The preschool science curriculum includes the study of animals and plants, including the ability to name and describe animal characteristics and survival needs. These lessons help preschoolers develop language skills and reading comprehension. Studying panda bears -- the giant panda and its distant relative the red panda -- helps preschoolers learn to distinguish between animals that are related and those that are very different.
Distinguish and Describe
Help preschoolers distinguish panda bears from other animals and to practice describing them with a sorting activity. Prepare packets of pictures that include pandas, other types of bears, large dogs and raccoons. Give small groups of preschoolers the packets along with two small containers for sorting -- one labeled "panda." Ask them to look at the pictures, decide if each is a panda bear and sort them into the containers. After sorting the pictures, instruct them to look at the panda pictures and orally describe what a panda bear looks like.
Choose several "panda cams" and panda videos to watch with students. While watching, pause the video at various places to discuss how a panda moves, its favorite activities and the type of habitat it lives in. Point out the jungle surroundings in which the panda lives, the trees it spends time in and the bamboo it eats. Afterward, instruct students to act out panda movements and activities by moving around the room pretending to be a panda bear. In closing the activity, have students draw a picture of a panda bear in action in its normal habitat.
Panda Life Cycles
Knowing about life cycles is an objective for preschool students. A panda baby is one of the smallest mammals born in proportion to its mother’s size. When born, it is only 1/900th the size of its mother, weighing about 5 ounces, and is 7 inches long. The baby panda is blind, pink, almost hairless and virtually helpless for the first 30 to 45 days of life. Show preschoolers pictures of baby pandas at different stages of life. Provide cutout shapes that represent the panda at three different stages of life: a tiny, pink newborn; a small, young panda that looks like the adult it will become; and a very large adult panda. Have the students glue the three on a piece of paper in order from youngest to oldest. Instruct students to draw in the background the jungle where pandas live.
After learning about panda bears, have a discussion with preschoolers about the items a panda bear needs to survive. Discuss air, water and food. Point out that pandas in the wild are often found in bamboo trees eating up to 40 pounds of bamboo a day; the adult panda, in other words, spends 10 to 15 hours a day eating. Prepare pieces of a collage for students. Cut out adult and child pandas, bamboo leaves, a bamboo tree trunk and a small pond of water. Provide students the collage pieces and have them glue them together to illustrate a picture of a panda bear in its habitat with the items it needs to survive.
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