readilearn: Teaching about living things in early childhood classrooms – turtles

  • Published on May 25, 2018

the importance of teaching about living things in early childhood classrooms, focusing on sea turtles

Teaching about living things has an important place in early childhood classrooms. In the science curriculum in their first few years of school, children learn

  • What is a living thing
  • Needs of living things
  • Features of living things
  • Life stages of living things

I have previously written about keeping and observing minibeasts in the classroom, learning about life on a farm, learning about living things – sea turtles, and observing animals in the local environment. In addition to the teaching ideas suggested in the blog posts, there are many resources in the science collection to assist you with your work.

Let's find out about sea turtles cover

This week, in celebration of World Turtle Day on 23 May and World Environment Day coming up on 5 June, I have uploaded new resources to support learning about sea turtles and the existing non-fiction digital text Let’s find out about Sea Turtles.

interactive quiz about sea turtles and living things

What do you know about Sea Turtles? is an interactive quiz designed to aid teaching rather than to test knowledge. It consists of ten questions, the answers to which can be found in Let’s find out about Sea Turtles.

The quiz allows multiple attempts at each question until the correct answer is given. If both resources are open in different tabs, it is easy to move between them to check for the correct response.

With a variety of interactive question and answer types, the quiz is a fun way to review what children have learned about sea turtles. Each question provides an opportunity for discussion and investigation.

Turtle domino cards is a set of turtle-themed domino cards that can be printed and laminated for whole class lessons, small group activities and independent work.

The dominoes can be used to develop fluency in number with

  • addition turn arounds
  • subitisation
  • missing addends
  • speed of recall

While they are great for extending the theme when learning about turtles, the dominoes can be used at any time for developing number concepts.

For a bit of fun and problem-solving, these 9 square turtle puzzles are great for fast finishers or as an acknowledgement of completing the unit.

Why is it important to learn about sea turtles?

According to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, there is much we can learn about the health of the environment from sea turtles. While they have survived for millions of years, including the meteor crash that wiped out the dinosaurs, they are now struggling to do so, largely as a result of human impact.

green sea turtles grazing on sea grass help to maintain our oceans

Sea turtles live and travel throughout the world’s oceans and play an important role in maintaining our planet’s health. Sea turtles, especially green sea turtles, help to maintain the ocean’s sea grasses which provide a breeding ground for many species of sea creatures, which in turn become food for others further up the chain, including humans.

When sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs in sand dunes far up the beach, they also contribute to the health of the dunes and the beaches. Nutrients are added to the sand from eggs and hatchlings that don’t survive. These nutrients support plant life that in turn strengthens the dunes and help prevent erosion.

With their dual roles of supporting healthy marine as well as shore environments, we must do what we can to protect sea turtles. Our survival is interlinked with theirs.

Renee Hills and her beautiful picture book Turtle Love

As Renee Hills said when I interviewed her about her beautiful picture book Turtle Love,

“Humans are having a huge impact on our environment and all species with whom we share the planet. Each of those species has a right to life, to safety, to have a place to call home.  We need to affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are a part.”

What can you do to help protect sea turtles?

Even if you don’t live near the ocean, you can still help maintain the health of our planet. A healthy planet contributes to the health of all its inhabitants.

  1. Reduce waste. Reduce, reuse and recycle whenever possible.
  2. Reduce the use of chemicals. Chemicals can be washed into oceans and kill plants and animals. Replace gardening and cleaning products with biodegradable alternatives whenever possible.
  3. Reduce the use of plastic. Sea turtles and other animals can become entangled in plastic products on the beach or in the water. They may confuse plastic bags and other items for food and become sick or die when they try to eat them.
  4. Consume seafood that has been sourced responsibly and sustainably.

