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Sonora Desert - Spring Study

Updated on November 21, 2016

Unit Study for the Sonoran Desert

Our family recently took a trip to Tucson, Arizona to see the Sonoran Desert. One of our goals for the trip was to learn as much as possible about this unique habitat. We chose to visit during the early spring to view the desert in bloom and we were not disappointed.

We visited Saguaro National Park for hiking and birdwatching. The visitor's center there was very informative and there was a lot of literature available there to help us know more about the plants, animals, and rocks that we were seeing.

Whether or not you can go to the Sonoran Desert in person or not, I hope this lens will help you in a study of the desert and to help you see the tremendous beauty in this habitat that spring brings to seemingly barren landscape.

Update: We recently took a trip to Southern California to spend time in a different desert and we found many comparisons. Joshua Tree National Park is at the border of the Colorado and the Mojave Deserts. Many of the same types of plants and animals live here as well. If you live near this area, you have access to a great desert resource.

Desert Cactus Spring - Yellow Flowers

Desert Cactus Spring - Yellow Flowers
Desert Cactus Spring - Yellow Flowers
Cactus Hotel (Rise and Shine)
Cactus Hotel (Rise and Shine)

Who would have thought that so many creatures depend on the cactus for shelter from predators and the heat? This book shares living creatures that live on, near, or under the saguaro cactus. The illustrations are beautifully done and the text is very easy to read. This book would make a great book for narration and Charlotte Mason homeschoolers. Look for it at your local public library.

 
Mojave Sonoran Desert Map
Mojave Sonoran Desert Map

Where is the Sonora Desert?

The Sonoran Desert is in the Southwest United States and Mexico (North America). It covers parts of Arizona and California and parts of the Mexican states of Sonora, Baja California, and Baja California Sur.

It is the largest and hottest deserts in North America with an area of about 120,000 square miles.

Surprisingly, there are many species of wildflowers that bloom in the spring like poppies and lupines. The cactus life also bursts forth in pinks, yellows, and oranges for a brief period of time. There is an abundance of birds to be seen as you hike out into the desert and along the river washes. Summertime brings monsoon rains and flash floods. There is so much to learn about this unique and beautiful landscape.

A Walk in the Desert (Biomes of North America)
A Walk in the Desert (Biomes of North America)

I can't say enough about this series of books - Biomes of North America. Our family used each book as the basis of an entire nature study unit over a period of time. This could be your "spine" for your Sonora Desert study. Please note that other deserts (Mojave, Great Basin, etc) are included in this book but that only makes it more interesting as you compare and contrast these North American habitats. Clear illustrations and very readable text make this book appropriate for ages 8 and up. Use it as a read aloud and have your children narrate back what they learned after each session. Or, use the subjects as a foundation for further study if your child finds a topic of interest. Our family has had this series of books on our nature study reference shelf for years and we still pull it off the shelf as we travel to the various biomes on vacations. I highly recommend this book!

 

Gambel's Quail - Saguaro National Park

Gambel's Quail - Saguaro National Park
Gambel's Quail - Saguaro National Park

Gila Woodpeckers

Gila Woodpeckers
Gila Woodpeckers

Desert Learning Resources

For extra study, you can use these links to enrich your desert unit study.

More Desert Books to Enjoy - How about some drawing and art? Also some other really great books!

Draw Desert Animals (Learn to Draw)
Draw Desert Animals (Learn to Draw)

Our family keeps a nature journal even on family vacations. One of the best books we found for help in sketching our desert creatures is this one that we found at our public library. My sons both used it to make beautifully illustrated nature journal pages to look back on as they page through their notebooks. This book is appropriate for all ages.

 

Cactus - Saguaro National Park

Cactus - Saguaro National Park
Cactus - Saguaro National Park
Watching Desert Wildlife (Younger Reader)
Watching Desert Wildlife (Younger Reader)

This is a fantastic book with beautiful paintings and a lot of very useful information. Our family loves any Jim Arnosky book because of the wonderful illustrations and this book does not disappoint. I would highly recommend this book as a reference in your nature study library.

 

Websites with Information for your Study

I always like to browse websites for tips and facts about an area we are traveling to. Here are a few websites I enjoyed reading.

Saguaro National Park - Bird Watching

Saguaro National Park - Bird Watching
Saguaro National Park - Bird Watching
Creatures of the Desert World
Creatures of the Desert World

So many creatures to learn about...this is a wonderful introduction to desert animal life. A walk in the desert may seem as if there are no mammals around at all but this book shares a little about the hidden part of desert life. Use this book to supplement a nature walk in the desert.

