Five in a Row Volume 4 – The Raft

Rowing The Raft.. 

The Raft is up there with some of my favourite Five in a Row studies.  It is an absolutely beautiful book with a heart-warming story that we all loved.  The themes for this row fit perfectly for Summer nature study and tied in beautifully with our deep appreciation for the river near our home.  I was in awe of the captivating art done by author, Jim LaMarche.   Absolutely breath-taking!

This was a 2-week row (unit study).

Photographs from The Raft by Jim LaMarche

Some of the topics we covered for our row of The Raft, included:

  • Social Studies – geography and history of the Wisconsin woods and the state of Wisconsin, the Great Lakes region of Southern Ontario and the Northern States
  • Language Arts – Looking at opening sentences: what makes a good opening sentence?, Where do stories come from? discussion, Creative Imagining and Writing, Vocabulary.
  • Art – Learning to draw (we used Draw Write Now and other online step-by-step ideas), Seeing in Art (sketching in nature journals), Palette and Medium (a look at warm/cool colours), Contrasting Views to Illustrate Text (plus a project to illustrate this), and Building a Raft.
  • Science – Zoology: Badgers and Muskrats, Fishing, seeing underwater, Botany (Conifers and Deciduous Trees), North Woods and Lake Wildlife, Rivers and Creeks,  the water cycle, Classification of Animals.

Resources for our row of The Raft

We really love adding tons of books to our rows.  The kids particularly loved The Adventures of Jerry Muskrat.

Opening Sentences

I loved this activity because it really inspired critical thinking.  We also got to revisit many of our favourite Five in a Row titles (aren’t all the titles my, ‘favourite’?).  For this activity we were discussing the opening sentence of The Raft.  I thought it would be neat to get out our FIAR titles and compare opening sentences.  We read together the first line of all the books photographed below and the children put them in three categories (least favourite, indifferent, most favourite).

Top left: Henry the Castaway, top right: The Finest Horse in Town, bottom left: Miss Rumphius, bottom right: The Duchess Bakes a Cake

Top left: The Bee Tree, top right: Daniel’s Duck, bottom left: Any and the Lion, bottom right: Lentil.

Here are the Five in a Row books that had the winning ‘first sentences’, according to our children:

Rivers, Creeks, and Lakes

Can you identify and explain the various parts of a river system?  We discussed river vocabulary and how watersheds work.

Creek Walk – What Makes a Healthy Creek? 

We enjoyed several creek walks/river walks throughout our row.  We are incredibly blessed to live within a five minute walk from the river you see in this post (and so many of my photographs).  We cherish this wildlife area and spend a great deal of time walking and exploring in the watershed areas around out home.

What makes a healthy creek?  Making observations and filling in the checklist from Incredible Creeks (NaturExplorer series – LOVE this series.  Click here to view more details.)

The checklists helped us identify if our creek was a healthy one.  This went along quite nicely with the nature study component of The Raft (rivers and creeks!)

Healthy creeks have a fresh smell, no garbage, and plenty of plant life – CHECK!

Healthy creeks have clear water, and lots of rocks and pebbles – CHECK!

Healthy creeks have an abundance of water critters (such as frogs, water bugs and crayfish) – CHECK!

River Scavenger Hunt: 

We also borrowed another print-out from Incredible Creeks for our River Scavenger Hunt!  (Have I mentioned how much I love the NaturExplorers stuff?!)

A sign of a human.

Deciduous and Coniferous Trees

Something floating, a fallen tree, a rock, a bend in the waterflow…

An insect!

Something decomposing, an animal out of the water, an animal on the water, a sign of an animal (tracks!)

A mushroom, a deciduous tree, a nut, wild flowers…

A bird (Canadian Geese, which are in the story!)

Seeing Underwater and Underwater Viewfinders

We didn’t get fancy with our Underwater Viewfinders.  We just used a hard plastic canister I had and was no longer using.  It worked quite well to look underwater, actually!

Making and Floating Rafts

We decided to make our rafts using simple materials – Popsicle sticks, hot glue, and some crafting twine.  Audrey chose to add designs and pictures to her like the raft in the book.

Each child designed their own raft how they thought best.

Audrey decided to decorate with markets (Sharpies) and a little fabric flag.  (Cute!)

Simon aimed more for durability than fashion, as usual…  and it paid off.  His was the only one that actually stayed in tact after our river sailing!  I love his design!

My simple design.

Once the rafts were made and the glue had died, we hopped on our bikes and headed to the river to test them out!

A Fishing Trip!

For The Raft, ‘the art of fishing’ is discussed.  Well, we’re vegetarian animal lovers and the thought of catching real fish upset us all (hehe).  So, we “fished” with unbated lines in a pond that had almost no fish (even though it is called a ‘fishing pond’.  It was a blast though, the kids loved it.  We also brought a little snack with us and made it a ‘picnic’.

Guess what we found?  Some Muskrat tracks!  And, lots of frogs!

What’s a fishing trip without Mom falling COMPLETELY in the pond water?  *sigh*  Some great little memories though…

One of our favourite Summer snacks/treats – frozen juice box slushies!

Creating ‘Cave Art’

We used ARTistic Pursuits (Book 1 for Elementary K-3).  We read about cave art and did a simple project using brown packing paper and pastels.  This is to mimic the style of art found on the raft in The Raft.  The kids loved this project!

For Art, we also compared Jim LaMarche’s art in both Five in a Row Volume 4 titles – The Raft and Albert-

A Recipe for The Raft – Cornbread!

We love Cornbread, so as soon as I heard the Grandma in the story refer to Cornbread, I knew we had to make some.  We love this Vegan recipe right here.

Notebooking for The Raft:

We use Draw Write Now in combination with Five in a Row all the time.

Notebooking with oral and written Narration – 

For our written/oral narrations, we learned about the Water Cycle.  The children read from a couple great Science and living books, then they reproduced what they had learned using this print out from Notebookingpages.com.
The idea is to learn the concept then explain it on their own, in their own words. 

Audrey’s written narration

Simon’s written narration (he preferred to do point form)

Alex did his narration orally, I copied it down for him.


How to draw an American Badger
How to draw a Badger (another option)
Badger Printables
Draw a Muskrat
The NaturExplorers Series

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