Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sharks and Rays

Lesson 7 of Apologia's Exploring Creation with Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day is all about "Sharks and Rays," that is, cartilaginous fish.  We learned about how cartilaginous fishes are different from bony fishes, including the presence of dermal denticles ("sandpaper" skin).
As with every lesson, we used the curriculum's notebooking journal to aid in our study.  
Before we got to sharks, we learned about rays (AKA: batoids).  These include stingrays, manta rays, electric rays, and eagle rays.  We also talked about sawfish (considered a ray though often mistaken for a shark) and skates.
On Day 2 of this lesson, we got to the sharks.  One of the first things we discussed about sharks was their magnificent teeth.  We learned that you can measure the length of a shark just by measuring one of its teeth!  Every inch of tooth equals 10 feet of shark length; so if a shark tooth is 2 inches long, the tooth came from a shark that was 20 feet long.  We decided to put this to the test.  We bought a dig kit from Hobby Lobby (we used a 40% off coupon to get it down to $8) that guarantees three real shark teeth per kit.  Maggie was so excited!
 The teeth are set in this large, shark-tooth shaped rock.
 Chiseling away ...
 Our three teeth!
So proud!
 This first tooth we found came from a Sand Tiger Shark.  (The manual that came with the kit had the information on each tooth.)  We measured the tooth and it measured at 0.8 inches, meaning our shark was 8 feet long!
Our second tooth found was from the Crow Shark (now extinct)!  WHOA!  Maggie was so excited about this because she is obsessed with animals that are extinct or endangered.  (Trust me on this.  We have every publication that was written in the last 15 years on this subject!)  Our tooth specimen is in great shape, with the serrated edges of the tooth still intact.  Our tooth measured at 0.8 inches, meaning this shark was about 8 feet long as well!
 The last tooth we found was from a species of shark called Otodus obliquus, also extinct.  (Maggie was beside herself with excitement by this point.)  It measured in at 0.6 inches, meaning this creature was about six feet long.  This was such a fun addition to our lesson!  We placed our shark teeth in a protective container for our science shelf.
After teeth, we talked about shark senses (including their ampullae of Lorenzini and exceptional sense of smell) and shark pups.  We then read Hark! A Shark! All About Sharks by Bonnie Worth ...
... and National Geographic Kids' Sharks by Anne Schreiber.
She then wrote a fact that she learned from each book, which we then placed in our notebook.  For the Hark! A Shark! book, she wrote, "that the fastest shark is the mako."  From the second reading, she wrote, "that the spined pygmy shark has a glow-in-the-dark belly."  Cool.
We then read some publications on sharks that we had in our collections.  We read the June 2013 issue of Zoobooks magazine, entitled, "Sharks" ...
... "The Brains Behind the Jaws" article from this June 2008 issue of Smithsonian magazine, about the intelligence of great whites ...
 ... the "Watching Whale Sharks" article in this February 2015 issue of Highlights magazine ...
 ... and the "Sharks! Up Close and Personal" issue of Ranger Rick, June/July 2015.  (This is a photo of one of the spreads inside.)
We picked up this little Dover book when we visited The Estuarium at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab on Dauphin Island, Alabama, and completed it for her journal.  (You can purchase one directly from the Dover website.)
We then investigated each of our Usborne Sharks fact cards, to learn some more fun facts about different shark species.
Mags was especially interested in their extinction risk, listed on each card.
While at Toys 'R' Us to look for a birthday gift for a friend, we spotted this whale shark!  Mags had to have her picture with it.
On Day 3 of our lesson, we learned about the different orders of sharks, that is, how sharks are classified.  We also learned about two other cartilaginous fish, jawless fish, lampreys and hagfish.  These two fish are completely gross, but still fascinating.  Maggie then updated her journal with everything she had learned.
It was then time for some sticky fun. We set out to make the "Hagfish Slime" recipe we found in the notebooking journal.  (Hagfish eject gallons of slime when startled.  Disgusting.)  You really only need Metamucil and water for it, so we were ready to go!  Here, Mags is measuring 1 teaspoon of the Metamucil into 1 cup of water before the mixture went into the microwave.  (We microwaved on high for 4 minutes, let it cool, then repeated twice more until our slime was ready.) 
 The result was icky but fun!
She had too much fun with this!
 Hagfish slime!  This stuff keeps in the refrigerator for months!  (We won't be keeping ours to find out, though.  Yuck.)
After a fun, long lesson, it was time to make our critters for our ocean box.  Mags made a hagfish ...
 ... and asked her Daddy to make this manta ray.
We placed these and some shark stickers into our ocean box.   It is looking so good!
Next up?  Crustaceans!

