Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Science Poetry Pairings - All Things Science

Alas, it is the 30th of April and National Poetry Month is coming to a close. I've enjoyed pulling books from my shelves and sharing them with you. Originally my intent was to tackle a subject area each week, but when I realized that I had more science than I knew what to do with, I decided to stick with a theme that is near and dear to my heart.

Today I'm going to share the Poetry Friday Anthology for Science and some final ideas about authors and books every teacher should have in his/her classroom, or should at least know about. If you haven't made friends with your school or local children's librarian, please do! Librarians are invaluable resources in helping you find good books for instruction.

Poetry Book
The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science, compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, is a collection of 218 poems by 78 different poets. In the acknowledgements (p. 303) the authors have this to say about science and poetry.
... For generations, poets have been observing nature, exploring the physical world, and asking questions about the universe. 
It shouldn't be surprising that poetry has a lot to offer the sciences. In fact, astrophysicist Adam Frank revealed, "Poems and poetry are, for me, a deep form of knowing, just like science . . . each, in its way, is a way to understand the world." Poets and scientists both seek to observe, explain, and understand the world around them.
You'll find 36 weeks of poems for every grade from K-5. That's means there are 216 grade level poems, bookended by opening and closing poems for everyone. Every grade level poem is accompanied by a Take 5! box containing teaching tips and ideas. Here's an example.
Imagine Small
by Eileen Spinelli
Imagine something very small:
a rubber duck, a ping-pong ball.
Imagine something smaller yet:
a pebble or a violet.
Go smaller now: a silver bead,
a baby's tooth, a pumpkin seed.
Keep going—
freckle, flea, or gnat,
a speck of dander from the cate.
Imagine that.
And then imagine this—so cool!—
a teeny-tiny molecule.
So teeny-tiny you and I
can't see it with the naked eye.
To think of it gives me a chill.
But there is something smaller still:
the atom!
Billions fit in a fleck of foam
or on the dot at the end of this poem.
Poem ©Eileen Spinelli. All rights reserved.

The Take 5! box that accompanies this poem begins with this idea.
  1. Before sharing this poem, invite students to close their eyes and imagine the smallest thing they can think of. Then read this poem aloud, pausing before each stanza for added effect.
In addition to a wealth of poems and teaching tips, you'll also find information on reading poetry aloud, building your own poetry library, children's poetry websites and blogs, websites to support science learning, a science glossary, and much more. If you haven't used poetry in teaching science before now, this is the book to get you started.

Authors and Series You Should Know
When I began teaching science in the laste 80s, my classroom library was filled with books by Patricia Lauber, Seymour Simon and Franklyn Branley. The Magic School Bus series had just been born, Eyewitness books were popping up all over, Vicki Cobb was writing fun and engaging hands-on activity books for kids, and the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science series was regularly adding new titles. 

We are fortunate today that there are MANY terrific authors and illustrators/photographers of incredible nonfiction science books for kids. I've had the pleasure of sharing many with you over the course of this month. Here are the authors I recommend to my preservice teachers, and whose books I drag with me into the elementary classrooms that are kind enough to have me. 

I wish I had time to write some words about each of these talented folks, but instead I've linked to their web sites where possible. Not wanting to show any favoritism, I've listed them alphabetically.
And here are a few series that are not to be missed. 
If I've missed a terrific author or series, please let me know so I can add them to the list.

I hope you've enjoyed exploring science and poetry with me this month. My goal is to post once a week about some other perfect pairing of poetry and nonfiction picture books. For now, however, I take my leave to grade exams and final projects as I wrap up my 20th year at the University. Thanks to everyone who's stopped by to visit this month. I've enjoyed having you.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Science Poetry Pairings - Assorted Science in Poem and Verse

When I was teaching kids on a daily basis, I began my lessons with a cartoon, a poem, or short excerpt from a book. It was a great way to "hook" kids into the ideas that would be presented while getting them interested in learning more. Cartoons from The Far Side were a staple, as were Calvin and Hobbes (there's a lot of bad science in those puppies!). I had a huge classroom library, so books weren't a problem. When we studied insects I read excerpts from James and the Giant Peach and told students their job was to determine if certain statements were true. When we studied electricity I read an excerpt from Dear Mr. Henshaw where Leigh builds an alarm system (circuit!) into his lunch box. Poetry, however, was a bit harder to come by. Sure, there was a great deal of nature poetry by some classic poets, but poetry that touched kids seemed hard to find. 

If you've been following my posts this month, you'll note that finding good science poetry is, thankfully, not so hard these days! This is definitely something to celebrate.

Today's "perfectly paired" is about books of science poems that are wide-ranging in topic, and some comprehensive books for the classroom that complement them.

Poetry Books
Spectacular Science: A Book of Poems, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Virginia Halstead, is an anthology of 15 poems that includes work by Valerie Worth, Lilian Moore, Carl Sandburg and others. Here's one of my favorite poems.

by Florence Parry Heide

Big rocks into pebbles,
pebbles into sand,
I really hold a million million rocks here in my hand.

Poem ©Florence Parry Heide. All rights reserved.

Covering topics such as rocks, snowflakes, and stars, this collection invites readers to think about science and the work that scientists do.

Scien-Trickery: Riddles in Science, written by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz, is a book of 18 riddle poems on a range of science topics. Here's an example.
The Old Switcheroo 
My father's the arc,
My mother's the sparck.
Without them you would
Be left in the dark.
Do you know the answer? Readers turn the page upside down to find it. The illustrations that accompany each riddle give visual clues if readers can't make sense of the poems.

