Create Your Own Animal Study

A great way to begin your study is to make a list of animals you want to learn about, then brainstorm some ways you can learn about the ones you are most interested in. 

One of the easiest and least expensive ways to learn about animals is to get information from the library, used bookstore, or on line. Look for videos that feature or include the animals you are interested in too. If you have Netflix, Amazon, or another streaming service, search for your interests there as well. Our family LOVES animals and we’ve studied quite a few of them. You’ll find our animal resource pages listed here on this blog, they include links to other sites and videos. Some have game ideas, projects, and/or experiments.

Here are some great field trip ideas!

Books, videos, and websites are excellent learning tools, especially when you can’t learn about animals first hand, but learning via experience and observation is even more awesome. Here are a few of the ways we’ve learned about animals first hand. Don’t forget to bring your writing journal, sketch book, paints, or camera. Oh and maybe an animal guidebook too!

  • Go outside. Your own yard or neighborhood may have a variety of animals you can watch on a daily basis. Consider bringing some to you by putting up a bird feeder. If you dig in the dirt, you may find bugs, worms, moles, and other interesting creatures. Take some of those worms fishing with you!
  • Start a compost bin.Turn your food scraps into a bug experiment.
  • Go for a hike. If you have a park, preserve, or a wooded area near you, check it out to see who’s there. You may be pleasantly surprised.
  • Visit a wildlife preserve. Do a quick search on line or talk to other people who may know of a wildlife preserve in your area.
  • Visit a pet store. Make arrangements with a pet store to get a tour. You can do this with a group or a few families if they won’t allow a private tour. Ask questions.

  • Talk to a pet owner. Make arrangements to visit someone who owns or cares for an animal you are interested in learning about.
  • Go to a zoo. There are all kinds of zoos these days! Check and see if there is a specific zoo or center that features the animal you are most interested in learning about. Get a zoo membership so you can visit as often as you like and to stay informed about the special programs they offer. Don’t forget petting zoos too! You’ll get to touch the animals while you’re there.
  • Visit an aquarium. If you are into sea creatures/life, then you’ll want to visit an aquarium. If you have a zoo membership, some aquariums will allow you in for free or offer you a discount to visit them.
  • Visit an estuary. If you are near or can get to the wetlands around you, you’ll be able to check out all the different types of animals while you are there.
  • Go to the beach or inter-coastal areas. A less expensive way to see local sea life is to visit the areas around the ocean. You’ll be able to collect shells, observe various birds, crabs, sand fleas, and other creatures while you’re there. You may even see a dolphin surfing in the waves!
  • Visit an animal sanctuary. Check your local listings for people who run/care for a sanctuary. Some places allow visitors in for a small donation – money or food for the animals.
  • Visit an animal shelter. Dogs, cats, rabbits, etc.. love to get pet and played with. Check with your shelter before you go to see if they allow this and what’s required if they do.
  • Go to a science center. Many science centers will have a small area with live animals and programs related to them.
  • Arrange for an animal related program. Most places that feature animals will have a tour or some kind of program you can arrange to attend. Find out if you need a group or can join a scheduled tour.
  • Check out a local pond, lake, or another body of water. Observe the animal life all around you. Visit during different times of the year to see who the regulars are and who braves the cold weather.
  • Walk through a public garden. If you have the chance, plan a trip to a public garden and you’ll get to see a variety of insects busily pollinating the flowers and foliage.
  • Plan a trip to Sea World, Busch Gardens, or Animal Kingdom. These places make great family vacation spots!
If you are really interested in animals and want to get more involved, here are some things you can do…
  • Volunteer. Most places need all the volunteers they can get. Many require kids to be a certain again, or require a parent to accompany minors. Some of the places to inquire at: Zoos, aquariums, sanctuaries, shelters, animal clinics/vet offices, science centers, specialty animal facilities (ex: reptile house), etc..

  • Become a docent/volunteer for an animal related program. If you really know your stuff, some places will allow teens to docent or help with a traveling petting zoo.
  • Get a pet. One of the best ways to learn is to experience it for yourself long term. Research all you can before you take the plunge.
  • Join an animal rescue project. You can join something with local meetings, or that sponsors theme related festivals and awareness programs such as Turtles, whales, sharks, manatees, water preservation, etc.. Check out a local Audubon society too.
  • Look for programs. Keep your eyes and ears open for program opportunities that feature animals in your community. Libraries sometimes offer programs that feature animals – ask them if they have anything schedule or make a suggestion.
Many zoos offer courses and classes, they won’t be free, but it can make a great gift idea or a budget goal.
Honestly, this short list only scratches the surface of some of the awesome ways you can learn about the animal kingdom first hand. 
Please help make this list longer by leaving some suggestions in comments.

