mystery Teachers and Parents: you're invited to play the "Who Am I?" contest. It's fun and easy to win in a classroom set of books.   October's winner is Joye Gulley of Spindale Elementary in Spindale, North Carolina for her guess of Maple Tree Seed. Congratulations, Joye! You've won a classroom set of Dawn books.
Just read the clues below. They describe an aspect of nature—a plant, animal, mineral, habitat, or natural process.
When you're ready to make your guess about who or what I am, click ENTER NOW. One entry per person per week. Winners are selected monthly. Please note, books are shipped only to US addresses.
Who Am I?
spacerglass1 Clue 1:  I come in many colors---brown, purple, or white. But you probably think of me as being yellow.
glass1 Clue 2: I'm food for people and also livestock.
glass1 Clue 3: In many countries I'm called "maize."
glass1 Clue 4: On average I have 800 kernels in 16 rows.
Do you think you know who I am? ENTER NOW.
Entries should be submitted no later than noon on Friday.
If you guessed correctly, you’re automatically entered into the drawing for a set of nature books from Dawn Publications.
A contest winner will be announced the first week of the month. Good luck!
Throughout the school year, clues for a new Who Am I are posted no later than Sunday night, so you can use them with your class on Monday morning.
The answer to the previous week's mystery was: WOLF.  If  you guessed correctly you have been entered into the monthly drawing for a classroom set of Dawn books of your choice! Teachers, click here to get ideas about how to use the contest with your students.

Good Food for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a holiday that focuses on food. That makes it a perfect time to connect students with food from the garden!

Because this blog is taking a break next week for the Thanksgiving holiday, I’ve included two lessons below. Both of them teach about healthy foods and plant parts.

GARDN_COVERLesson: Name That Plant: Students learn about the six parts of a plant and match twelve fruits and vegetables to a specific plant part. All of the fruits and vegetables are introduced in the book What’s in the Garden? Link to a pdf of complete directions for the matching activity.

Parents may want to make one of the kid-friendly recipes described in the book for their Thanksgiving celebration.



Lesson: Have a Plant Part-y: Treat your students to a healthy “pre-Thanksgiving feast” by making a yummy, colorful salad with plant parts, such as leaves (lettuce), stems (celery), roots (carrots), fruits (tomatoes), and seeds (sunflower).  Students work at stations to prepare these and other vegetables shown in Molly’s Organic Farm. Link to a pdf of complete directions and salad ingredients.


Common Core Standards (ELA K-3)

  • Reading: Literature–Key Ideas and Details (K.1, 2.1, 3.1); Craft and Structure (K.5, 1.5, 2.5, 3.5); Integration and Knowledge of Ideas (K.7, 1.7, 2.7, 3.7)
  • Reading: Informational Text–Key Ideas and Details (K.1, 2.1, 3.1); Integration and Knowledge of Ideas (K.7, 1.7, 2.7, 3.7)

Next Generation Science Standards (DCI K-3)

  • LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: A. Structures and Processes; B. Growth and Development of Organisms
  • LS2: Ecosystems: A. Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics; B. Cycles of Matter and Energy in Ecosystems
  • LS3: Heredity: A.Inheritance and Variation of Traits; B. Variation of Traits

Get Gobbling!


November is a perfect time to introduce your students to turkeys and play the “Animal Trail Game.” It may be played inside or outside. Of course playing it outside adds to the fun, provides more of a nature experience, and allows kids to get some much-needed exercise.

LESSON PLAN: Animal Trail Game

In this lesson, students move from station to station along an imaginary trail of animal tracks. Students will strut, flutter, and hop as they discover what animals live in your area. Along the way, each student collects Animal Cards–facts about each of the animals.  Playing the game will help your students become a Young Naturalist like Jenny, the main character in the book. Young Naturalists are kids who are curious and careful about the natural world around them!

