Mrs. Vaage's Kindergarten
Inquiry into Franklin the Turtle

We had turtles everywhere!

This kindergarten class loved Franklin the Turtle stories, written by Paulette Bourgeois and illustrated by Brenda Clark. I asked them if they would like to do a Franklin project, and the ideas started flowing. They wanted to know about turtles, about the author & illustrator, they wanted to draw Franklin, make his habitat... The ideas seemed endless.

The Provocations

My first provocation was to provide books - as many of the Franklin Series I could find, as well as informational texts and other fiction books about turtles:


The second provocation was to stimulate curiousity as to what species of turtle Franklin was modeled after. Was it real? Was it a turtle who actually lived in Canada? I found these photos on the Internet and printed them on my color printer on photo paper with their species name.


The third provocation was to provide real materials and various manipulatives for the children to begin to explore with hands-on materials to try and get to know the habitat in Canada for many of the Franklin characters, to begin to separate the real from the fiction.

Nearly all of the stuffed Franklin toys were available for dramatic play, retellings, and creativity.


The Inquiry

Almost every Franklin story printed was available in the classroom. We had read-aloud's and independent browsing throughout the day. One of the questions asked was - do we have all of the Franklin books that were written?

We began to chart the books we read aloud to see how many books we did have, and how many times they were requested for the read-aloud. The chart shows the different stories we've read. If the title has a check mark behind it, that means we've read it a second, or third, or fourth time. When we went through our tub of Franklin books, we realized that we still have even more Franklin books to read! Paulette Bourgeois has created such wonderful stories to keep us interested for a very long time!

*From a teacher's point of view, I provided the books, and the children provided the interest. Every day, one child has a turn to choose a "Child-Selected Story" to be read to the class. We have had 156 days of school at this moment, and 43 of the 156 days, children have selected a Franklin story. That is 28%, which is an incredible figure!

The learning that can evolve from Franklin stories is profound. Life messages, Canadian animals, problem solving, social skill issues, habitats, and so on.

Characters in Franklin Stories

We began to notice when we were reading the Franklin stories that not all of the characters were in every story. One of the children said, "Hey, we should make a list!" They decided that we would write down all of the stories that we had in our classroom, and then make a way to check if they are in the book. This gave me the opportunity to introduce the words columns and rows to help describe their intent. Here are their results. The first picture shows that we had to use an enormous paper to record everything needed - so this was off our huge rolls of paper. The second chart is a close up. Thanks to one of the parents who worked with the class to create this!

Clay Turtles

Carly's Grandma, Elaine and her friend Annie, came into the kindergarten to help the children work with clay. They, of course, wanted to make turtles! Here is a sampling of photos to show the process of learning and creating.

dropping the clay to flatten bottom

forming it into a round shape


making it longer


rolling it round between your palms


make two balls - one big, one small


drop it to flatten bottom


letting it drop


making designs for turtle shell

sticks work good for indents


the surprise chocolate "Turtles" when the work of creating was completed!


 Kid Pix Computer Art

Franklin's House

As part of integrating technology into our inquiry, we explored using KidPix software to create original designs for Franklin's house. As creative as these images are, the children began to ask to make a more realistic house that they could actually be inside. So our inquiry led to another phase.





















Franklin's House Project

When the children began to problem solve about how they could actually make a house, like Franklin's it became evident that they would need a lot of cardboard. They wrote letters to their parents to ask for their help in collecting large boxes that could be used. It took a couple of weeks to get enough to begin the project. Here is a list of the details they wanted to add to make the house realistic.

Franklin's House Construction

We had collected enough cardboard, when one of the dads came in as a parent helper. When he asked what I'd like him to help with, I asked him if he'd be comfortable helping us begin our house construction. He agreed and began to sketch a plan, which involved cutting triangular pieces, much like segmenting half an orange. It turns out he was an engineer, so we all learned a great deal about semi-spheres that day.