John the Baptist

Lesson 101 of The Mystery of History, Volume I, is about John the Baptist, one of my favorite biblical characters.  Maggie and I read this lesson and she sobbed over his demise.  I love her bleeding heart for the Lord and His people.
After our reading, we completed the John the Baptist worksheet we found at  It gives you the Scripture references to find the answers but Maggie was able to answer the questions without referring to the Scripture.
Once our worksheet was complete, we found a really neat sandal craft made from paper at  We decided to put it together to help us remember John's famous words, "I baptize you with water for repentance.  But after me comes One who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Matthew 3:11, NIV).  This is actually one of my favorite verses in the Bible.  If you go to the link I added above, you can print off the template for the sandal craft.  It looks kind of hairy (below), but it wasn't hard to figure out.
 Once we punched holes in all the extensions of the template, we were able to take some twine and lace it up.  Neat!
We placed our sandal on our shelf to remember this lesson and John the Baptist's important words.
And for a little snack, we had a honey stick in honor of him!
Thanks for checking in with us!  Happy homeschooling!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Fish Files

Lesson 6 of Apologia's Exploring Creation with Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day is all about "Fish," mainly bony fishes.
In it, we learned about the three main kinds of fishes, the characteristics of bony fishes, gills, and fish shape.  Later on in the lesson, we talked about fish defenses, buoyancy, and fish senses.  We also talked about spawning and the life cycle of a fish.  We used our notebooking journal to record what we learned.
 This is a fish of Maggie's own design, the yellow-bellied coral fish.  It is orange to easily camouflage itself in coral reefs for catching prey.
 I just love the fun journaling activities, like this page with the pull-up facts about fish!
After we read about schools of fish in our text, we read a fun article in our September 2014 issue of Ranger Rick magazine, called "Good Reasons to Stay in Schools," by Kathy Kranking (pages 14-19).  (We love Ranger Rick!)
Here are some great photos from that article.
The article also led us to a video featuring sailfish attacking a school of fish at (also at, seen below).
In our reading we learned about a fish with a unique shape, the seahorse!  We followed it with a reading of Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle.
Here is a short National Geographic video of a male seahorse giving birth to thousands of its young (found at  Maggie loved it!
For Christmas, Mags got a nice microscope from her grandparents for her science studies.  They also bought her all of the accessories, including some prepared slides.  We noticed there was a slide of a goldfish scale.  Perfect!
Science is so fun!
This is a goldfish scale, up close, as best as I could photograph it.  It reminded us of the rings of a tree trunk.  Scales grow bigger as the fish grows larger.  As they grow, they form rings called circuli.  This is what we were able to see in the microscope, the circuli!  Cool!
We decided to try our hand at Gyotaku (the Japanese art of fish printing) to record in our study of scales in our notebook.  We went to our local grocery store, got a filet of rainbow trout, and set out to paint it for our print.  (Our cats were very excited about this project, too!)
We just needed a thin layer of paint.
It's not for you, kitties!
Maggie's Gyotaku!  You can see the tiny scales through the strokes of paint.
Later, in our study of the life cycle of a fish, we watched this video from Discovery Channel on YouTube ( about the salmon's journey.
Then, we mapped their journey online and recreated our own map for our notebooking journal.
(We did a study years ago about salmon at It features some fun salmon art that you can make for your journals.  Here is a picture, below, of Maggie's salmon art from that post.  She was so tiny!)
Finally, it was time to add fish to our ocean box, our ongoing project for this curriculum.
Daddy helped!  He gave his fish a gnarly jaw!
Just baked and ready to be added!
It's filling up!  We are so proud of it!
 Maggie's flounder, with both eyes on the top!
 Maggie's eel, hiding in a rock bed.  (The glue later dried clear.)
We also visited The Estuarium at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab on Dauphin Island, Alabama.  We snapped these pictures of Mags near the larger fish tank.
Next science post up?  Sharks and rays!  Stay tuned!