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Category: 3 – Life Moves on Land

Our “Spores All Around” experiment was to demonstrate how the early plants reproduced with spores. As the first plants like mosses lived on land, they reproduced using spores. Our first moss and ferns were able to easily release spores to disperse in the wind, and still do today.

In this experiment, we are going to grow our own mold from these tiny spores that float in the air. We took a piece of bread, moistened it with a bit of water, then set it in a covered container. Satori watched to see nothing else was added. I told her that some spores will have set down in the moment we placed the bread in the container and shut the lid.


It took awhile, but two weeks later, we can see our fuzzy blue mold. I expected this to take place sooner, but we live in a dry, high altitude place, and it happened to be very cold this month. Perhaps all some of these factors slowed our mold growth.


In a few days, we will not open this container, but throw it all away.

First off, the Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History rocks. Starting from the Big Bang, all the way through modern times, it is fill of pictures and links to interactive websites. If you don’t have it yet, I highly recommend it!

Prehistoric Earth

Prehistoric Earth

For prehistory, I’m always looking for ways to make it all come alive for a young one. You can see all our book go-alongs and craft/activities. But there is something about seeing it in moving, full-color that makes things truly come alive. The Walking With Monsters/Dinosaurs/Beasts/Cavemen DVD series is absolutely unbeatable in doing so. We’ve only seen the entirety of Walking With Monsters to cover the Paleozoic era, this is before the dinosaurs. It has great coverage on the most fascinating creatures that swam or roamed the earth, and also gives evolutionary lessons on how life has evolved.

You can buy it all together in the Prehistoric Earth DVD set. If that’s a bit too much, try the The Complete Walking With Collection for $32. Or, rent them all at Netflix. (Contact me if you want a month free membership.) That’s what we did, until we fell in love. They have high repeat-playability value and mom doesn’t mind watching them over and over, so they’re well worth the investment.

Also a fun find was The Great Prehistoric Search, a colorful search and find book. This series also offers The Great Dinosaur Search, as well as Planet, Animal, Bug, Undersea, World, Castle, etc… search. A great way to throw in a little fun. 🙂

The Cambrian seas page “Crowded Seas”…

Prehistoric Seas Search

Prehistoric Seas Search

and the Carboniferous “Forests and Swamps”…

Forests and Swamps search

Forests and Swamps search

Here’s our Great Dinosaur Search book which we’ll be tackling soon.

The Great Dinosaur Search

The Great Dinosaur Search

First, a bit of a mother’s musings… After re-watching our Dunkleosteus video, I just wanted to say I do not make my 4 year old memorize the time periods, hehe. Her life is a life filled with play, watching a few educational DVDs, and reading books together. But with all our reading/learning, she has a super good idea of how life evolved and all this leaks out into her pretend play. (They call it “Dramatic Play” in schools these days, and this is one of Satori’s favorite activities.) Both David and I are amazed how much she picks up and how she incorporates this new knowledge into her playing. She most definitely knows a thousand-fold more than I did at four years old. Now, I only wish there was another 4 year old that was learning prehistory so they could do prehistoric dramatic play together, hehe.

I also think I’m doing an insane amount of research. On homeschooling forums, I know there are others that touch the topic of prehistory, before they tackle Story of the World or other history curriculums. There is just so much fascinating things to learn (and *not* just dinos), that I’ve decided to extend our prehistory to an all-summer long study. Tackling the topic of evolution and extinction early has helped both Satori and I understand animal/plant life much better. Yes, I also am learning so much more than I ever expected. It is my hope that this thorough study I’m doing will come in handy with my next children, or hopefully other homeschoolers studying prehistory with their young ones that might stumble upon this blog.

Ugh, that’s a lot of words with no pictures! Now, on to the more exciting part.

With those clarifications out of the way, we delved into the Devonian period tonight. The first creatures had discovered land, mostly insects, scorpions, but also some of the first fish were evolving into amphibians (amphi meaning on both sides, as in water AND land). Our Charlie’s Playhouse Giant Timeline is the most helpful resource, and we’ve had it strewn along our kitchen floor all week long. It’s sturdy enough so we all can trample on it and not worry. It really has all the best prehistoric creatures depicted on its pages! As we read books about the various periods, I sometimes have Satori find the animal on her timeline.


