrs. Baldwin asked us to include a “sensory” activity. We took a few minutes to engage our senses – what did we hear? what did we smell? what did we feel? what did we see? We wrote and sketched these things in our field journals, too.

That was a full day of learning! We headed back to school after that and geared up for the next two days.

Thursday, April 24

On Thursday, we were entirely self-guided. Our day started with a hike to a different part of the river than what we had seen the day before. We stopped at the memorial sculpture of the flood and took a photo. Then we hiked for about 20 minutes until we came to a part of the river that had numerous places for us to sit. At this time, Mrs. Baldwin asked to go on a “habitat hunt.” In this activity, we were to look for at least four different habitats. We had to find one bird, one mammal, one insect, and one animal of our choice. For each habitat, we had to describe what we found and then list food sources, water sources, the type of shelter each creature used for protecting its young, and any other details we thought we should include. In our field journals, we used a combination of writing and sketching to help us complete this activity.

After eating lunch, we hiked again and found a man-made eagle’s nest! It’s big enough for people to stand in! We searched for sticks and branches to add to the nest. Next, we ran over to an open meadow and played a game we call Producers, Predators, Prey, and Decomposers. Mrs. Baldwin gave us each a card that had some different names of producers, predators, prey, and decomposers. We ran around in the meadow until Mrs. Baldwin yelled, “Freeze!” When you freeze, you have to find the closest person to you and then look at each other’s card. If you have a coyote and the other person has a rabbit, the coyote wins. We had to decide which animals would win by thinking about food webs. Also, some cards had dead animals, while other cards contained decomposers. The decomposers would win that battle. This was a really fun game that helped us think more about primary predators, secondary predators, and other parts of food webs. We also got to run around a LOT!

By the time we hiked back toward the nature center, it was already time to go back to school! Our days went by very quickly!

Friday, April 25

Friday morning, we met our friend Beth back at the nature center classroom. We talked about the cycle of insects and small fish and amphibians. Beth helped us learn about how some insects create homes for their larvae and nymphs in rivers and still water. Then we hiked to a part of the river, and we got to wade in it! Because the water is still coming down from the melting snow in the mountains, the river water was really, really cold! Every single one of us waded, though, and Beth complimented us – no one screamed!

In the river, we found midge larvae, caddisfly larvae, caddisfly nymphs, and the homes they build out of tiny grains of sand. In the pond, we found a snail, dragonfly nymphs, worms, midge larvae, caddisfly larvae, sideswimmers, boatmen, waterstriders, and even a leech! We talked about everything we found with Beth, and we knew that we found more in the pond due to the fact that it was still water.

We ate lunch after we hiked back, and then we returned to the our writing spot from Wednesday. We continued sketching and writing about our experiences of all three days. To complete our day, we hiked back to the nature center building for a quick tour. We saw different examples of the wildlife at the nature center, and the man that was working there brought out a snake for us to see!

It was such a great experience to learn about an ecosystem while we were actually in the middle of one. We learn a lot in our research online and through books, but this was a really special opportunity for us. Again, we’re grateful that we have options like this at our school!