mystery The answer to last week's clues may be found at the bottom of this column. 

The winner for our summer contest was Kristina Spears of Clear Creek Charter School in Houston, Texas.
She has won an entire set of Dawn’s nature books of one title for her school.

Teachers and Parents: I invite you to enter our weekly mystery contest. It's fun and easy!
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.
Who Am I?
spacerglass1 Clue 1:  I am a type of wood lice that lives in damp, dark places, such as under logs.
glass1 Clue 2:  I have 11 body segments, with a pair of legs for each segment.
glass1 Clue 3:  I can roll myself up into a ball whenever I feel danger is near.
glass1 Clue 4:  I'm also called a "pill bug."
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.
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. Good luck!
The answer to last week's mystery was: HERMIT CRAB

Teachers, click here to get ideas about how to use the contest with your students.

Around One Log

Years after a great oak tree tumbled to the ground, a whole community of animals made it their home. Roly-polies and daddy longlegs prowled here and there, while chipmunks and salamanders dashed everywhere. Is the old tree alive? Or is it now dead?

Around One Log: Chipmunks, Spiders, and Creepy Insiders introduces readers to the wonderful world of small creatures that inhabit the niche of a rotting log. In this activity, children describe a day in the life of one of the creatures.

Suggested Grade level: K-4


  1. Read aloud Around One Log and invite each student to select one of the creatures.
  2. Have them review  the “Field Notes” for that animal in the back of the book, and use the resources to learn more fascinating facts about their chosen animal.
  3. Invite each student to create a diary of events that occurred during one day (or night) as told from the perspective of that animal.
  4. Following are some prompts, which may help students focus their diary entries. When complete, have students share their writing with a partner.
  • What does your animal eat and how does it find its food?
  • How large is your animals family? Do they live together or alone?
  • What is the most fascinating fact about your chosen animal? How does this help them to survive?

Comparing two similar stories meets a Common Core standard. Around One Cactus: Owls, Bats and Leaping Rats, about the nocturnal creatures that live around a saguaro cactus, is a similar to Around One Log.  Have students find the similarities and differences between these two stories. They may also write a diary entry for one of the desert creatures.

Common Core Standards (ELA K-2)

  • ELA Writing: Research to Build and Support Knowledge K.7, 1.7, 2.7 3.7, 4.7
  • ELA Reading and Literature: Key Ideas and Details (K.3, 1.3, 2.1, 3.1); Integration and Knowledge of Ideas (K.9, 1.9, 2.9, 3.9, 4.9)

Next Generation Science Standards (K-3)

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

Sorting Seashells from the Seashore

SHELL_Store-1Seashells are not only homes for  sea creatures, they’re also beautiful works of art with their wonderful variety of shapes and colors. Using a rhyming verse, the book Seashells by the Seashore takes readers on a walk at the seashore, counting and naming the shells that wash up on the beach.

LESSON PLAN: Sorting Seashells
This lesson is adapted from one of my favorite resources: Picture-Perfect Science Lessons by Karen Ansberry and Emily Morgan. Students learn about types of seashells as an introduction to scientific classification.book_1

Suggested Grade Level: K-3


Teacher Prep:
Write the following six statements written on white board or butcher paper: (1) Seashells are made by animals. (2) sea creatures that make shells are called mollusks. (3) Most shells found on the beach can be put into two groups: plants and animals. (4) A bivalve is a shell with two parts. (5) Oysters and scallops are types of fish. (6) When you go to the beach, it’s OK to collect shells with live creatures in them.


