Nursery/Preschool/Kindergarten Thematic Unit Day 2: Water is In Us and All Around Us

Day Two: Water is in us and all around us

Creation Story: Turtle Island

Origin: Ojibway/Anishinabe

Circle Time: Talk to the children about the phrase, “Water is in us and all around us,” and ask them to think about what that means. Remind them that yesterday (or the previous lesson on water) they were asked to look around their house and see how water is used (cooking, washing, flush toilet, brush teeth). Today in the talking circle they will be asked to talk about how they used water since the last time they were in class. Pass around the “talking rock or feather”. For the next circle time, ask the children to think about how much water is used in their household.

Background information: Traditional Aboriginal Belief systems believe that the turtle gave his life in order to give life to the “Earth's second people” (Muskrat’s Den, 2004). Since the muskrat helped make land, it has been rewarded with a pleasant life. However, the muskrat’s life has been threatened by environmentally devastating occurrences (draining marshes and destroying the muskrats’ homes), which it has overcome, continuing to survive and multiply. It is believed that the muskrats continue to remember the great flood expressed in the following story through their homes which take the form of the little ball of Earth which the Island was created from (Muskrat’s Den, 2004).

Turtle Island

Long ago, after the Great Mystery, or Kitchi-Manitou, first peopled the earth, the Anishinabe, or Original People, strayed from their harmonious ways and began to argue and fight with one another. Brother turned against brother and soon the Anishinabe were killing one another over hunting grounds and others disagreements. Seeing that harmony, brotherhood, sisterhood, and respect for all living things no longer prevailed on Earth, Kitchi-Manitou decided to purify the Earth. He did this with water.

The water came in the form of a great flood, or mush-ko'-be-wun', upon the Earth destroying the Anishinabe people and most of the animals as well. Only Nanaboozhoo, the central figure in many of the Anishinabe oral traditions, was able to survive the flood, along with a few animals and birds who managed to swim and fly. Nanaboozhoo floated on a huge log searching for land, but none was to be found as the Earth was now covered by the great flood. Nanaboozhoo allowed the remaining animals and birds to take turns resting on the log as well. Finally, Nanaboozhoo spoke.

"I am going to do something," he said. "I am going to swim to the bottom of this water and grab a handful of earth. With this small bit of Earth, I believe we can create a new land for us to live on with the help of the Four Winds and Kitchi-Manitou."

So Nanaboozhoo dived into the water and was gone for a long time. Finally, he surfaced and, short of breath, told the animals that the water is too deep for him to swim to the bottom. All were silent. Finally, Mahng, the Loon spoke up. "I can dive under the water for a long way, that is how I catch my food. I will try to make it to the bottom and return with some Earth in my beak."

The Loon disappeared and was gone for a very long time. Surely, thought the others, the Loon must have drowned. Then they saw him float to the surface, weak and nearly unconscious. "I couldn't make it, there must be no bottom to this water," he gasped. Then Zhing-gi-biss, the helldiver came forward and said "I will try next, everyone knows I can dive great distances." So the helldiver went under. Again, a very long time passed and the others thought he was surely drowned. At last he too floated to the surface. He was unconscious, and not till he came to could he relate to the others that he too was unable to fetch the Earth from the bottom.

Many more animals tried but failed, including “Zhon-gwayzh”, the mink, and even “Mizhee-kay", the turtle. All failed and it seemed as though there was no way to get the much needed Earth from the bottom. Then a soft muffled voice was heard. "I can do it," it spoke softly. At first no one could see who it was that spoke up. Then, the little Wa-zhushk, muskrat stepped forward. "I'll try," he repeated. Some of the other, bigger, more powerful animals laughed at muskrat. Nanaboozhoo spoke up. "Only Kitchi-Manitou can place judgment on others. If muskrat wants to try, he should be allowed to."

So, muskrat dove into the water. He was gone much longer than any of the others who tried to reach the bottom. After a while Nanaboozhoo and the other animals were certain that muskrat had given his life trying to reach the bottom. Far below the water's surface, Muskrat had, in fact, reached the bottom. Very weak from lack of air, he grabbed some Earth in his paw and with all the energy he could muster began to swim for the surface. One of the animals spotted Muskrat as he floated to the surface. Nanaboozhoo pulled him up onto the log. "Brothers and sisters," Nanaboozhoo said, "Muskrat went too long without air, he is dead." A song of mourning and praise was heard across the water as Muskrat's spirit passed on to the spirit world. Suddenly Nanaboozhoo exclaimed, "Look, there is something in his paw!"

