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

The winner for our September contest was Debra Powell of Briscoe School in San Antonio, 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 the part of a tree where food is made.
glass1 Clue 2:  My chlorophyll makes me look green.
glass1 Clue 3:  In autumn I often change color and become yellow, orange, or red.
glass1 Clue 4:  After changing color I fall to the ground, but grow anew in spring.
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: MOON

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

Nature’s Patchwork Quilt

I flew home to California from Michigan this weekend. I know it’s a cliché, but I’ve got to say it: “The ground below looked like a patchwork quilt.” Squares and rectangles of various shades of browns and greens spread out below me—the farms and fields of the Midwest in autumn. I delighted in seeing rivers, lakes, and mountains interrupt the regularity of the pattern of squares.

QUILT_COVERWhat I couldn’t see from my window seat were the individual plants and animals that made up the habitats below. However, it was easy for me to imagine them because of the book Nature’s Patchwork Quilt by Mary Miche. This books explores the pieces and patterns of the world’s habitats.

LESSON PLAN: Wild Wonderful Words
Nature’s Patchwork Quilt introduces students to key environmental vocabulary words, such as interdependence and biodiversity. A complete list of words and definitions is found in Wonderful Wild Words on the Dawn Publications’ website under “Activities” and also described below.

Suggested Grade level: 1-5


  1. Read aloud Nature’s Patchwork Quilt.
  2. Divide students into groups and give each group a set of Definitions. Have them spread out the definitions so that they easily read them. Introduce the “Wonderful Wild Words” game by explaining that the object of the game is to choose the definition that correctly matches the vocabulary term you read. Groups earn one point for each correct definition they choose.
  3. Draw one of the cards from your set of Vocabulary Terms, and read it aloud. Tape it to the board.
  4. Give students a predetermined amount of time to find the definition from their set of cards. When time is up, ask for a volunteer to read the correct definition. Record points for groups who make the correct matches. Provide additional explanations or examples to make sure that children understand the term.
  5. When finished, give each student a bookmark from Nature’s Patchwork Quilt.
Extension to do Outside: Walk around your school grounds to find concrete examples of the terms, such as camouflage, adaptation, or survival mechanism. Back in the classroom, identify the vocabulary terms that you couldn’t find around the school, such as zooplankton or phytoplankton.

Common Core Standards (ELA 1-5)

  • ELA Reading Information Text: Craft and Structure: 1.4. 2.4, 3.4, 4.4, 5.4

Next Generation Science Standards (DCI 1-5)

  • LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structure and Processes
  • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
  • LS4: Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity


Going Around the Sun

The total eclipse of the full moon last week got us all looking up into the night sky. Build on this exciting current event by exploring the solar system with your students.

GOING_COVER-1The vastness of space can be daunting for young children (and adults!) to understand. How big is the earth compared to the sun? How far is 3 trillion miles anyway? Going Around the Sun: Some Planetary Fun introduces children to the solar system with rhyme and movement. After reading the book, create a model using everyday objects to illustrate the sizes of planets and their distances from the sun. Conclude your exploration of space with an Art activity that transforms STEM to STEAM. After all, it took incredible imagination and creativity to get a human to walk on the moon.

LESSON PLAN: Going Around the Sun
The basis of following lesson is the book Going Around the Sun: Some Planetary Fun. The lesson is divided into three parts and may be done over two or three days. However, each part is a meaningful stand-alone lesson.

Suggested Grade Level
: K-3

PART ONE—Size it!
  • The book Going Around the Sun: Some Planetary Fun by Marianne Berkes
  • Long roll of paper
  • Large pumpkin, about 60 inches in diameter,
  • Additional fruits and vegetables in a bowl: pea, grape, radish, blueberry cantaloupe grapefruit, orange, small peach or plum.
Procedure: Explain that models help us understand information more clearly. For example, the sun is 864,938 miles in diameter the earth is 7,900 miles in diameter. Tell students that as a class they will work together to create a model of the planets’ sizes using fruits and vegetables. Follow these complete directions.