  1. Give pairs of students a plastic bag of assorted shells. Have them make observations about the characteristics of the shells, such as size, shape, texture and structure. Have them use one characteristic to sort the shells into two groups.
  2. Once the shells are sorted, have pairs switch places with other pairs and guess what characteristic was used to sort their shells. Then have students explain to one another what characteristic they used to sort the shells and why.
  3. Direct students to the board/chart and read the six questions about shells. Tell students you just want to see what they already know about shells, so for each statement they will indicate whether it is true or false. If they think the answer is “true,” they use their hand to give a “thumbs up” signal; if it’s “false,” they give a “thumbs down” signal.
  4. Read aloud the book Seashells by the Seashore, including the page that includes general information about shells. During the read aloud, tell students to touch their ear when they hear information related to the statements. Afterwards, read the statements again and have students signal thumbs up or thumbs down. Then write the correct responses: 1-True, 2-True, 3-False, 4-True, 5-False, 6-False.
  5. Write the words bivalve and univalve on the board. Explain that scientists group mollusks into several classes, the two largest of which are bivalves (such as oysters, scallops, and ark shells ) and univalves (such as whelks, periwinkles, and olive shells). If possible, show an example of a bivalve  and an univalve. Point out that bivalves, have a hinge. Place two bivalve shells of the same species together to show how they were once connected by a hinge.
  6. Pass out two bookmarks to each pair of students and have them identify which shells are bivalves and which are univalves. Conclude by having them check their classification with another pair.
Optional: The lesson from Picture Perfect Science extends the lesson by giving  students practice using a dichotomous key for shell identification and also focusing on a hermit crab as an animal that is not a mollusk that uses a shell.

Common Core Connection

  • Reading and Literature: Key Ideas and Details (K.3, 1.3, 2.1, 3.1); Integration and Knowledge of Ideas (K.7, 1.7, 2.7, 3.7)
  •  Science Framework Connection
    LS1-A: Structure and Function
  • LS1-B: Growth and Development of Organisms
  • LS2-A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems
  • LS3-A: Inheritance of Traits

The Prairie That Nature Built



At first glance a prairie may look flat, but if you look closer you’ll discover layers of life. In the book The Prairie that Nature Built, children are introduced to three levels of prairie life—creatures living in prairie grasses, underground, and in the sky over the prairie.

In this activity, students “build a prairie” by creating a mural of prairie animals and their homes at all three levels.

LESSON PLAN: Building a Prairie—Under, Over, and On

Suggested Grade Level
: 1-3

Materials Needed:

  • The book, The Prairie That Nature Built
  • Roll of newsprint taped to the wall–long enough to accommodate pictures of prairie animals
  • Crayons
  • Index cards and pen
  • Non-fiction resources about prairie animals


  1. Read the book, emphasizing the different levels of a prairie—on the surface, underground, and in the sky above.
  2. Explain to students that they will create a mural of the levels of the prairies by drawing the prairie animals and their homes.
  3. Use the illustrations in the book to review the animals in the story, writing their names on index cards. Sort the cards into three piles: UNDER, OVER, ON. Have each student choose one card making sure that an equal amount of students pick from each pile.
  4. Give students time to use resources to find out three facts about their animal. Have them write their facts on the back of their index card.
  5. Provide students with pieces of newsprint the appropriate size for their animal, and ask them draw a picture of the creature and its home. For example, the piece of paper for the prairie dog in its burrow will be smaller than the coyote in the grass. Tell students to draw their picture so it fills up their entire piece of paper, which will keep the animals in the correct proportion.
  6. When finished, have them cut out their animal and give them to you to tape to the newsprint on the wall. Some pictures will overlap. If some students finish early (probably those with small animals), have them choose a second animal to illustrate.
  7. Once everyone is finished, “build the prairie” one student at a time, beginning underground and working up to the sky. Have students, one by one, identify their animal, read three facts about the animal, and describe its home.
  8. Conclude by asking students which level would you most like to live on and why? Which creature would you most like to be and why?

Common Core Standards (ELA K-2)

  • ELA Writing: Research to Build and Support Knowledge K.7, 1.7, 2.7 3.7
  • ELA Reading and Literature: Key Ideas and Details (K.3, 1.3, 2.1, 3.1); Integration and Knowledge of Ideas (K.7, 1.7, 2.7, 3.7)

Next Generation Science Standards (K-3)

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

Dreaming Big!