 

Saguaro National Park - Ocotillo Bloom

Saguaro National Park - Ocotillo Bloom
Saguaro National Park - Ocotillo Bloom
Dig, Wait, Listen: A Desert Toad's Tale
Dig, Wait, Listen: A Desert Toad's Tale

We were intrigued about this unique desert creature after our visit to the Sonora Desert. Our library had this book that we read to learn more about the amazing life cycle of this toad. This book has beautiful illustrations and even if it is a picture book, it would still be appropriate for older children. Look for it at your public library.

 

Desert Images for Personal Use

Need a photo of a specific desert animal for your notebook or lapbook? The Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum has a whole catalog of images that they make available for personal and educational use. This is a treasure trove of images.

More Sonoran Desert Books for Children

Who Pooped in the Sonoran Desert? - Scat and Tracks for Kids
Who Pooped in the Sonoran Desert? - Scat and Tracks for Kids

Fun series of books that we love to have on our nature study shelf. There is a lot to learn by looking at animal scat! Our family has several of these books from the series and there is always something unique about each habitat. The desert animals leave us a clue about them as they wander the desert, often undetected if you aren't observing carefully. Use this book to train your family what to look for on your desert hikes.

 

Ultimate Field Trip Destinations

We are going to be visiting this area and we have these places on our itinerary.

My Name Is Georgia: A Portrait by Jeanette Winter
My Name Is Georgia: A Portrait by Jeanette Winter

This is a fantastic book at the artist Georgia O'Keeffe and will tie in art with your nature study of the desert habitat. *Please note that there is one page with illustrations of nude statues on it.

 

Thanks for Visiting! - Please feel free to leave a comment or question.

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    • geosum profile image

      geosum 4 years ago

      Nice lens. First time I've heard of it.

    • Pat Goltz profile image

      Pat Goltz 4 years ago

      Your cactus with the yellow fruit is a barrel cactus. When they lean like that, they can be used as a "compass" because they always lean toward the south. I have lived in the Sonoran Desert for 45 years. In fact, my property borders on the Saguaro National Park West. I am always delighted by visitors to our desert. I would be interested in learning what birds you saw. (I have a lens on the birds of Arizona; my life list is currently at 234, nearly all of them from the Sonoran Desert.) I look forward to additions to your lens.

    • blue22d profile image

      blue22d 5 years ago

      Visited parts of the Sonoran Desert a few years back. Beautiful country. I had no idea how large it was though. Nice lens.

    • jadehorseshoe profile image

      jadehorseshoe 5 years ago

      Nice Lens. ... My kids all hated me for my private-school and homeschooling mandates. Now, they all live VERY well and think I am a genius.

    • JoyfulReviewer profile image

      JoyfulReviewer 5 years ago

      What a wonderful way to learn geography and nature ... nicely done! Congratulations on having one of the top 35 homeschooling lenses.

    • JoyfulReviewer profile image

      JoyfulReviewer 5 years ago

      What a wonderful way to learn geography and nature ... nicely done! Congratulations on having one of the top 35 homeschooling lenses.

    • Hedremp profile image

      Sandra Wilson 5 years ago from Wilson Education Resource Centre

      I love combining photography for learning and your lens does it beautifully!

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 5 years ago from So Cal

      One of the most amazing places to visit is the Arizona Sonora Museum you highlighted here. If like me, wandering in the desert is a health issue, the Museum is a small sampling of all the desert has to offer and it is more than kid friendly. Great lens.

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 5 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      A wonderful lens. I've seen many desert areas but just a small part of this dessert. I'd love to see it in the springtime.

    • eclecticeducati1 profile image

      eclecticeducati1 6 years ago

      This is great! Thanks. I hope to use this with my little guy. Blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Lanley 6 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      You just got a "Lucky Leprechaun Blessing" from a SquidAngel who really loves your lens. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

    • LadyFlashman profile image

      LadyFlashman 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      I have just been doing conservation work in the Sonora Desert, it was so beautiful. This is a great lens with lots of fantastic information that I will explore further!

    • jolou profile image

      jolou 6 years ago

      It's been quite awhile, but I've been to this area a couple of times. Really interesting place to visit.

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 6 years ago from New York

      I lived in Arizonia for a few years and the desert is amazing! There are tons of really cool places to visit too, such as the Dutchmans Mine and Jerome.

    • tandemonimom lm profile image

      tandemonimom lm 6 years ago

      You were in my neck of the woods here! Lensrolled to Tonto Natural Bridge in N. Arizona.