“What Makes It Strong?” – Teaching Kids About Nature

I’ve been busy lately writing and putting together a couple of free downloadable PDF publications, one of which was the June issue of “The Treefrog Times.” In that issue, I wanted to include a little fun exercise for kids to think about what strengthens wings to enable birds and insects to fly. I drew a feather with no central shaft and a dragonfly whose wings had no veins. I said that “you can’t fly with floppy wings” and asked kids to draw in what was needed. Today I challenged six-year-old Elijah (see “Passing the Creek Along to a New Generation“) to figure this one out. It was such fun!

After a quick glance at a photo of a feather, he drew in the shaft, and a look at a dragonfly photo helped him do the same for the dragonfly. Elijah then wanted to challenge me, and he started sketching things to see if I could draw in what would make it stronger. He sketched things like moth wings and a plant’s leaves, easily transferring these ideas about structural strength. Then he sketched a pig and asked me what made it stronger. Strong and not floppy? Well of course – bones! I sketched them in, and then it was my turn to challenge him. I sketched a bat so we could talk about the arms and “fingers” that support bat wings, and I also sketched a skeletal turtle (inspired by the pig) and asked what made the shell strong. He didn’t hesitate a second to draw a series of plates. He might have been thinking about the external scutes rather than underlying bony plates, but that was fine with me – plenty close enough for the six-year-old’s version of a herpetology lesson!

What a blast we had, and his understanding of the animals was strengthened in the process – wow, a bat’s wing is really kind of like a hand?! If you know someone that might have a blast with this, go to the Treefrog Times page at jsdragons.com and download the June issue (the one that starts with an article for folks who are a little older, about reptiles surviving summer’s heat). Have fun!

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