Delving Into the World of Sharks — Lapbook Style

Austin and Ethan are wild about sea creatures.  They love stingrays, squids, dolphins, and sea horses and many other marine animals.  They are also very intrigued by sharks.  So, they decided they wanted to do a lapbook to learn more about these amazing and fearsome animals.  Through our research we learned tons of interesting facts about sharks.  For example, we learned that sharks are covered with tooth-like scales called denticles  We also read that they can smell just a tiny bit of blood from a huge distance away, and that they sometimes mistake surfers for sea lions because of the shadow they cast from above.  Sharks also have a great sense of hearing.  So, as a safety precaution if you ever fall out of a boat in the ocean you should avoid flailing around and making lots of noise — easier said than done, though, don’t you think?!

We also were introduced to some new species of shark that we had never heard about.  For example, we learned about the gigantic, but gentle whale shark, which doesn’t have teeth and that uses it’s huge mouth to scoop up plankton and small fish.  Whale sharks are gentle enough that humans can safely swim around with them.  Hmmm, I’m starting to get an idea for our next family vacation… 🙂

We downloaded the materials we needed to make this lapbook (for free!) from  Then we added some of our own extras, like an origami hammerhead shark,  this cute shark craft,   and a super delicious and fun to make  “shark-tastic shortbread cookie” recipe that we found at this blog.

Here are links to some more of the websites we used to research sharks for the lapbook:

Here’s a gallery of photos of the finished lapbook and our shark-tastic cookie baking experiences.

First Japanese Lapbook — Hermit Crabs!

Every summer, elementary school kids in Japan are expected to do some independent study during their summer vacation and then present their findings to the class when they return to school in the fall.  Some kids do science experiments and others learn more about a topic they are interested in, but the kids are free to decide what to learn about.  This year Austin wanted to learn more about hermit crabs and he thought it would be fun to do it lapbook style.  As far as I can tell, very few people in Japan know about lapbooking, so my guess is that there are not many Japanese lapbooks out there in the world and this may be the only one ever made in Japanese about hermit crabs.

To find out information about these intriguing animals, Austin used a favorite Japanese book we have that gives instructions on how to keep various kinds of pets.  I  also helped him find Japanese and English websites about hermit crabs — called “yado kari” in Japanese.  “Yado kari” literally means house borrowing, which fits hermit crabs since they go around borrowing shells to use as a house.   Since we couldn’t find any pre-made materials for making a hermit crab lapbook in Japanese, we used used an English one we found to give us ideas and then used some free type-it-in lapbooking templates from to make our own materials.

Austin made a mini book about what hermit crabs eat and another with interesting facts about them.  He also made a life cycle wheel, cards with photos of different types of hermit crabs, a diagram labeling their body parts, and a flip book showing thier predators and prey.  He also drew a picture of what a hermit crab’s habitat should look like and made a hermit crab out of origami paper.

Here are links to the websites we used as resources for this project.  Many of them are in English, so they can be used by non-Japanese speaking hermit crab fans as well. 🙂

English websites:

Hermit crab lapbook we found online:

You Tube video for how to make an origami hermit crab:

Japanese Websites:

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Re-entering the World of Lapbooking — Giraffes!

Colorful file folders, adorable mini-books, loads of learning with an enthusiastic kid who chose the topic of study.  What’s not to like about lapbooks?  We did quite a few of them when the boys were in kindergarten and first grade (which are documented in this blog), but have slowed our lapbooking pace way down now that they are older and we have more subjects to cover in our curriculum.  Recently, though, Katie remembered the duck lapbook she helped the boys make a year or so ago and requested that she be able to make one herself.  She enthusiastically declared that her topic would be giraffes.  Since there wasn’t a book about giraffes in our house and we wanted to learn about them in English instead of Japanese, we chose to use the internet to seek out info on these fascinating creatures.  We found a series of awesome short videos about how giraffes are born on our “How Stuff Works” iPad app, printed out photos of and info about them from several different websites.  Then we downloaded the files for making the lapbook here at  After reading about giraffes, I wrote in most of the answers to the questions in the mini-books, but left some blanks for Katie to fill in individual words or numbers. (Since she is still working on mastering writing the alphabet, she doesn’t yet have the stamina for writing whole sentences or paragraphs.)

It was a fun mother-daughter activity and we both learned a lot.  For example, who knew that giraffes eat the leaves AND the thorns of the acacia tree, that their hooves are a foot in diameter (making them larger than our dinner plates) and that baby giraffes drop six-feet at birth and land on their heads, a process that is apparently necessary to start them breathing? We both came away with a new appreciation of these incredible creatures that God made and we agreed we were thankful that we didn’t have to make a six-foot drop on our heads at birth — Ouch!