DREAM_SHOPBack to school! As I look to the year ahead, my hope is that the ideas, lessons, and resources I share with you in this blog will not only help you with your curriculum goals, but will also encourage you to include nature awareness activities in your classroom.

Each week I’ll feature a nature-themed picture book with a corresponding lesson plan that that connects to both CCSS (Common Core State Standards) and NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) into your curriculum.

Because it’s the beginning of the school year, you have two weeks to use the lesson for this brand new book—The Dandelion Seed’s Big Dream. Readers follow the flight of a dandelion seed from the countryside to the city. The little seed is buffeted by wind, caught in a spider web, and trapped in a pile of trash. You’ll be surprised and delighted to find where the seed finally lands.

In this life science lesson, children put socks over their shoes and take a walk outside. The socks collect seeds and other bits of natural debris, which the children examine once they’re back in the classroom. Early fall is a perfect time to do a “Sock Walk” because so many plants have gone to seed. The best place to do this activity is in an area that is overgrown with grass and weeds. However, you can also do this in a more urban environment—you might find a dandelion seed!

Suggested Grade Level: K-3


  • One sock large enough to fit over a child’s shoe, 1 per student. (Adult size tube socks work well. Have students bring a sock from home and have some extras on hand for those who don’t.)
  • Magnifying glasses, 1 per group
  • Tweezers, 1 per group
  • Optional: soil for “planting” the sock


  1. Read The Dandelion Seed’s Big Dream lead a discussion using some of the following questions: What was the dandelion seed’s dream? (to grow into a flower and make more seeds). Why was this an important dream? (seeds grow new plants which makes more seeds and continues a plant’s life cycle). Review the parts of a plant (root, leaves, stem, flower, seed) and ask students which of these plant parts are illustrated in the book. What obstacles kept the seed from growing? (spider web, broom, plastic container). How did humans keep the seed from its dream? (man-made environment, trash) How did humans help the seed? (blew the seed, cleaned up the environment, created a garden). Refer to specific illustrations. How is the first illustration in the book the same as the last illustration? (dandelion seed is floating in the air). How is it different? (more seeds; from different plant).
  2. Explain to students that they will do a “sock walk” to discover seeds. Have students put a sock over one of their shoes.
  3. Walk around outside, especially in an overgrown area. (Allow 15-30 minutes)
  4. Back inside, demonstrate for students how to carefully remove their sock so as not to drop all of the seeds and debris.
  5. Have students work in small groups, using tweezers and magnifying glasses, to remove everything from their socks. They can sort everything into piles based on their own classification system. (Allow 15-30 minutes).
  6. Lead a discussion about seed dispersal.
  7. Optional: Fill each sock with soil, water it, and observe what grows.

 imagesUse the following resources to get more detailed information about sock walks:

 Plant Your Socks—a fun extension idea from the National Wildlife Federation
Simple Science Strategies—Because everyone can think like a scientist.

Common Core Connection

~Reading and Literature: Key Ideas and Details (K.3, 1.3, 2.1, 3.1); Integration and Knowledge of Ideas (K.7, 1.7, 2.7, 3.7)

Science Connection—K-3 Disciplinary Core Ideas
~LS1-A: Structure and Function
~LS1-B: Growth and Development of Organisms
~LS2-A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystem
~LS3-A: Inheritance and Variation of Traits
~LS4-C: Adaptation

TEACHERS—This One’s For YOU!

While most lesson plans are for students, this one is just for you. As teachers, we plant seeds in anticipation of what will grow and what will be. Think of all the little seed packets you see in the garden store. On the front of each package is a beautiful colored picture of the flower or plant that will grow from the seeds inside. You never see a picture of the actual seeds. You plant the seeds, give them the right conditions, and they grow.

