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

The winner of last month's contest is Donna Scott of Crestview Elementary School in New Boston, Texas.

She has won a classroom set of Dawn’s nature books 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.

Winners are selected monthly. Please note, books are shipped only to US addresses.
Who Am I?
spacerglass1 Clue 1:  To eat, I put my head into the water and my tail sticks straight up in the air.

Clue 2:  Underneath my waterproof outer feathers, I have soft warm feathers called "down." I pluck my down feathers to line my nest. I lay up to a dozen eggs in a nest on the ground near water.

glass1 Clue 3: As a female, my feathers are mostly shades of brown. But the male of my kind has a bright green head.
glass1 Clue 4: I'm one of the most common and recognizable ducks in the Northern Hemisphere.
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: Saguaro Cactus

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

More Than Just “Tweet-Tweet”

NBIRD_COVERIt’s spring. You’re out for a morning walk and you hear birds singing! It’s more than just “tweet-tweet.”  You hear buzzes, warbles, and trills. Maybe even a quack. Why are birds singing? And what are they saying? And WHO are these birds anyway?

Get the answers to these questions in this week’s lesson plan!

LESSON PLAN: Dawn Chorus

Listening to birds is a fascinating way to learn about animal communication. Noisy Bird Sing-Along introduces students to the sounds of 12 common birds. In this activity, students imitate the sounds of the birds as you “conduct” them in a “dawn chorus”—after listening to recordings of actual birds!
You may follow the directions below, or download a PDF of the lesson, which includes two handouts.

Common Core Standards (ELA K-3)
Reading: Informational Text
•Craft and Structure (K.5, 1.5, 2.5, 3.5)
•Integration and Knowledge of Ideas (K.7, 1.7, 2.7, 3.7)
Speaking and Listening
•Comprehension and Collaboration (K.1, 1.1, 2.1, 3.1)

Next Generation Science Standards (DCI K-3)
LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
A: Structure and Function
B: Growth and Development of Organisms
C: Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms
D: Information Processing

Suggested Grade Level: K-3

  • The book Noisy Bird Sing-Along
  • Handout: “About the birds in this book,” included in PDF
  • Handout: “Bird Sounds,” one copy to post or write on the board, included in PDF
  • Overhead projector or white board
  • Computer access to play the online sounds of actual birds from the Dawn Publications website
Teacher Prep:
Cut apart the handout so that each bird is on a separate slip of paper

1. Read aloud Noisy Bird Sing-Along. Have students imitate the sound on each page. Point out that some birds have
melodious songs, others have calls, and the woodpecker makes a noise called “drumming.” The additional
information on the page refers to the habitat and feeding behavior of each bird.
2. Discuss the reasons why birds sing. Then reread the book again, but this time play the recording of the
actual bird, which is available on the Dawn Publications website. Listen for the sounds as they are written in the book; for example, ask students if they can hear “cheery up, cheerio” in the actual robin’s song.
3. Explain that birds are active singers in the early morning as they’re waking up and establishing territory
or singing to attract mates. The sound of many birds singing in the morning is called the “dawn chorus.”
4. Tell the class that you’re going to conduct them in a dawn chorus. Divide the class into small groups and
assign each of them a bird. Give each group a slip of paper with information about their bird. Choose one
student to read it aloud to the entire class.
5. Refer to the list of “Bird Sounds” (either projected or written on the board). Give groups a few moments
to rehearse their sounds. When they’re ready, point to one group at a time and have them “sing” for the
others. You may go in the same order as presented in the book, or you may choose to have the wood-
peckers begin tapping to set the rhythm for other groups to join in.
6. Now they’re ready for the dawn chorus! Point to a group and have them make their sound and keep
singing as you point to the other groups. Let the entire chorus resound for several seconds. If possible,
make a recording of the performance to play back to the class

Note: This activity is adapted from Bird Sleuth’s Feathered Friends Activities, a collection of monthly lessons about birds. You can download an entire year of activities!
Take advantage of the free information and resources at BirdSleuth K-12.

What’s Blooming Where You Are?

What flower do you think of when you hear the statement, “Spring flowers are blooming.” Did tulips, daffodils, crocuses, or poppies come to mind?

