{Review} Spirited Autumn Hope – Arctic Tundra Animals

We don’t get snow here in south Texas – we barely even have cold winter weather – so we love to study about wintery days and arctic animals during the winter.  We were excited to review a unit study from Spirited Autumn Hope of Arctic Tundra Animals

What is it?
Spirited Autumn Hope is a sister company to Winter Promise.  At Spirited Autumn Hope you can purchase downloadable unit studies on a wide variety of topics such as:

  • History
  • Cultures and Geography
  • Holidays
  • Science 
  • Classic Books

These unit studies range from a few weeks’ worth of curriculum to enough material to last a semester or more.  Some of the studies are part of a larger Winter Promise study, only in smaller pieces so you have the option to only purchase one unit at a time.  

They also offer downloadable notebooking pages.

We used one of the studies from the Nature Study section of the science category.  We studied Arctic Tundra Animals which is a small part of the the larger Animals and Their Worlds Study that is offered by Winter Promise.  This study is designed for students in Kindergarten through 5th grade. 

This study uses the Arctic Tundra from the One Small Square Series as the spine for the study.  Other books and resources are recommended but not necessary for completing the study.  The program contains material for a 5-week study on the Arctic tundra and the animals that reside there.  Notebooking pages, activity ideas, outside links, and assignments are all included as part of this 4-day a week program.  Through the study, the student will complete their own notebook (with separate notebook pages for younger elementary and older elementary students) of what they have learned using the provided printable pages. 

How did we use this product?
I downloaded our pages and ordered the Arctic Tundra book.  I planned to use this study mostly with Curly (2nd grade, age 8).

Then I printed off the guide pages for each week of study.  I reviewed the assignments, materials, and suggested resources for each week, highlighting each item that I wanted to make sure we covered that week.  There are more activity ideas and notebook pages than could probably be done in one week (at least in our busy house) so the guide advises you to choose which ones you most want to complete.

Next I scrolled through the student notebooking pages and chose which ones to print.

The first section of notebook pages is a “make your own animal book” for the younger students.  There is a page for each animal with a place to answer questions and record facts.  This would have worked well for my K student if I had incorporated him into our study.

After this section is the notebook pages for older elementary students and then the set of pages for younger learners.  

The last pages of the study contain additional project ideas, field trip ideas, pages for the world of animals study, blank journaling templates for a nature journal, and the answer key.

What did a week look like for us?
Let’s talk about week 3 shall we?
Day 1:  We read a two-page spread in the One Small Square book and also read about the survival technique of animals turning white in winter in the notebooking pages.  We then searched for more information about seals and read about them from the suggested website.  We completed the arctic observation 16 from the notebooking pages where Curly recorded the reasons why animals are better off wearing white in the winter.  Observation 17 was a suggested activity but it included building your own snowman (which will not happen in our warm weather) so we played with some fake snow that I had purchased instead.  For our last activity we listened to the call of an arctic swan from the suggested website.

Day 2:  We read another two-page spread in our book and completed a reading in our pages about what to observe in the winter.  Then we searched for sea lion information on the website link that was given.  Then we completed our observation activities in our notebook pages.  The first activity was to observe a tree in winter and take a picture of how it had changed and observe if any animals were living nearby.  Well, here in south Texas many trees don’t even lose all their leaves so our winter tree was not quite the same as trees in northern regions.  Then we read about Snowflake Bentley who observed individual snowflakes.  Curly drew her own snowflake patterns on the notebook page and we checked out the book from the library for further reading.  We also searched for magnified images of snowflakes online.  Amazingly beautiful!!

Day 3:  We completed our reading in the book and then searched the animal encyclopedia website for information about the walrus.  One of the activities was to catch snowflakes on black paper to observe them (which we cannot do for lack of snow).  The other activity was to look for lichen on trees and plants around our house.  We took a walk around our neighborhood to try to find some.  We didn’t have much luck so we spent some time looking at pictures online.  For our last activity, we read about snowy owls from the suggested website.  Curly loves owls so she was very excited!

Day 4:  For our last day we read our two-page spread and then also read a notebook page about seals and sea lions.  For our internet search we looked at sea otters.  We completed a couple activities on this day.  We froze some water in a water bottle to see if the ice expanded.  We also made a page to compare and contrast seals and sea lions.  The last project included melting snow to see if the water took up more space than the snow.  That was another project we had to skip. 