Here's one more for you to puzzle over.
I am expressible
Only by decibel:
10 is a whisper
30 is cripser,
60, in relation,
Is normal conversation.
80 is traffic and telephones.
120? The Rolling Stones.
130 is a cannon shot!
150 is ... what?!
Poems ©J. Patrick Lewis. All rights reserved.

Back matter includes notes on the poems that explain a bit about the science of each subject.

Together there are some wonderful topic pairs that can be made using SPECTACULAR SCIENCE AND SCIEN-TRICKERY, including the poem Magnet by Valerie Worth with the poem Push Me, Pull Me by J. Patrick Lewis, as well as the poem Under the Microscope by Lee Bennett Hopkins with the poem Buggety Buggety Boo! by J. Patrick Lewis.

Science Verse, written by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith, is a collection of science poems that parody poems by Joyce Kilmer, Lewis Carroll, Ann Taylor, Robert Frost and others, as well as nursery rhymes and childhood songs. It begins:
On Wednesday in science class, Mr. Newton says, "You know, if you listen closely enough, you can hear the poetry of science in everything." 
I listen closely. On Thursday, I start hearing the poetry. In fact, I start hearing everything as a science poem. 
Mr. Newton has zapped me with a curse of SCIENCE VERSE.
I love this book because it makes reading (and singing) about science FUN and uses poetry to do it! Could there be a better way to learn about the food chain, water cycle, and more?! Here's an example
Food Chain
(Sung to the tune of I've Been Working on the Railroad)
I've been working in the food chain,
All the livelong day.
In the middle of the food chain,
I've got no time to play.
Can't you see the green plants growing?
That's energy, okay?
Consumer eats up the producer,
Predator eats prey.
Who's for lunch today?
Who's for lunch today?
Don't you just wonder, who's for lunch today?
Predator or prey.
Predator or prey.
Eat or be eaten, that's the only way.
Text and Poem ©Jon Scieszka. All rights reserved.

The book ends with our young hero waking from a dream, cured of his Science Verse. While I can't imagine any student sleeping through science class, this is one book that will surely keep a sleepy student's attention!

Nonfiction Picture Books
Smart-Opedia Junior: The Amazing Book About Everything, written by the Editors of Maple Tree Press, is the perfect book for kids who love to ask questions. The following seven chapters are divided into more than 90 topical pages:
  • Our Bodies
  • A House to Live In
  • In the City
  • History
  • A World of Plants and Animals
  • A Big, Wide World
  • The Universe
The book opens with an introduction that describes the features of the book. Beyond the information presented on each topic, readers will find these five fun additions (as described in the book).
  • Figure It Out! - Have fun with puzzles and games. Spot hidden animals, read Egyptian Hieroglyphics, make movie sound effects.
  • What About You? - You are a very special person. What are your favorite colors? What's your birthday? What was the first word you said?
  • Did You Know? - Eye-opening facts about animals, plants, people, and places add more information -- to make you even smarter.
  • Number Time! - Discover the size of a lion, how many blocks in a pyramid, and the speed of your sneeze!
  • Kids' Question - Why does the Moon change shape? How do fish breathe underwater? Why are leaves green? Find answer to real questions like these, asked by kids just like you.
Here is a sample spread showing the What About You? feature. (Click to enlarge.)
The book covers a lot of ground in 192 pages. It includes an extensive table of contents and index. It starts small with an introduction to the child's world, and then branches out to include the community and larger world. The section on Our Bodies provides a nice introduction to many of the questions kids ask about human growth and development, as well as parts of the body and illness. The section on A House to Live In can be a bit hard to follow, with some of the individual pieces seemingly unconnected. It begins by looking at the physical structure of the place ("How Do We Get Electricity, Water and Gas?" and "Who Built the House?") and then goes on to look at "One Day at Home" (lots of chronology and time-telling) and "What to Wear?", which looks at clothing and seasons. Next comes nutrition with "A Good Breakfast for Holly", and "Linked In Living Room", which looks at all the ways we use technology to keep us connected. It ends "In the Bathroom".

The next section, In the City, looks at the community and all it offers. The section on History is only 20 pages long, so the areas highlighted need to reflect the interests of readers this age. Need I say more than inventions, dinosaurs and pirates? The choices all make sense for the target audience. A World of Plants and Animals includes information about farming, domestic and wild animals, plants, habitats and life cycles. A Big, Wide World focuses on continents and the biomes found in them, as well as the people who live there. The final section, The Universe, examines space exploration, the solar system (correctly ending with Neptune and describing the dwarf planets of Pluto, Ceres, and Eris), and living in space.

The colorful cartoon drawings and simple sentences make this an appealing book for young readers. There is much here that curious kids will love.

A Really Short History of Nearly Everything, written by Bill Bryson and illustrated by Yuliya Somina and Martin Sanders, is an abridged and adapted version for kids of his bestseller, A Short History of Nearly Everything. Here's an excerpt from the Foreword.
I learned two particular things from doing this book. The first is that there isn't anything in existence—not a thing that—isn't amazing and interesting when you look into it. Whether you are talking about how the universe began from nothing, or how each one of us is made up of trillions of mindless atoms that somehow work together in agreeably coordinated fashion, or why the oceans are salty, or what happens when stars explore, or anything at all—it is all amazingly interesting. It really is. 
After the Foreword readers will find these (loosely constructed) chapters. (There are no definitive stops between sections that mark them as such in the text, only how they are organized in the Table of Contents).
  • Lost in the Cosmos
  • The Size of the Earth
  • A New Age Dawns
  • Dangerous Planet
  • Life Itself
  • The Road to Us
While the chapters vary in length, each topic in a chapter receives a double-page spread that combines lively text with illustrations and (sometimes) photos. Together, all these things combine to create a vastly understandable and engaging treatment of a range of science topics. The scientists who made many of the discovers that have helped build our understanding of phenomena today are included, helping readers to understand that science is a human endeavor.