If you live in southern Arizona, you may have thought of a cactus flower. The desert blooms from March through May, and one of the most spectacular flowers belongs to the Saguaro Cactus—home to many desert critters.

The book Around One Cactus: Owls, Bats and Leaping Rats introduces students to the fascinating creatures that live in and around the Saguaro Cactus.

One desert animal, the Kangaroo Rat, is so efficient in converting the dry seeds it eats into water that it needs no other water source.

In this activity students use scientific observation to discover how changes in an animal’s environment can effect water retention.

Note: Refer to the directions below, or download a PDF of this lesson. Additional lesson plans for this book are available on the Dawn Publications website under the “Activities” tab.

Suggested Grade Level: 3-5
  1. Read aloud the book Around One Cactus. After reading the story, read the “Field Notes” in the back. Discuss some of the special adaptations desert animals use to survive, especially the Kangaroo Rat.
  2. Provide each student or group with a small sponge saturated with water. Explain to students that this represents a desert animal with a limited amount of water.
  3. To measure the beginning moisture content, each student or group should use the balance to determine the mass of the sponge. A control sponge should be left unprotected for the experiment’s duration.
  4. Over a 24-hour period, students should take care of their “animal” in a manner that will best conserve the water it contains using only natural materials. During this 24-hour period, the “animal” must be left out for at least 4 hours to “feed.”
  5. At the beginning of the experiment invite students to plan a water retention strategy and write it down along with predictions of what will happen.
  6. During the 24-hour period, students should make and record observations.
  7. At the end of the allotted times, students should again record the mass of their sponges, compare it with the previous mass, and make inferences about the results in relation to real organisms with limited or temporary water supplies such as the lizards, rats, and foxes mentioned in Around One Cactus.

    Common Core Standards (ELA)
    Reading Informational Test
    Key Ideas and Details (3.3, 4.3, 5.3)
    ~Integration and Knowledge of Ideas (3.7, 4.7)

    Science Framework Connection
    ~LS-1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
    ~LS-2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
    ~LS-3: Heredity: Inheritance and Variation in Traits
    ~LS-4: Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

International Mother Earth Day

Earth Day is Wednesday, April 22! Education is at the heart of Earth Day. It began in 1970 in the U.S. with an “environmental teach in.” In 2009, the United Nations designated April 22 as International Mother Earth Day. This year 193 participating countries will be participating. 

Just imagine all of nature—mountains, prairies, oceans, deserts, and all—lying on your bed as a patchwork quilt.  Nature’s Patchwork Quilt does just that!

This nonfiction picture book spreads out the plants and animals of Earth’s unique habitats for children to learn about, enjoy, care for, and love. 

Choose from three different lesson plans based on the book, meeting standards for grades K-8.

LESSON PLAN (grades K-2)
Where’s the Wilderness Kid?

Images of children interacting with nature are shown in some of the quilt pieces in Nature’s Patchwork Quilt. Read the book aloud to your students. Then follow the directions in the lesson “Where’s the Wilderness Kid?” to have your students find the hidden kids and discuss human activities that can be done in each habitat.

Common Core Connection

~ Informational Text: Key Ideas and Details (1.6); Craft and Structure (K.7); Integration and Knowledge of Ideas (K.7, 1.7, 2.7, )
~Speaking and Listening: Comprehension and Collaboration(K.1, 1.1, 2.1)

Science Framework Connection
~Earth and Human Activity (K)
~Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems (K, 2)
~Structures and Processes (1)

Wild Wonderful Words

Nature’s Patchwork Quilt introduces vocabulary words, such as interdependence and biodiversity. Read the book aloud, or have students read it, and then follow the directions in the lesson “Wild Wonderful Words.” A complete list of words and definitions is included.

After identifying the new vocabulary, 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 Connection
~ Informational Text:Craft and Structure (3.4, 4.4, 5.4)
~Speaking and Listening: Comprehension and Collaboration(3.1, 4.1, 5.1)

Science Framework Connection
~Earth and Human Activity (3)
~Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems (4)
~Nature and Matter in Ecosystems (5)

Earth Heroes in Action

One of the quilt designs in Nature’s Patchwork Quilt illustrates 18 environmentalists, including Rachel Carson examining ocean vegetation, John Muir exploring the forest, and Jane Goodall observing a chimpanzee. All of the environmentalists are chosen from the Earth Heroes series of biographies.

