FIAR – Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

Finally, a story Josiah can really sink his teeth into!  We already own this book and it’s a fun classic, along with many of the other Virginia Lee Burton books.  Of course, it’s more than just a story of an old tractor…

Geography/History/Social Studies
Among other things we used another of the Burton books, The Little House, to discuss some of the differences between city and country life.  Since there are a lot of characters and their occupations mentioned in the story, we talked about community helpers and transportation, playing a matching game and reading some “when I grow up” books.

Mike Mulligan took very good care of his steam shovel, Mary Anne, so she was like new.  I used this to encourage the kids to take care of their things so they will last; it’s amazing how quickly their toys get broken. *sigh*

When they were replaced by the new model shovels, Mike and Mary Anne were very sad… but they persevered and were diligent, not giving up, seizing an opportunity when it presented itself.  They took pride in their work and, in the end, it paid off.

Language Arts
Gwen pretty much has our onomatopoeia song memorized, which we sang a few times.  I read some of the sound words from the story, adding a few of my own, and the kiddos colored onomatopoeia pictures.  Gwen drew a different picture to go along with each sound – a hand throwing a rock, a roaring tiger, a slamming door, splashing water, etc.

We’ve covered personification a number of times, especially during our Little Red Lighthouse week, so it wasn’t a new concept.  I told each of them to draw a picture of an every day object and give it a face or personality.  They each drew their beds, giving them googly eyes, and we talked about different things that could give them human attributes – feeling sad when they’re empty, watching over them at night and so forth.

We talked about all the different characters in the book, filled out some activities in which we had to remember some things from the story about each character, and then Gwen had to create her own character (which ended up being based on her stuffed giraffe, “Safari”).

Fine Arts
Since there are all sorts of vantage points of trees depicted in the story, Gwen drew a few different kinds of trees – pine trees, bare trees, bushy trees.

It’s always nice when Daddy is home and can help out with school; I think the kids pay better attention when he reads the story!  We did a few math words problems related to the story, and I showed Gwen different ways to write them out, including using numbers themselves or dashes.

Since Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne dig a “Neat and Square” hole, we did some shape activities, including lacing cards and a puzzle board.  While I cleaned up and readied some items in the kitchen, the kiddos played with a really simple sensory bin – I just dumped a bag of beans in a pan and filled it with Josiah’s tractors.  It’s amazing how long they can play with that type of stuff!

Then… we made a Neat and Square cake!  It often requires much patience on my part, letting the kiddos help me in the kitchen, but they’re really doing well.  I go over units of measure and types of ingredients, including general things like cleaning up after yourself (my mom always taught me to clean up as you go in the kitchen, rather than leaving all the mess at the end).  I used a recipe I have for healthy chocolate banana muffins, baking it in a square cake.  Then I frosted it with a healthy chocolate banana frosting, throwing some mini chocolate chips around the edges.  I cut out a square in the middle and put one of Josiah’s tractor’s inside – he kept asking me to take it out and clean it!

I was hoping Daddy would be able to teach about steam power vs. electric vs. gasoline, but he was busy so we didn’t get around to it.  I did find some cool videos with old steam tractors, which look exactly like Mary Anne!  And I found an animated video of the story itself, which the kids really enjoyed.

We read a bunch of books about tractors, diggers and machinery, and the kiddos made their own movable tractors.  We talked about some of the other things that were powered by steam – namely, boats and ships – and Josiah colored a construction vehicle minibook.

It didn’t work as well as I had hoped, but we did a simple stovetop steam experiment using a steaming teapot and a pinwheel.  I don’t know if the steam wasn’t powerful enough or the pinwheel just kept getting stuck, but it only rotated a little bit.

Go-Along Books

The Little House
Town Mouse, Country Mouse
Duck in the Truck
All Sorts of Shapes
Jobs People Do
When I Grow Up
I’m Mighty!
Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site
The Little Engine That Could

Homeschool Share’s Mike Mulligan resources
Miss Kindergarten’s Community Helpers & Transporation Match-Up
Houghton Mifflin Books’ Mike Mulligan activities
Welcome to Room 36’s onomatopoeia song printable
Neat and Square cake inspiration
Kids Craft Weekly’s moving parts digger
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel (parts 1, 2 & 3) on YouTube
YouTube’s steam shovels

*See my FIAR Pinterest board for more inspiration.