Here's an excerpt.
Finding Earth's age 
By the late 1700s, scientists knew very precisely the shape and dimensions of the Earth, its distance from the Sun and planets, and its weight. So you might think that working out its age would be relatively straightforward. But no! Human beings would split the atom and invent television, nylon and instant coffee before they would figure out the age of their own planet. 
After this introduction are subsections entitled Mountain-climbing shells, Neptune versus Pluto, A heaving Earth, and A new science. The side bar on the right side of the double-page spread contains this tidbit.
Geology - the study of rocks, soil, and all the materials that make up our planet, how they formed and changed—all this would transform our entire understanding of the Earth.
The final chapter, The Road to Us, ends with the sections Humans take over, What now?, and Goodbye. Here is an excerpt.
I mention all this to make the point that if you were designing an organism to look after life in our lonely cosmos, to monitor where it is going and keep of record of where it has been, you wouldn't choose human beings for the job.
The best there is
However, we have been chosen—by fate or providence, or whatever you wish to call it. As far as we can tell, we are the best there is. We may be all there is. It's an unnerving thought that we may be the living universe's supreme achievement and its worst nightmare at one and the same time.
The fact is, we don't have any real idea how our present actions will affect the future. What we do know is that we have just one planet to inhabit, and we are the only species on it capable of deciding its future.
Text ©Bill Bryson. All rights reserved.

Bryson doesn't shy away from controversy in this book. He tackles the topics of age of the Earth and the theory of evolution and addresses them directly without any waffling. If you teach in Kansas, Texas, or a state in the midwest in which these ideas are controversial, this may not be the book for your classroom. However, if you're willing to share just pieces, you won't be disappointed. Bryson's gift for storytelling and making difficult science understandable will most certainly spark the interests of your students.

Additional Resources
I'll wrap today's post up with links to a few (not all!) of my favorite science sites. (Please note that as much as I like BrainPop, it's not free. You'll only find free resources listed below.)
  • Ology is the science web site for kids sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History. Kids can explore all areas of science here, including astronomy, dinosaurs, genetics marine biology, and more. 
  • TryScience is a site with resources for kids, parents, and educators that encourages active engagement with science concepts and ideas. Connected to more than 400 science centers worldwide, TryScience invites kids to investigate, discover, and try science themselves.
  • The Exploratorium is a museum of science, art, and human perception located in San Francisco, California. The Explore, Play, Discover section has all kinds of great science-related topics to investigate.
  • Chem4Kids is a terrific introduction to chemistry, providing information on matter, atoms, elements, the periodic table, reactions, and biochemistry. (This is the Andrew Rader site that started it all. Since then sites have been added for Cosmos4Kids (astronomy), Geography4Kids (earth science), Biology4Kids, and Physics4Kids.)
  • The Lawrence Hall of Science kids site contains a wealth of activities on a range of science topics.
  • The Why Files is a site that explores the science behind the news. While probably not appropriate for use in most elementary classrooms, curious teachers will find all kinds of answers to their questions here.
Tomorrow I wrap up this National Poetry Month celebration with the Poetry Friday Anthology for Science and thoughts on authors you must have in your collection.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Science Poetry Pairings - Water (Again!)

When I began writing these posts I was surprised at just how many poetry books I have on the subject of water. And since I have a number of nonfiction picture books as well, one post just wasn't sufficient to share my favorites with you. That means I'm back today with a second installment on dihydrogen monoxide (H2O).

Today's book pairing is about water, the amazing liquid of life.

Poetry Book
How to Cross a Pond: Poems About Water, written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Meilo So, is one of three in a series of nature books. The trim size is small, but don't let that fool you. These little gems are filled with Meilo So's gorgeous India ink drawings on rice paper (all shades of blue in this work) and Singer's fabulous poems that in turn will make you laugh then nod and smile in agreement. Here is one of my favorites.
Fair-Weather Friend
I'm a fair-weather friend to the rain.
A week of it in April and I complain.
No talk of tulips or daisies
          will cancel my crazies.
I've no use for that showers-and-flowers refrain.

But soon, day after midsummer day,
When the sky never seems to turn gray,
I'm so tired of the haze
          and the sun's steady blaze,
I wish the rain would remember to come down
          and play!
Poem ©Marilyn Singer. All rights reserved.

Singer has deftly captured the nature of water in this collection, with 19 poems that cover water in a range of forms and places.

Nonfiction Picture Book
One Well: The Story of Water on Earth, written by Rochelle Strauss and illustrated by Rosemary Woods, tells the story of our planet's most precious resource and provides an instructive and often-times inspiring look at water. Inspiring? Absolutely. Strauss reminds us that the amount of water on Earth hasn't ever changed. Since this water has been around for billions of year, it is entirely possible that the water you drink may have "quenched the thirst of a dinosaur" more than one hundred million years ago. The double page spreads provide both informational paragraphs and short, factual boxed insets, beginning with the distribution of water on earth, the water cycle, water's essential role in life on Earth and watery habitats. From here, the author looks at how people use, need and access water. The book concludes by looking at demands on the well, pollution, and saving our water.

