Friday, February 11, 2011

Curiosity Files Dung Beetles TOS Review

Do you have a child who loves science and all things slimy or gooey?  Are they fascinated by unique topics and want to know more?  Are your children  (or Mom) suffering from a case of long winter blues or just need a break from the usual studies? Do you have a slightly older child who needs an independent study?

Maybe the Curiosity Files Unit Studies are just what you need to satisfy the desire for knowing more about the unusual or  break up the monotony caused by being cooped up inside for days.  The Curiosity Files are compact little unit studies filled with several days worth of study and exciting discoveries about some of the more unusual inhabitants or phenomena of earth. They feature Professor Ana Lyze as she goes on missions to discover more about some of the unique and less well know creatures and phenomena of our world.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was recently given a copy of The Curiosity Files Dung Beetle unit study to use with my children.  I will freely admit this would not have been my first choice of topics to study, but it fascinated my
6 year old son so I decided I would set aside my aversion and preconceived notions and try it.  Yes, I actually agreed to study a bug!  Once I got past the thought of dung, this was a very interesting study.

There are eight other topics explored in the Curiosity Files.  You can find all of them here.  All of the Curiosity Files unit studies are created by the creative folks at The OldSchoolhouse Magazine.

Lets see what the Curiosity File holds:

  • Language arts is covered with a discussion of  2 Aesop's Fables, The Ant and The Dung Beetle and The Eagle and the Scarab Beetle. Both of these have activities involving summarizing and writing a personalized version.  There are sentence suggestions for The Ant and The Dung Beetle to assist in writing.  You will also find copywork in both manuscript and cursive styles, a vocabulary list for both elementary and junior high and high school and a worksheet.There are ideas for games to make vocabulary and spelling fun and different.
  • Math activities include discovering the size of a dung beetle and measuring items around the house to see what objects are the same size, using play dough to make a sphere and discovering its properties and make a dough ball from bread to discuss circumference and radius.
  • History discusses dung beetles and their significance in Ancient Egypt.
  • Science is addressed in an interview with Professor Ana Lyze.  She answers  readers questions by describing dung beetles, their different types and jobs  The Professor explains how dung beetles are beneficial to farmers in their fields and around the livestock.  We also learned the life cycle of dung beetles and how they provide for their young.  Just to make sure the reader learned from the text you'll find several pages of fill in the blank and short answer questions. You'll also find a form to use while researching an entomologist. Directions and ideas are also provided for constructing your very own dung beetle farm! There are also exciting lab report forms.  
  • Art is not forgotten.  There are ideas for 2 different projects.  You can build a compound eye out of styrofoam egg cartons or a dragonfly from clay and colorful paper. Several smaller art activities suggestions are given.  There is also a song.  It is a familiar tune with lyrics about dung beetles.
  • Religion is also covered as you talk about creation and how God uses the dung beetle in his creation.
  • There is also a game idea included. Participants pretend they are dung beetles and roll a ball around on the floor.
  • Templates for making a mini file folder and two mini books with facts about dung beetles is included.  The file folder and accompanying label look like a detectives case file.

You will also find many weblinks for additional projects, research and resources.  
Additionally, there are suggestions of ways to modify and enhance some of the activities for special needs learners. Some of these would also be fun to include in the projects as they are written.

How we used the Curiosity Files Dung Beetle

Both my 6 year old son and 9 year old daughter learned about dung beetles together.  We read the science information sections together.  They each did the review pages, but I wrote out what my 6 year told me for the short answer questions.  My 9 year researched an Australian entomologist online.  We were not able to make a dung beetle farm at this time due to living in a city in the middle of winter.  If my children show interest we may do this at a later time.  We also read the history and religion sections together.

The science lab report form is so exciting looking and much less intimidating than many others I have seen!  It is done in a similiar style to a scrapbook page incorporating individual  frames.  Each frame has a unique border with a question corresponding to a step of the scientific method and several lines to write the answer on. I envision using this form with experiments seperate from this study.

We read both of the fables and talked about them and fables in general.  My 9 year old used the sentence suggestions to write her own version of the ant and dung beetle fable.  For my 6 year old we used this more as a narration exercise.  After we read it together he told me about it and I wrote it down for him. I plan to have my oldest do a rewriting in her own words of the second fable, but will probably give her the option to type it and illustrate it if she wants.They both used the elementary vocabulary list. I used index cards to make a matching game of words and definitions. However, after working through the vocab worksheet I realized I should have included some of the words from the higher level list as the worksheet covered both.  My 9 year old very easily handled the elementary word list and could have learned the other words as well.

They had fun doing the math activities.  Although the concepts were not new they liked exploring them in new ways.

The start of compound eyes
While we enjoyed all of the activities (except my 9 year old didn't care for all the writing- it is not her favorite activity), but I think the art and game were their favorite.  The game provided many laughs and a fun physical activity.  They kept running into each other as our available space was not very big.  We began making the compound eyes. When I emptied an egg cartoon we would add it on. It takes a lot to make one eye and both of my children wanted to make their own.  Once we got the hang of gluing the eggs cups together it went really well.  My 6 year old was even able to glue some together with help to get them close to each other.  We did find a mini glue gun works easier, though. The pics show the first step, next we will need to add papier mache between the cups to help them stay together.  
Spray painting the whole thing will have to wait until it is warmer so we can do it outside.

Pretending to be Dung Beetles

We really had fun with this unit.  It wasn't as gross as I thought it might be, but just enough of  the strange and gross factor to make it appealing to my bug loving children. It was just the right size to use as a short break from some of our other studies to give us a mood lifter. I learned things also.  Maybe some of these newly learned facts will come in handy in case I am ever brave enough to attend a trivia event.

My son had been studying several resources about Ancient Egypt for his own pleasure and was so excited to see them mention the same things about beetles that we were learning from the Curiosity File.

My daughter will be making up the case file in the near future as a wrap up activity to the unit.

There was also a library list, but I was not able to find any of the suggestions in my library.  However, between was included in the study and found in the internet links we really didn't need any more resources for the time we spent using it.

My biggest challenge for using this study was assembling the materials for the activities.  We don't use eggs very quickly, so finding enough egg cartoons was challenging.  Thankfully I found a couple in my basement stash.
The suggested low age on this study was 8, but my 6 year old was certainly capable of handling it. This was a very easy study to personalize for my children according to their interests and abilities. I am looking forward to learning from some of the other files as well.  You can find them all here.

Oh, I just remembered I forgot to mention their price.  All of the Curiosity files are available on a CD for $49.00 or a download bundle for $46.00.  They are also available individually.

If you are looking for something a little bit different or out of the ordinary, maybe the Curiosity Files unit studies are just right.

Other crew members used some of the other Curiosity Files studies.  See what they had to say about them as well as other opinions about Dung Beetles here.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received a free download copy to use in order to write this review.  I have not been compensated in any other manner.  All opinions expressed here are solely my own.

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