Our Animal Kingdom Books and Cnidaria (Jelly Fish and Anemones)

AKB: Animal Kingdom Book

Cnidaria: plural of Cnidarian, pronounced nahy-dair-ee-uh

Interesting useless fact: Thanks to spell check, I just realized I’ve been saying “anemones” wrong my entire life! anenomies. All right. scratch that one. I’ve seen “Finding Nemo” enough, you’d think I’d know this already.

After learning about the human body, the next unit in my elementary children’s biology book covers 7 different animal phyla. Wikipedia tells me there are a total of 34 known animal phyla, while most animals actually fit into just about 9. A phylum is just a classification of life, the sequence being life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species.

So we are dealing with pretty diverse groups of animals here.

Also, I have no idea why the book we are making is called “The Animal Kingdom” when we aren’t actually talking about kingdoms. But I’m just going to go with it. It’s been really fun! Plus I’ve learned a lot, too, such as how to say and write anemone. 

For each animal group we have a little information sheet, a lab or two – meaning a hands on experience to help us better understand the featured animal from that group – and a fact sheet the kids get to fill in, color, decorate, and then cut and paste into a physical book they have made out of construction paper. I can update this post with photos of the completed books when they are finished. (So after Christmas and New Years sometime. I’m not spending my vacation time looking up mollusks and echinoderms and such. I’ll be busy reading about Roman conquests and drinking hot chocolate!)

The first phylum we learned about were the cnidaria.

Cnidaria come in two main shapes/forms: the Medusa and the Polyp. It’s easiest to think of it this way.  A medusa has tentacles that flow downward (a jelly fish), and a polyp has tentacles that flow up (an anemone.) Simple as that.

The greatest thing we learned with this phylum was the life cycle of a jelly fish.

Move over butterflies! There’s a new life cycle in town!!

The jellyfish start out as a polyp and grow polyp upon polyp. At some point the top polyp is released and flips over to become a medusa shaped jelly fish. The jelly fish just does it’s thing and then releases an egg or sperm into the ocean. (This was a little unclear. Does the jelly fish release both an egg and sperm? We don’t know yet. But what we do know is that there are jelly fish eggs and jelly fish sperm floating around the ocean. So maybe just think twice before jumping in, you know, if that bothers you.) Eventually the egg and sperm meet and join together, falling down to the ocean floor. Once down below, they start to grow into a new polyp and the cycle starts all over again. For a long time, scientists thought cnidaria were just plants. You know, coral and anemones. They pretty much look just like plants. But nope, they are animals. DSC07226

We got to practice the life cycle by making little jelly fish and polyps out of styrofoam cups with pieces of string taped on for the tentacles. First the cup starts out sitting upright on the floor. You stack a few on top of it as it grows. And then eventually you just pop the top one off, flip it upside down, and float it around your living room. We used lima beans to represent the sperm and egg. (Probably not true to size. 😉 ) The jelly fish popped out a gamete and floated away while another little gamete met the first, they stuck together, fell to the ground, and then we started our next polyp growing right there in that spot. Easy peasy.

So… my little kids don’t know what sperm, eggs, and gametes are. I didn’t bother to explain to them how those terms and organisms come into play in the human life cycle. I just didn’t feel like going there quite yet. But they know that it takes an egg and a sperm to have all the information needed to create and grow a new, baby animal and eggs come from moms and sperm come from dads. I pretty much left it at that.

But oh, the conversations heard throughout my house after that!

Just imagine, my little four year old talking to himself from the other room…

“And then the egg and sperm come together! They come together! Plop! Just like that!”

So instead of the conversation, we just had the conversation about not talking about eggs and sperm outside our house!

Boy, that could have been awkward.

*Gasp* What do you even teach your preschool kids in your homeschool!?! 

Relax! It’s biology. It’s natural. (So awkward.)

And I’m dying laughing at the same time.

Anyway, check out our other awesome Animal Kingdom Book pages! This has been a really, really fun unit to work on with my kids. I hope you get to do something like this, too.

ADDENDUM: The science book we are using is purely secular. I really like it, although it being secular has absolutely nothing to do with why I use it. If you are looking for a unit on animal kingdoms that is Christian based, I’ve just heard of one and downloaded it myself to look through later. Take a look if this is something you might be interested in or you feel it would better suit your family’s needs. You can buy the download or hard copy version at Jennyphillips.com/science. Otherwise, I highly recommend R.S.O Life – which also has a try before you buy option (in blue print in the top right hand corner.) Nice!