Level 2: Animal Care Unit

From domesticated pets to the wildest creatures on the earth, there is so much that goes into caring for our furry, feathered, and scaled friends! In this unit, we’ll explore some amazing human and animal connections from around the world (including several true stories!) and explore how we can take care of the animals we share our planet with. And, don’t worry—we’ll also strengthen our skills in math, literacy, science, and more! If your family has a pet, let your child take the lead in caring for them this week! Next, download our skills tracker here and get ready for a wild adventure.

Note: Occasionally we include project modifications (which can be useful for including younger siblings) or upgrades. We’ll mark those with the minus (-) or plus (+) symbols.

What you need:

Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):

Optional chapter books:

Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):

What to do:

We recommend doing the below lessons in this order to build on each skill your child will develop, but don’t feel that you *need* to do them in this order. Do what works for you and your child. If they love an activity, feel free to repeat! Not a winner? Skip and try the next thing. Have fun!

Phonics Guide:

New to our phonics guide? Start here. The Phonics Guide this week will highlight words that have the ER phonogram. Sometimes you will find it at the beginning of a word, like in “early.” Other times, you will find it at the end of words, like in “over” and “under.” The preposition activity in Lesson 2, Activity 3 will be a great opportunity to introduce this phonics rule.

Lesson 1:

Humans and animals have shared special connections for centuries, and we can’t wait to dig into some of them this week! We’ll start with our most domesticated animals and move outward in the world to wilder creatures. But what does domesticated mean? Let’s start by reading Honey: The Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln (or listen to this read aloud) before learning more about it.

Activity 1: One way we classify animals in the world is by whether they are domesticated or wild. An animal that is domesticated has been tamed, or adapted over time (as by selective breeding) from a wild or natural state to life in close association with and to the benefit of humans. Let’s demonstrate this in a hands-on way with this simple sorting activity. Print both pages (and laminate, if possible, for durability) and cut out the animal circles on the second page. Next, have your child sort the animals as domesticated or wild on the first page to demonstrate the difference. Discuss the similarities and differences between the animals themselves. Are there any animals that could be tame and wild? Was the dog in our book domesticated, wild, or both?

Activity 2: Do you have a pet? Let’s use your pet for a non-fiction writing activity. (If your family doesn’t have a pet, let your child pick an imaginary pet but do some research to make the information non-fiction.) Print this writing printable. Explain to your child that writing and books are usually fiction or non-fiction. Non-fiction means writing that is based on facts, real events, and real people. Fiction means writing about imaginary events or people. We will practice both today! In the big box on the first page, have your child draw a picture of their pet and fill in their name. Next, have them write in information about what type of pet they have, what their pet likes, what their pet eats, etc. (You can also scribe for them if they are not ready to write on their own. See note below.) Next, let’s do some fiction writing! Using the comic book outline on the second page, have your child create a fiction story about an adventure their pet goes on. They can use as many of the squares as they need (and you can print more if they need it). Finally, have them give their work a title.

Note: The purpose of this activity is two-fold. For the non-fiction writing, use this to practice handwriting. This may mean that you write out what your child wants to say on a separate piece of paper so they can use it for copywork. For our fiction writing, the purpose is to give your child practice at storytelling. This may mean that they create the story and you scribe the writing for them.

Activity 3: One of the most important people when it comes to animal care is a veterinarian. But what is a veterinarian? Veterinarians are animal doctors. They help prevent, diagnose, and treat animal diseases, and they can perform surgery and prescribe medicine. Veterinarians can help take care of your pets, but they also are very important to zoos and farms. They can also help animals breed and give birth. (source) If possible, try to take a field trip to a veterinarian’s office this week (call in advance to set up a tour), or you can watch this video of a vet’s office tour.

Let’s pretend to be veterinarians—starting with a little clock work. Get out your clock and play a game where you practice making an appointment with a veterinarian. Tell your child to “call” the vet’s office to make an appointment for an animal check up. Ask (and probably answer) these questions to set up your pretend appointment: What time does your office open? What time do you go to lunch? What time do you close? Do you treat XYZ animals? How much is a visit? 

Next, make an appointment time. You can ask your child, “What day and time would you like to come in?” Set up your pretend clock to indicate the time and practice telling the time to the hour and minute. Use this play setting to teach that the short hand tells the hour and the long hand tells the minutes. Set up the clock to reflect the time the child indicates. Then, try switching roles to let your child take your appointment. Give them a small notepad to practice taking down your details. (If you have multiple children, you could even have them play both roles!)