Satori is here demonstrating the land insects that were plentiful in the Devonian period. Dunkleosteus is looking from his watery home salivating at them. 🙂


Not shown are other land animals like the Tiktaalik, which is a supremely important creature with transitional fossil clues. Just a few years ago, his fossils were discovered, and he may be the link between fish and land animal. Also missing is an Ichthyostega, a tetropod preceding true amphibians.



I googled Ichthyostega and Tiktaalik toy animals and could find none, if anyone knows of any, be sure to let me know! 🙂 Uh-oh, I just discovered Kaiyodo Chocolasaurs….
Here’s all the insects that we could gather that might have been typical of a Devonian land scene.

Devonian land creatures

Devonian land creatures

One of the things I love to do is to see who visits our little blog, which apparently has pretty good search engine rankings on obscure terms. One person landed on our blog today by searching for “prehistoric land plant craft”. Satori Smiles ranks second. We’ve never done a prehistoric land plant craft! Yet… How did Google know that we were planning on making such a craft this week? I do not know, but it is tres cool. 😉



The Cooksonia is the best known prehistoric plants that first inhabited land, living more than 400 million years ago. Only a few centimeters tall, the Cooksonia had no leaves, flowers or even roots. Just a simple stalk, that branched dichotomously a few times. It’s branches ended in a rounded thingie (sporangia) that gave off its spores. It’s simplicity compelled me to design a simple craft out of it. And it only took two minutes!

Cooksonia – Prehistoric Land Plant Craft

Prehistoric Plant craft

You’ll need:

  • Green chenille stems (now don’t try to get fancy and used shaped pipe cleaner stems, these plants had no leaves!)
  • Orange or Yellow pom-poms
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • “Vase” (we made one out of a toilet paper roll)

No sooner had I set these items on the table, when Satori independently made her very own Cooksonia plant! I suppose it isn’t too hard, but I was impressed that my 4 year old knew what I was up to when I said we were going to make a Cooksonia plant! We had seen a few photos of this plant. To make yours, simply glue the puffs (your sporangia) to the end of the stem. If you can, try to branch dichotomously, two branches sprouting off at the same point.

Cooksonia craft

Cooksonia craft

Here’s our first Cooksonia, you can still see the white glue.

Cooksonia - first land plant

Cooksonia - first land plant

I think we’ve covered early plant life pretty well, last week we walked in our forest and saw examples of the first plants – mosses, lichens, ferns, and horsetails.

More about Cooksonia

Satori talks about her Dunkleosteus fish. We mispronounced his name, it’s dunk-lee-OH-stee-us. He was an armored fish (head covered with bony plates), which is a placoderm (now extinct) type of fish, living in the Devonian period.

It was a family activity night tonight. After we enjoyed our second batch (new and improved) of trilobite cookies, we made our clay salamanders. Well, David actually made a Permian reptile, the Dimetrodon, which he found sitting on the kitchen counter, oddly enough.

Here our cold-blooded creatures are getting ready to bask in the sun oven.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

After an hour, they were ready to come alive with colors!


We used colorful metallic paints, which at first I wasn’t so sure about, but they totally rocked! Satori is painting her salamander in all kinds of colors. You can also see her baby sea turtle in this shot, equally vibrant.


David made this shimmering green/yellow Dimetrodon and baby. Angela made the trilobite top left.


Mom made a coral salamander. Here she is staring at Satori’s salamander.


And here they all are, our family of amphibians and reptiles!!!


Making Clay Creatures

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 3/4 cups water
  • 1 T vegetable oil

Mix and then knead until nice and smooth. Form your salamander or creature, don’t forget legs and beady eyes! We made indentations on our creatures for toes, wrinkles and mouth. Bake in oven at 300 degrees for an hour. Wait until cool, then paint away! Then set your clay creatures and salamanders somewhere where you can enjoy your craft all year long.