When I first read Braver: A Wombat’s Tale by Suzanne Selfors and Walker Ranson, I knew I had to share it with my kids. I’d hoped it would make a good supplement to a unit I wanted to do on Australia, but this book was so good I knew it had to take center stage. When I shared it with my kids, they were equally enthusiastic and this has become a cherished and beloved tale that holds a special place on our bookshelf.
While this book is fantastic for a study in Australia (we did a little of that too), to me it screamed Ecology, so we took this in more of a science direction and it was a great fit!
Planning the Unit Study
Every unit study I plan begins with my planning template. I go into more detail about how I plan, as well as offering my planning template as a free download in this post.
Sometimes it’s helpful to see how someone else puts everything together in a schedule. You’re welcome to look at these for ideas or follow them as they are. Either way, here are my unit study lesson plans for you to download for FREE.
This whole unit is based on our read-aloud so it’s by far the most important feature. Braver: A Wombat’s Tale is the story of Lola Budge, a not-so typical wombat. Most wombats are shy and like to keep to themselves, but Lola likes to talk and adventure and share stories.
One day when Lola leaves her burrow eager to find out a bit more about some suspicious behavior, her entire village including her family are captured by a vicious monster. Lola embarks on an adventure far bigger than anything she imagined as she takes on a quest to free the wombats of the Northern Forest.
Adventure, the power of stories, bravery, character . . . these are just a few of the things you’ll enjoy in this epic tale of a not-so-shy wombat.
I like to have a non-fiction spine for each unit to help us dig a little bit more into our units. This book lends itself to so many fantastic options in Ecology. I went back and forth with several spines, and while I planned with God’s Design for Chemistry and Ecology “Properties of Ecosystems”, we ended up pulling from a number of sources.
I’ve listed several possibilities below. Pick the one that’s most intriguing to your family and go with it.
Rachel Carson and Ecology for Kids: Her Life and Ideas with 21 Experiments for Kids – This is an excellent biography of Rachel Carson, the pioneer to conservation and ecology as a field of science. This book is loaded with activities as you learn about this famous conservationist along with her ability to change history through her writing. (Secular Resource)
- God’s Design for Chemistry and Ecology – Properties of Ecosystems (Christian Resource)
- Biomes – This is a bit closer to a traditional text book, but it’s very engaging and has a lot of great activities. If I had to do it over again, I might make this be our primary spine. (Secular Resource)
- The Usborne Living World Encyclopedia – I’m really hoping they update this one soon. The pictures are a bit dated, but the content is rich. (Secular Resource)
I had a game picked out for this unit. I was super excited about it. I knew it would need to be adapted for my kids, but I couldn’t wait. Then . . . we didn’t use it even once. We might have loved it. We may still love it in the future. We were just having so much fun with our other things that we never played it.
Ecosystem is made for kids age 14+ (I planned on playing it as a collaborative game to suit my younger learners). It truly is about building a diverse habitat. The more the animals flourish, the more points a player earns.
We used a lot of videos for this unit. We used YouTube and various streaming services to find documentaries on the animals we were learning about. Be sure to download the free lesson plans above for those links. Two series that tied in a lot and were The Magic School Bus and The Magic School Bus Rides again on Netflix. There are so many great episodes on ecology there.
I felt like we needed to keep things pretty simple for this unit, and it was wonderful. When we learned about a new animal, we searched for an art tutorial on YouTube. Each child added the animal to their art notebook and wrote a little bit about it based on their writing abilities. That was it. Nothing fancy here.
I considered doing an ecology journal, which would have been really fun (for me), but my kids weren’t feeling it and the weather wasn’t great (cold, snowy winter), so I didn’t push it. I did share details about how to make your own in the lesson planning pages.
Writing, Grammar, and Vocabulary
By far the biggest bit of planning I brought to the table for this unit was the Language Arts Pack I made for my oldest. It includes six copywork passages complete with literature, grammar, and spelling lessons. I also included vocabulary and discussion questions. The entire unit focuses on the various ways to spell the long e sound along with the corresponding rules. The grammar focus was commas.
We didn’t actually end up doing all six of the passages, but enjoyed the ones we use. This isn’t a fully edited document, so I decided to go ahead and provide the complete Language Arts Pack as a free PDF download in my shop. There’s also a walkthrough of it in the video at the top of this blog post.
I didn’t include math heavily in this unit, but one of my kids was learning about standard and expanded notation. I took advantage of population sizes on the island of Tasmania to build some of those skills. I included some games and statistics to give us more practice. You’re welcome to download the free the math pack PDF with game cards, lessons, and activities that relate to Braver in my online shop.
For every unit I fill a book basket with books related to our unit topic. For Book Basket time, each of my kids pick a book and we snuggle up together and read. It’s one of our favorite times in the day.
This time around our books generally focused on ecological topics as well as the animals we were reading about. I tried to include things all of my kids would enjoy. These are a few of the books we enjoyed during this unit.
- Saving the Tasmanian Devil: How Science is Helping the World’s Largest Marsupial Carnivore Survive by Dorothy Henshaw Patent – I recommend this one for grades 4 and up. It’s a picture heavy non-fiction chapter book about a disease that nearly wiped out the Tasmanian Devils. It also explores how researchers are working to save them.
- A River by Marc Martin – This imaginary tale covers the journey of a river far and beyond. The illustrations are captivating and fun to discuss.
- Rotten!: Vultures, Beetles, Slime, and Other Decomposers by Anita Sanchez – This was a favorite in our house and a fantastic look at ecosystems and how living organisms work together. It also had just the right amount of gross to keep the kids engaged without making me feel ill. Non-fiction chapter book with lots of pictures.
- Wombat Walkabout by Carol Diggory Shields – I love books that bring my little ones into the unit. This is a cute story that brings in numbers and counting for little ones too.
- Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French – If you can only get one wombat picture book for this unit, I recommend this one. We actually used it as an opening to our unit, but we read it over and over again. It’s a cute look at how a wombat with new human neighbors spends its day.
- A Walk in the Forest by Maria Dek – A look at how a forest can sometimes be beautiful, and sometimes a little scary. It’s a fun look at forests for even little learners.
- Rain Forest Relay (Race the Wild) by Kristin Earhart – Race the Wild is an early chapter book series that follows the red team through biomes all over the world in a race to win the grand prize. We’ve enjoyed learning about new animals and habitats with Sage, Russel, Mari, and Dev. These would be great as readers for 3rd-5th grade, and read alouds for K and up.
- Eee-Moo by Annika Dunklee – A pelican accidentally drops an egg. Out pops a platypus, but he’s not sure what he is or where he belongs. This is his fun journey to find home.
- The Fox and the Forest Fire by Danny Popovici – Forest fires are important to ecology. This book takes a look at fires through the eyes of a fox.
We absolutely love Braver, and It was nice to let go a little bit for this unit, immerse ourselves fully in the story, and go where the questions led us. I do have a highlight saved on instagram with more peeks into some of the activities we did on a daily basis.
I’d love to hear if you try any of theses activities or what your family thought of Braver. I would also love to hear your feedback on these resources. I’m for sure slowing down a bit, but I’d still love to provide useful resources for others to use in their literature-based unit studies as well.