 So it is with our students. As the school year begins we anticipate the growth our students will experience over the next nine months. Before you get too busy with the myriad “tasks of teaching,” take a few moments to write down your “dreams as a teacher.” What growth do you anticipate for your students? What hopes do you have for yourself as a teacher? What successes will you and your students achieve? What resources can you draw upon when the challenges come (and you know they will)? Put this list in your desk drawer to pull out whenever you need to remind yourself of your dreams.

A Rainbow of Corals Puts on a Show


Swim into summer with Kiki, an adorable green sea turtle. She discovers the fascinating world of a coral reef and “fish of all sizes and lots of surprises” in the book On Kiki’s Reef.

Journey with Kiki as she meets amazing coral reef critters, avoids the dangers of the open ocean, and finally returns to the beach where she was born—and the cycle of life continues.

The following activity makes a fun end-of-the-year celebration or an at-home event for the whole family. It’s adapted from the California Academy of Sciences.

coral_polyp_party_image008-150x150Although a coral reef looks like a rock, the surface of the reef is covered with a layer of living corals. Living corals are called polyps, and when they die, their skeletons form the foundation of a coral reef.

Recommended Grade Level: K-3

  1. After reading On Kiki’s Reef, ask children to identify Kiki (main character), the new sea creature she meets, and the images of coral on each page.
  2. Follow these directions to teach your children about corals as they create an “coral polyp” they can eat from easy to get ingredients.
  3. Then share some fascinating turtle and reef facts from the back of the book. Did you know:
  • Coral reefs are called the “rainforests of the ocean” because they support such a diversity of life. A map in the back of the books shows where reefs are found world-wide.
  • Only about one in 1,ooo green sea turtle hatchlings survive to adulthood. But once they’re adults, they can live up to 80 years, maybe even longer.
  • A green sea turtle gets its name from the color of its fat, not the color of its shell, which is mottled shades of brown, olive, and red.
Common Core Standards
~Reading Literature: Key Ideas and Details (K.s, 1.3, 2.3, 3.3); Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (K.7, 1.7, 2.7, 3.7)
~Informational Text: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (K.7, 1.7, 2.7, 3.7)

Science Standards

~ From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes (K-LS1, 1-LS-1, 3-LS1)
~ Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits (1-LS3)

For more information about sea turtles and reefs, go to:

Swim Through an Alphabet of Sea Creatures

Continuing our year-end theme of ocean animals, this week’s book is A Swim Through the Sea. Each page of this book presents a new species in alphabetical order with brilliantly colored illustrations, alliteration, and fascinating facts.

And it’s endorsed by Jacques Cousteau!

The following lesson plan is very versatile. It can be applied to any science topic or used as a year-end wrap up activity.

The book A Swim Through the Sea appeals to a large age range because there are two layers of text:
  • a line of large text for young children written in alliteration
  • a paragraph of  smaller text includes fascinating facts and vocabulary for more advanced readers
Suggested Grade Level: 1-5
I’ve even used this book with 7th-8th graders. They especially appreciated that the author/illustrator, Kristen Joy Pratt, was only 16 years old when this book was published!