Here's how the book begins:
Imagine for a moment that all the water on Earth came from just one well.
This isn't as strange as it sounds. All water on Earth is connected, so there really is just one source of water--one global well--from which we all draw water.
There is much in this book that kids will connect with. The author has done a superb job using simplified ratios to help make concepts understandable. For example, in describing how much freshwater is available to meet our needs, she writes:
Most of the water on Earth is saltwater--almost 97 percent. Only 3 percent is freshwater. If a tanker truck filled with water represented all the water on Earth, then the water used to fill a large bathtub would represent all of the planet's freshwater.
Text ©Rochelle Strauss. All rights reserved.

This is precisely the kind of comparison kids need to put descriptions of such vast quantities in perspective. The author goes on to discuss how over 99 percent of this freshwater is frozen in icecaps and glaciers or otherwise unavailable, and provides an even more startling measurement to represent the freshwater we can actually access for our use.

As the book draws to a close, it might be easy to get discouraged upon realizing the fragility of the resource we depend upon for our very lives. However, the approach of the author is not heavy-handed. A final section on becoming "Well Aware" provides readers with concrete suggestions for ways that they can make a difference. The book concludes with notes to the adults (parents, guardians and teachers) who will read this book with children.

Perfect Together
Both sets of books can be used to introduce students to our most precious resource. They will not only teach readers about the importance of water, but can help move them to action in an effort to conserve it.

For additional resources, consider these sites.

Monday Poetry Stretch - Ring/Drum/Blanket

In the book I Am Writing a Poem About . . . A Game of Poetry, written by Myra Cohn Livingston, Livingston wrote about three of the assignments she gave to students in her master class in poetry at UCLA. One of the assignments was to write a poem using the words ring, drum, and blanket. What's amazing about all the examples shared is how the poets veered off in so many different directions. For example, here's the poem Kristine O'Connell George wrote.
Did You See Them?

Did you see them
late last evening,
fairy lads and lasses
dancing among the grasses?

Here are
rings of trampled grass,
acorn drums,
milkweed lutes
and honeysuckle flutes.

Here is
where they slept,
drowsy from dance,
nestled and settled
in blankets of petals.

Did you see them
as the moon was rising?
Poem ©Kristine O'Connell George. All rights reserved.

Was that where you imagined these three words going? Where do you see them taking you? Your challenge for the week is to write a poem in any form that includes the words ring, drum, and blanket. Won't you join us? Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Science Poetry Pairings - Water

The first poem I remember writing was also my first published poem. Here is my contribution to the Times-Union's version of the Mini-Page, called Young World.

Clouds turn black
weather turns cool
Clouds start to cry
in the big swimming pool

At a very young age I was quite enamored of the natural world and weather, so it seemed a natural topic to write about. Today I still read and write a great deal of poetry, much of it about the natural world.

Today's book pairing is inspired by water in all its magnificent forms.

Poetry Book
Water Can Be... , written by Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Violeta Dabija, is a book length poem that begins with spring and cycles through the four seasons looking at the importance of water. It begins:
Water is water—
it's puddle, pond, sea.
When springtime comes splashing,
the water flows free.

Water can be a. . .
Tadpole hatcher
Picture catcher
Otter feeder
Downhill speeder
The text may be economical, but it doesn't miss a beat in highlighting the important functions and characteristics of water. For example, otter feeder relates to the fact the water in rivers sustains many of the life forms that otters eat. Back matter in the book does a terrific job of explaining the meaning of each water "nickname." Here's what it says about otter feeder.
Otter feeder: A healthy river is full of fish. Lots of animals both in and out of the river rely on the river for their food. River otters love to eat fish. They'll also dine on turtles, frogs, salamanders, and crayfish.
Poem and Text ©Laura Purdie Salas. All rights reserved.

For any classroom undertaking the study of water, this is the book to begin with!

Nonfiction Picture Book
A Drop of Water: A Book of Science and Wonder, written and photographed by Walter Wick, is a stunning exploration of water in its many forms. Inspired by science books written for children more than 100 years ago, Wick was inspired to try the experiments listed and photograph them. The photographs show readers water in a way most have certainly not seen before. It opens with this excerpt from a book written in 1878.
We are going to spend an hour today in following a drop of water on its travels. If I dip my finger in this basin of water and lift if up again, I bring with it a small glistening drop out of the water below and hold it before you. Tell me, have you any idea where this drop has been? What changes it has undergone, and what work it has been doing during all the long ages water has lain on the face of the earth?
—Arabella B. Buckley, 1878
Wick carries out a number of these experiments and in doing so captures water in stop-motion and highly magnified. The text that accompanies these photos is clearly written and not only informs but encourages exploration. Here's how it begins.
Water's Smallest Parts 
A drop of water falls through the air. Down it splashes, breaking apart into tiny droplets. What would you see if you could break water into even smaller bits? 
No matter how closely you look, you can’t see water’s tiniest parts. Like every other substance in the world, water is made of very tiny particles called molecules. On the pin above, the smallest droplet contains more than three hundred trillion water molecules.
Text ©Walter Wick. All rights reserved.

Photos and text explore water's elastic surface, floating and sinking, soap bubbles and bubble shapes, moving molecules, ice, water vapor, condensation, evaporation, how clouds form, snowflakes, and much more. There is so much to learn here! Back matter includes ideas for readers to carry out their own observations and experiments.

