U is for Unit Study: Colorado & the Rocky Mountains
We had a surprise vacation to Colorado thanks to Nick being shipped off to complete some military training. This meant the girls would get a chance to see the mountains they’ve wanted to see for the past year. It also meant I needed to create a unit study for Colorado and the Rocky Mountains fast!
Colds (or allergies) affected us when we got to Colorado, so day one was spent in the hotel room reading books and doing some worksheets about mountains. Thanks to my discovery of education.com I was able to quickly create our own little workbook of Colorado and the Rocky Mountains. This workbook contains a little bit about mountains, some of the animals found in the Rocky Mountains, as well as a little bit about Colorado.
Since we were traveling such a distance, I made sure to pick up a map of Colorado for the girls to show them how we know where we are going. Several times the girls asked if we knew how to get to the mountains. They also know we can use GPS to find our way, so map reading worked to show them another way to get around.
Being in the mountains we thought it would be important to discuss some health related topics about changing to a higher elevation. We talked about how our bodies needed to acclimate to the higher elevation and how we would need to drink more water to help our bodies adjust. We also talked about our need for more sunscreen since it’s easier to get burned in the mountains, even on cooler days. I still think my face got a bit red, even with sunscreen!
We spent a lot of time talking about how mountains are formed, so we did some projects to demonstrate plate tectonics and mountain formation. Our favorite was the graham cracker, whipped cream demonstration. It had a delicious outcome.
For some hiking we visited the Garden of the Gods. This amazingly beautiful place is a national landmark and a free city park.
We watched some rock climbers work their way to the top of some of the formations, checked out some birds and plants in the area, and enjoyed the sandstone and conglomerate formations. Both girls had the opportunity to touch both a sandstone formation and a conglomerate formation to check out the differences between them. Charlie kept her eyes open for rattlesnakes, which we never found, but there were plenty of warning signs to tell us to watch for them.
New animals were all around us. Common to this area, but strangers to us. One bird species kept showing it’s face and I finally captured it on film! If you’re from the West/North West, you’ll laugh at the confusion we had trying to identify this magpie. Now we know what it is and had fun learning about bird identification.
Checking out the majestic views of the mountain landscapes wasn’t enough for us, so we stopped by the Cave of the Winds for a cave tour to get a view of the inside of a mountain. The girls loved it and Charlie asked a lot of questions. My favorite was when I asked her about the temperature of the cave, which stays a constant 54 degrees. I asked her if she thought it would get warmer, colder or stay the same as we moved further into the cave. Her response, unfortunately was incorrect, however she did a great job with critical thinking. She decided that since we were going down the further in we went that it would get warmer because there is magma underground that moves the plates to form the mountains. I’m happy she’s paying attention when we talked about this stuff!
We also learned some new vocabulary related to mountains, which the girls have used all week. Click on the image to download the pdf if you’d like to save it.
To break up our learning we also learned a couple new songs, here are videos of the songs we learned in case you’re interested in learning them too!
She’ll be Coming ‘Round the Mountain When She Comes
The Bear Went Over the Mountain
Our vacation isn’t quite over, and you can’t learn about the Rocky Mountains without some discussion of Pikes Peak. Hopefully I’ll be able to add on to this section soon because it is an important part of both Colorado and the Rocky Mountains in my opinion. Fingers crossed we can add a visit in before our trip is done! Check back for updates!
This visit we won’t be able to visit the Royal Gorge, but if you can swing it, it would be a great addition to a Colorado/Rocky Mountain unit study. If you’re going to talk about mountains, canyons should be mentioned too.
Have you ever visited Colorado or the mountains? What was your favorite part of the visit? What topics would you add that I haven’t yet?