If you are at the beach

  1. Take all your rubbish with you. Leave nothing behind but footprints is good advice for the beach as elsewhere. If you see rubbish left behind by careless others, clean it away too.
  2. Be aware of turtle nesting areas and avoid damaging nests or disturbing the nesting mothers or hatchlings on their way to the water.
  3. Avoid shining bright lights near nesting turtles or baby hatchlings. The turtles use the light of the moon and its reflection on the water to guide them. Bright lights may disorient them.
  4. Be aware of turtle habitats and movements to avoid injury to them when boating or jet skiing.
How does World Environment Day help sea turtles?

The theme for World Environment Day this year is Beat Plastic Pollution, If you can’t reuse it, refuse it.

What do you think - clean up the rubbish or ban production?

An article on the website discusses Picking up litter: Pointless exercise or powerful tool in the battle to beat plastic pollution? With many organisations, councils and governments around the world banning use of the plastic bag, and many individuals making the decision to avoid one-use plastic, it seems the tide is turning. But there is still a lot of plastic waste in our oceans, rivers and other water systems. Cleaning them up is an essential part of making our environment healthier.

Some argue that “Cleaning a beach is not turning the tide, they say, because the tide will just come in again, depositing more plastic cups, bottles, straws, bags and discarded fishing equipment. What we need to do, they argue, is reduce unnecessary plastic at source, design less harmful products and develop better recycling processes.”

Others say that “Every piece of trash that is taken away to be recycled or deposited in a landfill means there is one less dangerous item for birds, turtles or whales to swallow. Cleanups also restore these creatures’ habitats.”

I think we need to do both. Education is where it all begins. In the early childhood science curriculum, children begin to learn formally about living things, their needs, and their life stages. This knowledge helps to develop an understanding of, and appreciation for, all living things. But their attitudes are often learned at home. Children are keen observers. They learn what they see, and they need to see parents and teachers implementing environmentally friendly practices on a day-to-day basis.

How can you show children you care about our sea turtles and the planet?

I appreciate your feedback and comments. Please share your thoughts below.

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    Norah, thanks for featuring my comment and Turtle Love and wow! you have some lovely resources here.

    It’s my pleasure to share word of your beautiful book, Renee. I also mentioned it in the interview with Anne Donnelly, and will do so whenever the chance arises. 💖

    My boys were in scouting and were always taught to not leave a human footprint. When I walk in a wooded area I always take my trash with me.
    I just read about a type of walking with a purpose – though you need plastic glove protection. Picking up litter as you go. If you go with a group you can keep the trash separate from the toss-able trash. Otherwise if you want to use one bag you might want to sort it when you get home.

    I enjoy seeing road signs that say this part of a roadway kept clean by volunteers sponsored by a particular group. But it is sad that these groups are needed. Especially when people will toss bags of trash from their cars! And to see plastic bags hanging on the limbs of trees. Some areas are trying to ban plastic bags. Reusable plastic and cloth bags are encourage for grocery shopping.

    We were just having a conversation about recycling and how now it is not as profitable as it once was to recycle certain materials. What I don’t understand is why packaging can’t be made more biodegradable. Especially individual serving units like yogurt. I guess there has to be a certain degree of clean plastic or thickness for food to be allowed. We used to be told that we could only recycle plastic with 1 and 2 and only items with necks, no bottle caps though- yet there are several levels up at least up to 5. It isn’t even profitable for newspapers to be recycled. Though some local farmers use it for bedding – they don’t want to have tons on their property that they can’t use.

    Also items are supposed to be clean and dry. As it seems that it cost too much to clean it at a recycle place as well as if some items are wet especially with tin or aluminum the fluid or water could cause issues in the smelting process.

    There are limited locations for foam recycling that also want just clean dry items. But because they are not convenient most people just toss that product in their trash.

    It would be nice to have standard rules. But that doesn’t always work in different locations. Some states still pay for class and some limited plastic recycles like hard milk jugs.

    Not all people can or want to compost since open compost areas can bring unwanted wild life and can if not taken care of smell rather badly. We try to do the best we can by buying things that can be recycled. So far our local trash collectors are still asking us to separate cans, aluminum, glass and paper. But I’m not sure how much actually does get recycled.
    We have a separate local place for recycling electronics, batteries and those new fancy light bulbs.