What did we think?
When printing out the pages for older learners, I compared these with the pages for the younger students.  I did not find many differences in most cases.  Most had the same word-for-word text and the notebooking pages required the same amount of writing.  A few were simplified for younger students.  However, I would have enjoyed seeing a noticeable difference in the pages with simpler shorter text (more of a summary) for the younger children.  In addition, some of the notebook pages would be a little too complicated for my younger students to complete and would require too much writing.  I would have preferred these pages to be made in a way that younger students could fill them out with very little writing and with activities and questions that were more on their level.  Since these pages are designed for Kindergarten or slightly older students, I would have expected them to have little writing and more places for drawing or a more “worksheet” quality so that the work would be their own. 

 This is a sample from the younger learner notebook.  I would have found it helpful and better suited to younger learners if it had lines for them to write their answers or would have expected them to only draw pictures.  With many of the younger learner pages, I would have had to fill them out for my little ones.  I would prefer that they have the enjoyment of completing their own notebook pages without me doing all the writing for them. 

There was a very short “world of animals” study included within the notebook pages.  There were a few pages for answering questions and writing down facts.  However, these facts were all about amphibians and reptiles which was not a part of the Arctic Tundra topic.  In talking with the publisher I learned that this is part of an ongoing weekly study that is in the Winter Promise animals curriculum.  Each week there are new animals added to this study.  So, when used as part of the year-long animals study from Winter Promise, each type of animal is covered.  When used as a part of this short, focused unit study, that portion of the program was out of place to me and I was initially confused by it and unsure how to work it into our studies.  I ended up omitting those few pages completely and not referring to them for our study.

I liked the guide pages that clearly showed which materials were needed on each day of the study.  These pages were my planning pages and listed exactly which notebooking pages were necessary as well as providing extra reading options and links for further study.  I enjoyed how these pages were broken up into 3 sections: oral discussions, independent assignments, and activities.  This allowed me to plan which activities to complete together and which pages to give to Curly to work on by herself.  The last section lists all the activity possibilities and the extras so you can quickly and easily choose which ones to include for that week.  I found that the layout was streamlined and easy for me to plan our week and then quickly glance at assignments throughout the week to stay on track.

Some of the notebooking pages required snow or the ability to observe changes in winter.  Therefore, this study would be best completed during the winter when you can make your own observations of weather and the change of seasons.  However, some of the activities did require snow or at least cold temperatures.  In south Texas we have neither.  There were a few activities that would have been impossible or very difficult for us to do since we do not live in a location that sees cold temperatures, snow, or wintery weather.  I was glad to have other activities to choose from since we needed to skip some of these.  

I loved all the colorful, printable notebooking pages.  Curly enjoyed filling them out and they made a beautiful finished notebook when we were done with our study.  The layout was very attractive and there was room to do all of our note taking and writing on them.  This is notebooking made simple!

Another aspect of the notebooking pages that I enjoyed was that some of them are completely text.  These were pages that we read together to learn more information about our topic.  When we were done these went into Curly’s notebook between all of her written pages.  It made her notebook like it’s own book of what she had learned.  I found that these pages really enhanced our study and provided much of the information needed to complete the notebook pages.  

One of our favorite parts of the program became the clickable links.  Some took us to outside websites with definitions and descriptions of animals or locations.  These were great for further reading.  Others took us to videos of animals or places where we could watch the animals in action or see what the tundra looked like for ourselves.  These were a wonderful visual component to our studies and we enjoyed exploring all the links. 

I liked that the program was designed to be completed in 4 days which was perfect for our busy homeschool schedule.  I would not have been able to devote 5 days to a study – I like having the flexibility in scheduling.  I also enjoyed that many of the activities were optional with the direction to choose a few for each week.  This kept me from feeling overwhelmed by the study but I still felt we had more than enough material to cover for each week.

My wrap up!
I am not great at unit studies.  I find them overwhelming and time consuming.  I’m not comfortable planning them or putting them together.  I love the idea behind them but I’m not good at implementation.  This is why I love finding studies that are put together for me!

This was a unit study that was flexible, indepth, creative, and completely planned for me.  It included all the necessary components for completion with the exception of only one necessary resource that I ordered.  All links, videos, activity ideas, extra readings, and notebook pages are included.  It was as easy as printing out the pages for each week and then compiling our notebook together.

I really enjoyed our 5 week adventure through the Arctic Tundra with our readings, projects, videos, and notebooking.  It was a very fun unit study that gave us a nice break from our normal curriculum and routine.  Best of all it was easy to use!

More info….
This study can be purchased for $25 as an instant download.
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