April 2020 and lockdown life continues in the UK. We are allowed out for daily exercise and to go shopping for essentials. Schools are still closed for all kids except those of key workers and vulnerable children so, like families across the world, we are homeschooling. We have taken a topic-based approach to learning and so far we’ve been to Mexico and learnt about the rainforest. For the last two weeks our home school has gone beneath the waves.
Home School Ocean Lesson Plan
Here is a brief overview of our Home School Goes to the Ocean lesson plan. We had originally planned to spend one week on this topic, but quickly realised that we’d need at least two. I drew resources from a number of sources including Twinkl (a teacher’s resource website), National Geographic Kids on You Tube and the BBC. We also have a good selection of children’s non-fiction books at home that helped with this topic.
Our first task was to address the basics. We started with a BBC Bitesize overview. Then, using Twinkl resources, we identified the five main oceans of the world on a map and learnt about the different layers of the ocean – the sunlight zone, twilight zone, midnight zone, lower midnight zone and the trenches or the abyss.
How deep do whales dive?
The kids are involved in home school planning, and this was a key question posed by the 9yo. The kids did some internet research and we found some excellent answers from the Natural History Museum where we discovered that beaked whales can dive 2,000m below the ocean’s surface! The kids read through the webpage, took notes and then drew some whales.
A highlight of 2019’s travel was a trip to Cardigan Bay where we joined a SeaMor dolphin safari but it was on a boat trip from Tarifa in Andalucia back in 2017 that we were lucky enough to see whales. Both of these real-life wildlife encounters piqued the boys interest in these spectacular cretaceans. We can’t wait for the opportunity to see whales in the wild again, but until then researching and sketching them does the trick.
Both boys were asked to create an acrostic poem for our Home School goes to the Ocean topic.
OCEAN Oceans are full of life Coral reefs are like swimming in a rainbow Electric eels are deadly Amazing animals live in the ocean Now join me on my deep dive BLUE WHALE Blue whales are amazing Lucky people get to see them Under the sea Everyone of them is huge Whales are mammals Humpback whales are really big but not as big as a blue whale A whale lives in a group called a pod Lots of blue whales eat plankton Everyone should love them
Diving on a coral reef is on most people’s travel bucket list. I’ve been lucky enough to dive in Indonesia, Australia, Belize and Honduras. On our planned Grand Adventure we’re hoping to take our kids snorkelling in Costa Rica (as they won’t be old enough to dive – though by the time it’s safe to travel again they might be old enough – silver linings!) so that they can experience “swimming in a rainbow”, to quote the 7yo, for themselves.
Our home school travelled to coral reefs courtesy of What Sam Sees from National Geographic Kids and David Attenborough! The Attenborough’s Reef website led us through a number of different films about coral reefs, the extraordinary life that they support and the threat that they are under from climate change.
Is the environment benefitting from Covid-19?
One of the films on Attenborough’s Reef featured scientists in Australia studying the effects of climate change on coral reefs. This inspired the question above from the 9yo. He did some of his own internet research, finding images of dolphins in Venice’s canals and animals reclaiming streets in cities across the world. Like all things, however, it’s not a simple answer. He discovered that while our planet is benefitting from fewer planes in the sky and cars on the road, environmental scientists are unable to continue their work and environmental campaigners have had their messages smothered by rolling coronavirus news.
I set the boys an art challenge to create a collage coral reef. As we only had one sheet of blue card left the additional challenge was for them to work together! Anyone with more than one kid will relate when I say that working as a team doesn’t always come naturally. Happily they were both really engaged with this, cutting, sticking and taking drawing inspiration from Yuval Zommer’s The Big Book of the Blue.
A great resource to see the inhabitants of coral reefs are webcams from aquariums. Armchair Travels have helpfully pulled together a list of the best virtual aquarium experiences.
Passing on skills
One of the joys of home schooling is having the time to pass on skills that otherwise might get lost in the roundabout of clubs, playdates and homework. I was taught how to make paper boats by my grandfather. We used to take our creations to a nearby stream in Salzburg, the city he lived in, to test them out. Our home school oceans topic proved to be the perfect time to pass this skill on.
In these more enlightened times we didn’t take our boats to our local river (I think that would count as littering now!), so the boys had to make do with the bath for testing. Needless to say the boats did well until they were filled with Lego captains! The kids then spent a very happy half hour or so filling the bath with Lego and Playmobil boats, crocodiles and sharks.
Using my book, Great Voyages: Daring Adventurers from James Cook to Gertrude Bell, we travelled back in time to imagine what life would have been like on board ship with an explorer in the 1500s and 1600s. Both kids had been tasked by their school teachers to write accounts – a diary entry – the 9yo for a Tudor explorer, and the 7yo for a fictional character. So we were treated to a day on board ship with Francis Drake, and a day in the life of a sailor on Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas.
For more books ideas for kids who love learning about the world check out my post, Books for Kids Who Love Travel
Save our Oceans
While learning about the oceans at home school it was impossible to ignore the plastic pollution that is plaguing our blue planet. To wrap up our oceans topic we spent some time learning a bit more about the problem of plastic in our seas, and researching solutions.
The boys started this topic by following a BBC Blue Planet Live Lesson. Then they put all of their learning into practice and spent two days creating a Lego Stop Motion Film. This was a labour of love which took patience (mine as well as theirs!). The story, which involved rescuing a turtle from its flipper being damaged by a plastic bag, was entirely their idea. They reused their coral reef collage as the backdrop, adding a bit of extra Lego coral to it. New animals were created – we googled instructions for how to build a Lego dolphin and turtle – and the look and character of the two divers was thoroughly discussed!
Top Tips on creating a lego stop motion film
- Download a stop motion app (we used Stop Motion Studio – it’s free to download but we spent the additional £5 for whizzy features) and spend some time having fun creating short films. Making mistakes is the best way to learn!
- Brainstorm characters and story events
- Create a storyboard
- Spend time gathering the characters together – this may mean building something from scratch.
- Make time and have patience! Creating stop motion is a long and slow process. It wasn’t all smooth sailing and good teamwork!
- Enjoy! Allow for creativity within the process, veering away from the storyboard as you see fit
We’ve loved travelling across oceans and diving beneath the waves at home school this week. Alongside learning about beautiful marine mammals, the secrets of the deepest depths of the ocean and the fragility of coral reefs there has also been maths and English tasks set by the kids school teachers. Home schooling in lockdown during coronavirus isn’t easy. In normal times home schoolers would spend lots of time out of the house, making trips to museums and meeting other families. For those of us who are used to sending our kids to school it’s been a steep learning curve! Over the last month I have found that picking a topic which the kids are passionate about to learn through helps us through some of the trickier times. I hope my ideas and resources on our topics helps and inspires some of you too.