Have your students work in groups to research one of the Earth Heroes and prepare a presentation for the class. Presentations should include the following: (1) one childhood incident, (2) several key turning points in the person’s life, (3) major accomplishments, and (4) lasting contribution of the hero to the environment. Direct students to noticing the organization of the Earth Heroe’s books, including the sections titled Timeline, Ripples of Influence, and Accomplishments.

Common Core Connection
~ Informational Text: Key Ideas and Details (5.3, 6.3, 7.3, 8.3); Craft and Structure (5.6, 6.6, 7.6 8.6)
~Writing: Text Types and Purposes (5.2, 6.2, 7.2, 8.2); Production and Distribution (5.6, 6.6, 7.6, 8.6); Research to Build and Present knowledge (5.8, 6.8, 7.8, 8.8)

Science Framework Connection
~Earth and Human Activity (5-8)
~Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics (5-8)

Poetry Month with Picture Books

It’s Poetry Month! A great time to address the Common Core poetry standards in a fun and engaging way.

A suggested “Text Exemplar” for this standard is Over in the Meadow, a traditional song that’s been sung since the 1880s.

OMTN_COVERThe song’s timeless charm has new appeal for children today in the form of a picture book series by Marianne Berkes.* Each of the books in the “Over” series follows the same pattern as Over in the Meadow while introducing various animals in specific habitats. 

Over on a Mountain: Somewhere in the World is her newest book in the series.

Here’s a complete listing of all seven titles with links to tips from the author and lesson plans; just scroll down the page alphabetically. Address CCSS and NGSS by reading one of these picture books with your children!

Over on a Mountain: Somewhere in the World
Over in the Jungle: A Rainforest Rhyme
Over in the Ocean, On a Coral Reef
Over in the Arctic Where the Cold Wind Blows
Over in the River: Flowing Out to the Sea

Over in Australia: Amazing Animals Down Under
Over in a Forest: Come and Take a Peek

Common Core Standards (ELA K-3)

~Standard 10: Text Complexity, Quality, and Range
Next Generation Science Standards (DCI K-3)
~LS1: From Molecules to Organisms:
~LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
~LS3: Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits
~LS4: Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

*Be sure to check out Marianne’s blog with a great poetry idea: Put a Poem in Your Pocket.



April Showers

We all know that April showers bring May flowers. But did you know that April’s showers are a crucial part of the earth’s water cycle? Let Pitter and Patter, two drops of rain, teach you all about it!

Pitter and Patter fall from a gray cloud. They tumble from the sky, careen off a leaf, plunge into a stream, flow through an underground cave, and travel through the entire water cycle.

LESSON PLAN: Nature Detective
Pitter and Patter meet many different “characters” in a variety of habitats as they journey through a watershed—squirrels, herons, seals, and foxes, just to name a few. In this activity, students learn more about each character, are introduced to new vocabulary terms, and become “nature detectives” drawing and/or writing about other critters in the habitat.
*NOTE: A pdf of this lesson is available here from Dawn Publications.

Suggested Grade Level: K-3

~ A copy of the book Pitter and Patter
~ Handout “Nature Detectives,” 1 copy for each student. Available here from Dawn Publications.
This handout is 20 pages long. It’s very complete with information about 9 habitats (oak tree, stream, valley, wetland, meadow, soil, cave, river, ocean) and three animals that live in each habitat.

1. Read aloud the story about Pitter and Patter.
2. Referring to the two pages in the back of the book titled “Explore More—For Kids,” follow Pitter and Patter through the water cycle beginning and ending with the gray cloud. Pay specific attention to the characters they meet along the way.
3. Using the handout, introduce habitats presented in the story  and have students take turns reading about the characters.
4. Review the vocabulary terms, adding more explanation as needed.
5. Have students complete the “Nature Detective” section for each habitat. There are several options for how you can have them do this: students may work individually or in small groups, with each person/group doing one habitat. Or, you may cover one or two habitats a day. For older students, you may want to assign “Nature Detective” for homework.
6. No matter which format you choose, have students share their completed writing/illustrations with the class or in small groups.