Perfect Together
Both of these books can be used to introduce students to our most precious resource. Start with Salas' book to get kids thinking about all the ways water exists and is used in our world. then move on to Wick's book for the science behind the substance.

For additional resources, consider these sites.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Science/Social Studies Poetry Pairings - Museums

I love museums. In some of my favorites I find myself rooted to a spot in front of an exhibit that fascinates me. I wonder about the history, the happenstance, the science, and more. If I close my eyes tightly I can imagine The Met, The Field Museumand the National Museum of Natural History. I'm inspired by Tyranosaurus bones, the Hope Diamond, a hippopotamus named William, a painting by Milton Avery, a British court dress from the 18th century, and so much more. There is much to inspire us inside a museum. What museum pieces inspire you? 
Today's book pairing is about museums and how objects big and small find their way there.

Poetry Book
Behind the Museum Door: Poems to Celebrate the Wonders of Museums, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Stacey Dressen-McQueen, is a collection of 14 poems about museums and the objects found there. In it you'll find poems by Jane Yolen, Myra Cohn Livingston, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Kristine O'Connell George, Alice Schertle, J. Patrick Lewis, and more. The title of the book comes from this poem.
Behind the Museum Door
by Lee Bennett Hopkins 
What's behind the museum door?

      Ancient necklaces,
      African art,
      Armor of knights,
      A peasant cart;

      Pioneer wagons,
      Vintage cars,
      A planetarium


            with stars;

      Priceless old coins,
      A king's golden throne,
      Mummies in linen


      A dinosaur bone.
Poem ©Lee Bennett Hopkins. All rights reserved.

Here's one of my favorite poems from the book.
by Myra Cohn Livingston
This mummy lies,
Closed in death,
Red-lidded eyes,
While, underneath
The swaddled clothes
Brown arms, brown legs
Lie tight enclosed.
What miracle
If he could tell
Of other years
He knew so well;
What wonderment
To speak to me
The riddle of
His history.
Poem ©Myra Cohn Livingston. All rights reserved.

This is a terrific little collection with poems on suits of armor, a dinosaur skeleton, wheels, clay, the woolly mammoth, trilobites, and much more. 

Nonfiction Picture Book
How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum, written and illustrated by Jessie Hartland, tells the tale of how a diplodocus skeleton makes its way from the plains of Utah to the Smithsonian Nation Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.. Before the bones are found by a dinosaur hunter, Hartland describes the formation of fossils in an informative double-page spread. Using a cumulative refrain, Hartland describes all the different people who come into contact with the skeleton as it makes its way to the museum. After the dinosaur hunter readers learn how a paleontologist, excavators, movers, preparators, a curator, paleontologists, night watchman, welders, riggers, exhibits team, and cleaners all play a part. Here's an excerpt from the text.
Here are the museum's riggers,
who use cranes, hoists, and bobcats
to move, position,
and post the 15-ton,
skeleton of the diplodocus,
which was ... 
hung from the steel structure by the welders,
stumbled over by the night watchman,
put together by the preparators and paleontologists,
made complete by the curator,
assembled by the preparators,
transported by the movers,
excavated by the paleontologist,
and found in the crumbling sandstone by the dinosaur hunter.
Text ©Jessie Hartland. All rights reserved.

Back matter includes information on dinosaurs, fossils, diplodocus, the provenance of the fossil described in the story, the man behind the discovery (Earl Douglass), the paleontologist (Charles W. Gilmore), and links to dinosaur dig web sites.

Similar books by Hartland include How the Meteorite Got to the Museum and How the Sphinx Got to the Museum.

Perfect Together
What kid hasn't stood in front of a museum exhibit and wondered how it got there? Or how it was assembled, hung, or preserved? Begin by reading a few of the poems in BEHIND THE MUSEUM DOOR and ask students how they think mummies, trilobites, and dinosaur skeletons become part of a museum collection. Follow-up with one (or all three!) of Hartland's engaging, informative and accessible books.

For additional resources, consider these sites.
  • Curating an Exhibit is an interactive resource where students pick artifacts to build a museum exhibit.
  • Learn more about Diplodocus longus and the Carnegie Quarry where many have been found.
  • You can learn all about the Peekskill Meterorite, the subject of Hartland's most recent book.
  • You can also learn about the Sphinx of Hatshepsut, the subject of Hartland's first book in this series.
  • Experts at the University of Cambridge answer the question "Why do we put things into museums?".
  • The Making Museums Project is a partnership between two museums and eleven UK schools in which children follow objects through their many museum processes, from archaeological dig, to documentation, conservation and research before returning to school to make museums in their own classrooms, exploring their identities. Check out the link to teacher resources.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Science Poetry Pairings - Camouflage

When I was young I often wished for clothing that resembled the woods around my home, largely because I wanted to win at hide and seek. I so wanted to be the last person found. Blending in with one's environment can come in handy, particularly when someone wants to make a meal of you. Camouflage is nature's way of hiding animals in plain sight. While those stripes may make a tiger stand out in his/her zoo home, they allow him/her to vanish in that stand of tall grass in the wild.

Whether it's zebra stripes, a body shaped like a stick, or fur that changes color with the seasons, today's book trio highlights the amazing adaptation of camouflage. 