Nanaboozhoo carefully opened the tiny paw. All the animals gathered close to see what was held so tightly there. Muskrat's paw opened and revealed a small ball of Earth. The animals all shouted with joy. Muskrat sacrificed his life so that life on Earth could begin anew. Nanaboozhoo took the piece of Earth from Muskrat's paw. Just then, the turtle swam forward and said, "Use my back to bear the weight of this piece of Earth. With the help of Kitchi-Manitou, we can make a new Earth." Nanaboozhoo put the piece of Earth on the turtle's back. Suddenly, the wind blew from each of the Four Directions. The tiny piece of Earth on the turtle's back began to grow. It grew and grew and grew until it formed a “mi-ni-si”, or island, in the water. The island grew larger and larger, but still the turtle bore the weight of the Earth on his back. Nanaboozhoo and the animals all sang and danced in a widening circle on the growing island. After a while, the Four Winds ceased to blow and the waters became still. A huge island sat in the middle of the water, and today that island is known as North America (Muskrat’s Den, 2004).


Muskrat’s Den. (2004). How Muskrat Created the World. Retrieved from

Activities/Learning Station

1) Messy Table Activity: Mud on a Turtle’s Back


  • Blue construction paper (8 ½” x 11”)
  • Green Playdough
  • Brown Playdough
  • Small paper plates
  • Various textures and texture makers:
    • Screen
    • Sandpaper
    • Popsicle sticks
    • Straws
    • Rocks
    • Buttons
    • Etc..


  1. Give each child a piece of blue construction paper with an outline of a turtle on each piece.
  2. Have the children take the green Playdough and spread it across the outline of the turtle.
  3. Tell the children to make sure they are spreading the Playdough to cover all parts of the turtle. Ask them to experiment with various textures on the back of the turtle using various textures and texture makers.
  4. Once their turtle is completely covered with the green Playdough give them a much smaller portion of brown Playdough and ask them to spread the earth onto the turtle’s back.

Variations: To make this activity a bit messier and a bit more enjoyable for the children who like to get dirty, substitute the brown Playdough with real mud. Get dirt from outside (bought soil is runnier and not really muddy) and mix up little mud balls to give each child to put on their turtle’s back.

2) Cut and Colour Table Activity: Water Experiment


  • 4 Glasses
  • Water
  • Pieces of paper with four glasses of water drawn on them
  • Crayons: browns, greens, blues, yellows, oranges etc...
  • Various coloured construction paper (8 1/2 x 11)


  1. Water can come in a variety of different colours
  2. Have the children brainstorm about different colours of water they have seen. 
  3. Explain that sometimes water looks blue because it reflects/mirrors the colour of the sky.
  4. Discuss why the water would be different colours.
  5. Have four clear glasses of water where the children can see clearly.
  6. With the first glass of water, place a blue piece of paper behind it, tell the children to imagine the paper is the sky, ask them what colour the water in the first glass appears to be.
  7. In the second glass put some soil in the water, be sure to stir the water and mud mixture.
  8. Ask the children what colour the water is.
  9. In the third glass of water place a few drops of green dye, explain how a small plant like algae is green and sometimes turns the water green.
  10. In the forth glass spill soil, green dye and place a blue piece of paper behind it.
  11. Talk to the children about pollution in water.
  12. Ask them what colour the water is in the fourth glass.
  13. Hand out the colouring sheet with four glasses on it.
  14. Before starting to colour have students brainstorm about the different colours of water they have seen and to speculate how the water got to be the colour it did.
  15. Have the children colour in the glasses of water.
  16. Once the glasses of water are coloured, have the children cut out the glasses and paste them on the construction paper.

Extra Activity: Water is something that is within and all around us. Water is very much a part of our everyday lives. Have the children drink as much water as they can stomach. Ask them to notice if their belly makes “water sounds”. Ask them to notice if they have to go to the bathroom once they drank the water, thus making room for more water. Our blood is a liquid and many liquids are made up of water. Sometimes when we go to the hospital we may have an IV hooked up to us. That is when saline, which is salt water, is put directly into our vein. The saline IV gives us valuable liquid to replenish our bodies. Ask the children what kind of salty water comes out of their bodies. (i.e. tears).

3) Creative Art Activity: Turtle Craft

This Activity can be found at: Turtle Craft. Retrieved from:


  • Turtle templates
  • Coloured paper
  • Paper plates
  • Scissors
  • Crayons
  • Glue Optional Materials
  • Buttons
  • Yarn
  • Google eyes


  1. Young children will have fun making an easy and fun craft of a turtle assembled with shapes (circles, triangles, and ovals).
  2. Easy Shapes Turtle Craft is made by using the provided templates (see appendix) for the turtle, have the children cut and paste to assemble a turtle.
  3. The first template can be substituted for a paper plate. The images can be photocopied on coloured paper. Remind the children about the story about North America being built on the back of a turtle.


  • Glue yarn around the big circle and line outline
  • Add wiggly eyes
  • Glue other items to decorate shell, such as buttons (those tortoise coloured ones are great).
  • Instead of triangle shapes, use a variety of shapes to decorate the turtle's body.