Common Core Standards (ELA K-3)
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)
Text Types and Purposes (K.3, 1.3, 2.3, 3.3)

Next Generation Science Standards (DCI K-3)
PS1: Matter and Interactions
A: Structure and Properties of Matter
B: Chemical Reactions
ESS2: Earth’s Systems
C: The Roles of Water in the Earth’s Surface Processes
LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
A: Structure and Function
C: Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms
D: Information Processing
LS2: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems


How to Fall in Love With Nature

“The average North American child spends seven hours a day staring at screens and mere minutes engaged in unstructured play outdoors…Yet recent research indicates that experiences in nature are essential for healthy growth.”
— from How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art And Science Of Falling In Love With Nature, a field guide for getting kids in touch with nature in a tech-centered world.

I recently heard an interview with the book’s author Scott Sampson.  He’s the vice president of research and collections at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. But to a whole lot of American kids, he’s the guy on “Dinosaur Train,” a PBS Kids TV show.

He states:
“One of the problems today is that kids don’t have their sensory skills developed. We can walk outside and not hear the birds or smell the flowers or feel the air. And so the initial challenge is just to start noticing nature.”

Scott suggests an easy strategy anyone can do:
“Get kids taking pictures of [nature] if they need to use technology.
I’ve done this activity, and it really works!
Another strategy Sampson describes is the importance of storytelling in developing children’s affinity for nature. There are a variety of stories you can share:
  • A personal experience—like the story I tell my students about my snowshoeing trip across a frozen lake in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
  • A nature experience from another person—such as the stories in the Earth Heroes series, biographies of naturalists and environmentalists.
  • Creative non-fiction stories—all of Dawn Publications books inspire a greater awareness and appreciation of nature. Dawn books also connect with Next Generation Science and Common Core Standards. Visit any of the older posts on this blog for lesson plan ideas.
Sampson makes another point I completely agree with:
“You don’t have to necessarily live near the Olympic Rain Forest or Muir Woods or some kind of other amazing natural setting. Almost any patch of dirt will do.

From Sampson’s website:

513px-Children_Exploring_Nature“To date, no book has offered teachers, parents, and other caregivers the necessary tools to engender a meaningful, lasting connection between children and the natural world.

How to Raise a Wild Child is a timely and engaging antidote, showing how kids’ connection to nature changes as they mature, and empowering grown-ups to be strong mentors.”

And my final thought:
An added benefit of helping your students get in touch with nature is that you may discover that your own awareness and appreciation of nature increases too!

Spring Has Arrived!

FLOWR_COVER2The calendar says that spring has arrived. Even if it still feels like winter where you are, you can be sure flowers are on the way.
In celebration of spring, this week I’m focusing on flowers with the book On One Flower: Butterflies, Ticks, and few more Icks.

Plants are the basis of all ecosystems, and On One Flower is a creative nonfiction story that takes place in a very tiny ecosystem—a single goldenrod flower. This book is an effective read aloud to introduce the concept of “Relationships in Ecosystems” to younger children, or to introduce a unit on “Matter and Energy in Ecosystems” for older students.

This writing activity begins by having students look at the book’s cover illustration. Working in small groups, they write a first draft of a story based on the illustration. After listening to the book or reading it on their own, they identify the edits they would make to their stories.

Suggested Grade Level: Read Aloud: K-5; Independent Reading: 3-5

  1. Before reading the book aloud, use several pieces of paper to cover up the words on the cover of the book. Create a transparency of the cover illustration and project it for the entire class.
  2. Divide the class into several groups. Invite members of each group to generate three to five questions about the illustration. Afterwards, ask each group to write a story that has answers to the other group’s questions embedded in the story (one member of each group records the story that is contributed by all the other members of the group).
  3. After sufficient time, have the groups to share their completed stories with each other.
  4. Then read the book aloud. Ask students to pay attention to the details, facts, and information that is shared throughout the story as well as the information presented in the “Field Notes” at the end of the book.
  5. After reading invite each of the groups to return to their original “Picture Perfect” stories and to edit them in the light of the information they gathered from the book. What changes will they need to make in the next draft.
  6. Follow up with these discussion questions: Which of the creatures was the most amazing? How did the illustrations contribute to your enjoyment of this book? Which of the animals would you like to learn more about? How are so many animals able to live together in one place? What other animals do you think could be found on a single flower? If you could tell the author one thing, what would you like to say to the author.
Common Core Connection
~Reading and Literature: Key Ideas and Details (K.1,,1.1, 2.1); Craft and Structure (K.6, 2.4); Integration and Knowledge of Ideas (K.7, 1.7, 2.7)
~Writing: Test Types and Purposed (1.3,2.3, 3.3, 4.3, 5.3); Production and Distribution (K.5, 1.5,2.5,3.5)
~Speaking and Listening: Comprehension and Collaboration (K-1, 1.1, 2.1, 3.1, 4.1, 5.1); Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas—2.4, 3.4, 4.4, 5.4

