What’s in YOUR Garden?

Gardens are as unique as the gardeners who create them. What will you plant in your garden this year?

GARDN_COVERYou can introduce children to the wide variety of fruits and vegetables that grow in a garden by playing a guessing game. Here’s the first riddle:

Delicious, nutritious, what could it be?
In spring there are blossoms all over the tree.
Red, green, or yellow, with fruit that is round.
If you don’t pick it, it plops to the ground.

(The answer to this riddle and many others is found in the book What’s in the Garden? by Marianne Berkes. You’ll also find the answer to this riddle at the end of this post.)

LESSON PLAN: Name the Plant
In this activity, students solve fruit and vegetable riddles, learn about the six parts of a plant, and match the twelve fruits and vegetables in What’s in the Garden? to a specific plant part.

Suggested Grade Level: K-3


  • The book What’s in the Garden?
  • Optional: the 12 fruits and vegetables mentioned in the riddles–apple, lettuce, broccoli, blueberry, celery, tomato, cucumber, onion, potato, corn, and pumpkin

Download complete directions available on the Dawn Publications website. The lesson includes suggestions for younger and older students.

Additional Resources
Easy-to-prepare recipes for each of the fruits and vegetables are included in the book, and bookmarks of all the plants are available on the Dawn Publications website, click the Activities tab and scroll to the bottom of the page.

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


Wild Animals–They’re Closer Than You Think

Do you live in nature? Eighty percent (80%) of Americans who live in urban areas may say “no,” but according to the National Environmental Education Foundation, the answer is actually YES!

“Nature may be a nice place to visit, but we don’t live there. Or do we? . . . Even when we pave it over, nature still surrounds us.” —National Environmental Education Foundation

WILD_COVER2Nature is all around us–even in the city! Help students discover the many animals that live near them with Wild Ones: Observing City Critters.

Wild Ones reminds us that no matter where we live, we share space with animals, and our encounters with them can be awe-inspiring,” says Seth Magle of the Urban Wildlife Institute at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo.

“The main character is Scooter, a dog who wanders away from home. Readers are invited to follow Scooter’s neighborhood travels and use their senses to discover city wildlife.

Scooter uses his eyes, ears, and nose to help detect wildlife around him. On a few occasions he even uses his sense of touch and taste, too!” Read more of this review at the The Branch, the Project Leaning Tree newsletter.

Resources for Teachers and Parents–free downloads

  • Using the illustrations and the additional information in the back of the book, use this lesson to help children identify how each of the animals gets its basic needs met in the city. It meets NGSS and Common Core standards.
  • Learn how to see more animals in your area by following the tips is How to See More City Critters.
  • Discover the “dos” and “don’ts” of interacting with city wildlife in How to Be a Good Neighbor to Wildlife.
  • Make some yummy dog treats at home with Scooter’s favorite recipe. They’re easy to make and, oh, so good!

“This beautiful book teaches that when we wander in the urban ecosystem we are not just observers, but also observed by the many wonderful creatures that surround us every day.” —Lyanda Lynn Haupt, author, The Urban Bestiary

Earth Day is on the Way—April 22

This year’s theme for Earth Day is Trees For The Earth with a goal to plant 7.8 billion trees in the next five years—the kick-off is April 22nd.


That’s a lot of trees! And there are a lot of people who will make it happen.

More than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

Millions of schoolchildren and their teachers will take part in planting trees and other educational, civic, and outdoor programs.




Spring is one of the best times to plant because it gives the tree time to grow roots before the intense heat of summer.
Basic steps to tree planing include: choosing a site, getting a tree that grows well in your area, planting it correctly, and taking care of it. Get specific directions here or from your local nursery.


PROJECT LEARNING TREE: Empowering Teachers, Inspiring Youth

We encourage teachers (preK through high school) to get involved in Project Learning Tree. The curriculum resources teach complex environmental issues in creative ways that meet standards. Teachers can use the activities as stand-alone lessons or integrate them into their curriculum, for all grades and subject areas.



TREE_COVER2The Tree in the Ancient Forest—Delightful cumulative verse introduces the forest ecosystem and the creatures that live in and around an old-growth tree.


OVERF_storeOver in the Forest: Come and Take a Peek— Meet 10 forest animals and count their babies. Based on the song “Over in the Meadow.”


In a Nutshell—A poignant story about the life cycle of an oak tree and how it supports life—even after it dies.NUT_Store

Whys and Hows of Spring Migration

It’s springtime, 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?

They migrate to find warmer weather, better food supplies, or a safe place to give birth to their young.

HOME_COVERThe ten featured species Going Home: The Mystery of Animal Migration 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.

Did you know?

  • Monarch butterflies travel north in the spring, and lay eggs on milkweed pants. Then they die. Their offspring continue the migratory journey.
  • Arctic terns travel 20,000 miles every year, traveling over the ocean almost all the time.
  • Ruby-throated hummingbirds’ wings beat about 75 times a second as they make an amazing 500 mile non-stop crossing of the Gulf of Mexico during their migration.
  • Caribou travel in herds of up to 100,00 animals and are almost always on the move.