    Thank you for your wonderful comment and the richness of its wisdom, Jules. Leaving only footprints and taking all your trash when you leave is great advice for visiting any natural (or unnatural, for that matter) area. It is great that you set such a good example for others to follow.
    I’ve heard about that ‘plogging’ movement – picking up trash as you jog or walk. What a fabulous idea – doing good for the environment’s health as you do good for your own health.
    It is great to have groups who volunteer to remove trash left by others. It’s just a pity the others think it’s okay to leave the trash. Perhaps the message will become strong and the behaviour less acceptable, even to themselves.
    I think, as you have explained in your comment, one of the biggest issues with recycling is confusion. Maybe after that comes contamination, which probably comes from confusion anyway. And composting is not suitable for everyone, although there are other ways of disposing of bio-waste. I enjoyed using my Bokashi kit for a while, but have reverted to composting again. Maybe I’ll go back to the Bokashi for a while. Thanks for the thought. 🙂

    I wonder if Bokaski makes kits for America?
    I know folks with pets and the pet composter looks very beneficial. I bet it could work with cats too!

    I had a friend who lived in Japan – they recycled everything – talk about confusion. The landlord gave him grief though because the instructions were, well very difficult to understand and follow. Some areas even have you separate the different color glass.

    Maybe there is a market for a company to wash (and dry) recyclables before being shipped of to the different companies?

    Oooh I found Bokashi on Amazon Though ‘currently unavailable’… boo hoo.

    Hi Jules, I’m pleased you found the information useful but disappointed that the Bokashi kit is currently unavailable. Hopefully, it will be available again soon. Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t need to recycle because all our products were produced in a sustainable way in the first place? Now, there’s a dream. 🙂

    Oh, I love sea turtles! ???? So true about the interconnectedness of all things. I love what Renee says here.

    As for the plastic debate, I agree with you. We cannot do one and not the other. Both are important. Crucial, really. What a wonderful post.

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Sarah. I’m pleased you enjoyed Renee’s message and the post.

    This is an important lesson, Norah. We need to better understand how interconnected we are to the world and it makes a difference. I’m with you, in thinking we must do both — take meaningful action as individuals and at the source.

    Thank you for your support and encouragement, Charli. I’m pleased you agree that both strategies are necessary if we’re serious about making this world a better place.

    Children will want to learn about all sorts of species after they master the turtle info here, Norah 🙂 And that’s a great thing! I love that the activities you propose would encourage children to keep finding out more about living creatures.

    Hi Christy, Thank you for your encouraging comment. Children do love to find out as much as they can about living creatures, as they do for just about everything else in the world. 🙂

    Excellent, excellent lessons here, Norah. I happen to have turtle love, also. They are amazing (prehistoric-looking) creatures who swim with the grace of the best dancer in the world. I’ve had the fortune of visiting a Honu turtle retreat in HI, and the look in their eyes…! Wise and prophetic and wishing the earth was kinder to them.

    Thanks so much for your lovely comment, Pam. I love the way you’ve described them as “creatures who swim with the grace of the best dancer in the world”. Their eyes are beautiful, aren’t they; and the world does need to be kinder to them.

    Thank you, Debby. I always like to add a bit of fun in my lessons when possible.

    This is an excellent educational post, Norah. Teaching children at an early age to respect all life is vital to the survival of our planet. I’d like to see zoos, circuses, etc. abolished, because they give the message that it’s okay to remove animals from their natural habitats merely for our enjoyment. Sanctuaries, however, teach children how to be stewards ❤

    Thanks so much for your support, Tina. I’m sure many of the world’s inhabitants, including the animals, agree with you. We recognise our Indigenous Peoples as guardians of the land. I think seeing ourselves as guardians or stewards is the best way forward.

Please share your thoughts. I love it when you do.

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