Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Theme: Vision / The Eye

One day, my daughter started asking me all about our cat's vision.  Could our cat see color?  Could she really see in the dark?  Her curiosity made me think that we should do spend a little time learning about eyes and vision.

Given that my daughter had just turned 4 1/2 at the time, we did not get too technical about eye anatomy.  But we explored our own vision in simple ways, and learned a lot about the vision of animals.  (Animals are always a hit around here!)

The whole theme took about 2 weeks. We usually do one activity a day, depending on what's going on and how everyone is feeling!


The Weird and Wonderful World of Animal Eyes

Animals With Stunning Eyes

Simple Diagram of the Eye

A to Z's Cool Homeschool: Eye Activities

How many eyes?...

While doing our "vision / the eye" theme, we did this little activity to work in some math with learning about eyes...

I printed a few pictures off the internet of various animals with more-than-the-usual amount of eyes. Then I gave Nora a big ol' pile of googly craft eyeballs. Her "job" was to decorate the critters however she liked, and then put on the number of eyeballs that each animal has. Together, we counted them.


Here are some animals you can use for this activity.....
Spiders: 2 -8 eyes (most have 8)

Box Jellyfish: 24 eyes

Scallops: can have 100 eyes (okay, don't really make your child glue 100 eyes onto a piece of paper!!) :)

Flies: Actually have 5 eyes -- two huge (relatively speaking) compound eyes and three simple eyes

Giant squid: Two eyes -- the largest eyes on earth!

Crabs: Two eyes

European wasp: Five eyes

Starfish: Most have 5 eyes, one on the end of each arm


My daughter was exactly 4 1/2 when we did this activity. It seemed to be a good level for her. Counting out items above 20 was a good way to help bigger numbers become more concrete. It was a nice little mix of science, math, and art all in one simple activity.

Of course, we usually finish off by getting goofy!

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Science Activity: Magnifying Glass

For part of our unit on eyes and vision, we took several nature walks "armed" with magnifying glasses and kid-sized binoculars. Both items take some practice for young viewers, but can be rewarding. The kids enjoyed getting "super powers" via the simple aids of binoculars and magnifiers!

Our second nature walk took place when it was much warmer. Look, we even had a tomato!
This time of year, there were ants aplenty on the peonies.
You may not think it, but small children will have to be taught how to use a magnifying glass. Their tendency is to put it to their eye, not over the object they want to see. So they may be oohing and ahhing and acting all thrilled -- while really seeing only a blur! Thier excitement reaches a whole new level when they actually figure out that placing the glass just above your object will help you see in much more detail!

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On our first (late-February) nature walk, we found some hopeful signs of spring...signs you really did need a magnifying glass for!
Crocus emerging

We found a poor, frozen little ladybug. She made good viewing, though (and I thank her for her donation to science).
Even the little guy could get in on this activity...
We discovered that there is lots to see, but sometimes you have to look hard for it!
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Science Lesson: Eyes Made for Day and Night

For part of our "Vision" theme, we talked about how eyes look, and how the way they look tells us something about what they do.

-- We looked at pictures of different animal eyes (I had printed them off the computer and cut some from our monthly zoo mailing). Some animals have big, round eyes with very round and large pupils.

-- Other animals have almond-shaped eyes with smaller, or even horizontal, pupils. Why is that?

Here's a very basic answer for young children: The huge, round pupils of nocturnal animals help them to gather more light. The long, flat pupils of animals like deer and horses give them better depth perception on rocky, uneven ground. Such pupils also help them to see more around them, such as a lion crouching in the grass.

-- Some animals who live underground or in caves have no eyes at all! Can your child think of an example? (Worms are animals without true eyes!)

Simple Activity:

After talking for a day or so about animal eyes and how we can tell the special things they can do by looking at them, I printed several pictures off the Internet and had Nora sort them by whether they belonged to Day-seeing or Night-seeing animals (diurnal or nocturnal animals!). She didn't find this activity difficult. It was a concrete way for her to evaluate the things we had been talking about. Plus, it's just cool to look at all those different animal eyes!

There are so many other aspects of vision that could be taught...but due to my young audience, I kept it simple.

Here's a "master list" of vision / eye activities you might want to do with young children:

EYE ACTIVITIES for preschoolers:

-- Take a few minutes to pay attention to your eyes.  How far can you move them?  Do you "see" anything when your eyes are closed?

-- Let kids explore their world with magnifying glasses, binoculars, and a simple microscope if you have access to one.

-- Let kids look at their eyes in the mirror.  Point out a few basic parts of anatomy.

-- Use this unit as an opportunity to talk about eye care: not scratching or rubbing the eye; using cool water to help an itchy/inflamed eye; being careful never to spray anything in the eye.

-- Look at photos of your pets and other animals in the dark.  Why are their eyes shiny and glowing? 

-- Look at pictures online of various animals and their weird, wonderful eyes!  (See my links list at the end of this unit for a few good places to start.)

-- Give your child a small, safe handheld mirror and let her draw her eye on paper, using her reflection as a guide.

-- Play the ol' Halloween game.....feeling various objects in bowls...blindfolded!  (Spaghetti, peeled grapes, baby carrots, Oobleck, etc.) 

-- In the car or out the window, play "I Spy." 

-- let your preschooler observe eye dilation

-- Play "Pin the Tail on the Donkey."

-- Play hide-and-go-seek.

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