Zebra Tracing

Writing is a skill that most people use every single day, whether it be writing a note to a friend or writing a check to a utility company. Even in the age of technology, the written word is still everywhere.

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But how do you teach a young child the proper way to write? The first step is simple… pre-writing. Pre-writing is learning the skills necessary to begin writing. Pre-writing is an important step because it teaches children the correct way to hold a pencil, how to use a good, firm grip, and emphasizes the use of fine motor skills.

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Pre-writing also helps children with the development of hand/eye coordination, learn that words go left to right, and that lines of writing go top to bottom on a page. Ideally, the first materials used are not markers and pencils but materials that allow children to strengthen the muscles in their hands needed to properly hold writing implements.

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We add a tactile (kinesthetic) component when we practice shaping the letters with different materials. Shaping letters with dough, tracing them on textured paper cutouts, and writing in the sand or salt trays all help children internalize the shape of the letter, while developing their fine motor skills.

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For this activity, we practiced tracing the letter Z with black and white colored salt. Your child was directed to trace the letter Z into the salt.  Doing so helped your child develop stronger familiarity with the structure of Z, integrating the sense of touch to create a visual representation of the letter.

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Zebra Camouflage

To humans, a zebra’s stripes stick out like a sore thumb, so it’s hard to imagine that the stripes act as camouflage. Zoologists believe stripes offer zebras protection from predators in a couple of different ways.

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One way is as simple pattern-camouflage, much like the type the military uses in its fatigue design. The wavy lines of a zebra blend in with the wavy lines of the tall grass around it.

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It doesn’t matter that the zebra’s stripes are black and white and the lines of the grass are yellow, brown or green, because the zebra’s main predator, the lion, is colorblind.

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The pattern of the camouflage is much more important than its color, when hiding from these predators. If a zebra is standing still in matching surroundings, a lion may overlook it completely.

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To help illustrate this concept, we hid zebras in grass and with some imagination, set up scenarios where the lions couldn’t find them! Students enjoyed manipulating their toys in a variety of ways, creating new stories as they went!

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Zebra Stripes

Zebrads are several species of African equids (horse family) united by their distinctive black and white striped coats.

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Their stripes come in different patterns, unique to each individual. They are generally social animals that live in small harems to large herds.

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Unlike their closest relatives, horses and donkeys, zebras have never been truly domesticated. As part of our zebra unit, we talked about zebra stripes.

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While scientists have varying opinions about their purpose, most agree that they provide camouflage and temperature regulation to the animal. For this activity, we created zebra stripes out of black and white play dough!

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