If you would like more tips for designing one of a kind studies, please read these posts:

Design Your Own One-of-a-Kind Study

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Poinsettia Resource Page

University of Illinois Extension: Poinsettia Facts – Interesting facts and information about Poinsettias. Includes anatomy info, history of the plant, and number facts.

The Spruce:  Poinsettias – Keepers or Compost? – Caring For Your Holiday Poinsettia and Getting It To Bloom Again Next Year (How To)

Teleflora: Meaning & Symbolism of Poinsettias – This short article talks about the many names given to the poinsettia, some history about the person it is named after, and what it symbolizes in different cultures.

Why Poinsettias At Christmas – Where this plant comes from, how it was used by other cultures, plus an old Mexican legend.

Wikipedia: Poinsettia – Description, Religious and Other Traditional Associations, Creation of the American Poinsettia Industry, Cultivation, Diseases, and Toxicity claims.


The following sites have instructions for how to make the craft suggested.

DLTK: Paper Poinsettia Flower & Poinsettia Paper Plate Craft

First Palette Kids’ Crafts: Poinsettia Ornament

Planet Smarty Pants: Poinsettia Crafts for Christmas – 12 Crafts suggested, most made from recycled items.

Artists Helping Children: Christmas Poinsettias – Three poinsettia crafts are offered on this site: One using cardboard tubes, a coloring page, and a finger print picture.

Super Coloring: Poinsettia Coloring Pages – 6 pages offered. Mistletoe and Poinsettia Coloring Pages – 7 poinsettia coloring pages offered.


YouTube: Poinsettia Playlist –  Learn about the history of poinsettia, how to care for them, make some crafts, and listen to a story read by the author.

Here’s one of the videos in the list… How to fold a poinsettia flower, origami

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Play With The Wind

One of the best ways to learn about math and physics at the same time is to play with the wind! Here are some of the fun things you can do with the wind located here on Funschooling & Recreational Learning:

Fly a Kite –  How kites works, how to make and fly them. Includes stunt kites.

Bird Watch – Bird watching activities, bird treat ideas, and links to bird-related activities and information.

Blow Bubbles – Experiment with bubbles by making your own solution, and links to information to learn about what’s so fascinating about bubbles and bubble experiments.

Fly Paper Airplanes – Get instructions for making paper planes, tips and suggestions for flying them, and Guinness info.

Pom-Pom Shooter – Watch how the wind can carry a pom-pom and predict where it will land.

Play with Balloons – Information about balloons and instructions for the game Balloon Badminton.

Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride – Hot air balloon resources including the history of the first flight, the inventors, how it work, and printable activities and craft ideas. Plus activity suggestions and videos.

National Ride The Wind Day is celebrated on August 23 of each. It is meant to celebrate the anniversary of the first human-powered flight to win the Kremer Prize. Here are some of the fun ways you can celebrate the day as a family!

Hang glide – Paraglide – Windsurf – Play Frisbee – Make a Paper Sailboat

Make a Windmill 

To Learn More About National Ride The Wind Day please visit the following sites:

National Day Calendar: National Ride the Wind Day

Days of the Year: Ride the Wind Day

Time & Date: Ride Like The Wind Day

Other Project Ideas Activity: Construct a Paper Plate Wind Spinner – How-to instructions.

Kids Ahead: Wind Energy Activities – Offers an array of wind related projects you can do. Includes some puzzles too.

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Play In The Sand

Build A Sand Structure

Sandstorm: How To Build A Sand Sculpture – Information about what it takes to build with sand.

Sandscapes: The Complete Sand Sculpture – “How-To” and Construction Manual.

Personal Zen Garden

wikiHow To Make A Zen Garden for your Desk – Illustrated instructions show you how to make your own Zen Garden.

All Free Crafts: Miniature Zen Garden – Instructions to make a small Zen garden and some of the health benefits.

Make A Sand Pool

Premeditated Leftovers – Frugal Fun Tip: Turn a Kiddie Pool into a Sand Box with a Cover

Playtivities: 17 Creative DIY Sandbox Ideas – Site offers a variety of sandbox designs and themes.

What is Sand?

LiveScience: What Is Sand? & Science of Summer: Where Does Beach Sand Come From? – Articles about what sand is made up of.


YouTube: Sand Playlist – Learn about sand, make a Zen garden, and learn how to sculpt sand. Here’s one of the videos you can view in the playlist…

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Animal Tracker

Many animals leave signs that they have been around. This activity will have you identifying the signs that tell you what it may be and how you can track them.

