Level 2+: Bears Unit

This week, we’ll get to know the often secretive life of bears from all over the world. From grizzlies to polar bears to pandas (and a slew of lesser-known bears in between!), we’ll get to know how they live while also tackling math, science, literacy, geography and more. To get started, click here to download this week’s skills tracker.

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

What you need:

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

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 the phonogram OUGH and AUGH and the phonics rule about GH.

Lesson 1:

Today, we’ll be diving into the world of bears, beginning with our book, A Book of Bears: At Home with Bears Around the World! If you aren’t able to find this exact book, any book from your library about a wide variety of bears should work. If you aren’t able to find one, you can also learn about the variety of bear species on this website.

Activity 1: Let’s work on some geography as we learn all the places bears can be found in the world. First, print this world map. Next, use this interactive map to learn where each species of bear can be found. To fill out your map, assign each bear a color of fine tip marker and create dots in the parts of the world where that species lives. Don’t forget to create a key for your map!

Activity 2: Throughout the week, we will create a Bear Book with pages for each type of bear we learn about. You will need at least 5 copies of this printable (more if your child decides they want to add more bears). We’ll begin by filling out a page for black bears. Have your child include information from today’s book (you can also check out tomorrow’s book!), or they can do research here or watch this video. Just for fun, you can also watch this video to hear a real black bear roar!

Activity 3: Brown bears live in dens in caves or hollow trees. Let’s use the black bear’s den to inspire some preposition practice today. (If your child has already completed Level 2: Animal Care, this will be a great review for what they learned in that unit.)

preposition is a word or group of words used before a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase to show direction, time, place, location, spatial relationships, or to introduce an object. (source) In other words, a preposition tells you the relationship between a noun or pronoun and some other element in the sentence. Some examples of prepositions are words like “in,” “at,” “on,” “of,” and “to.” A good trick to remember how to tell if a word is a pronoun is if it fits in this sentence: “The bear ran ____ the den.”

Finally, let’s bring it to life! You will need a brown paper bag (or something similar to create a “den”) and a bear figurine or stuffed animal (or you can print this bear on cardstock and glue it on a popsicle stick to create a puppet). Begin using your figurine or puppet to act out the bear’s spatial relationship to the den, filling in the blank in the sentence “The bear ran ____ the den.” You could say in, over, toward, around, under, etc. Let your child create a few of their own sentences. Finally, create a sentence and ask your child to identify the preposition in the sentence. Repeat until they’ve grasped the lesson or are ready to move on.

Activity 4: Let’s end the day with a little math practice at making ten. Print both of these sheets (you may want to laminate the second page for repeated practice). If your child likes a story to add purpose to their math, you could tell them a bear needs to find his way to his den, which is ten bear steps away. Beginning with the first page, demonstrate that the first number in the equation is the number of steps he has already taken—how many more does he need to take? Use the ten bar and a crayon or a manipulative (these stickers would be cute!) to fill in the first number and then have your child determine what is needed to make 10.

If they need more practice, use the second sheet and a small deck of playing cards (ace through 10) to practice drawing a card to determine the first number and then solving for 10.

Lesson 2:

Today, we’ll take a closer look at brown bears and their lives in science, math, and art! Begin by reading Bears: Polar Bears, Black Bears and Grizzly Bears (or any similar book you were able to find in your library). You could also read this webpage or watch this video to help you fill our your Bear Book page for brown bears.

Activity 1: Let’s compare and contrast Black bears and Brown bears using the information we’ve learned yesterday and today. You can create your own Venn diagram or use this printable.
(+) Looking for a little more of a challenge? Have your child create a persuasive argument about which bear they think is best! Tell them they are pretending to be a bear trainer who needs to get their bear into the best zoo in the country. Have them write 4-6 sentences explaining why either the black bear or the brown bear would be the best choice. For bonus points, have them read their argument out loud!

Activity 2: Fish are a big part of a brown bear’s diet! Let’s use some goldfish crackers and this 10 frames printable (you may already have this printed if you’ve done our Level 2+: Desert Unit) to practice some subtraction back to 10. Give your child the 10 frame and at least 20 goldfish crackers and have them practice taking numbers from 11-20 back to 10. For example, you could have them start with 17 goldfish, and then determine how many fish a bear would need to “eat” to have 10 left. It can also be helpful to show them the equation written (i.e. 17 – ? = 10 to 17 – 7 = 10).

Once they have grasped the concept, print another page of 10 frames and show them how to count back to the nearest 10 with numbers 21-40.

Activity 3: Bears have even been the charming subjects of some fine art! Let’s learn more about an example of this in the painting “The Bear Dance” by William Holbrook Beard. William Holbrook Beard was an American artist who became famous for his work depicting animals mimicking and satirizing human behavior. This painting of a rather exclusive party in a forest clearing is also known as The Bears of Wall Street Celebrating a Drop in the Stock Market and The Wall Street Jubilee.

Satire is a form of art or writing which ridicules either human nature, a specific person, or an institution (such as a government or, in this case, Wall Street), often through the use of humor. (source) You can see more of his works here. Aren’t some of them so funny?

Let’s create our own William Holbrook Beard-inspired work! First, print one or several of these illustrated animal masks on cardstock and cut them out. Turn them into masks with a hole punch and yarn. Next, set the scene! Help your child to create a normal setting in their home (playing with toys, watching TV, eating breakfast, etc.). Finally, let them post in the scene wearing the mask, pretending to be an animal in one of Beard’s paintings doing a normal human activity. (Check out the picture at the top of this post for inspiration!) Take a photo (may even want to print it out), and then compare your work with Beard’s.

