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Chapter 2: Continents, Oceans and Biomes
Chances are, that once the Alien You has filed a report on the structure of the Earth, that you will be told to look at the surface of the Earth- after all this is where all the life is present.
Out of your view-screen, you would be able to see that the earth is ¾ covered with water, the other ¼ is land. You would be able to see 3 large bodies of water and 6 large bodies of land, but listening to Earth communications you would hear that the humans consider there to be 5 oceans and 7 continents.
The continents are called, Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, North America and South America.
You would not be sure which one was which, so you would have to refer to a human map.
Alien You would probably be a little confused as to why there are lines dividing some of these places in half, but you'd get the idea of where the continents started and stopped from it.
Next you'd try to find out the oceans. You would find out that they are called the Atlantic, Arctic, Indian, Pacific and Southern Oceans. Again, you'd consult a human map to find out which one is which.
Alien You would probably be a little confused as to why even some of the waters seem divided up, but you would probably put it down to humans being a little weird :)
Alien You would now realise that the humans like to divide and classify things (that is to sort them into groups of things that share something in common), and you would be a little curious as to what else humans have classified.
You look back at the maps, and notice lines drawn horizontally across it.
“Equator” you would read. Above and below it, equally spaced are more lines- “Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn”.
Alien You would need to look those up, and when you did you will find that the equator is an imaginary belt around the centre of the earth. It is the fattest part of the globe, with a constant warm temperature, and equal lengths of day and night. The areas between the two tropics, and surrounding the equator, are what the humans call 'the tropics'. This is a band around the earth, where the weather does not fluctuate much, and is warm almost all the time.
You would notice on your map, that the equator is 0 degrees latitude, and that each of the Tropics is 23.5 degrees- the Tropic of Cancer is 23.5 degrees NORTH, the tropic of Capricorn 23.5 degrees SOUTH.
Since Alien You is from another planet, you wouldn't know what North and South mean. So you do a little research. North and South, you would discover, come from something called the CARDINAL directions or Compass Points. These are found on a COMPASS. North points to the 'top' of the Earth, where the North Pole is.
When Alien you decided to find out more, you would discover that the earth works a lot like a giant magnet. As the needle on a compass spins, it turns to point NORTH, not to the North pole itself, but to something called Magnetic North. It's close to the North pole :)
The Cardinal directions are like the 4 points of a cross. At the top is North, to the right is East, at the bottom is South and on the left is West. Between each of these points the directions are given mixed names...
North-east, south-east, South-west and north-west. You find they can be divided even further into North-North-East, South-North-East and so on.
You might learn that every map has the directions on it, in the form of a compass rose... which always tells you which way is north- and if the map doesn't have one, then north is at the top of the page.
You find a rhyme to help you remember which way the directions are, for when you go travelling on earth.
The east is where the sun does rise
Each morning in the glorious skies;
Full west he sets, or hides his head,
And points us to the time for bed;
He's in the south at our lunch time;
The north is facing to a line.
Now you understand the directions, you go looking for the way the humans have classified the earth. As Alien You looks around, you would probably begin to notice patterns. One of the first you'd see, is that the places on earth, fit into six main groups. You might discover that the humans call these biomes, and have organised them according to the vegetation (plant and tree growth) and organisms that live there.
Alien You might find the human definition:
“The world's major communities, classified according to the predominant vegetation and characterized by adaptations of organisms to that particular environment.” (Campbell 1996)
But being an Alien, you'd know it meant the first thing I said ;)
Then you would find out that there are six major types of Biomes:
Freshwater, Marine, Desert, Forest (tropical, temperate and taiga), Grassland (including savanna and chaparral) and Tundra
The more Alien You would research though, the more biomes you would find. Being a smart Alien, you would know that you did not want to make it too complicated, and you'd stick to the ones you found first.
Each of the six biomes, have some further divisions in them, to describe different types of that biome. You realise that not all deserts are hot, and not all grassland are without trees, so Alien You decides to make memory cards which you can then use to help you remember.
Parent's Note: Here, hand out the biome cards provided, using each of them to introduce the properties of each biome. They are designed as Montessori style three-part cards- the picture and title plus the description and title. Cut out the picture and it's title separately from each other, but leave the description and it's title together. You will use these in 'matching' games for the children to use.
