This school year I decided to keep things simple and not use a physical science curriculum. We are studying different countries around the world and are already studying a lot of the animals and geography of each country, so I decided we might as well learn about the biomes of these areas as well and science is covered. 🙌🏼
I decided to pick one biome per continent and spread it over the course of 6 weeks alongside the countries we are learning about. Throughout the year we will be learning about the desert, grasslands, rainforest, coral reef, and polar biomes. For each biome we are learning about its characteristics such as the climate, plants, and animals. We are doing simple activities and art projects here and there, and then completing a diorama at the end of the unit.
You can read more about how we are doing science and the books/resources we are using here: Around the World with Picture Books- Extra Resources.
The first biome we studied was the alpine or mountain biome, while we were learning about countries in Asia. We really focused on the Himalayas and Mount Everest.
We read many different books about mountains and Mount Everest. Our favorites were Mountains by Cathryn Sill and You Wouldn’t Want to Climb Mount Everest! by Ian Graham. We also read Ming Lo Moves a Mountain by Arnold Lobel while studying China. After reading these books, my kids became very interested in mountain goats, so we also watched a few videos and learned more about them.
There are also many great documentaries on Disney+ all about Mount Everest and different expeditions.
We did many hands-on experiments with this biome that my kids loved. First, we watched some videos on how mountains are formed (this is a great one to watch: Where Do Mountains Come From? Geology for Kids.) Then we did an experiment using a stack of folded towels and 2 baskets (or bins.) Lay the towels flat and the two bins on either side. The towels represent the earth, and the baskets are the tectonic plates. Have your children (or you on one side) slowly push the bins toward the center. As you get closer together, they will see the towels begin to wave and push up to form a mountain.
After learning about the parts of a mountain (see below under notebooking,) we did some experiments with water to learn about how they affect the development of mountains as well as how rivers and lakes are formed. First, we did a paper mountain activity. Take a piece of printer paper, grab it in the center, and crumble it up. Tape it down to a baking sheet to create a model of a mountain. Using a spray bottle and water, with a little blue food coloring, spray the top of the mountain as if it was raining. Watch as the water spreads down the mountain forming streams and puddles at the bottom (lakes.) You can watch this video along with the experiment too (Paper Mountains Activity by Mystery Science.)
Our last experiment was learning how the power of ice shapes mountains. Take an egg and, with a skewer or tip of a knife, poke a hole on one end. Empty the inside of the egg to have a hollow shell. Fill the empty egg with water (we added blue food coloring) *fill all the way to the top* and cover/seal the hole with some clay or playdough. Have your children observe what it looks like now and then put it in the freezer for a few hours. When it is frozen, the egg should have started to crack (the blue food coloring helps see the cracks easier.) This shows how when water is absorbed into the soil on a mountain and then freezes, it expands and causes cracks.
We did not get to this experiment, but here is another activity to learn how to map a mountain: How to Map a Mountain- Landform Activities for Kids.
My kids love art, so we wanted to incorporate it in our notebooks somehow. This is a great watercolor mountain tutorial from Let’s Make Art that they painted:
In our notebooks (these are the same we use for our Around the World studies) we learned the name of different parts of a mountain. We divided the page into quarters and drew 4 simple mountains. We colored the area and labeled each part in a different square (crest, peak, slope, base, and face.) I also had my kids write down the definition of a mountain and mountain range from this book, Geography from A-Z, and we added it to the back of their page.
I purchased this foldable accordion printable, that you make with construction paper, for them to fill out throughout the year as we learn about each biome. They colored the areas on the map and filled in the alpine biome section.
For each biome, our final project is creating a diorama. I am using this blog post from With His Grace for a lot of the inspiration and am trying to have my kids do most of the work on their own. I bought one large photo box from the craft store and cut off the side of the large bottom. Then I put the bottom inside the lid. We did not glue anything down and are using card stock paper for the background so that we can continue to use this box over and over for each diorama.
For our mountain diorama, my daughter used acrylic paints to create the sky backdrop. They made a paper mache mountain and painted it. My son created the landscape with construction paper and kinetic sand. They cut some ends off our tree in the front yard and turned them upside down for the trees (my favorite!) I purchased THIS set of Toob animals for them to add.
They completed this diorama over the course of 2 weeks, and when they finished it, they had to present it to us as a family. We looked over everything they learned about mountains and they made simple notecards on points to talk about. After dinner one night they set everything out, even dressed up in coats and sweaters, and presented to us everything they learned about. (Mostly to share with my husband, but it was a great learning experience for them.)
We had a great time learning about mountains. We did all of this over the course of 6 weeks and spread it out to do one or two activities each week. Next up we are headed to Africa for our Around the World studies and will be studying the grasslands and desert!