Activity 4: Do you live in an area with bears? Read through this article with your child for expert tips on how to stay safe in bear country—and what to do if you ever encounter a bear in real life!

Lesson 3:

Not all bears are brown or black…some are white! (Or wait…are they?) Today, we’ll be learning all about the polar bear, beginning with the book The Polar Bear. Don’t forget to fill out a polar bear page for your Bear Book!

Activity 1: As we learned in our book, Polar bears have several features that allow them to stay warm even in their icy homes. One feature is their thick coat, which is actually made from two layers—a short and dense underfur layer next to the skin, and an outer layer of longer and coarser guard hairs.

The guard hairs appear white, but are actually made up of a light-scattering translucent cylinder surrounding a chambered core. This sophisticated structure not only absorbs heat from the environment but also prevents the heat that radiates from the bear’s body from easily escaping into the air around it. When sunlight hits the hair, the outside reflects a small amount back into the environment, giving the bear a bright white appearance. Most of the light, however, travels through the translucent sheath, where it hits and is reflected by the core. (source)

Another feature that helps polar bears to stay warm is a thick layer of fat, or blubber, under their skin. Let’s see how this extra layer protects them from the cold with this experiment.

Activity 2: Polar bears have extremely large feet that help them to move across deep snow and fragile ice. Let’s do some measuring to compare our foot size to the paw of a Polar bear! Using a large piece of paper or cardboard, have your child measure out and draw a pawprint that it about 13 inches long and 9 inches wide. (source) Next, have them trace their own foot next to the paw and measure its length and width. Subtract the measurements to determine the difference between the two.

Activity 3: Polar bears need safe dens to have their babies and keep them protected from the elements of the Arctic. Let’s take on a STEM challenge to build our own Polar bear shelter—this post shares some inspiration to get started.

Activity 4: Let’s end our Polar bear day with this clever multimedia craft.

Lesson 4:

Another famous bear (that lives in a decidedly different climate!) is the Panda bear! Let’s begin learning about these beautiful creatures in the book Tracks of a Panda (or read it here on OpenLibrary). After reading, you can create the panda page for your Bear Book.

Activity 1: Let’s pretend to be zookeepers and do a little panda observing ourselves! Begin by printing this “zoo log”. Next, check out the below four panda live cams and observe the behavior of some real pandas. Record what you observe for each camera in your log. (If your local zoo also features a panda cam, feel free to sub that in instead!)

Next, use the second page of the printable to create a graph of your observations. What was the most common behavior you observed? What was the least common?

Activity 2: Pandas subsist almost entirely on bamboo, eating from 26 to 84 pounds per day! (source) We’ll use pandas and bamboo to inspire our next activity. This week’s phonogram and phonics rule can be tough (no pun intended!) for many children. Repeated exposure to examples of OUGH and AUGH in words is a great way to help them become more familiar and easier to decode. Let’s get some play-based practice with our Feed the Bear game! First, print those two pages. Create a small cut along the dotted green line on the bear’s mouth. Next, cut out the bamboo words.

Put the bamboo pieces in a bowl and let your child draw them one at a time. If they can read the word correctly, they get to feed it to the panda! If not, discuss how the word is read and have them put it back in the bowl to try again.

Activity 3: Finally, let’s make a panda craft that will let your child work on cutting and gluing skills. Choose between this paper plate panda mask or this pop-up panda card.

Lesson 5:

We’ve spent the week getting to know some of the world’s most famous bears, but there are other species that are less well known! We can read about them in our bear book from Lesson 1. Would you also like to hear the story of the world’s most famous bear? Let’s read it in Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear (or you can read it here on OpenLibrary).

Activity 1: Asiatic black bear? Malayan sun bear? Sloth bear? Spectacled bear? Likely your child isn’t as familiar with these species. Have them pick one to research for the last page of their Bear Book.

Activity 2: Let’s use some gummy bears to learn about osmosis! Osmosis is the ability of water (or another liquid) to be absorbed through a semi-permeable substance. Osmosis is also about the flow of water from a higher concentrated place to a lower concentrated place. Let’s bring this to life by putting some gummy bears in three different solutions and seeing the result.

Fill three clear jars or cups with three different liquids (water, a solution that is equal parts salt and water, and vinegar). Record the type of liquids you use in this lab sheet. Measure three gummy bears, record the starting measurement, and put one in each jar. After 6 hours, 12 hours, 24 hours, and 48 hours, record the size of the gummy bear. (Note: The vinegar bear might not last that long!)

What do you observe happening? The gummy bear in the water should grow as the bear absorbs water through osmosis. The salt water bear should shrink because the salty solution pulls water out of the bear to balance out its salt. And the vinegar bear should dissolve because the ingredients in the bear that help it keep its shape (often gelatin or pectin) break down in the acidic solution.

Activity 3: Let’s end the week with a little Tea + Poetry! First, make these bear claw pastries. (Can you guess why they’re called that?) As you enjoy your treats and tea, read the verse-based story How Do Bears Sleep? (or read it here on OpenLibrary).

Optional family movie night: If you have a Disney+ account, look for their nature documentary Bears to end your week!

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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.