Franklin's house all decorated for Valentine's Day!


Turtle Research


A turtle shell artifact from the Provincial Museum.

Chloe holding the turtle shell.


Here are some types of turtles we found in our research.


Black Sea Turtle

Desert Tortoise


Common Mud Turtle

Diamondback Terrapin


Green Sea Turtle

Leatherback Turtle

Atlantic Ridley Turtle

Box Turtle


Painted Turtle

Spotted Turtle


Snapping Turtle

North American Wood Turtle


Our kindergarten decided that Franklin must be based on the North American Wood Turtle. First of all, it is found in areas of Ontario, and that is where both Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark live. Secondly, the North American Wood Turtle lives near the woods and water ponds, just like Franklin and his friends.


Turtle Trivia

The more that we read informational texts, the more the students began to realize inconsistencies from Franklin book activities and what real animals/turtles could do. Here are some of the fascinating facts that the kindergarteners discovered.


Did you know that a turtle's bones are fused to the shell? 

It would be impossible for a real turtle to crawl out of his shell, like Franklin does.

Did you know that turtles hatch from eggs that have been buried in the sand or ground by the mother?

Harriet would not have been born in a hospital in real life.

Did you know that only 1 in 1,000 baby sea turtles makes it adulthood?

There are many predators (birds, crabs) and enemies (people intruding on their habitat), and pollution (toxins, plastics) that can all hurt the turtles.

Did you know that people like to eat Green Sea Turtles?

They make a special soup from the Green Sea Turtle. Now this turtle is endangered.

Did you know that sea turtles migrate?

Some sea turtles swim hundreds of miles from feeding areas to nesting areas.

Did you know that Leatherback Turtles can be found in every ocean around the world?

Did you know that the Sea Turtles were common in the Cretaceous period of 130 million years ago?

Did you know that the Leatherback Turtle can be up to 2 meters in length?

Parts of a Turtle

Carapace - the top shell

Plastron - the bottom shell

Scutes - the scales over the top and bottom shells

Neck - the turtle can fold his neck in an S shape under his shell, but the sea turtle cannot

Nostrils - near the top of the turtle's head so it won't have to stick its head out far of the water to breathe

Beak - a turtle has no teeth, but the beak can catch, hold and slice food


One of the key questions from my children was why are there no books written that we can read all by ourselves?

So I wrote one predictable story 'Baby Turtles' that I printed off on card stock. Here is the link to that.

Myrtle the Turtle

The highlight of our Franklin inquiry was when our teaching assistant brought her pet Myrtle to class. We had learned that turtles sometimes carried salmonella, so we discussed what precautions should be taken. We used a mat that could be sterilized after the visit, and children who wanted to touch the turtle would wear protective gloves.

Questions were generated by Myrtle's visit, that led to a much longer inquiry. Unfortunately, one of the best parts of this project, did not get photographed.

The class decided they wanted to know what it felt like to be a turtle - to look out the front of a shell encased body.

They chose the Leatherback turtle because of its huge size. We used cardboard again, to build a 'replica' of the leatherback. From front flipper to front flipper it measured approximately 9' across. The mouth was the only opening to get inside.

Often during the kindergarten day, I'd glance over and see one of the children, lying inside, with just the front part of their face showing, their bodies back inside the leatherhead. They'd be role playing, with their eyes looking left, right, and their mouths opening. Sometimes they'd have their arms out front and be making swimming motions.

This huge construction along with the Franklin house, remained part of our classroom till the end of the year. We had a draw (parental consent required) for the Franklin house to go home with one of the children. However, the turtle, was carried out by the entire class to the cardboard recycle bin, with a fond farewell celebration.

(my note: This was a regular sized classroom, so space was at a premium. The children seemed not to notice the space restrictions, just the teacher... The parents encouraged me to dispose of them after a while, but I honored the children's connection to the investment of themselves and their ownership to the Franklin house and the leatherback turtle.)