Saturday, February 10, 2007

These Times They Are A Changin'

My faithful readers (all 3 of you) and students know well that I teach a course that focuses on teaching science and social studies. It is called Integrated Curriculum Methods because I want students to think about the curriculum as a whole and connected piece, not discrete little units that never relate to one another. Wherever possible we look at the ways these subjects relate to English and math, but more importantly, to each other. One way I do this is through leading professional development workshops using Project WILD, Project Learning Tree (PLT) and Population Connection. I also have the Virginia Farm Bureau folks come in and lead a workshop on Agriculture in the Classroom.

One common theme that connects all these programs is change. In science, one way we explore change is to look at the ways in which humans have changed the natural world. In social studies, we look at differences between past and present and compare changes in community life over time. There are many books that look at change over time, and most of them integrate the science and social studies aspects of this change. Here are some of the titles I like to use.

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton - The classic tale of a house in the country slowly taken over by urbanization has a message that still rings true today.

A River Ran Wild: An Environmental History - Follow the evolution of the Nashua river, from earliest days, through times when only Native Peoples lived on the land, to colonial settlement and on through today. Though the river is damaged, an important message that we have the power to make things right is delivered.

New Providence: A Changing Cityscape by Renata von Tscharner and Ronald Lee Fleming - This picture book documents the physical evolution of a typical small American city between 1910 and 1987.

Heron Street by Ann Turner - This books documents what happens over the centuries as people settle near the marsh by the sea, and herons and other animals are displaced.

Two wordless picture books by Jeannie Baker.
  • Home - When a new baby arrives home, the view outside her window is not a pleasant one. As she grows, the beauty of the urban area is reclaimed.
  • Window - Each year as a young boy grows, the view outside his window changes, from one of the countryside to one with housing developments and the golden arches.
Shaker Lane by Alice and Martin Provensen - This books tells the story of a depressed rural area that is slowly taken over by suburban development. When land developers arrive and build a reservoir, the poor must move out to make way for new, middle class housing.

Hudson: A Story of a River by Robert C. Baron - Akin to Cherry's book on the Nashua river, this book follows the life of the Hudson river.

Where Once There Was a Wood by Denise Fleming - In beautiful cut paper collage, the author introduces the animals that live in an area, and are then displaced by a housing development. The book concludes with suggestions for creating backyard habitats and directions for establishing butterfly and hummingbird gardens.

What Ever Happened to the Baxter Place by Pat Ross - Watch what happens as a farm family sells their land piece by piece and urbanization creeps farther and farther into the country.

There are many other ways to look at change in science. The seasons and life cycles are two topics I will tackle a bit later. The books above are just a representation of those that help bridge the gap between science and social studies and allow us to look at change both historically and environmentally.


  1. A great booklist--thanks!

  2. Thanks again for a fine list of books that can be used in science and social studies. You've included a few titles I've never heard of.

    Here are a three more "river" stories:

    Jane Yolen's LETTING SWIFT RIVER GO, which was illustrated by Barbara Cooney. The picture book tells about the flooding of the valley called Swift River--and the towns situated in the valley--in Massachusetts to make the Quabbin Reservoir.

    RIVER, which was written and illustrated by Debby Atwell. The book has a spare text. Most of the changes to the river's environment are shown through Atwell's paintings, which are done in a folk art style.

    Diane Siebert's book-length poem entitled MISSISSIPPI, in which the river tells its own story from the end of the last ice age to the present day.

    Just two more books:

    EVERGLADES, written by Jean Craighead George and illustrated by Wendell Minor, in which a guide tells children about the history and evolution of the Florida Everglades.

    I used to read my students Bruce Hiscock's book THE BIG TREE when we did a unit of study on trees and soils. In the book, Hiscock shows the growth of a sugar maple tree from 1775 to the last decade of the 20th century. The book includes a timeline that illustrates the changes in the tree and the different methods of transportation people used through the years.

  3. Hi Elaine,
    Thanks for the titles. I love Letting Swift River Go, but have never owned it, so it didn't cross my mind. I always feel sad when I read the part where she is on the water remembering where her school and other buildings once were.
    I will definitely look for the Hiscock book. It sounds like it will fit perfectly with the PLT books.
    Have a good weekend!

  4. Wow -- what a thought-invoking blog. I stumbled acrossed it one day & was intrigued by the name, since Miss Rumphius is one of my all-time favorite books. I've been in a time warp as I've read your posts. This is a wonderful annotated list & I look forward to sharing it with other teachers. Thanks!

    BTW -- I didn't know people in Virgina played Euchre. I thought that was only a Midwest game!(And another favorite thing of mine.)


  5. Hi Ruth,
    Thanks for writing! I grew up in western New York, so that's where I learned to play euchre. The only folks I know here who play are from Ohio!
    Please do share the site with other teachers. I'd love their input.

  6. These are great titles. I also like "A Street Through Time: A 12,000 Year Walk Through History" by Anne Millard. It was published by DK and they always have such great graphics!

    There was also a picture book back in the 1990s about a town in Australia through the ages...the title escapes me at the moment. Does anyone know that one?

    La Liseuse

  7. hi,
    thanks for mentioning Lynne Cherry's book A River Ran Wild. Have you seen her new book How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate: Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming?

    It's not a depressing scary book-- it's about science and climate solutions and it's really empowering with lots of ideas about how to teach kids about climate change through citizen science projects like looking at butterfly and bird migration or plant growth or recording seasonal change.

    And at the end it has a pie chart of how to reduce your carbon footprint.

    Did you know that Lynne Cherry is making a movie now on kids who are doing something about global warming? You can follow the progress of her making her movie at


  8. Wow what an amazing blog! I am also a big fan of Miss Rumphius! I'm taking methods classes right now and just the other day my Social Education Methods professor read The Little House to us followed by an activity where we created a town. I'm looking for storybooks that can be used to teach social studies and the list of books you provided looks wonderful! Thanks for sharing.