Teaching Aids

Botany Basics: Parts of a Flower

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Flowers are such a beautiful area of study! They usually smell lovely, and they are designed to be gloriously beautiful. The flower’s petal serve to attract pollinators, who unknowingly enable plants to reproduce. As you learn the flower parts and their purpose, you can go outdoors, or even buy a bouquet, and see if you can identify the flower parts. Be forewarned, composite flowers such as dandelions, sunflowers and daisies are specially designed and may be very tricky to identify, as each petal is actually an individual flower, and their parts are sometimes labeled differently. Flowers like lilies, tulips, daffodils, and alstroemarias are great for dissection.
I’ve created a fun FREE PDF of visuals for identifying flower parts, and even a coloring page and assignment to solidify memorization. Get yours below. Enjoy discovering the marvelous beauty of flowers that make plant reproduction possible!

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Botany Basics: Seed Plants Types and Parts

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Plants can be as varied as the millimeter high moss to the 300 foot tall redwood. They can grow beautiful flowers, crawl up buildings, or shade from the sun. The free study guide below offers some basics about seed plant types (monocot, dicot, conifer) and the three basic part of a plant (leaves, stem, roots).

Studying botany begins the moment a child first sees a growing plant. You can encourage children’s natural curiosity in the world around them by sharing simple facts about plants, and having them discover these things in the world around them. What is the tree’s stem like? How is it different from our bushes? What different leaves can you find in the backyard? How are they different, and how do they feel? How many colors of flowers can you find, and how many petals does each have? Your own backyard or local park is overflowing with educational opportunities, and each new discovery expands their wonder in the world around them.

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Biology Basics: How Animals Reproduce

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Two types of two-parent reproduction (sexual) and two types of one parent reproduction (aseuxual) are seen in animals. It seems crazy to think that animals can reproduce with only one parent, but with more simple creatures like worms and jellyfish, it happens!

Two-parents Reproduction

Two parent reproduction ensures genetic variation in each new offspring. This makes for unique traits of each young, and allows for greater protection from disease. However the animals must find a mate in order to have new babies. The two types of two-parent reproduction are live birth and eggs.

One-Parent Reproduction

Most animals that reproduce asexually are invertebrates, like worms, jellyfish and sea stars.  Fragmentation and Budding can also be called cloning, because the offspring are identical to the parents. The advantage to asexual reproduction is that these animals can reproduce even if they cannot find a mate. However the offspring that are created have identical genetic information as the parent, and therefore one disease can kill off an entire population of cloned animals. They can also reproduce much quicker, but that means they can easily overpopulate and compete for resources.

Download the PDF for more fun facts and the quiz!

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Vertebrates- Animals with Backbones

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Enjoy the FREE printable vertebrate packet below, with a poster, study guide and short quiz!

Vertebrates are animals with a backbone (think vertebrae). These are the creatures we usually think of when we think of animals. Vertebrates have tremendous diversity in shape, size, ability, and characteristics. They are truly wondrous creatures! The 5 classes of vertebrates are:
Fish, Amphibians, Reptiles, Mammals, and Birds.

Fish (Gills, Fins, Scales, Cold Blooded)
Fish are the only group of vertebrates that live entirely in water. All of them have gills, which is special breathing tissue that allows fish to breathe oxygen underwater. Usually fish have 4 gill slits, but sharks and some others have 5 or more. Gills have comb-like filaments that filter oxygen out of the water and into their bloodstream, and carry water filled with carbon dioxide back out of their bodies.
Fish have fins which help them paddle and maneuver through water. They also have scales that often reflect light or give fish their color. Scales are like plates that protect the bodies of fish. You can actually determine the age of fish by counting the rings on their scales! Fish are also cold blooded animals which means their bodies become cooler or hotter depending on the temperature of the water. Fish will swim slowly below the ice during winter, or even sleep in icy waters. Some fish actually produce antifreeze molecules called glycoprotein that keep their bodies from freezing in really cold temperatures!