4) Physical Play Activity: On Turtle’s Back Poem

On Turtle’s Back

On Turtle’s Back

On Turtle’s Back

Seeing what we can see

On Turtle’s Back

On Turtle’s Back

That’s where you’ll find me

On Turtle’s Back

On Turtle’s Back

Floating across the sea

On Turtle’s Back

On Turtle’s Back

A new land meant to be

Turtle Island.


  • Physical space to run and jump
  • Imagination.


  1. Have children form a circle holding hands and then begin singing this rhyme in the tune of “Ring Around the Rosie.” Children will be rotating the circle in a clockwise manner.
  2. When the children get to the last line, “Turtle Island”, have them break the circle and sit in the centre of the circle.
  3. This song and activity can be done several times and it can be sung throughout the Water Spirit Unit.

Variations: A participant could be in the middle of the circle representing the turtle and he can pick a loon, muskrat and other animals that have sat on the turtle’s back.

Oral Language: Read Original Poem “Turtle Island” to the children. (Found above).

Directions: 1) Have the poem written on large chart paper or on the white or black board. Have children chanting or singing it to the tune of “Ring Around the Rosie,” discuss with children what some actions could be to go with the poem/song. 2) Point at each of the words, show the students the repetition of the words “On Turtle’s Back.”

5) Extra Activity: Crystal Rock Garden

Background Information: Re-read the last paragraph of “Turtle Island” to your students, and explain to your students that as a class you are going to do an activity where we can see rocks grow with the help of water. This activity will teach your students how actual rock crystals develop (like the rock crystals found in geodes).

This Activity and Image is from: Family Fun. (2008). Crystal Rock Garden. 

rock garden


  • 1 Fish Bowl
  • Alum
  • Boiled Water
  • Rocks and Pebbles


  1. Bring 1/2 cup of water to a boil.
  2. Add 2 ounces of alum (found in the canning or spice sections of supermarkets), stirring until the alum is dissolved.
  3. Pour the solution into a clear glass bowl half filled with assorted clean rocks and pebbles.
  4. Within hours you should be able to see alum crystals forming as glasslike squares.
  5. Within several days you should have a number of crystals to look at.
    • NOTE: Geodes and many other rock crystals were formed the same way, when water saturated with minerals seeped into spaces in rocks. When the liquid evaporated, the crystals were left behind.

6) Extra Activity: Bird Feeder

We learned to be patient observers like the owl. We learned cleverness from the crow, and courage from the jay, who will attack an owl ten times its size to drive it off its territory. But above all of them ranked the chickadee because of its indomitable spirit. — Tom Brown, Jr., The Tracker

Background Information: Discuss with your students the different birds that were in both creation stories. In the first creation story that was read to the class, “The Origin of Earth,” there were lots of birds, namely an Eagle and a Dove. In the second creation story, “Turtle Island,” there was loon. Ask your students some questions about birds. Like:

  • What birds live by the school?
  • Do birds need water to survive?
  • What is their favourite type of bird?

Tell your students that everyone in the class gets to make their own birdfeeder, and then hang them in a certain area outside where the students can see them from the classroom. Then the students can see what birds come to visit their school, and discuss how the creation stories said birds were here before man or animals, when there was only water and no land.

This Activity is from: Oliveri, D. (2007). Bird Feeder.


  • Pine Cones
  • Peanut Butter
  • Butter Knife
  • Spoon or Popsicle sticks (for spreading the peanut butter)
  • Bird seed
  • Sewing thread or long strand of yarn


  1. Tie string around your pine cone (long enough to hang from a tree branch or wherever you plan to hang it).
  2. Spread peanut butter over pine cone.
  3. Roll peanut butter covered pine cone in bird seed.
  4. Hang somewhere children can watch as birds eat the birdseed from their new feeder.

Snack Time Ideas

1) Snack: Turtles Sweet


  • Vanilla wafers
  • (Green) frosting
  • Shelled pecans
  • Green gumdrops


  1. Frost underside of 1 wafer, Place 2 pecan halves on each side of wafer.
  2. Add 1 green gumdrop for head.
  3. Add 2nd wafer to make top (shell)

2) Snack: Turtles Healthy


  • Two vegetable round crackers
  • Green olives
  • Cheese Whiz spread
  • Thinly sliced celery about 4 cm in length and 1 cm in width
  • One very thin slice of celery 6 cm long (for the tail and neck).


  1.  Spread Cheese Whiz on one of the crackers.
  2. Then place the two smaller celery slices across to be the legs and place the longer celery to be the tail and neck.
  3. Place the green olive on one end of the celery to be the head.
  4. Then spread cheese on the second cracker and place on top
  5. Play with your healthy turtle and then eat it!