Poetry Book
Where in the Wild?: Camouflaged Creatures Concealed ... and Revealed, written David Schwartz and Yael Schy with photographs by Dwight Kuhn, is a book filled with "eye-tricking photos, poems offering up clues, and information about the organism. The book begins with a brief introduction to camouflage and the book itself. Here is an excerpt.
Imagine that you are an animal in the wild trying to avoid a prowling predator. If it can't find you, it can't eat you.

Now imagine that you are the predator, silently hunting for prey. If you prey does not see you, you can catch it and eat it.
See if you can find the camouflaged animals photographed in their natural habitats. The poems will give you hints. When you think you have found a hidden animal--or if you give up!--open the flap to see "where in the wild" it really is. Then read on to find out more about these amazing animals and their vanishing acts.
What follows are examples of 10 clever uses of camouflage. On the left side of each spread is a poem describing the animal, and in some cases, its location. The outside of the gatefold on the right contains the picture that must be searched. Readers must be keen observes, as some of these animals are hard to find! In the corner of the gatefold is a small circle that says, "Lift to find me!" When the gatefold is opened, the image appears again, this time with everything grayed out except the animal in question. Often times, the appearance of the hidden animal is so startling that the reader must flip back to the original picture to search it out. In addition to the "answer" to photo puzzle, the inside of the gatefold also contains information on the animals subject.

The poems in the book come in a variety of forms, including haiku and concrete. Here is an example.

speckled treasures lie
     bare upon the pebbled bank
          fragile life within
The photograph that accompanies it shows a rocky landscape. Can you guess what is hidden in plain sight?

There is another book that follow on the heels of this one, written in the same form and extending the ideas presented here. It is Where Else in the Wild? More Camouflaged Creatures Concealed...and Revealed. Both of these are great books for looking at animals in plain sight.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the amazing Ruth Heller here. She wrote a series of books that examined camouflage across the animal kingdom. Titles in this series include:
    All of Heller's books were written in verse. On the title page is this opening.
    you take
    a careful look,
    you'll see
    in this book
    and out
    of view—
    Here's an excerpt from HOW TO HIDE A CROCODILE.
    and the
    bear a similarity....
    It he's
    will depend
    how well their colors blend.
    Each page shows the animal in full view, and then again camouflaged in its habitat.

    Nonfiction Picture Book
    Hide and Seek: Nature's Best Vanishing Acts, written by Andrea Helman with photographs by Gavriel Jecan, is a book organized by habitat that highlights the features of the location and describes how a handful of animals in each use camouflage to survive. What's interesting about this book is that readers won't find the answers to what they're looking for until they get to the back of the book! In a section entitled The Back Story, readers see a thumbnail version of the photograph with the animals circled. They will also find a bit more information about each animal photographed.

    Readers will find savanna/grasslands, sea, desert, Arctic, forest and mountains. Here's an excerpt from the mountains section.
    Elliot's Chameleon 
    Motionless, the colorful and crafty chameleon stays still, disappearing into tree bark in the Rwanda mountains. Its bulging eyes rotate in different directions, searching the turf for tasty treats. Aha! It focuses both eyes to judge the distance and position of an insect. Zap! The sticky-tipped tongue shoots out at 20 feet per second. Success! Chameleons are nature's quick change artists, exchanging one color for another to protect themselves from predators and become invisible prey.
    Readers will spend a great deal of time examining the photos in this one, and will learn about a wide range of animals while doing so.

    Perfect Together
    All three of these books, and really any other title about camouflage, are about what you can see. I love that the poems in Schwartz and Yael's book offer up clues to the animals hidden in the photos. I might start with a book by Heller to give students an opportunity to see how animals move from visible to hidden. This might offer clues to finding animals in actual photographs. Once you've had a chance to look these over, ask students to categorize the types of camouflage animals use. Then give them a paper butterfly to decorate and hide in the classroom. See how well they can hide their butterflies in plain sight!

    For additional resources, consider these sites.
    • Let your kids try this camouflage game, where they get to choose an animal and a background. Then they try different fur colors, shadings, and patterns to see which ones work best in different habitats.
    • The camouflage field book lets kids learn about animals hidden in different environments.
    • Seeing Through Camouflage is a game that asks kids to identify the four different types of camouflage and identify animals belonging to each one.
    • Hide & Seek Sea is an illustration that contains 22 animals. Once students find them all, they can click on the animals to see pictures and learn more about them.
    • Nature Works has a great article on deceptive coloration.

    Poetry Friday - Lines Written for Gene Kelly to Dance To

    Today I'm sharing an excerpt of the first stanzas from Lines Written for Gene Kelly to Dance To. You can find the entire poem in The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg (pp. 704-705).

    Lines Written for Gene Kelly to Dance To
    by Carl Sandburg

    Spring is when the grass turns green and glad
    Spring is when the new grass comes up and says hey, hey, hey, hey.
    Be dizzy now and turn your head upside down and see how the world looks upside down
    Be dizzy now and turn a cartwheel and see the good earth through a cartwheel.

    Tell your feet the alphabet
    Tell your feet the multiplication table
    Tell your feet where to go, and watch ‘em go and come back

    Can you dance a question mark?
    Can you dance an exclamation mark?
    Can you dance a couple of commas?
    And bring it to a finish with a period?

    Can you dance like the wind is pushing you?
    Can you dance like you are pushing the wind?
    Can you dance like slow wooden heels?
    And then change to bright and singing silver heels.
    Such nice feet, such good feet.

    And since you've all probably seen Gene dancing in Singin' In The Rain, here's a video of him tap dancing on roller skates. It's one of my favorites, and yes, you can dance an exclamation mark!