PART TWO—Distance It
Materials: Large roll of toilet paper

Procedure: Now that students know the order of the planets and their relative sizes, the next step in the model is to show how far away they are from the sun. You’ll need a large enough space to unroll 280 sheets of toilet paper. Follow these complete directions.

Materials: crayons, paper, aluminum foil, griddle
Procedure: Artist Janeen Mason used a simple melted crayon art technique to create the illustrations for the book. Scroll down to page 2 of this pdf to see how she did it and then have your students create their own “far out” designs.

Common Core Standards (ELA K-3)

  • ELA Reading Informational Text: Key Ideas and Details (K.1, 1.1, 2.1, 3.1); Integration and Knowledge of Ideas (K.7, 1.7, 2.7, 3.7)

Next Generation Science Standards (DCI grade 1)

  • ESS1.A:The Universe and Its Stars
  • ESS1:B: The Earths Place in the Solar System


Going Home

The mystery of migration greeted me on my morning walk this week. As the sun was rising, and the air warming, more than 200 Turkey Vultures swooped and soared over my head. With the change of the seasons animals are on the move all over the world.

HOME_COVERMigration is a powerful compulsion, sometimes taking animals over long distances, facing many obstacles. Why do they do it? How do they succeed?

You’ll get answers to these questions and more in the book Going Home: The Mystery of Animal Migration.

The ten featured species offer a broad representation of migration: Loggerhead Turtles, Monarch Butterflies, Manatees, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Pacific Salmon, Canada Geese, California Gray Whales, Caribou, Arctic Tern, and Emperor Penguin.

LESSON PLAN: The Mystery of Migration
This lesson will capture your students interest in the phenomena of migration as they learn about the 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—Students use animal bookmarks to guess the animal being described in the read aloud.
  2. Explore—Students use information from the book to draw migration routes. Then compare distances.
  3. Explain—Students sort the animal bookmarks in several ways: their reason for migrating, how they travel, and a category of their own choosing.
  4. Elaborate—Students research the animals in their area that migrate and those that don’t migrate.
  5. Evaluate—Students to listen the information in the back of the book read aloud and discuss the reason the author calls migration a mystery. They also discuss the migration mysteries that scientists are still learning about.
Extension: Additional lessons for Going Home are available under “Downloadable Activities” at, scroll down to the book title

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.

In a Nutshell

NUT_COVER2 It’s harvest time, and the  squirrels, acorn woodpeckers, and jays are harvesting the acorns in my yard.

An acorn is technically a fruit because it houses a seed, but due to its hard outer shell it’s classified as a nut. Only one type of tree produces acorns—oak trees (Quercus genus).

The following lesson begins in the fall and is completed in March, which reinforces the role of the seasons in a plant’s life cycle.

LESSON PLAN: In a Nutshell
In a Nutshell follows the life cycle of an oak beginning with an acorn dropping from a great oak. As it grows, animals nibble at it, a fire threatens it, but overcoming many challenges it eventually towers high in the forest, observing the changing human scene below. Eventually its energy passes into many other life forms–even the a little boy.

Suggested Grade Level: K-3

  • the book, In a Nutshell
  • a copy of the pdf Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns created by Ag in the Classroom. You’ll be using the science/math lesson described on pages 3-4, but there are additional lessons related to art, language arts, and social studies.
  • acorns
  • quart milk cartons
  • heavy plastic bags
  • container of water
  • container of sand
  • peat moss-based planting medium
  • fertilizer or compost

  1. Read aloud In a Nutshell. When finished have students recall the stages the growth of the oak tree, beginning with the sprouting acorn. Refer to the illustrations to prompt students’ responses. Help to instill an appreciation for the oak tree by discussing the challenges that it faced and the ways it survived. Ask, “What finally happened to the oak tree? Did it really die or did it live on in other forms?”
  2. Turn to the illustration of  the acorn sprout and explain the process of a seed sprouting. Tell students that they’re going to sprout and grow acorns, which will be planted on the school grounds (or other suitable place).
  3. Follow the directions under “Science/Math” on page 3 of the pdf Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns.