Katie is chomping at the bit to start her next lapbook and is currently considering pandas, penguins, or platypuses.  She is hoping to lure the boys into making the next one with her. 🙂

Duck Lapbook

We’d taken a hiatus from doing lapbooks because they can be a bit time consuming, but the kids wanted to make one about ducks since there are lots of mallards that live in the river that runs right next to our house.  So, we wrote down what the kids have learned about ducks just from observing them in their natural habitat and we read through the book “Ducks” by Gail Gibbons and then used what we learned from those sources to complete our lapbook.  We got the lapbook idea and format from, which has a ton of free lapbook materials that can be dowloaded, printed out, and then filled in by your kids.  Through our research we learned the difference between diving ducks and dabbling ducks, what preening is, how many different kids of ducks there are, how the vocalizations of male and female ducks differ, and many other interesting duck facts!  Here are some photos of the completed lapbook.

Squid Lapbook

Squids are most definitely Ethan’s favorite animal.  He loves to read about them, play with toy squids, and even refuses to eat squid meat (which is very popular in Japan) not because he doesn’t like the taste, but as a show of solidarity to his favorite sea creatures.  So, it was not surprising when he suggested that we do a lapbook about squid.  Through our research, we learned that giant squid can grow to be longer than a school bus and we marked out the length on a wall near our house to help us visualize how long that really was.  We also discovered that there are bioluminescent (glow-in-the-dark) squid that live at the bottom of the ocean, that a giant squid’s eyeballs can grow to be as big as beach balls, and that the only natural predator of the giant squid is the sperm whale.  The kids also enjoyed making a paper squid craft, finding out what squid eggs look like, and discovering that squid live in all the oceans of the world.  Here are some photos for you to enjoy.

Cicada Lapbook

The most elaborate lapbook we’ve made so far was about cicada. Every summer the cicada come out in full force in Japan and their cry is deafening if you are walking through a park or other area with lots of trees.  During cicada season, the kids and I enjoy going to Utsunomiya University to hunt for cicada in the trees or to look for their empty “shells” on the ground or in the bushes and trees.  One night, Bryan and the boys were taking an adventure walk on campus with their flashlights and came across a cicada that was just starting to emerge from it’s shell.  They took it home, put it in a bug tank, and we all got to watch it transform from a pupa to an adult over the course of a couple of hours.  Through that experience, the boys became very interested in cicada and requested to make a lapbook about them.  Here are some photos of our project.

Space Lapbook

Last summer when we were just getting into lapbooking, the boys decided that they each wanted to make their own lapbook about space.  We read several books about space and learned the names of the planets, their order from the sun, and different characteristics about each of them.  We also learned about asteroids and about the International Space Station, two topics I didn’t know much about so it was a great learning experience for me too.  The NASA website was a helpful resource for us as we created this lapbook.  Here are are a few photos of the one that Ethan made.

Wise Person Lapbook

Our most original lapbook so far has been one on what the Bible says about being a wise person.  I was feeling that Austin and Ethan needed to develop in their character a bit and that it would be good for us to think about what it means to be wise and why it’s good to choose to strive to be a wise person.  We looked at various Bible verses and memorized Proverbs 19:20, which says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise”.  I also had the boys tell me to describe a wise person in their own words and what they came up with was pretty cute.  For example Austin said that, “A wise man doesn’t say he wants to watch a video when it’s homeschooling time.” 🙂  I also made a mini book for each of them which had the words, “Open to find a wise man” on the cover and under the front flap was a picture of each of the boys.  For this project, they each made their own individual lapbooks instead of combining their efforts to make one.

Here are some photos of the Wise Person Lapbook that Austin made.

Rhinoceros Beetle and Stag Beetle Lapbook

Last summer we put together a lapbook about Rhinoceros Beetles and Stag Beetles.   Since Austin and Ethan are passionate about these creatures, they worked very hard on this project and were very proud of it when it was done.  Some of the neat features were wheels showing the life cycle of each type of beetle, a map showing the parts of the world where the beetles live, and mini books with photos comparing the body types of the male and female of each beetle species.

Butterfly Lapbook

The first lapbook we made was about butterflies.  We learned about the butterfly life cycle, about who their predators are, how they defend themselves from predators, what they eat, how their bodies are structured and other intriguing butterfly facts. 🙂  We also found a butterfly chrysalis, put it in a bug tank, and waited until it turned into a beautiful butterfly.  Ethan was EXTREMELY excited to be the one who woke up early one morning to discover that our butterfly had emerged from its cocoon while he was sleeping.  He sounded the alarm and we all ran out into the yard in our PJs to release it back into the wild.  That was  a great family memory!

Here are some photos of our butterfly lapbooks. (Click on the images to make them larger).   We made them last year when Austin was just starting first grade and Ethan was still in kindergarten.