  1. Read aloud the first three pages of A Swim Through the Sea (the large text only). Ask students to identify the pattern. Students will notice that many words in the sentence begin with the same letter of the alphabet as the sea creature illustrated on the page.
  2. Give a complete explanation of  alliteration. Ask students to pay attention to the alliteration in the book as you finish reading it aloud. As you read, ask students to notice the relationship between the alliterative text and the illustrations, for example “bright Blue Crab.”
  3. Write the letters A through Z on the board, and ask students to recall the sea creatures for each letter. Next to each creature, have them recall one or two adjectives that describe it. Refer to the text of the book as needed.
  4. Divide students into groups. Explain that these groups will create an illustrated picture book similar to A Swim Through the Sea. Their books will be based on a topic. (You may assign them a topic, such as a different habitat for each group, or you may allow groups to choose their own topic.)
  5. Have students brainstorm a list of items A-Z related to their topic. Then, following the book’s format, have them identify one or more adjectives for each item.
  6. Have the groups divide up the items among themselves to create the pages for their alphabet book. When the pages are completed, have the groups compile them and create a cover for their book.
  7. Organize a “Book Release Party” so the authors/illustrators can present several pages of their finished books to the entire class. To make it festive, provide refreshments.
Option for older students: Have students include a short paragraph of interesting information on their pages.
Option for an end-of-the-year project: Have each student in class identify several ideas/concepts they learned during the year. Working as a class, match a letter of the alphabet to one of each students’ ideas. Individually, students illustrate their page, including an alliterative sentence about their idea, an explanatory paragraph, and an illustration. The compiled book would then represent the learning for the entire year!

Over in the Ocean

As summer approaches, many families will be going to the ocean on vacation, so I’ll be featuring ocean-themed books for the next 3 weeks. This week’s lesson plan is based on the book Over in the Ocean, In a Coral Reef.  Teachers can do this activity in the classroom, and parents can do it at home.

Over in the Ocean, In a Coral Reef is based on the familiar song “Over in the Meadow.” It features coral reef animals and their babies. In this art activity, students identify reef animals and replicate one of the book’s illustrations by creating a clownfish out of clay. Science concepts are reinforced through the questions and discussion based on the book.

Suggested grade level: K-2
Common Core and Science Standards are listed at the bottom of this page.


  • Picture book: Over in the Ocean, In a Coral Reef
  • Orange, white and black Model Magic Clay, also called “Fusion” by Crayola, will harden
  • Netting from a bag of oranges or onions
  • Wiggle eyes
  • Craft sticks
  • Butcher paper drawing of a colorful anemone


  1. Engage students by asking: Have you ever seen a coral reef? Have them look at the book’s cover and ask: “What do you think lives on a coral reef?”
  2. Read aloud Over in the Ocean, In a Coral Reef. Have children interact with book by showing with their fingers the number of babies shown on each double-page spread and singing along to the tune “Over in the Meadow.”
  3. When finished, go back through the book page-by-page having students look closely at the illustrations. Ask them to identify several characteristics of each animal, such as the eight arms of the octopus, stripes on the orange clownfish, and teeth on the parrotfish. Ask: “Do the babies look exactly the parents?” Discuss the diversity of life in the ocean.
  4. Ask: “How do you think the illustrator, Jeanette Canyon, made these beautiful illustrations?” Show Jeanette’s photo from the back of the book and explain her process of using polymer clay. Point out that she used netting to make the scales of the clownfish. (You can learn more about Jeanette’s art on her web site and view a movie showing how she uses polymer clay.)
  5. Have students make their own clownfish using the following procedure: Form a fish shape with orange clay. Roll out thin pieces of white clay and press into front of fish shape and toward the back. Roll out even thinner pieces of black clay and line that along the white strips. Add a wiggle eye in the front. Press netting onto the fish to make the scales. Use craft sticks to shape a mouth, fins and a tail.
  6. Have children place their fish on the butcher paper anemone for display.

 Common_clownfish_curves_dnsmpl-150x150Common Core ELA Standards
~ Literature: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (K.7, 1.7, 2.7)
Science Standards
~ From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes (K-LS1, 1-LS-1, 3-LS1)
~ Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits (1-LS3)


Bird Babies are Back!


Baby birds hatched on the day this photo was taken. 5/7/14

Look closely. What do you see?

There are baby birds in the nest—Black Phoebes. They have a little tuft of black down on their heads. They don’t have any feathers yet, and you can see the pink skin of their tiny bodies.

This is the time of year when baby birds are hatching and then fledging (leaving the nest), and it’s one of the most dangerous times in a bird’s life. If you find a baby bird that’s fallen out of its nest, carefully place it back inside. Contrary to what many people believe, its parents will continue to care for it.