You will need: Sketchpad and pencil or a camera
Optional: A pocket microscope

What to look for…

This activity suggests that you observe only. Touching is not recommended.

Insects: Look for plants and leaves that have been chewed. Trees with holes. Watch a patch of flowers being pollinated. Movement in the grass. Eggs under leaves. Various stages of larvae. Listen for them. Look for evidence of insect scat as well.

Spiders: Look for their webs between trees and under things. Each spider makes a unique web and can be identified by it if they are not present.

Birds: Look in trees for nests, listen for them. Make a bird feeder and bring them to you. Look up in the sky or on the ground. Watch them on the beach and near water too. 

Mammals: Look for tracks in the dirt, mud or in puddles, on the sidewalk, in the grass. Look for their scat, but don’t touch it.

Reptiles: Snakes can be found sunning themselves at various points of the day. Approaching them is not recommended. Observe only.
Lizards can be found running around in gardens and sunning themselves in the morning.

Amphibians: Look on land and near water. Look for them at night near a porch light.

Fish/Sealife: Watch the water for signs of jumping, schooling and feeding. Some areas may have shrimp or crabs running during certain times of the year. Look for fins out of the water as well. You might be able to catch a dolphin surfing in some areas!

Places to visit…

The beach, a pond, lake, inlets, woods, your back yard, gardens, the park, near lights at night, etc..

Times to look

Early in the morning, at dusk, early evening. Listen throughout the day.

Bring a friend!

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Experiments You Can Do With The Sun

Have some fun with the sun by doing solar experiments!

You Will Need

 A hot sunny day, dark colored construction paper, various objects that won’t melt: A key, leaf, pencil, scissors, etc., crayons, cookie sheet, potholder, aluminum foil, a glass jar, tea bag, old crayons, inexpensive XX-large garbage bags, rubber bands, scissors, 25+’ string, and a wide open space

Make Solar Prints

Choose a flat, sunny location, put a piece of dark construction paper on in, then place variety of objects that won’t melt on top of the paper (key, leaves, shells, pencil, etc.) and leave it in the sun for 30 minutes or so. Compare the areas that were exposed to the sun to the covered areas. 
If it is windy, place a small rock on top of lighter objects.

Make Sun Tea

Fill a clean jar with water, add a tea bag, cover, and place it in the sun for an hour. The jar may be very hot so have a potholder handy to take off the lid. Remove the tea bag, stir in some sugar, add fruit and ice to the jar if desired, and enjoy.

Refresh Old Crayons

 Refresh old crayons by turning broken ones into a whole new mixed up version. You will need some old crayons (paper removed), aluminum foil, a cookie sheet, and a potholder to do this. Cookie cutters can be used to make cool shapes, otherwise you can carefully shape aluminum foil. Put your shapes on a cookie sheet, cover the bottom of the aluminum foil with crayon pieces, and leave it in direct sunlight for 30 minutes or so. Check on their progress from time to time. If the crayons do not melt well, cover the top with plastic wrap. Once the crayons have melted, allow them to cool for a bit, then grab some paper and see how they work.

Make A Solar Balloon

This experiment works best in a wide open space such as an open field, park or large backyard. Open up an XX-Large bag such as a leaf bag or something bigger, fill it with air, and close it with a rubber band. Tie a really long string around the rubber band, leave it in the sun and watch what happens. Watch the following video for another way to make a solar balloon.

Related Posts:

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Australian Orb Weaver Spider*

Live Science: Types Of Spiders & Spider Facts – Article about spider anatomy, spider webs, spider bites, arachnophobia, classification and suborders.

Wikipedia: Spider – Description, ecology and behavior, web types, evolution, taxonomy, spiders and people, etc..

Termite: Spider Identification Chart – Identify venomous and dangerous spiders with this convenient picture chart.

Top 10 Home Remedies: Home Remedies For Spider Bites – What to do if bitten by a common spider.

Activity Village: Spiders – A short article and links to spider related printables and crafts.

Kids Zone: Spider Activities – Printable activities and worksheets, craft projects, and links to other activities.

Enchanted Learning: Spiders – Rhymes, crafts, a quiz, and printouts to color.


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Note: If this or another activity on Fran’s World of Discovery has inspired you in a positive way, or you have featured this activity in a blog post, please comment and link back to where the post can be found, or tell me what you or your family enjoyed about it! 
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* Photo of the Australian orb weaver spider by Fir0002/Flagstaffotos