Common Core Standards (ELA K-3)

  • ELA Reading and Literature: Key Ideas and Details (K.1, K.2, K.3; 1.1, 1.2, 1.3; 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 3.1, 3.3); 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: Structures and Processes
  • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
  • LS3: Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits


Story Walk: A Path of Pages

How would you like to combine literacy with physical activity and time in nature? storywalkIf this sounds like a winning combination to you, here’s how you can do it with your students and meet Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards (listed at the end of the lesson plan).


During a Story Walk, students follow “trail signs” made from the pages of picture book. A Story Walk engages students in an aspect of nature that’s right outside your classroom or preps them for a nature field trip. I’ve provided book suggestions, but the Story Walk concept may be adapted to a wide variety of books and locations.
NOTE: This  lesson is based on the community-wide project called StoryWalk® created by Anne Ferguson.

Suggested Grade Level: K-3 (older students like it too!)

  • 2-3 copies of a book, 2 copies will be taken apart to make signs. One copy of the book to remain in the classroom
  • Sentence strips, 1 per page
  • A question or movement for each page to help maintain students’ focus
  • Card stock for signs, enough for every page including the book cover
  • Wooden stakes, enough for every page including the book cover
  • Tacks or push pins to mount pages on stakes
  • Optional: laminating sheets, 2 per page. Velcro squares, 4 per page (2 for card stock, 2 for stake)

bildeTeacher Prep:
Choose a book. (See suggestions below.) Take two books apart and mount the pages on card stock. Write a brief phrase or sentence that summarizes the page on a sentence strip. It’s recommended but not necessary that you laminate the pages. Position stakes around the school grounds to create a trail. The next page should be visible so that children can easily follow the trail. Pin pages to the stakes, or if using laminated pages, attach a Velcro square at the top and bottom of each page. Attach 2 Velcro squares on each post, matching the Velcro location on the card stock.
Find “Trail Guides”— parent volunteers or older students who will read the signs as they lead groups of younger children along the trail. Have Trail Guides read the story ahead of time and provide them with questions and/or movements for each page.

  1. Explain to students that they are going read a story page by page as they walk along a trail. Divide students into groups and assign each group a Trail Guide.
  2. Space out the groups so that there is only one group at a page at a time.
  3. When back in the classroom, have the class work together to put the sentence strips in the correct order. Read aloud the book to check for accuracy.


Near Trees
OVERF_storeOver in the Forest: Come & Take a Peek (by Marianne Berkes)—Children learn the ways of ten forest animals to the rhythm of “Over in the Meadow” as they leap like a squirrel, dunk like a raccoon, and pounce like a fox.

GOBBL_storeGobble, Gobble (by Cathryn Falwell)—Follow a young backyard naturalist as arrow-shaped footprints lead her to a flock of funny-looking birds with big strong feet: Wild Turkeys!

Near a River
ORIV_SHOP-150x150Over in the River Running Out to the Sea (by Marianne Berkes)—Children “slither” like water snakes and “slide” like otters while singing to the tune of “Over in a Meadow.” And they’ll count baby animals in watersheds all over No. America!

In a School Garden

Jo Mac Donald Had a Garden (by Mary Quattlebaum)—Jo is Old MacDonald’s granddaughter. MACG_storeChildren make animal sounds and mimic Jo’s movements as they discover Jo’s garden, singing E-I-E-I-O as they go.

Molly’s Organic Farm
(by Carol Malnor)—Children follow Molly, an adorable orange cat, as she romps, naps, and hunts among the vegetables. Along the way they learn about compost, companion plants, good bugs, and other essentials of growing organically.

In an Urban Area

DREAM_SHOPThe Dandlion Seed’s Big Dream (Anthony)—Children follow a dandelion seed on its adventures through the city, meeting hazards all along the way and achieving its dream in a miraculous way.

Common Core Standards (ELA K-3)

  • ELA Reading and Literature: Key Ideas and Details (K.1, K.2, K.3, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 3.1, 3.3); 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.

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:



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