Suggested grade level: K-3


  • The book Gobble, Gobble
  • 6 Animal Posters, sheets (8 ½ x 11 ) available from Nature Exploration Activities pdf, pages 6-12
  • 6 business-size envelopes, one for each poster
  • Animal Cards, one sheet (8 ½ x 11) per student, available in pdf, page 13. *Note: If these animals are not found in your area, you can create Animal Cards of different animals using the blank cards provided in the pdf, page 14. You will also need to create corresponding posters


Teacher prep:

  • Print the 6 posters.
  • Create a pocket at the bottom of each poster by cutting off the top flap of an envelope and gluing it to the bottom of the poster. Refer to the diagram on page 3 of the pdf.
  • Copy Game Cards, cut them apart, sort them into piles by animal, and put them into the corresponding poster pocket.
  • For non-readers, arrange for 6 helpers, one per poster. The helper may be a parent or older student who can read the poster and help young students write/draw the answers to the questions.


1. Read aloud Gobble, Gobble. Ask students: How did Jenny first discover she had turkeys in her yard? What did she find in the mud? (Ans: Turkey tracks) Ask: How long did Jenny observe the turkeys? (Ans. 1 year) How do they know? (Ans: The season changed from spring to summer to fall to winter.) How did the turkeys behave differently in each season?

2. Transition students into the game by saying something like the following:

  • Even though you may not SEE the animals in your neighborhood or nearby woods, they do leave traces behind. Often you can tell who has been there by spotting and identifying tracks just like Jenny did.
  • We’re going to play a game that helps you learn the tracks of woodland animals. To play the game, you will look for a poster with an animal on it. The poster will ask you some questions. You may know some of the answers or you may not—just make a guess. Once you make your guess, take a card from the pocket of the poster—it will have all the answers. You get to keep the card.
  • Going to the next station: Look below the animal’s picture to get two clues about the station/poster you should go to next: (1) You’ll see the tracks that the animal makes. (2) You’ll see directions about how you should move to get to the next station, such as: flap your wings, scamper, etc. Go from station to station until you’ve gone to all 6.

3. Divide the class into 6 groups and position each group at one of the stations. It doesn’t matter where they begin because each poster will direct them to the next one. Continue play until students have visited all 6 posters. Debrief the activity by asking students to share something they learned about one of the animals.

Common Core ELA (K-3)

Reading Literature

  • Key Ideas and Details: K.1, 1.1, 2.1, 3.1; K.3, 1.3, 2.3, 3.3
  • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: K.7, 1.7, 2.7, 3.7

Next Generation (DCI K-3)

  • Life Science: LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
  • Earth Science: ESS2: Earth’s Systems


How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?



Pumpkins, pumpkins, and more pumpkins!  These big, round, orange fruits take center stage from Halloween through Thanksgiving.

Bring pumpkins into your classroom to engage your students in science, and don’t forget the picture books. Pairing fiction and nonfiction picture books to teach science is explained in the Picture Perfect Science series and Teaching Science Through Trade Books.

Authors Emily Morgan and Karen Ansberry suggest How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? (fiction) and Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden (nonfiction) to kick off a science inquiry lesson on pumpkins.

A pumpkin is a fruit?


Yes! Even though we often refer to pumpkins as vegetables, they’re actually the fruits of a pumpkin plant.

This lesson features pumpkins to explore the similarities/differences between fruits and vegetables.

It’s a good follow-up to a lesson on plant parts.

Both of these lessons are based on  Molly’s Organic Farm, a picture book that uniquely combines both fiction and nonfiction.


Next Time You See a Maple Seed


maple seedHave you ever thrown a maple seed into the air and watched it helicopter to the ground? What would happen if you took the “wings” off of the seed — would it still fly? Isn’t it remarkable that a big, beautiful maple tree lives inside the tiny seed?

Emily Morgan, author of the Next Time You See book series, explores these and other questions in her beautiful book Next Time You See a Maple Seed. As a lover of maple trees, this book holds a special appeal to me.