“A winning combination of verse, factual language, and beautiful illustration…” — Forward Reviews


LESSON PLAN: The Mystery of Migration Reader’s Theater
This lesson will capture your students interest in the phenomena of migration as they learn about the ten species featured in the book.


Common Core Standards (ELA 1-3)

Reading: Foundational Skills

  • Fluency: 1.4, 2.4, 3.4

Next Generation Science Standards (K-3)

Life Science

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


Killer Whales Living Wild and Free

This week SeaWorld announced that killer whales currently living at their facilities will be their last ones. They will stop breeding them immediately and phase out theatrical Orca shows over time.

GRANY_COVERAlthough SeaWorld is making this change, orcas will continue to live in captivity for many years to come. The average male orca life span is about 30 years, though they can live up to 60, while the average female orca life span is 50 years, and they can live up to 100.


The oldest known orca is called Granny — estimated to be 105 years old.

She’s the the matriarch of a family group (pod) living in the Pacific Northwest.

How do we know how old she is? Her pod is the most studied group of orcas in the world. Scientists estimate that she was born around 1911 based on the age of her offspring.

Granny was captured in 1967 but was deemed too old for marine parks, so she was let go. She continues to live wild and free.

In the book Granny’s Clan, you’ll discover what life is like in an orca pod — giving birth, hunting for food, playing with “cousins,” and even interacting with humans.

After reading this story you will fall in love with orcas. — Jean-Michele Cousteau, son of Jacques Cousteau


LESSON PLAN: All in the Family

In this lesson, students create a classroom totem pole that tells the story of Granny and her family and they make individual totem poles that tell their own family stories. In a second activity students learn how quilts are created and used to tell a story. Download a free pdf of directions for this lesson.


How to Teach about Climate Change

This blog honors the life and work of Gary Braasch, co-author of How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate. Read a remembrance of Gary on our home page.

“The global climate change wave is about to crest on public schools,” writes Prof. David Sobel. In fact, some are calling this wave a tsunami. How can you teach accurate, scientific information to your students in a way that empowers them, rather than discourages them?

CLIMT1I suggest the book How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate: Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming.

Your students will read about modern-day scientists who are using scientific inquiry to  find the answers to climate questions.

CLIMT2The scientific information is written in language that students can understand, and the book engages kids with real-life examples of citizen science projects.

It’s especially powerful for them to see photos of students their own age gathering data and recording information that will be used by actual scientists.


CLIMTTG_CoverLessons You Can Use

Explore climate change through engaging lessons and classroom activities in a teacher’s guide. You’ll find suggestions to differentiate instruction and conduct project-based learning. Lessons and activities are correlated to science standards for grades 5 to 8.

Click here to download a sample 15 pages of the guide, including the lesson “Life in the Greenhouse.”

What a difference you and your students can make!


Petaloso: A New Word Blossoms Forth

What adjectives would you use to describe a flower? This is the question an Italian primary school teacher asked her class. One of the students, an 8-year-old boy, wrote down  “petaloso” meaning “full of petals.” The only problem was that there’s no such word in the Italian dictionary. At least not yet.

The ending “oso” is common in Italian. But it’s never been applied to flower petals. The boy and his teacher wrote to the Italian institution that oversees language. And to their surprise, they received a letter from an official linguist. It read in part:

It’s beautiful and clear. . . If you manage to spread your word among many people who start saying ‘What a petaloso flower this is!’, then petaloso will have become a word in Italian.

The teacher posted the letter on Facebook, and now there’s a movement to make “petaloso” a widely used word. Now that’s a language lesson her class will never forget!

Read more details at: How an eight-year-old boy invented a new word”,  or you can listen to the story on NPR.


FLOWR_COVER2On One Flower: Butterflies, Ticks, and a Few More Icks

What adjectives might your students use to describe a goldenrod flower? After reading the book One One Flower, they might call it a “mini-beast park.” That’s because an animal “community” inhabits a single flower. To name a few: a  butterfly sips nectar . . . a ladybug snacks on aphids . . . and, uh oh, look out for the ambushbug!

The story is written in rhyming cumulative verse,  and two pages of “Field Notes” and “fun facts” at the back of One One Flower offer intriguing information on all the critters.


A single goldenrod plant is home to a remarkable variety of insects. Each insect uses specially developed senses to survive. In this lesson students discover how insects use their senses in different ways. For example, a stinkbug uses a stinky smell (eew!) as a defense, while a lady bug uses an unpleasant taste (yuk!) to deter predators. Get complete directions here.

Detailed and realistic-looking illustrations, accompanied by an informative narrative full of satisfying-gross bug facts make this story perfect for the aspiring insect expert. —Connecticut Country Kids

Welcome to the Farm

FARM_COVERThere’s a lot happening on the farm!

