Some animals, like the earthworm and mole, spend all their lives underground while other animals, like the prairie dog, alternate their time below and above the ground. Ground squirrels, gophers and rabbits dig burrows in the ground to seek protection from the weather and predators. Teach children about these animals and enjoy their curiosity at learning about creatures with which they are unfamiliar.
Animal Home Model
After studying the different animals that live or make their homes below ground, have the children choose an animal and create a replica of it and its home. Use a cardboard shoebox standing on one of the short sides, or a modelling clay, and have the children draw or sculpt the earth below and around the animal. Does the animal burrow in long, narrow tunnels like the earth worm or ant? Or does it make a little underground cave? Have the children do a little research on their animals, write a short paper, and present to the class.
Build an ant farm with your class so they can experience the creation of the project, as well as watching and learning from an underground ant colony. Find two glass containers so one can fit inside the other. Place the smaller container inside the larger one so that the ants will have to build their tunnels against the glass. Make sure the smaller container allows about an inch of space. Find garden soil outside that has a lot of ants in it. Try to find a queen ant if possible so that the ant colony will continue to survive. Use a funnel to fill up the space between the two jars with the ants and soil. Punch holes in the lid of the larger jar and close it securely. Cover the farm with a piece of dark cloth or a paper sleeve to darken the "underground" ant farm. The ants will begin working on their tunnels. Remove the sleeve later to view them. Feed the ants tiny bits of vegetables, honey, sugar water or bread. Put in a bit of cotton ball soaked in water every few days. Have the students keep a journal about the ant progress each day.
Study underground animals and then ask the students to each choose an animal and list all the characteristics of that animal and its home. Have the children write a short creative story about the animal and underground home, as if the animal was inviting the student to visit for a home stay. Brainstorm ideas about which the children can write, the lovely sleeping accommodations, the assortment of delicious insect or small rodent meals that the visitor can appreciate, the dark, quiet atmosphere, and the other animal visitors who might make an appearance. Have the students include illustrations.
Even if it's not that time of year, teach the children about Groundhog Day. Why do we celebrate this day? What things do we look for? Why does the groundhog act the way it does? Why does it sleep in the ground all winter? Make a comparison worksheet to do with the students.Draw two different groundhogs on each side of the paper. Draw the sun at different heights and the groundhog shadows at different lengths. Make one groundhog peer out of the ground and one stand tall, almost completely out of the hole. Make enough copies for each student. First give the children simple instructions on colouring the sheets. Colour the sky blue, colour the sun yellow, colour one groundhog brown and one grey. Discuss what you've learnt about groundhogs. Ask the children which groundhog signifies to us that the season has changed. Discuss the reasoning behind this.