But all of the other books in the series are just as enchanting — and informative. Each one focuses on a common element of the natural world, many of which we see every day — a sunset, seashell, pill bug, firefly, and the moon.

These nonfiction books have it all — easy hands-on experiences, fascinating information, beautiful photography, and heart-opening inspiration.

The back cover says the books are appropriate for grades K-6; but as an adult, I love reading them too!

I encourage you to visit Emily’s website where you can find lessons for each of the books, like this one Maple Seed Journal Activity. It includes guided observations, experiments, and even space for wondering. I think it’s the perfect follow-up activity to the dandelion “seed dispersal” lesson from my blog last week.

The following video will give you a sense of the beauty of this book.

(BTW: Emily and her co-author Karen Ansberry have created the Picture Perfect Science series of curriculum guides…they’re fantastic! Be sure to check them out, too!)



Seed Dispersal IS Rocket Science!

NASA has developed a free curriculum for teachers that introduces young children to the basics of flight. The first lesson in the series “Gliders in Flight” features The Dandelion Seed.

SEED_COVERBefore the first airplane, the scientists and engineers who were developing “lighter-than-air” aircraft looked to parachutes and gliders to meet engineering challenges. It is from these early beginnings that aviation and space flight have become what they are today.

A dandelion seed is a perfect example of nature’s parachute and glider.

The full comprehensive NASA unit (preschool through early elementary) investigates gliders in nature; balloons, parachutes and kites; helicopters and airplanes; the impacts of aviation through children’s literature; and science and engineering activities.


LESSON PLAN: Gliders in Flight

This lesson (created by NASA) is based on the book The Dandelion Seed by Joseph Anthony. It includes an engaging demonstration, inquiry and discovery experiments, and writing practice for letters “F” and “G.”

Suggested Grade Level: K-3


  • The book The Dandelion Seed
  • Images of animals and plant seeds that fly/glide
  • Maple seeds (2-3 per student)
  • Paper clips
  • Scissors
  • Crepe paper or streamers
  • Whirly-bird template (provided as free download)


  1. Go to NASA’s Teacher’s Guide: With You When You Fly: Aeronautics Pre-K, available as a pdf download.
  2. Follow the detailed instructions on pages 8-23 to do one or more of the activities.

Taking It Further:

For more adventures with Dandelion Seed read The Dandelion Seed’s Big Dream.


Reading: Literature
  • Key Ideas and Details: K.1, 1.1, 2.1
  • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: K.7, 1.7, 2.7


Life Science: LS 1 – From Molecules to Organisms: Structure and Function
Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science: ETS 1 – Engineering Design


Create a Seedy Center

Learning Centers are a staple of many classrooms. Teachers like them because they promote independence, responsibility, and allow opportunities for self-discovery. Students like them because Center activities often feel like a “game” and they get to work alongside their peers.


Use the book Pass the Energy, Please! as the basis for a variety of Centers about food chains.  An ebook Teacher’s Guide, Nature’s Food Chains, describes seven easy-to-create Centers, each one focusing on a different “intelligence.”


The focus of this center is on the “Naturalist Intelligence.” Each student sorts seeds into categories using his/her own specifications. Then the student looks at another student’s sorted seeds and determines the specifications that they used to make their categories. With dried grasses and plants readily available outside and in the garden, you can local seeds you collect as well as seeds from packets to set up the Center.

Suggested Grade Level: 3rd — 5th


  1. Read aloud the book Pass the Energy, Please! or make it available for your students to read at the Center. Have students refer to the text and illustrations to notice that a plant is at the beginning of every food chain. You may want to review a plant’s life cycle, beginning with a seed.
  2. Follow the directions in “A Seedy Activity” to set up a Center. This pdf download includes complete set-up directions, materials list, and a Center handout of student directions (page 2).
  3. Debrief the activity with your students using the “Reflection Questions.”