Pigs roll, goats nibble, horses gallop, hens peck, and turkeys strut! Cows moo, turkeys gobble, pigs oink, and goats go maa-aa.

Each and every reading of Over on the Farm will have children counting, clapping, and singing along to the classic tune of “Over in the Meadow.” They’ll also learn the names of baby animals – like KIDS, the name for baby goats! And a rooster makes an appearance on every page. Better keep an eye on him.

Over on the Farm is the latest in Marianne Berkes’ wonderful collection of interactive books for children. The lively illustrations of farm animals will bring smiles to the faces of children and adults alike, and the rhythm, rhyme, counting, and movement opportunities lovingly crafted into Marianne’s prose ensure that young readers will be both engaged and delighted.— Rae Pica, author, What If Everybody Understood Child Development

Find a potpourri of valuable information about farm animals and suggestions for child-friendly activities in the back of the book and online. See below for a standards-based math lesson plan.


LESSON PLAN: Adding Up the Animals

In the book Over on the Farm, children are introduced to ten baby animals that live on a farm. Each of the babies is associated with a number, 1 to 10.
Get complete directions for an addition lesson using “Counting Cards” based on the animals in the book. (grades preK-3)

  • Next Generation Science (DCI K-3) Life Science: LS1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
  • Common Core (Math K-2) Content: K.OA.A.4; 1.OA.D.7; 2.OA.B.2

Animals Moving into the City

WILD_COVER2Are you part of the 80% of people who live in urban and suburban areas?

If you are, you may have noticed that you’re sharing your environment with more and more animals.

From raccoon and deer, to foxes and falcons, lots of animals have discovered that cities are good places to live. They’re finding plenty of food, sometimes right under our noses. And buildings and bridges mimic natural features as safe places for them to nest and rest.

Introduce children to their wildlife neighbors with Wild Ones: Observing City Critters. Kids will follow Scooter, a curious canine, as he dashes, darts, and  zips through the city. Along the way he discovers wonderfully wild residents. But he doesn’t notice all the critters in his neighborhood? Will you? Look closely!

Wild Ones: Observing City Critters is a delightful read that will open the eyes of the reader to the beauty and diversity of wildlife that live all around us. . . . We share space with animals, and our encounters with them can be awe-inspiring,” says Seth Magle the Director of the Urban Wildlife Institute at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo.

Teachers: Be sure to check out the free online lesson plans and activities like the one below.

LESSON PLAN: Meeting Basic Needs
In the book Wild Ones: Observing City Critters, students are introduced to a variety of wild animal species that live in the city. In this lesson, students learn about each animal’s natural habitat and refer to the story to find out where they live in the city. Click here for complete directions.




Next Generation Science (DCI K-3)

Life Science

  • LS1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
  • LS4 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

Common Core (ELA K-3)

Reading Literature

  • 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

Think Spring!

BEAN_COVER2Does your garden “wait below drifty snow?” Or maybe you’re in the part of the country where “wind roars; rain pours.”

No matter what the weather looks like outside of  your window, it’s not too early to “think spring!” with one of Dawn Publications’ new books–Green Bean! Green Bean!

“Get Out and Grow” educator William Moss says this book “is a vibrant lyrical story of discovery for young kids. The book follows a precocious gardener and her beans through the seasons from planting to harvest. Parents and educators will especially appreciate the additional info and activities in the appendices. This is a fun read and great resource for growing healthy gardens and happy gardeners.”

Teachers: Be sure to check out the free online lesson plans and activities  like the one below.

Rhyme Time

Green bean! Green Bean! tells the story of a seed’s life cycle using pairs of rhyming words. The use of rhyme promotes Phonological Awareness—the ability to recognize and produce similar word sounds. In this lesson, Rhyme Time, students match pairs of rhyming words from the story to create a “Garden of Rhymes.” Click here for complete directions.

MEETS STANDARDS for Common Core (ELA K-2)

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
Foundational Skills
  • Phonological Awareness: K.2, 1.2





subscribe     Blog by Carol Malnor I love making connections: kids and nature, science and reading, fun and learning. I discovered the joy of connecting Dawn Publications' books with kids when I was a classroom teacher. Dawn's books were easy to incorporate into my lessons and the kids loved them. I used picture books with students of all ages, from primary school all the way up through 9th grade. Over the years, my relationship with Dawn changed and developed, and I authored Dawn’s Teacher’s Guides as well as writing books for children 4-14 years old. ARTICLE How to Use Creative Nonfiction Picture Books in Support of Common Core and Science ACTIVITIES Dawn Publications STANDARDS Common Core State Standards Next Generation Science Standards National Science Teachers Association Picture Perfect Science   OTHER FAVORITES Dawn Publications Children and Nature Network
Sharing Nature Worldwide
Roots and Shoots
Audubon Adventures
Journey North: Citizen Science
Project Learning Tree