LESSON PLAN: Physical Fitness

In this lesson, your students will perform various bird-related actions at stations around the room. The lesson concludes by reading selected pages from The BLUES Go Birding Across America to see pictures of the birds from the stations and The BLUES Go EXTREME Birding to find out about other amazing bird feats.

Suggested Grade Level: K-5

Common Core and Science Standards (see below)


  • 5 ping pong balls
  • empty waste basket or box
  • 3 jump ropes
  • signs at each station explaining the activity


1. Begin by challenging your students to see how many times they can flap their arms like a bird in one minute. They’ll discover that a minute of arm flapping feels like a long time!

2. Explain that a Ruby-throated Hummingbird flaps its wings over 3,ooo times a minute. It is the smallest bird found in eastern North America, and it flies non-stop for 25 hours as it migrates across the Gulf of Mexico to Mexico and Central America. That’s a long way! The hummingbird has to be in top physical condition to make the trip.

3. Direct children to “flit” from station to station around the room. At each station they will perform a bird-related physical activity. Demonstrate the activity at each station.

Station 1—Flap wings like the Ring-billed Gull: children do jumping jacks
Station 2—Peck at food like the Northern Cardinal: children reach up and down touching their toes
Station 3—Lay eggs like the Bald Eagle: children toss ping pong balls into a box or waste basket
Station 4—Hop on the ground like the American Robin: children jump rope
Station 5—Paddle in the water like the Mallard: children run in place while moving arms.

4. Divide the class into five groups and assign each group a beginning station. Play lively music and have students perform the physical activity until the music stops. When the music stops, shout “FLIT,” and have the children move to a new station. Continue playing until the children return to their beginning station.

5. Debrief the activity by asking students which feats were the easiest for them and which were the most challenging. Read the pages in The BLUES Go Birding Across America that relate to the station activities (Gull, Cardinal, Eagle, Robin, and Mallard). Be sure to also read the science notebook associated with each bird. Ask students to guess what bird flies the fastest, dives the deepest, and flies the highest. Then read about the Peregrine Falcon, White-throated Swift, Emperor Penguin, and Bar-headed Goose in The BLUES Go EXTREME Birding to find out if they’re correct.

Common Core Standards

~Reading Literature: Key Ideas and Details (k.1, 1.1, 2.1, 3.1, 4.1, 5.1)
~Reading Informational Text: Key Ideas and Details (k.1, 1.1, 2.1, 3.1, 4.1, 5.1)

Next Gen. Science Standards
From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes (K, 1, 3, 4, 5)

Picture Perfect Science

PB186X2One of my goals with this blog is to provide you with lessons that connect science and picture books. I recently discovered one of the best resources available—a series of three books called Picture Perfect Science Lessons by Karen Ansberry and Emily Morgan.

Right now I’m taking a fabulous online course with one of the authors  through the NSTA Learning Center. I love this course because Emily Morgan is “modeling” many of the lessons from her books.

I was delighted to discover that the authors chose some of Dawn Publications’ books to use in their lessons. More Picture Perfect Science Lessons uses Sunshine on My Shoulders.

LESSON PLAN: Sunshine on My Shoulders

The words of the picture book Sunshine on My Shoulders are the actual lyrics from John Denver’s famous song. The light, bright, and sometimes humorous illustrations (by Christopher Canyon) depict a young girl’s glorious sunny day.

Suggested Grade Level: K-2


This lesson is one of a series of four lessons about sunlight, which are described in detail in More Picture Perfect Science Lessons. I encourage you to get this book or one of the other books in the series. They’re great!

