Sunday, October 4, 2015

Cenozoic Era Creatures

Evolution Unit Study

Lesson 8: Cenozoic Era Creatures

The first mammals evolved during the Mesozic Era, but after the mass extinction event which wiped out the dinosaurs, those mammals began to develop individual features. Horses, elephant, and hundreds of other mammals developed unique characteristics which enabled them to thrive. As the mammals continued to evolve, so did the reptiles and fish. Unique creatures such as turtles, lizards, and crocodiles became abundant. Grasslands spread across the land and with them mammals such as cattle and deer became equipped to survive in their new environment.


During the Cenozoic Era lesson, the kids learned to use the photo copier in order to create images for the timeline. This time they learned to use the internet and printer to accomplish the same thing.

First they searched the internet for images of creatures they wanted to place onto the timeline. Then they copied the images and pasted them into the program Inkscape. Inkscape is a graphic editing program which can be downloaded for free from the internet. In Inkscape, they resized their photos to fit onto one sheet of paper and then printed them out.

Although they didn't do much graphic editing within Inkscape, this simple exercise gave them exposure to the program and they learned how to find relevant graphics on the internet.

Cenozoic Era Videos

The Cenozoic Era also gave rise to human evolution which will be the subject of the next lesson. The last great ice age when the wooly mammoths and saber toothed cats ran wild was part of the Cenozoic Era as well as modern humans living today.

The following list of videos provide a good overview of how creatures evolved during the Cenozoic Era.

And the Mammals Laid Eggs
For much of history the continent of Australia was separated from the rest of the Earth's land mass. Therefore, the creatures which evolved in Australia are the most unique on the planet. Poison, pouches and combinations of features found now where else (platypus)....This video describes several Australian animals and their history of evolution.

The Evolution of Humans 
Each creature alive today has unique features which has enabled it to survive. Hammerhead sharks have heads unlike other animals. This video explores how the shape of various creatures has given them an advantage which has ensured their survival.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

German Pretzels

Now that we are back in America many people have asked how will the kids keep up their German? Well it is a challenge.

As soon as we moved back to America, my oldest took the CLEP exam for German. She was two questions away from a perfect score and earned herself 12 college credits. I'm thrilled. Now that she is fluent, I want her to retain the skill. So keeping up with German is a language priority.

Here are a few ways the kids are staying connected.

All three kids are still doing DuoLingo and loving it. DuoLingo allows language students to follow each other and earn points. So in addition to sending my husband messages, they have personal goals to keep their streak going as long as possible. In other words, if they spend 15 minutes or so per day on DuoLingo, they keep their streak going, if they miss a day, the counter resets. To keep their streaks alive, they even practice on Saturdays and Sundays.

DuoLingo is an easy way to stay connected, but there are a few other languages opportunities we have found. My oldest made a connection with a local German exchange student and asked her if she likes to eat schnitzel und Pommes? We purchased lots of books in German at all different levels, so the kids can read in German at home. There are books available in German on the internet. My daughter enjoyed some of Aesop's Fables through The Baldwin Project. We purchased music in German and you can too through iTunes. Deltev Jocker and Rolf Zuckowski are two artist that produce nice kids music in German.

Last, but not least, my daughter is cooking in German. Cooking in German is actually quite different than cooking in America. In addition to the written instructions being in a different language, measurements are different. Americans normally use cups to measure ingredients such as flour, but German recipes tend to measure ingredients by weight.

We all miss eating German pretzels. They were available at every corner bakery all across the country. We became addicted. Although, big soft pretzels are sold in America, they are just not the same. In fact they don't even come close to German pretzels. First, German pretzels tend to be dry, not buttery, cold, not hot, and eaten plain, not with mustard. Parents often purchase several of them and carry them in a paper bag as snacks for kids when they are on the go. Pretzels are much more common snack foods than fruit snacks, chips or granola bars. In fact, pretzels are a staple food and they became a staple for us too.

Once we were in America, I emailed my landlord, in German, and asked her to send a pretzel recipe. My daughter eagerly read, translated and baked pretzels.

They were pretty good, the technique still needs to be perfected so they really taste "German" but it was an excellent start.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Dinosaur Extinction

Evolution Unit Study

Lesson 7: We learned about the asteroid impact which ended the Cretaceous Period.

Scientists divide historic time into three eras; Paleozoic, Mesozic and Cenozic. Each era is further divided into periods. At the end of each era and period extinct events wiped out life. The extinction events which occurred at the end of each era were much more devastating to existing life. After each extinction event  new and different life forms were allowed flourish.

The first major extinction event began with a complete freeze of the Earth and happened at the beginning of the Paleozoic Era. The second mass extinction event occurred between the Paleozoic and Mesozic Eras and was brought on by a massive volcanic eruption in Sibera. The final mass extinction event was caused by an asteroid impact at the end of the Mesozic Era. 

Today it is widely accepted that 65 million years ago an asteroid struck our planet and wiped out  most life on Earth including the dinosaurs. The video below tells the story.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

College Credit at Home

Homeschooled kids often get a head start by earning college credits while still in high school. Since my oldest is 14 and very advanced in math I've spent several months researching this topic. Today many options are available for earning college credit thereby greatly reducing the cost of a college degree.