Science Framework Connection
~Independent Relationships in Ecosystems (K, 2, 3)
~Inheritance and Variance of Traits: Life Cycles and Their Traits (3)
~Matter and Energy in Ecosystems (5)

Little Brother Moose

Seeing wild animals in towns and cities is not uncommon. Even New York City is home to all kinds of wildlife—raccoons, coyotes, opossum, deer, and hawks to name a few species.

MOOSE_COVER2In northern regions, wild moose sometimes roam into towns. As explained in the book Little Brother Moose, “They enter towns for a variety of reasons, including illness. Naturalists speculate that apparently healthy, young males enter town for a different reason: curiosity.”

Little Brother Moose tells the story of just such a curious young male. He’s lured into a town by the sights, sounds, and smells of civilization. And he gets lost! Eventually he  finds his way home by listening with his whole being to the promptings of nature.

LESSON PLAN: Listen, Listen, Listen

In this activity, students practice listening to sounds outside. Listening builds children’s awareness of the natural world, and it can also be a very calming activity for children. Some of the best months to practice listening to nature sounds are when birds are active, from February to June.

Suggested Grade Level: K-3

Materials: The book, Little Brother Moose

  1. Pre-select a suitable spot where nature sounds can be heard, preferably away from other loud
    sounds, such as traffic.
  2. Read aloud Little Brother Moose. Discuss the many things in the town that attracted Little Brother. Ask what things he misinterpreted. For example, he thought the loaves of bread in the bakery window were mushrooms.
  3. Explain to students that listening is one of the first skills young animals learn from their parents. Read the information about listening in the back of the book. Tell the children they are going to a special “listening place” where they can practice listening too.
  4. Lead them quietly to the spot you’ve chosen and have them stand in a circle.sounds Explain that everyone is going to listen for all of the different sounds they can hear, both natural and man-made sounds.
    For each different sound they hear they will raise one finger. Natural sounds include such things as different birds, the wind in the trees; man-made sounds include trucks, cars, or airplanes, and machines; and sounds close by such as the rustling of a coat.
  5. For Round One: Have the children close their eyes, listen, and raise their fingers for about a minute or more. Then have them open their eyes and ask individual children to name one of the sounds they heard.
  6. For Round Two: Explain that everyone is going to listen again, but this time they are only going to listen to nature sounds. Repeat the procedure.
  7. Ask children what they discovered about listening to nature sounds. Did they try anything that made it easier to hear the sounds? If children remain interested, repeat the process a third time. Did children increase the sounds they could hear?
[This activity is adapted from Sharing Nature With Children.]

From Snowflakes to Glaciers

Snow and ice covered 50% of the United States last week!

That got me thinking about John Muir’s trips to Alaska. Muir is probably best known for his dedication to establishing national parks, especially Yosemite. Geologists in the early 1900s believed Yosemite was the result of a violent convulsion of the earth. Muir stirred up a lot of controversy when he suggested that Yosemite was created by glaciers over a long period of time.

Muir had studied glaciers in Alaska, and his glacial theory proved to be correct.

LESSON PLAN: From Snowflakes to Glaciers
This lesson begins with a true story of one of John Muir’s Alaskan adventures. He became stranded  on a glacier with a little dog named Stickeen. Snow was falling, night was approaching, and the only way out was over a precarious ice bridge. It was dangerous for man, but almost impossible for a dog. The story leads into a 15-minute experiment that demonstrates how glaciers are formed when snowflakes are compacted.
[This lesson is adapted from Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears.]