Activity 4: Your child is now ready to set up their own veterinarian’s office! Print out these pretend veterinarian forms and tools in advance, including the name tags for doctors and nurses. Laminate each sheet and cut out the tools and name tags (you can also use a toy doctor’s kit if you have one). Have your child write their name on the name tags and attach the name tag using a paper clip or a safety pin. You could also add a photo of your child before laminating! Next, collect stuffed animals and set up your vet’s office. You could even have your child check the appointments they wrote down previously as they admit patients.

Lesson 2:

Another example of domesticated animals are those we find on a farm. Today, we’ll use farm animals to guide our lessons! Start by reading the book A Home in the Barn (or listen to this read aloud).

Activity 1: One farm animal we love learning more about is the chicken! Let’s start be reviewing the chicken life cycle with this craft.

Activity 2: Of course, all chickens start as an egg! Let’s examine the egg closer with this egg lab. Start by introducing your child to the parts of an egg with these print-outs. Your child can fill in the blank sheets for copywork practice. Next, give your child a real egg to dissect! First, let your child examine the shell of the egg with a magnifying glass while identifying the shell and pores. Carefully break the shell in half as neatly as possible in a shallow dish, and then give your child a toothpick and a magnifying glass to examine their subject. How many of the parts from the print-out can they identify? Discuss the function of each part as described below:

  • shell: contains and protects the embryo
  • pores: allow the embryo to breathe. The pores take in oxygen and let out carbon dioxide and moisture. The larger end of the egg has more pores than the smaller end (you can notice this difference in texture with a magnifying glass).
  • membranes: guard the embryo from bacterial invasions and rapid moisture loss
  • air cell: a pocket of air that forms as a newly hatched egg cools and the contens contract from the shell. This air pocket grows as the egg ages.
  • chalazae: white cords made from twisted strands of protein that suspend the yolk in the middle of the egg
  • albumin: also called the “egg white,” this is a clear thin liquid that surrounds the yolk and provides a layer of protection and protein for the growing embryo
  • yolk: the yellow inside portion of the egg that provides minerals, vitamins, fat, and protein to the growing embryo
  • embryo: the unhatched offspring in the process of development

Activity 3: Let’s work on a little grammar! Has your child ever heard of prepositions? These parts of speech express a noun’s relation to another word or element. In the majority of cases, they tell us the location of the noun in relation to another thing. (For example, “The chicken is in the chicken coop.”)

Let’s explore some more prepositions with this hands-on activity. Use a farm animal figurine (or some other small toy) and a small barn or box (like an empty tissue box). Next, print these preposition cards (and laminate, if possible, for durability). Present your child with one card at a time and introduce it as a high frequency word. Explain that each of these words are propositions, which tell us where something is in relation to another thing. In most cases, you can tell if a word is a preposition if it fits in the sentences “The chicken is _____ the barn” or “The chicken ran ____ the barn.”

With each card, have your child place the chicken in relation to a barn/box to reflect the preposition on the card. For example, if the word is “on,” they would put the chicken on the barn(box). Work your way through the cards. You could also make this sillier by using two animal figurines instead of a box!

Lesson 3:

Another domesticated animal often found on farms is the horse! Let’s learn more about horses and how to take care of them in the book Hello, Horse. This would also be a good day to introduce our optional chapter book, My Friend Flicka.

Activity 1: One important part of caring for an animal like a horse is knowing the names for all of its body parts. Horses have unique anatomy names–and sometimes the name for a body part changes depending on whether you are referring to the front or the back of the horse! Let’s review some of these terms with this anatomy print-out and word search. Start by reading through all the terms on the anatomy picture, and then have your child work through the word search. When they find a word, see if they can find it again on the anatomy picture.

Activity 2: When we are measuring something, we generally use a unit of standard or nonstandard measurement. A standard unit measurement is a quantifiable reference point of measuring length, or capacity—in other words, a unit of measurement widely used and understood, like inches on a grams or pounds on a scale. A nonstandard unit of measurement is something that can vary in weight or measurement. For example, using marbles as a nonstandard measurement can vary because not all marbles weigh the same. (source) Let’s use horses to learn more about these concepts and their pros and cons.

Horses are measured in a unit of measurement called “hands.” This unit was originally defined as the breadth of the palm including the thumb until King Henry VIII of England established it as four inches (source). Let’s demonstrate how the hand used to be a nonstandard unit of measurement and how it changes. Start by tracing your child’s hand on a piece of construction paper (have them keep their fingers closed, hand flat). Have them label this as “my hand.” Then, do the same thing with your hand (or another child’s hand if you are learning in a group). Label the second hand as well. Next, go around your house measuring things with both your paper hands, writing down how many hands each things are. You may want to make a chart like this to keep track:

Item being measuredNumber of my handsNumber of grown-up hands
chair
fridge

Ask your child: What is useful about this non-standard measurement? (Convenience, ability to estimate, etc.) What is challenging about it? (Everyone would end up with different measurements.)