Amphibians (Slimy skin, Metamorphosis, Four Legs, Cold Blooded)
Amphibians like frogs, toads, salamanders, and caecilians are born in water and develop the ability to live on land. This means almost all amphibians will go through metamorphosis. (Think of how tadpoles become frogs.) Most are born with gills and then develop lungs and four legs, though caecilians do not have legs. They have permeable, wet, slimy skin that absorbs water and oxygen, and usually have webbed feet. Amphibian eggs have no shell, but are covered in a jelly-like substance. Amphibians are also cold blooded, so they are quick and active when it is warm, but slow and sluggish when it is cold.

Reptiles (Scales, Eggs, Four Legs, Cold blooded)
Reptiles like turtles, snakes, crocodilians, and lizards are covered with scales, and usually have claws. Reptiles are cold blooded creatures and lay eggs. They are tetrapods, meaning they have four legs, or in the case of snakes, “descended” from creatures with four legs. Interestingly there are a number of snake fossils with legs, and some pythons have vestiges of legs. (Consider Genesis 3:14.) Scientists believe most dinosaurs were reptiles.

Mammals (Hair, Milk, Live Birth, Warm blooded)
Mammals can be bears, bunnies, or even whales. All mammals have hair or fur that help them maintain their warm blooded bodies. Mammals give birth to live young, most supported in the womb by a placenta and born fully developed. Marsupials, however, are born very small and further develop in their motherʻs pouch. The platypus and echidna are the exception to the mammal world, laying soft eggs. All mammals have lungs and breathe air, so most mammals live on land, but some live in the sea. There are five types of marine mammals, including pinnipeds (seals, sea lions), cetaceans (whales, porpoises), sea otters, sirenians (manatees), and polar bears. Mammals get their names from mammary glands which produce milk. All mammals produce milk in some way to feed their babies.

Birds (Feathers, Beak, Eggs)
Birds can be as tiny as a hummingbird or as large as an ostrich. All birds have feathers. Contour and flight feathers have an interlocking structure like velcro that makes them perfect for flight but also repels water. Down feathers store heat for their warm blooded bodies. Filoplumes are sensory feathers that are believed to provide information about wind, air pressure and feather movements to aid in flight. Though all birds have feathers, not all of them fly. Penguins have feathers, but they swim. Ostriches and emus have large feathers, but their sternum is not attached to their pectoral muscles, making them too weak to fly. Birds bones are lightweight and hollow which makes them light and helps them fly. All birds have a beak. Beaks come in many shapes and sizes, and are used different purposes. Because birds donʻt have teeth they use their beaks for either tearing meat, breaking seeds, sipping nectar, fishing, or finding and eating insects.

For more fun consider studying:

  • Different types of feathers

  • Four types of fish scales (Placoid, Cosmoid, Ganoid, Cycloid)

  • Explore reptiles!

  • Go find some frogs at your local pond! Be sure to wash your hands…

  • Try making a list of the mammals that live in your neighborhood. Or try one of these cool ideas!

  • Visit the local pet shop and see if you can identify what creatures belong in which vertebrate class!

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Biology Basics: Invertebrates

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Invertebrates are definitely some of the weirdest, creepiest, slimiest and most interesting creatures on earth. Worms, bugs, octopus and jellyfish all fall into the category of inveterate animals. When looking at the classification of the animal kingdom, there are 9 major phylum, and 8 of these are invertebrates! These 8 phylum, or body-type classifications are sponges, stinging cell animals, three groups of worms (flat, round, segmented), mollusks, echinoderms (also known as sea stars), and arthropods.

One of the best parts about studying invertebrates is the ease of finding them in your own backyard. Many of the invertebrates are easy to find if you just dig in your garden, or even, heaven forbid, look in your basement! If your kids have the courage, they can handle the creepy creatures and study them first hand- literally!

I’ve attached a handy dandy printable with a poster, study guide, and a quiz. Hope you enjoy this invertebrate study tool!

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