Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Arizona Explorations

We've started our study of Native Americans.  Since my kids are young, I thought it best to start out at the local level first and learn about tribes here in our state before branching out.  Making learning concrete rather than abstract is easier at this age.   

To prepare for this and take advantage of our beautiful spring weather, we've been learning about our state and desert habitat!

Due to their recent fascination with anything map related and the inspiration to just jump in and try it from a friend of ours, we made our first salt-dough maps!  I found fabulous directions here.

Since I wanted this to be "more" exact than abstract, we chose to do this after Treyton went down for his afternoon nap...

We started by taping down an outline of Arizona on a piece of cardboard and painting a frame.

While that dried, we mixed up a half-batch of the salt-dough.  The boys loved mixing it by hand!

We then proceeded to spread a thin layer and set the state boundaries.  Afterwards we added more dough for the mountain and the plateau regions, poking holes to represent the three largest cities in our state and making a nice gorge for the Grand Canyon.

The boys were quite proud of the results!

After letting this dry for a day... or two (ok, ok, we got a little side-tracked), we pulled out the paints!  Tan for the southern desert regions of the state, green for the mountain region and reddish-brown for the plateau.

All went relatively well, until we added rivers and lakes to our map.  Keegan got a little carried away with his and added abundant water features to the bottom half of his state.  But he's three and a little bit of artistic license won't hurt him.

We also revisited many of our favorite books on the Sonoran desert:
Way Out in the Desert: Pretty much any books by Jennifer Ward rock.  They are rhythmic, simple and entertaining.  This and the next book are perfect for the 2-4year old crowd and a great introduction to the desert for anybody!  This book is set to the tune of "Over in the Meadow" and also includes a count-up with a hidden number on each page.  The boys enjoy counting the animals and searching for the hidden number! 
The Seed and the Giant Saguaro: Based on "This Is the House that Jack Built", this story builds on itself and also gives visual clues of what is to come.  The boys love the rhyming review and guessing what will come next.  It is a great soft introduction to food chains, pollination and ecosystems.

Creatures of the Desert World ~ Auntie Ev bought this pop-up book for the boys.  It is a gem, but on the fragile side.  There is much excitement when I pull this down from it's high and safe perch.  With flaps and pop-up pages, the Sonoran desert really comes to life in this amazing book.

Desert Giant: The World of the Saguaro Cactus ~ This beautifully illustrated book goes through the life of a giant saguaro and lays out it's relationship with the animals and people of the desert.  This is one of the few books that I can find on the Tohono O'Oodham people.

Cactus Hotel ~ This charming book also goes through the life-cycle of a saguaro and tells about the different animals that take shelter in the saguaro.


  1. Thanks for this link! You're right these are some great books. Maybe we'll use some of these (provided my library has them) when we study Nevada and Utah.

  2. These books are pretty Sonoron desert specific, so they wouldn't really apply for Utah or Nevada, but would be great when you study Mexico as the Sonoran desert extends from mid-AZ down into northern Mexico.

    The Great Basin desert covers Utah and Nevada and is considered more of a 'cold' desert.