I have divided the biome cards into freshwater, marine water, tundra and grasslands, forest, and desert. There are subdivisions under each biome to describe various TYPES of biome. While these are not super important to know now, most children like the extra information because it makes more sense that way :)
Vocabulary to learn
Flash cards to introduce
Cards to review
Make a compass: http://adventure.howstuffworks.com/compass1.htm
Make an ocean in a bottle: http://www.kidsdomain.com/craft/ocean-in-a-bottle.html
Cool video of the experiment with a more advanced report on oil and water: http://www.videojug.com/film/how-to-make-an-ocean-in-a-bottle
Cartesian diver: http://www.seed.slb.com/en/scictr/lab/diver/index.htm
Biome in a baggie: http://pbskids.org/zoom/activities/sci/biomeinabaggie.html
Draw the continental divides on the map and label each continent.
Mark the equator with a red line.
Mark the two tropics with yellow lines.
Writing Activity Prompts
Using your Alien identity, create some more reports for the aliens back home.
a- Make a notebook page about Continents and oceans OR biomes and the Cardinal directions. Include a map with the directions on it.
b- In your travel journal, record information about the continents and oceans OR Cardinal directions and biomes, include a map with the directions on it.
c- Using a video camera, make a report for the aliens back home. Imagine you are on a scientific exploration mission, and think of it as being a news report, with visuals to help the others understand. You can send this to your grandparents if you like :)
OCEANS AND CONTINENTS:
Actually, only oceans. The continents will of course be looked at on an individual basis later :)
Oceans wiki page:
Enchanted Learning Oceans page:
BBC Oceans Page:
COMPASS POINTS/CARDINAL DIRECTIONS:
The wiki page:
watch a video about the cardinal directions:
On World Atlas:
An easy game using the directions (aimed at the younger crowd)
A cyberchase game:
A little about navigation:
Origins of the compass rose:
Many of these sites are university level sites, the tend to go into a LOT of detail, so keep them for those children who want to do MORE on the subject :)
The best biomes site on the web- all my information is from here :)
Travel with Bill Botanist to all the biomes of the world:
Enchanted Learning site:
Some cool homeschooling activities related to Biomes (scroll down for the biomes):
Good descriptive site about biomes (more in-depth divisions):
A nice site with nice pictures of the animals and plants in the biomes:
BooksOceans and Continents
We will cover the continents in individual detail later, so these are just overviews.
Mara, Wil: The Seven Continents Children's Press (2005)
Mara, Wil: The Four Oceans (Children's Press 2005)
Simon, Seymour: Oceans Collins (2006)
Ryan, Pam Munoz: Hello Ocean Charlesbridge Publishing (2001)
Cole, Joanna: Magic Schoolbus on the Ocean Floor Scholastic (1994)
MacQuitty, Miranda: Ocean DK Children (2004)
Nelson, Robin: Where is My Continent? Lerner Publishing Group (2001)
Cheyney, Jeanne and Arnold: Continents Good Year Books 1997
Moore, Jo Ellen and Shipman, Gary: Beginning Geography: Continents and Oceans Evan-Moore (1993)
De Capua, Sarah: We Need Directions (Rookie Read-About Geography) Children's Press(CT) (2002)
Fowler, Allan: North, South, East, and West (Rookie Read-About Science) Childrens Press Chicago (1993)
Aberg, Rebecca: Map Keys (Rookie Read-About Geography) Children's Press (CT) (2003)
Gonzales, Doreen: Up North and Down South: Using Map Directions (Map Mania) Capstone Press (2008)
Schroeder, Susan: Cardinal Points: NORTH AuthorHouse (2008) Fiction book for older kids, not really about the cardinal points but about astronomy and all sorts :)
Aberg, Rebecca: Latitude and Longitude Children's Press (2003)
Explore the Biomes Series, Various Authors, Capstone Press (2007)
Van Cleave, Janice: Janice VanCleave's Science Around the World: Activities on Biomes from Pole to Pole Wiley (2004)
Davis, Barbara J: Biomes and Ecosystems Gareth Stevens Publishing (2007)
Kalman, Bobbie: What is a Biome? Crabtree Publishing Company (1998)
Woodward, Susan L: Biomes of Earth: Terrestrial, Aquatic, and Human-Dominated Greenwood Press (2003)
Collard, Sneed B. III: Many Biomes, One Earth Charlesbridge Punblishing (2009)