Common Core Standards (ELA 3-5)

Reading Informational Text

  • Integration of Knowledge and ideas: 3.7, 4.7, 5.8

Next Generation Science Standards (DCI 3-5)

Life Science

  • LS 1 — From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
  • LS2 – Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

Physical Science

  • PS 1 — Energy




The Mystery of Migration

It’s Fall and animals are on the move—migrating long distances and facing extreme challenges along the way.

Migration is a powerful compulsion, but it’s also very dangerous. Why do animals do it? Where do they go? How do they succeed? Find out the answers to these questions and so much more in the book Going Home: The Mystery of Animal Migration.



LESSON PLAN: The Mystery of Migration
This lesson will capture your students interest in the phenomena of migration as they learn about the ten species featured in the book, as well as species in your local area.

Suggested Grade Level: K-4



Download a detailed migration lesson, Going Home Lesson Plan, published by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and created by Emily Morgan and Karen Ansberry. This plan will take your students through the five stages of a science inquiry lesson. A brief synopsis of each stage of the lesson is below:

  1. Engage—Guess the animal being described in the read aloud using the bookmarks.
  2. Explore—Draw migration routes. Then compare distances.
  3. Explain—Sort the bookmarks in several ways: their reason for migrating, how they travel, and a category of their own choosing.
  4. Elaborate—Research the animals in your area that migrate and those that don’t migrate.
  5. Evaluate—Discuss the reason the author calls migration a mystery. Discuss the migration mysteries that scientists are still learning about.

Extension: Additional lessons for Going Home are available under “Activities” at,

Common Core Standards (ELA K-4)

  • ELA Writing: Research to Build and Support Knowledge K.7, 1.7, 2.7 3.7, 4.7
  • ELA Reading Information Text: Key Ideas and Details (K.1, K.2, K.3, 1.1,1.2, 1.3, 2.1, 2.2,2.3, 3.1, 3.2 3.3, 4.1, 4.2, 4.3); Integration and Knowledge of Ideas (K.7, 1.7, 2.7, 3.7, 4.7)

Next Generation Science Standards (K-3)

  • LS1.A: Structure and Function
  • LS1.B: Growth and Development of Organisms
  • LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems.

Climate Change: What’s a Teacher to Do?


thWith so much recent media coverage about climate change, young children are bound to have heard stories of gloom and doom about the future.

But what happens when we give children too much “bad news” about the environment?


Research shows that they may become fearful and anxious.* Even if our best intentions are to instill environmentally helpful behaviors, such as recycling or turning off the lights, we may be inadvertently giving kids the dauntinng message: “The ice caps are melting and it’s your job to fix the problem.”

So what’s a teacher to do?

“Without an abiding sense of comfort in and love for the natural world,  no amount of chastising about turning off the lights is going to make a bit of difference,” states David Sobel.**

What will make a difference? The answer is simple: connect children and the curriculum to the near-by natural world.

boy-with-magnifying-glass-29eyjolHow? A first step can be simple, too: Take your class go outside and have each child find a natural object. Then ask them to complete these 3 statements:

  • I  notice . . .
  • I wonder . . .
  • It reminds me of . . .

Here’s a sample response from a 4th-grader standing under a fig tree:

  • I notice that the fig leaves are different colors–some are green and others yellow.
  • I wonder why one side f the leaf is sticky.
  • It reminds me of a hand because of it’s shape.

The Next Generation Science Standards encourage children to think like a scientist, and that’s exactly what they’re doing in this activity.

  • I notice: Scientists make observations.
  • I wonder: Scientists ask questions–a lot of questions!
  • It reminds me of: Scientists make connections.


Can’t get outside. No problem!



*Finger, 1993

**David T. Sobel is an internationally-known researcher, practitioner, and promoter of developmentally appropriate environmental education for children. He’s an advocate of Place-Based Education.

Talking About Good Vibrations

BUG_COVER2Animals, including humans, feel sound as well as hear it, and good vibrations are a key to insect communication.

The NPR (National Public Radio) series “Close Listening Series: Decoding Nature through Sound,” explores ways biologists are using sound to understand animal behavior.