Here are three main ways to earn credit.

AP, CLEP and DSST are three different types of tests which can be taken and are accepted by universities. AP, or advanced placement exams are commonly offered by high schools which teach advanced classes such as calculus, English and history. CLEP exams cover many subjects typically taught during the first year of college such as American Literature, Foreign Language, Economics, Chemistry, Humanities, and Calculus. DSST exams tend to cover topics more typically gained through on the job experience such as business and computing.

Most undergraduate programs accept around one years worth of credits, or 32 credits total. They pick and choose which credits from exams they will accept. Sometimes they change their policies, and not all universities accept the same exams. That being said, passing a foreign language exam can earn potential undergraduates a whopping 12 credits. Passing most other exams result in 3 to 6 credits depending on the exam and score. Many universities like to limit the amount of credits accepted by testing to ensure students are capable of learning through more traditional classroom methods. So the bottom line is, testing can be an efficient way to skip ahead, but if the end university is known, it's best to double check with them in advance to see what credits they will accept.

2. Community College
Many undergraduate university programs will accept up to 64 transfer credits, or credits earned at another accredited institution. That means students could either take two years worth of classes at a community college, or one year of classes combined with 32 testing credits to begin an undergraduate program as a junior. Since community colleges tend to be cheaper than universities and testing cheaper than community college, this combination is an excellent way to save money on education.

Accreditation is key. There are many colleges offering classes, but not all are accredited. Again, if the university or final degree program is known, then it's best to check with that institution as to whether or not the credits earned at the community college will be accepted. If the final degree program is still being decided, checking the regional accreditation is a good idea. Here's a web link to help verify accreditation.

3. On-line College
Now that the internet has grown by leaps and bounds, many students are obtaining on-line degrees. Thomas Edison State College, Excelsior College and Charter Oaks State College are three big on-line degree institutions. What's really neat about several of the on-line programs is that students can earn a degree almost entirely through testing. They tend to accept most testing credits and even offer tests similar to course final exams which if passed, are another route for earning credit.

Students can learn at home, take AP, CLEP and DSST exams, then select an on-line school and degree program. From there, the students can study the material required by the degree program, enroll, take several tests  and wind up with a degree, or enroll and take the courses on-line to complete the program.

Accredited degrees are normally accepted by universities. Therefore, if the student were to earn an on-line degree and then begin a second degree at a university, depending on the similarity of the degrees, as much as three years worth of classes could be eliminated.

Just like the numerous options for educating elementary, junior high and high school level children there are many options for college level as well. The ideal scenario would be to know the final destination university and degree program and then select a testing/community college/on-line option to feed into it. Without knowing the final goal, much progress can still be made. Just remember, each university sets its own rules. The important thing is to look for accreditation.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Mesozic Era Creatures

Evolution Unit Study

Lesson 6: We watched videos about pterosaurs, dinosaurs and Mesozic Era sea creatures of the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods and added Mesozic Era creatures to our timeline.

The Mesozic Era was the time of the dinosaurs. It can be broken into three time periods; Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous. The first flowering plants, marine reptiles, flying dinosaurs and first small dinosaurs evolved during the Triassic. During the Jurassic Pterosaurs were abundant. The Cretaceous gave rise to the first sharks, birds evolved and dinosaurs such as triceratops, and t-rex roamed the land. Mammals also made their first apearence during the Mesozic.

Miracle Planet Part 4, Extinction and Rebirth describes how volcano eruptions lead to a change in composition of the Earth's atmosphere. Among other elements, oxygen levels first rose and then fell dramatically to around 10%. The video explains how one change led to another such as the unique formation of mammal rib cages. In early species the rib cage completely surrounded the chest, but in later species, the ribs only surrounded the upper chest much like our ribs do today.

This list of videos provides a good overview of the creatures which lived during the Mesozic Era.

Largest flying Creature Ever - Pterosaurs Documentary
Scientists try to replicate pterosaur flight in this National Geographic video. Full of computer animation, this video describes different types of pterosaurs, typical pterosaur characteristics such as huge a breast bone, and landing tactics.

Dinosaurs Part 1 Extreme Survivors (Full Documentary)
Sauroposeidon were a species of long necked dinosaur which laid numerous small eggs. It's believed that the parents abandoned their babies (500 per season) and let them fend for themselves. T-Rex dinosaurs, on the other hand, are believed to have been devoted parents. This video explores different species of dinosaurs and their behavior characteristics.

Extreme Dinosaurs
Long neck dinosaurs, abounded during the Jurassic. During the Cretaceous the t-rex preyed upon creatures. It is believed that these two species didn't live at the same time. This video explores the possibility of a dinosaur even bigger than t-rex discovered in South America - giganatosaurus, living at the same time as the giant Argentinosaurus, the largest plant eater. While exploring the theory, scientists examine evidence that suggests these species of large dinosaurs may have lived in family groups.