  • Day 1: Students experiment with “mystery beads”—UV-sensitive beads.
  • Day 2: Students read an article about sun safety.
  • Day 3: Use the following lesson plan featuring Sunshine on My Shoulders.
  • Day 4: Students draw pictures depicting themselves outside wearing UV protection, such as a hat and sunscreen.)
  1. Show the cover of Sunshine on My Shoulders and ask students: “How does it make you feel to have the sun shining on your shoulders?”
  2. Read the book. You may also want to play the CD (enclosed in the hardback version of the book). It’s also fun to have your students sing along with John Denver.
  3. Ask students: “What are some good things about sunshine? What are some harmful things about sunshine? Have you ever had a sunburn? What are some ways you can protect yourself?”
  4. Explain to students that UV light is the light that burns skin. Sunscreen can protect skin from UV light. Ask students: “What would happen to the UV beads if they were coated with sunscreen.”
  5. Test the question by generously coating five beads with sunscreen. Take those beads and five beads without sunscreen into the sunlight. Let children observe them.
  6. Have the children compare what happens to both types of beads. Then ask: “Do you think the sunscreen blocked all of the UV light?” (No, because some of the beads coated in sunscreen did turn color slightly.)
Common Core Connection:
~Speaking and Listening: Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas (K.4, 1.4, 2.4)

Next Generation Science Standards Connection
~Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer (K-PS-1, K-PS-3; K-ESS-3C)
~Waves and Their Applications (1-PS4-3)
~ Matter and Its Interactions (2-PS1-2)
~Engineering Design (K-2-ETS1)

Tree in the Ancient Forest

DSCN4846Last week my publisher received this photo of a boy in Africa reading one of Dawn Publications’ books.

The photo prompted me to use The Tree in the Ancient Forest as this week’s featured book.

The boy is part of a Maasai community, an ethnic group of semi-nomadic people inhabiting Kenya and northern Tanzania. The Massai have a tremendous focus on environmental stewardship, and we’re honored that this Dawn book and some of our others are part of Maasai children’s education.

LESSON PLAN: The Tree in the Ancient Forest
Through cumulative verse, The Tree in the Ancient Forest introduces children to a complex web of relationships. In this lesson, students explore the connections between the various plants and animals in the ancient forest through a drawing activity. When finished, students will clearly see the interdependence of life in the forest.
An ancient forest is a natural forest that has been allowed to grow undisturbed for at least 200 years. Another term for “ancient forest” is “old-growth forest.”

Suggested Grade Level: K-2

Common Core and Science Standards:
See end of lesson plan

  • Butcher paper
  • Pencils, crayons or colored pencils, and markers.
TREE_COVERRead aloud the Tree in the Ancient Forest. Have students listen carefully for the main characters (forest plants and animals) that are introduced on each page. Write the names of these characters on the board.
  1. When finished reading, have small groups of students draw a large fir tree on a piece of butcher paper, and surrounding the tree, or even on it, have them draw the listed plants and animals.
  2. Have them draw an arrow from each plant or animal to something it eats or gets nourishment from. Some plants and animals may have one arrow going both ways, such as the tree’s roots and the truffle. Ask students to notice if one plant or animal has more then one arrow leading to it.
  3. Introduce and define the terns interdependence and food chain and food web. Discuss the interdependence in the ancient forest.
  1. Read the additional nonfictional information that’s available in  the back of the book. Have students add the additional plants and animals to their drawings.
  2. The forest presented in this story is in the Pacific Northwest, but its main characteristics are shared by ancient forests the world over. Locate the closest ancient forest to your school. Research its plants and animals.

Common Core Connection:
~Reading and Literature: Integration and Knowledge of Ideas (K.7, 1.7, 2.7, 3.7)
~Informational Text: Key Ideas and Details (K.1, K.2, K.3, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2.3)
~Speaking and Listening: Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas (K.5, 1.5, 2.5)

Next Generation Science Standards Connection
~Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems (K-LS1.C, 2-LS2.A and B)
~Structures and Processes (1-LS1.A)



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 founded 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

Dawn Publications

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