    I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference . Happy poetry Friday friends.

    Thursday, April 24, 2014

    Science/Social Studies Poetry Pairings - Geography

    I have been teaching a course on integrating science and social studies for several years now. While I often get puzzled looks from folks when I try to explain the rationale behind this, the elementary teachers I work with recognize that this makes perfect sense. There is tremendous overlap between the science and social studies curriculum, particularly with respect to the topic of geography. 

    Today's book pairing will help readers look at the world through the eyes of both scientists and geographers.

    Poetry Book
    A World of Wonders: Geographic Travels in Verse and Rhyme, written by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Alison Jay, is a collection of poems about explorers, places on the map (Sandwich Islands, Italy, Angel Falls, Mount Everest etc.), the globe itself (latitude v. longitude, equator and the poles), earth science topics (aurora borealis, San Andreas fault, stalactites v. stalagmites), and many other things. It opens with a poem entitled Places and Names: A Traveler's Guide, in which a number of cities and sites with interesting names are named. The poem concludes in this way.
    Thousands of spaces are places to be--
    Discover the World of GE-OG-RA-PHY!

    Travel by boat or by car or by plane
    To visit East Africa, Singapore, Spain.
    Go by yourself or invite a good friend,
    But traveling by poem is what I recommend.
    This is a wonderful book for introducing a mix of geography topics, as well as science topics like biomes, ecology and natural resources. Here's one of my favorite poems.
    The Arctic and Antarctica: Which is Colder? 
    The Arctic is water all covered with ice.
    Antarctica? Land (frozen paradise). 
    The Arctic is up; Antarctica's down—
    At least if you reckon from my side of town. 
    Nobody could live in the Arctic because
    It's freezing! (Except maybe Santa Claus?) 
    Antarctica is even chillier than that,
    According to the icicled thermostat. 
    Why? Because land becomes colder than water.
    (But penguins that live there don't want it much hotter.)
    Here's a short example of a science-oriented geography poem.
    How a Cave Will Behave 
    Take a look at these cone-like formations,
    And remember, wherever they're found,
    A stalactite drips down from the ceiling.
    A stalagmite grows up from the ground.
    Poems ©J. Patrick Lewis. All rights reserved.

    There are also a few poems that encourage readers to think about their impact on the earth. The last poem entitled Walk Lightly asks that we make the Earth our companion.

    Nonfiction Picture Book
    Hottest, Coldest, Highest, Deepest, written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, is a book that examines extremes in the natural world, such as the highest mountain (based on elevation), longest river, place with the most extreme tides, the driest place on earth, and more. Here's how it begins.
    If you could visit any spot on earth, where would you go? What if you wanted to see some of the most amazing natural wonders in the world? 
    There are deserts that haven't seen rain in hundreds of years, and jungles where it pours almost every day. There are places so cold that even in the summer it's below freezing and spots where it's often hot enough to cook an egg on the ground. There are mountains many miles high and ocean trenches that are even deeper. You can find rivers thousands of miles long and waterfalls thousands of feet high.
    Jenkins grabs readers from the first page and makes them want to know about them. On every double-page spread that follows is a statement of fact, an inset map showing location, a bit of informational text, and some other graphic to help readers visualize and better understand the information. Here's an example.
    The world's highest waterfall is Angel Falls, in Venezuela. It is 3,212 feet high.
    This text is accompanied by a small map and globe with a red dot highlighting the falls. The facing page contains this statement.
    Angel Falls is more than seventeen times higher than Niagara Falls (180 feet), in New York State. Victoria Falls, in Zimbabwe, Africa, carries ore water than any other waterfall. It is 355 feet high.
    Text ©Steve Jenkins. All rights reserved.

    That's a lot of information packed into a few sentences. What ties all these ideas together is the final graphic that shows a height comparison of Angel Falls, Victoria Falls, Niagara Falls, and the Empire State Building. Placing these side-by-side shows just how high Angel Falls really is.

    Okay, time for a little quiz. Do you know...?
    • the name of the world’s most active volcano?
    • the height of the tides in the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, Canada?
    • the depth of the deepest spot in the ocean?
    • the location of the hottest spot in the world?
    • the location of the oldest and deepest lake in the world?
    The answers to these questions and more can be found in Jenkins' handsomely illustrated book. There is no back matter in this volume, but the final page does include a world map that pinpoints the 12 locations described. 

    Perfect Together
    Both Lewis' poems and Jenkins' pages on extremes lend themselves to mapping activities. I highly recommend a permanent board (or a trifold if you lack space) with a world map in which students can place push pins or "markers" to identify locations studied. This works not only for these books, but also for places identified in current events and others books students read.

    I also recommend laminating the map or placing a layer of plastic over it so that students can label and color areas of the map. For example, Jenkins writes about the hottest spot on the planet. Lewis has a poem entitled 136ºF in the Shade that describes the hottest day ever recorded in history. Lewis also offers up a rhyming couplet describing the size of the Sahara Desert and a poem on the Mohave Desert. While reading these poems, students can research other deserts of the world and color all of them on the laminated map. From here they'll be able to draw some conclusions about the characteristics of deserts and the geographic features they share.

    Both of these books offer up a wealth of information that can and will keep students occupied over the course of the year. Just imagine what you can do if you devote one day a week to these kinds of geography/science activities.