Next, cut out two strips of construction paper that are each four inches exactly. Label each piece “4 inches.” Repeat the measuring activity, each of you writing down how many of your “4 inches” it takes to measure each thing. When you compare results, you should have the exact same answers. Discuss the benefits of standard units of measurement (greater accuracy, easier to share information) versus the challenges (you might not always have a ruler with you!).
(+) You could also use horse hands to practice skip counting by 4s! Take your second chart and skip count by four to determine how many inches each thing you measured is.

Activity 3: Believe it or not, horses have also inspired a variety of classical music! One of the most famous examples is the Overture of William Tell by Italian Gioachino Rossini. First, click here to learn more about the composer himself. Next, play the beginning of the song, up until about 2:55 on this recording. You may also encourage them to dance to the music. Would they describe this music as loud or soft? Fast or slow? Smooth or choppy? Next, continue playing the song for as long as your child will listen. How does it change? Ask them the same questions as before (but their answers should be different!). Encourage them to dance or “gallop” around the room in time with the music!

Lesson 4:

Ready to get a little wilder? Today’s lessons will focus on zoos and how animals are cared for here. In this case, the animals are wild but kept in a domesticated setting (and often trained to enable the zookeepers to better care for them). Let’s start by reading the book If Anything Ever Goes Wrong at the Zoo.

Activity 1: A lot of work goes into designing zoo habitats for animals. Let’s learn more about it in this video. Next, let’s build some habitats of our own! Use your animal figurines and these STEM-based challenges to inspire your little builder.

Activity 2: The word “zoo” is a perfect example of a “oo” word! Let’s practice reading and spelling more of these words with the help of some tasty cereal. Print these practice sheets, laminating them if possible. Next, give your child a small bowl of dry cereal in the shape of O’s (like Cheerios, Froot Loops, or something similar). Tell them how two o’s next to each other make the sound /oo/, as in “zoo.” Next, have them complete the words on the first page, using the cereal as their o’s. Help them to read each word.
(+) Ready for more? Using the second page, have them rewrite each word that they built with the cereal. Or, you or your child can write in your own OO words to work on even more.

Activity 3: Let’s practice some more skip counting with these zoo puzzles. Print each puzzle out onto cardstock. (You may also want to laminate for durability.) Next, use a paper cutter or scissors to cut out the strips. Give your child each puzzle and show how they can use the numbers at the bottom to put them together in the right order by counting by 2s, 3s, 4s, or 5s.

Lesson 5:

Even when animals live in the wild, there are still important ways we can help take care of them. Today, people who want to help protect wild animals are called conservationists. For our activities today, we’ll learn about some real-life wildlife conservationists and the impact they have had. We’ll begin by reading The Elephants Come Home (or listen to this read aloud—it was originally a live chat, so the video is a little long, but the book starts at 6:02).

Activity 1: If you were with us for our India Unit, you learned a bit about the Asian elephant. Let’s learn about the African elephants in our book in this video. Next, let’s make our own elephant with this simple trunk craft! First, print this elephant printout. Cut out the elephant and the trunk. Roll up the trunk and tape it to the end of a straw. Then, tape the straw to the back of the elephant, like this:

Now, you can blow in the straw to extend the elephant’s trunk!

Activity 2: Have you ever heard of elephant toothpaste? Of course, it’s not really toothpaste for an elephant, but it is a super-fun chemical reaction experiment! Let’s try it for ourselves with this tutorial.

Activity 3: One way some humans help bring attention to wildlife conservation efforts is with wildlife photography. This unique art form can give people a window into life that they would never encounter in their every day life. One of the most famous wildlife photographers is Frans Lanting. Hailed as one of the best photographers of our time, his work has appeared in galleries, magazines, books, and more, but he is especially well-known for his work in National Geographic. You can peruse more of his photography on his website here. You can also watch this interview with him to learn how he gets the best photos of wild animals.

Of course, photographing wild animals is much harder than it looks! Let’s let your child try their hand at it for our last activity. Encourage your child to use your phone (or even a disposable camera) to try to photograph a family pet—or even just insects in the backyard. You could also turn this into a field trip, trying to photography animals at a petting zoo or nearby farm.

If you post any of your child’s captures on Instagram, we’d love to see them! Be sure to use #learnandliveletter and tag us @learnandliveletter!

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Published by The Learn + Live Letter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-12.

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