Sonora Desert - Spring Study
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
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
- Saguaro National Park-PDF brochures
The national park has numerous brochures that you can print out that give concise information about the Sonoran desert plants, animals, and habitat.
- Sonoran Desert Fact Sheets
From the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Fact sheets for: People of the Desert Animals Plants
- Endangered Animals of the Sonoran Desert
Coloring pages and information.
Cactus - Saguaro National Park
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.
The rocks, plants, animals, and people of the desert are pictured and described on this site. This site includes maps.
- Center for Sonoran Desert Study
This page has information about different biomes along with photos.
- What's It Like Where You Live?
This website has information about desert plants that we enjoyed reading.
- Sonoran Desert plant and animal fact sheets
This page from the Sonoran Desert Museum has a whole list of animals and plants to learn about. Each animal or plant has its own fact sheet and many of the animals include a link to hear how the animal sounds. We love this page!
- Sonoran Desert from BluePlanet.com
Another wonderful resource for desert information.
Saguaro National Park - Bird Watching
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
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.
- Image Library at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum
Animals, plants, minerals, biotic communities
More Sonoran Desert Books for Children
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.
- Arizona Sonora Desert Museum
From their website: "The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a world-renowned zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden, all in one place! Exhibits re-create the natural landscape of the Sonoran Desert Region so realistically you find yourself eye
- Colossal Cave Mountain Park
The tour route is a half mile long and takes about 45-50 minutes to complete. As your guide relates the Cave's history, legends, and geology, you walk down and back up about six and a half stories and see beautiful cave formations like stalactites, s
- Mt. Lemmon Scenic Drive
This drive takes you from the desert floor to a little over 9,000 feet. The views are fantastic, the rock formations are incredible, and it is a very refreshing 27 mile drive. Take a picnic to eat at any one of the many picnic areas along the way. Th
- Joshua Tree National Park
This is not in the Sonoran Desert but it is on the border of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts. If this is closer to your home, I highly recommend a visit to the Visitor's Center at 29 Palms.
- The Living Desert Museum
This museum is not strictly about the Sonoran Desert but it does have loads of information about Sonoran Desert animals and plants. There is a complete outdoor garden dedicated to the Sonoran Desert. I highly recommend this "museum" to those that l
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.