    For additional resources, consider these sites.
    • The Missouri Botanical Gardens has a terrific site on biomes called What's It Like Where You Live?
    • Kids Do Ecology has a great site on world biomes.
    • The Geography4Kids site has lots of information on physical geography and earth science basics.
    • National Geographic has a fabulous set of resources on teaching geography.
    • Wikipedia has an interesting page on Extremes on Earth with lots of data.
    • Poetry of Place is a site that encourages the reading and writing of poetry in geography instruction and includes many fine examples of student work.
    • In the 2007 September/October issue of the Journal of Geography you will find an article by Joseph Kirman entitled Aesthetics in Geography: Ideas for Teaching Geography Using Poetry.

    Wednesday, April 23, 2014

    Science Poetry Pairings - The Human Body

    I enjoyed teaching about the human body when I was teaching middle school science. It's not always the easiest subject to share with kids, but it sure is interesting. Wherever possible I tried to make ideas concrete. For example, when I taught about blood I brought in three 2-liter bottles, two filled to the brim and one half-filled with red colored water. Then I handed them to a student to carry around. This represents about how much blood the average adult has in his/her body (~5 liters)!

    Unfortunately, the human body is not part of the science curriculum in Virginia. It is taught as part of the health and physical education curriculum. While my teacher friends in Virginia might not appreciate today's pairing, there are plenty of teachers in other states who teach about body systems.

    Today's book pair covers a wide range of ideas regarding the human body.

    Poetry Book
    The Blood-Hungry Spleen and Other Poems About Our Parts, written by Allan Wolf and illustrated by Greg Clarke, is a book of 35 poems that celebrates our gross, disgusting, fascinating, and amazing body parts and functions. It begins with a poem entitled "Our Amazing Body Language" and is followed by anatomically devoted sections with one or more poems. Sections (with number of poems in parentheses) include:
    • That's You All Over (1)
    • On the Face of It (7)
    • Parts that Bend (4)
    • A Bone (or Two) to Pick with You (2)
    • Belly Buttons and Bottoms (2)
    • The Circulation Department (3)
    • A Breath of Fresh Air (1)
    • Muscle Matters (2)
    • The Control Center (3)
    • The Ins and Outs of Eating (5)
    • Body Chemistry (1)
    • The Production Department (3)
    If you're a fan of Wallace Stevens, you'll be thrilled with the poem "Thirteen Ways of Looking at Your Knees and Elbows." No, seriously. Here's an excerpt.
    The knee wears a cap
    all year long,
    even in church.

    If elbows did not bend
    you could not scratch
    your nose.

    If knees did not bend
    there would be no
    marriage proposals.

    Elbows and hair bows
    do not look alike

    When two knees meet
    they say, "I love you.
    I want you. I kneed you."
    The poems are funny and sometimes silly, but still ultimately impart some real knowledge about the part under consideration. Here's an excerpt from one of the bone poems.
    Bone Chart 
    Your bones hold you up like the frame of a house.
    Be you boy. Be you girl. Be you lion or mouse. 
    Your skull is a bone that encloses your brain.
    It holds up your hat, and it keeps out the rain. 
    Just under your skull is the trusty jawbone.
    It helps you to chew and to talk on the phone. 
    Your neck bones and back bones are called vertebrae.
    They help keep your spinal cord out of harm's way.
    Poems © Allan Wolf. All rights reserved.

    The illustrations are whimsical (many of the organs depicted have faces and arms and legs) and not necessarily anatomically correct, but they do convey the messages shared in the poems. For example, the illustration that accompanies the poem "Your Muscles Keep You Moving" depicts a sleeping girl with inset pictures of her heart and stomach sweating while running on treadmills.

    There is no back matter here, but it isn't really needed. Once Wolf has piqued his readers' interest, they'll be sure to look for more information on their own, especially after they've read a poem entitled "Spit" or "Consider the Anus."

    Nonfiction Picture Book
    50 Body Questions: A Book That Spills Its Guts, written by Tanya Lloyd Kyi and illustrated by Ross Kinnaird, is a question and answer book that tackles all kinds of topics related to the human body. Organized into 7 chapters, the book opens with an informative introduction ("Welcome to the Body Shop") and closes with a thoughtful conclusion ("High-Tech Humans").  In between the chapters are organized around related organs and systems.

    Here's an excerpt from the introduction.
    Blink. Your body just created thousands of cells. Snap. Thousands more! 
    Every single day, you make billions of new cells and get rid of just as many old ones. You couldn't possible flutter your eyelashes or snap your fingers as fast as those cells are produced. 
    Inside each microscopic building block is the exact same genetic information—a specific code that makes you unique. There are seven billion people in the world, but no one else has your code. Your cells create a body that's different from any other. Different . . . and yet similar.
    Every chapter begins with and ends with additional information about the topic. Chapters include: That Takes Guts, Blood Ties, Form and Function, Armed Invaders, Sense and Feeling, Gray Matters, and How Shocking!. Some of the questions readers will find answers to include:
    • Are there aliens inside you?
    • Is blood thicker than water?
    • Is your brain on a sugar high?
    • How is your spine like a racetrack?
    Text © Tanya Lloyd Kyi. All rights reserved.

    The illustrations are entertaining and the text is throughly engrossing (no pun intended). Readers of all ages will learn something new and find much to appreciate here. Back matter includes a helpful glossary, further reading, selected sources, and an extensive index.

    Perfect Together
    I can't imagine a more perfect match for Wolf's poems than the thoroughly asked and answered questions in Lloyd Kyi's book. Start with a poem and see what questions it leads you to explore!

    For additional resources, consider these sites.