Sea Monsters - A Prehistoric Adventure
While dinosaurs roamed the land, the seas teamed with life. This National Geographic video gives a historical fiction account of a dolichorhynchops (a pre-historic dolfin which lived during the late Cretaceous.) Following the dolichorhynchops and her brother as they journey through life, the video introduces several other sea creatures of the late Cretaceous.


After learning about different Mesozic Era creatures the kids added images to the timeline.

 Searching through books, they located creatures and sketched them for the timeline.

 They also photocopied creatures and cut them out for the timeline.

(cutting out a dinosaur for the timeline)


To see more of our evolution lessons, please visit our Science Page.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Prehistoric Creatures Unit Study - Lesson 5: Paleozoic Mass Extinction Event

Lesson 5: End of the Paleozoic Era.

After creating a basic timeline of Earth's history and learning about the wealth of life which flourished during the Paleozoic Era, we learned what brought the Paleozoic Era to its end.

The Paleozoic period of evolution was brought to a close with a mass extinction event which lasted over 100,000 years. Massive volcanic eruptions, known as flood basalt eruptions, took place in Siberia. The eruptions released sulfur dioxide gas into the atmosphere which mixed with water causing acid rain. The acid rain lead to a series of volcanic winters which caused the food system to collapse. As if that wasn't bad enough, the carbon dioxide released by the volcanoes then caused the Earth to warm. The warming resulted in altered global weather patterns. In addition, the warm air caused the ocean temperatures to rise eventually causing them to stop circulating. This created a lack of oxygen in the seas which in turn resulted in numerous creatures becoming extinct.

Catastrophe, is a video series which focuses on mass extinction events. Episode 3 focuses on the extinction which occurred at the end of the Paleozoic Era described above.

To see our earlier Evolution Unit Study Lessons please visit our Science Page.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Prehistoric Creatures Unit Study - Lesson 4: Paleozoic Era

We watched several videos to learn about significant evolutionary changes which took place during the Paleozoic Era.

Time Periods in the Paleozoic Era; Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous and Permian.

The Cambrian Period was the first time of widespread life on Earth. While the land was barren, the seas saw an explosion of life. The single celled organisms of the Precambrian developed into multi celled creatures. At first creatures had soft bodies, but during the Cambrian Period, the first shells were developed.

During the Ordovician Period the warm shallow seas were filled with trilobites, sea scorpions and coral. Nautiloids evolved and after 25 million years of volcanic eruptions, the atmosphere was filled with carbon dioxide. The major evolutionary advancement of the backbone led to the evolution of the first fish.

The above video was my children's favorite as it featured Nigel, who traveled back in time to venture into the ancient seas. In addition to featuring the Ordovician Seas, Nigel explored other prehistoric environments.

The Silurian Period gave rise to the first land based plants. The evolution of jaws was a major event as predators became much more dangerous.

During the Devonian Period large armored fish ruled the seas and the first sharks evolved. The air was rich with oxygen, and the first creatures developed the capabilities of breathing air and walking on land. Plants which had evolved during earlier periods became numerous upon the land. Forests began to grow and the shade proved by the trees provided shelter for land animals.

The above video explores the links between prehistoric creatures in search of the first tetrapods.

This was the age of giant insects as 80% of the atmosphere was filled with oxygen. The mass of trees led to the first dirt. Creatures developed the capability to produce hard shelled and amniotic eggs which led to the evolution of mammals and reptiles. Hearing developed and the relationship between carnivores and herbivores was established.

During the Permian Period mammals and reptiles continued to evolve on land.

Paleozoic Era
Overall the Paleozoic Era saw major changes in life on Earth. From single celled organisms to shells, backbones, jaws, limbs, lungs and eggs - specialization was beginning to take place. The video linked below covers the entire era.

To remember the major events of the Paleozoic Era, we created a song to the tune of Little Bunny Fu-Fu.

5-4-3-2-1 Boom
4.5 billion years ago the Earth was formed
Single celled bacteria lived in blue-green water

5-4-3-2-1 Frozen
Carbon dioxide levels fell and Earth became a snowball
Volcanoes warmed the Earth after 25 million years

C-O-S-D-C-P Cambrian
Multi-celled creatures evolved in the seas
First they had soft bodies, then some developed shells

C-O-S-D-C-P Ordovician
Shallow seas, warm water, lots of carbon dioxide
The first fish developed without any jaws

C-O-S-D-C-P  Silurian
Creatures developed backbones and fish got jaws
Plants began to grow upon the land

C-O-S-D-C-P Devonian
The air was full of oxygen and forest began to grow
Tetrapods with four limbs walked upon the land

C-O-S-D-C-P Carboniferous
Giant insects flew about in oxygen rich air
Reptiles evolved with shelled eggs and hard scales

C-O-S-D-C-P Permian
The first mammals evolved and they could hear
Reptiles ruled the land until..............

5-4-3-2-1 Boom
Volcanoes erupted for hundreds of thousands of years
Acid rain, volcanic winters, the food chain collapsed

Carbon dioxide in the air warmed the Earth and sea
95% of species died but some survived


Creatures which lived during the Paleozoic Era were added to our timeline.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas. 
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