Noisy Bug Sing-Along introduces children to interesting insects (life science) and the sound vibrations they create (physical science).

Children are treated to scientifically accurate, up-close depictions of some very cool bugs. It explains why the bugs make the sounds they do, and how they do it—and it’s not with their voices!

New technologies have revealed this hidden vibrational world to scientists, and your students can see what sound waves look like with these audio files.

Click here for a complete lesson plan that engages children by having them feel the vibrations they make when they hum. Then, through a demonstration, they learn the four ways that bugs make sound vibrations. The lesson ends with a fun, creative activity—designing an imaginary bug and creating the sound it makes.


ACTIVITY: Safety in Numbers
Play a game that demonstrates the survival technique  of being a member of a group. True Katydids, like the one in this book, will often call together to create a chorus. This can make it difficult for bats to pick out an individual to eat. Here’s a game to demonstrate how this works. One blindfolded child (the bat) stands in the middle of a circle of children (the katydids). One katydid claps his or her hands. The bat has to locate this calling katydid by sound, and can usually do so easily! Now, the bat returns to the center. Then ALL the katydids clap together  in a pattern. Can the bat find the original katydid?
More books in the “Noisy Sing-Along” series are:


Noisy Bird Sing-Along with a  “Dawn Chorus” lesson plan. Every kind of bird has their very own kind of sound–cheerful, mournful, sweet, and even weird. You can tell who they are without even opening your eyes.


Noisy Frog Sing-Along and a list of fun and informative activities.FROG_COVER2 When frogs get together, they love to sing! It’s a chorus that happens near almost every pond and stream.

Reading, Writing, and ANIMALS!



Bees dancing, ladybugs munching, worms pooping, butterflies pollinating–wow!

A meadow ecosystem is a dynamic place, as animals find food and water, shelter and safety.

Using the book If You Love Honey spark your students’ creativity with the lesson “In My Meadow.”

Lesson Plan: In this activity, children write a story about one animal’s experience as it moves around in meadow.

1. Read aloud If You Love Honey. Show children the meadow illustration under “Sweet Connections” on the “Explore
for Kids” page. Review the plants and animals mentioned in the story. Look at the other illustrations to
notice any additional animals.
2. Explain that animals move throughout their meadow ecosystem to find food, water, shelter, and safety.
For example, bees fly from flower to flower gathering nectar (food) and deliver it to the hive (shelter and safety). Monarch butter
fly caterpillars eat the leaves of a milkweed plant (food) and then roam around the meadow looking for a suitable place to make their chrysalis (shelter and safety).
3. Have children choose one of the meadow animals and ask them to write and illustrate a short story
about the places their animal visited in the meadow. What was it doing at each place? How was it moving? What body parts allow it to move this way? What was it eating?
4. Have children share their stories with the class or in small groups. How was their animal’s experience of
the meadow the same or different from other animals’ experiences?

Common Core Standards (ELA K-3)

Reading: Literature
  • Key Ideas and Details K.1, 1.1, 2.1
  • Craft and Structure K.7, 1.7, 2.7
  • Text Types and Purposes K.3, 1.3, 2.3, 3.3
Next Generation Science Standards (DCI K-3)
Life Science
  • LS1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structure and Function
  • LS2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
  • LS4 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity



Carol I believe in making all kinds of connections: kids and nature, science and reading, fun and learning. I’ve been an elementary, middle school, and high school teacher, and founder of two alternative high schools. For eight years I was instructional designer for Performance Learning Systems. I’ve authored all of Dawn’s Teacher’s Guides and written books for children 4-14 years old.

How to Use Creative Nonfiction Picture Books in Support of Common Core and Science

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Common Core State Standards
Next Generation Science Standards
National Science Teachers Association
Picture Perfect Science

Dawn Publications
Children and Nature Network
Sharing Nature Worldwide
Roots and Shoots
Audubon Adventures
Journey North: Citizen Science