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There are several reasons for choosing to include Cactus Hotel in your classroom. You could be studying unusual kinds of plants and animals. You could be learning about the southwestern desert. You may even be talking about how seeds travel from one place to another or the interdependency of Earth’s creatures. Whatever reason, the children will be fascinated with this unusual plant, the Saguaro.
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Facts for the teacher
1. Saguaros are only found in the Sonoran Desert. (Southeastern California and southern Arizona) Show this on a map to your students comparing it to where they live.
2.Saguaro is pronounced Suh-WAH-row.
3.Like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike.
4. Its seedling looks like a tiny fortune cookie. As shown in the book, it needs to stay under the protection of a “nurse tree" like a Palo Verde.
5.The bright green outer layer feels like rubber but it also has long, sharp spines to protect it from some animals.
6. Birds like Gila (He-Luh) Woodpeckers peck shallow holes in the cactus and they help each other.
7. The average height ranges between 18-35 feet but the tallest recorded cactus was 78 feet tall!
8. The Saguaro holds so much water that it can become very heavy and weigh as much as an elephant!
9. Long ago, Indians used the woody framework of the dead Saguaro to build their shelters.
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Prepare examples to show the students the various lengths (heights) the cactus grows in its life. Cut a length of string or yarn 4 inches, 2 feet, 10 feet and 18 feet (or more).
Read the Book
Discuss how the Saguaro seed was moved from one place to another. What are other ways that seeds can move? (wind, rain, by animals,etc)
What is a coyote? (meat eating mammal, smaller than a wolf)
What is a jackrabbit? ( hare found in the open country of western North America)
Where are the flowers on the cactus? (top) When do they open? (night)
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Here are several activities to round-out your lesson:
1. Role Playing
Assign each student a part: Saguaro, Gila Woodpecker, pack rat, coyote, owls, snakes, bats, lizard Add extra birds, snakes, owls so that everyone has a part.
Read the important parts of the book as the students act out their parts. The Saguaro can curl up and grow slowly. When it is time for the Gila Woodpecker to eat the flowers, the Saguaro can be sitting cross-legged on the floor with the Gila standing over him. At full size, the student will be standing.
Return to the pages of the book where it references the size of the Saguaro during each phase of life. Show the 4" string. It is ten years old. Older than your students.
Next show the two-foot string. The cactus is twenty-five years old! I’ll bet some of the students may have parents that age.
Next show them the ten-foot string. Have a few students lay down head-to-toe the same length of the string.
Finally the string that shows the size of a full-grown cactus. How many students will it take to make a full-grown Saguaro Cactus?
3. Art Activity
Using green bulletin board paper, cut out a simple Saguaro cactus. Since no two are alike, it doesn’t have to be perfect! Pin it up to a bulletin board. Then ask the students to draw, color and cut out animals such as: birds, owls, bees, rats, snakes, lizards and the distant coyote to attach on and below the “Cactus Hotel".
Your Cactus Hotel will get a five-star rating with your students!