Preschool Science: Studying Water Creatures

We’ve been using Alpha Omega’s Horizons Preschool curriculum, and this past several days we have been learning about day 5 of creation, wherein God made the creatures of the sea and the birds.  Using water creatures as a theme, we’ve learned quite a bit of science in the process!  Here are some of the things we have been doing.


First and most obvious water creature is fish!  We learned about the different types of fish and checked out some books we had on hand with good fish pictures.

My son fell in love with this book, National Audubon Society Field Guide to Fishes, Whales and Dolphins.  He carries it around and loves to look at the pages with sharks and whales.  Catfish are a big hit also.

Fish book

This book, The Sportsman’s Guide to Game Fish, is an old 1968 edition we have in the book shelf.  A good one, but not as big a hit as the Audobon book, which he has been poring through for days and days, studying each fish and their characteristics.  Fish book

On days when the weather is warm, the kids get to go fishing.  Great chance to look at fish up close and in person, then discuss what fish need to live, how they breathe, the parts of the fish (gills, fins, mouth, eyes, tail, scales), and release them back into the pond.  That is, it would be if they were able to catch one, which is hit or miss.  But it’s a great outdoor activity regardless!

My kids got a great kick out of pretending to go on a fishing trip in the great room.  We gathered our imaginary bucket, fishing pole, bait, lunchbox, and went to the pond.  We declared the floor transition at the foyer to be the pond entrance, and then we declared the adjacent carpet transition to be the ocean.  My preschooler practiced casting alternately into the pond for trout and catfish and then into the ocean, where he reportedly caught a whale.  It took some visible effort to haul that one in!  My 2 year old kept running out into the water and pretending to swim.  We finished our fishing excursion with an indoor picnic lunch next to the pond.  Yes, we ate lunch on the floor!

We chose this study as a good time to purchase a fish tank for the boys.  More on that in a future post on Everyday Science: Fish and What they Need to Live, which could also be titled How Not to Start an Aquarium.  In any case, after buying a second round of fish, we were able to make a scientific drawing of the fish in the tank.

Fish Drawing

This page is from My First Science Notebook, which is intended for K-3 to teach the skills of science: Drawing, Recording, Measuring, and Observing.  Even though we are pre-K, it is still an excellent opportunity to introduce these skills, sort of a science lab for preschool.  I use the eBook version of My First Science Notebook, because it allows me to print the pages I need as we go.

Our fish tank drawing identifies the parts of the fish that we learned, and introduces the word “environment” to label his plants and rocks that he drew.


We discussed what crustaceans were, and got a close up look of crab legs.  He was not sure at first, but then spent half an hour interacting with the claws and pretending to make the crab walk.  Short of being in a place where we could catch some crabs, this is the best we can do!

(The crabs tasted good, too!)

crab legs


We discussed frogs as well, and described what makes them unique.  We practiced hopping around the floor and catching insects with our tongues.  We read this one of Aesop’s Fables:

The Ox and the Frog, an Aesop’s Fable

And we learned about the life cycle of a frog with this video from YouTube.


That image at the end was really fast, here it is again:

Life cycle of a frogVisual Dictionary – copyright © 2005-2009 – All rights reserved.
Life cycle of a frog

If you have a pond nearby, you could go locate frogs in the various parts of their life cycle.  Otherwise, you can act out the different stages by pretending to be sequentially eggs, tadpoles, then turn into frogs.

Moving on

In other, non-science study with Horizons, we have been practicing the beginnings of phonics, reading a clock, memorizing Scripture, learning basic addition, practicing coloring and cutting and gluing, and doing gross motor skills.  All in all its been a pretty good curriculum for us.  We skip some parts, and we do school only a few days a week, gearing up for year-round schooling.

I feel like year-round schooling will offer flexibility for us, so we can take days off mid-week when we need to head to the mountains and get some hiking in, or when we’re busy with swim lessons, summer projects, etc.  Do you have thoughts on that?  I’m curious to hear reasons for schooling year round. I already know my little preschooler does better when he is required to sit down and “do school” on a regular basis, so I know we’d be backtracking if we took a summer completely off.

If you want to read more preschool ideas, be sure to head over to The Preschool Corner linkup this week!

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Experiment: Salt Water and Heat Convection

In our series of experiments on the ocean, we’ve learned about Salt and Solubilities, the Density of Sea Water,  and Salt Water and Buoyancy.

Now we take a look at convection within salt water.

When we discuss heat transfer, we think of the three types: conduction, convection, and radiation.

Conduction takes place between two systems in contact with each other.

Convection occurs when heat is transferred by mass motion of molecules within a fluid.

Radiation is a form of heat transfer that occurs through electromagnetic wave propagation.  Usually we think of the rays of the sun as a major example of radiation.

All three types of heat transfer can be present simultaneously.  As you do this experiment on convection, see if you can also identify the other two types of heat transfer.


  • food coloring
  • distilled water
  • salt
  • freezer tray for ice cubes
  • two glass jars


  1. Mix up some of the distilled water with a few drops of food coloring.
  2. Freeze this into cubes.
  3. Fill two glass jars 3/4 full with distilled water.
  4. Add some salt to one of the jars and label.
  5. Place a colored cube into each jar of water.  Observe the movement of the colored water as it melts into the warmer water.
  6. Leave the jars undisturbed as you watch.  Can you identify convection currents?  Where is the colored water going?  Is the colored cold water heavier or lighter than the warmer clear water?  Are the jars the same?  (Remember the Salt Water Density experiment..)
  7. Draw your jars, labeling them as to salt or fresh water.
  8. Write a conclusion statement about your finding.  Note: Yes, the presence of food coloring has affected your experiment, but please assume a small effect, and draw your own conclusions about the relative densities of these two solutions.  You can minimize the coloring effect by using a smaller amount of it.

Remember, as with all experiments, if you require your student to do a writeup, be sure to use the scientific method. Even if you do no writeup, as in the case of younger students, be sure to discuss the steps of the scientific method as you go.

Leave a comment and let us know what ocean experiments you have been doing!

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Experiment: Density of Sea Water

Milford Sound

In our study of the ocean, we come to another interesting fact about salt water.

It is more dense than fresh water.  This means that there is more mass in a volume of it than there is in fresh water.  More mass means that gravity has more effect upon it.

Salt water is heavier than fresh.

You can test this in your kitchen lab.


  • a transparent container
  • food coloring
  • distilled water
  • salt
  • plastic wrap (may use paper)


  1. Into the glass container, put the water and enough salt so that the water is saturated and there is salt on the bottom of the jar.
  2. Add a few drops of food coloring.  Just for a moment enjoy the sight of the color diffusing into the water.  Stir it up to finish the mixing of the color.
  3. Carefully, place the plastic wrap on the surface of the colored water.
  4. Slowly pour some distilled water onto the plastic wrap.
  5. Slide the plastic wrap out from the jar smoothly so that the two bodies of water do not mix.
  6. Do you notice a clear layer of water standing above the colored water?  If you are careful not to agitate the water, it will remain so for a number of hours.  Gradually, the color will become uniform throughout the jar as the molecules of the salt diffuse throughout.

How does this effect show up in the world?

In Texas’ Galveston Bay, rain (fresh water) falls onto the surface of the water and forms a layer of fresh water on top.

Where a stream meets the Pacific Ocean (or Atlantic) the stream water will tend to stay at the surface of the water until the two are mixed by tidal or wave action.  Milford Sound, in New Zealand, is fed by fresh water streams, and maintains a constant fresh water layer several feet deep above the salt water.

Have you encountered any other examples of this phenomenon in your homeschool adventures?  Leave a comment and tell us about it!


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