Suggested Grade Level: K-5STKN2


  1. Read aloud Stickeen: John Muir and the Brave Little Dog. Pay special attention to the illustrations. Christopher Canyon, the illustrator, traveled much of John Muir’s Alaskan route of 1880.Explain to students that they are going to conduct an experiment to see what happens when snow is compacted.
  2. Give students 3 marshmallows each. Each one simulates a layer of snow.
  3. Have them put one marshmallow on top of another and measure the height. Then ask them to push down on top marshmallow and measure the height. Have them add the third marshmallow, push down on it, and measure again.
  4. As students are smashing their marshmallows, ask the “Discussion Questions” below.
  5. Explain layers of snow lose their air much like the marshmallows.
  6. If snow is available, conduct a demonstration by filling a jar half way with snow. Ask for a volunteer to smash it down. Continue this until it becomes ice. Add more layers of snow. These additional layers can be tinted with food coloring before being smashed, which will show how they compact.
  7. For older students explain that the intermediate stage between snow and glacial ice is called firn. It is formed under the pressure of overlying snow by the process of compaction, recrystallization, localized melting, and the crushing of individual snowflakes. This takes about one year. Further compaction of firn at a depth of 150 to 200 feet results in glacial ice.
Discussion Questions: What happens to the marshmallows as you press down on them? What happens to the shape of the marshmallow? What happens to the height of the marshmallow tower?
For the demonstration with snow: Why does the snow turn into ice? (It loses its’ air and changes the shape of the crystal) What force did you use to change the snow into ice? (pressure) How is ice different than snow?

: There is evidence that climate change is causing glaciers around the world to shrink. How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate explains this and other climate changes for older elementary students.

Common Core Standards (ELA K-4)
Reading and Literature: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (K.7, 1.7, 2.7, 3.7, 4.7, 5.7)

Next Generation Science Standards (DCI K-5)
Earth and Space Science
2.A: Earth’s Materials and Systems
2.C: The Role of Water in Surface Processes

Coming Soon: National Wildlife Week

National Wildlife Week
, an event sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation, is March 9-15.

Prep your students for a week of awareness about wildlife using  the book Lifetimes.

The book presents 24 “lifetimes.” Beginning with “A lifetime for a mayfly is about one day” and including a lifetime for an earthworm is about six years, for a giant sequoia is about 2,000 years, and for the universe is about 15 to 20 billion years.

LESSON PLAN: Same/Different
After reading about chimpanzees, students list similarities and differences between chimps and humans. They then expand the concept to other objects, both natural and man-made.

Suggested Grade Level: K-3

  • The book, Lifetimes, written by teacher David Rice
  • Paper and pencil for each student
  1. Read aloud Lifetimes. Then read again the page about chimpanzees.
  2. As a class, list the characteristics of chimps based on the information in the book. Add information they may know from other sources. Then list some of the  characteristics of humans.
  3. Using the lists as a starting point, ask students to identify similarities between chimps and humans by making statements that begin with the word “both.” For example: Both chimps and humans can learn to use tools. Both have forward facing eyes. Both are carried by their mothers when they are young.
  4. Have students state differences following these examples: A chimp usually sleeps in a tree, and a human usually sleeps in a bed.  A chimp doesn’t wear clothes, and a human usually wears some type of clothing.
  5. After compiling a long list, divide the class into small groups of 3-5 students and have them list similarities and differences for the “Other Pairs” (below). After about 15 minutes, have students choose their best ideas and share them with the whole class.
Other Pairs: submarine-fish, window-mirror, blade of grass-fully grown tree, sun-lamp, hand-foot, sky-ocean, orange-apple, lake-puddle, flashlight-candle, table-chair

Each plant or animal in the book is practically a lesson plan in itself, with “tell about it,” “think about it,” and “look it up” challenges.

Common Core ELA Standards (K-3)
Reading Informational Text: Key Ideas and Details: K.1, 1.1, 2.1, 3.1; K.3, 1.3, 2.3, 3.3
Speaking and Listening: Comprehension and Collaboration: K.1, 1.1, 2.1, 3.1

Next Generation Science Standards (DCI)
Life Sciences:
LS1.A: Structure and Function
LS1.B: Growth and Development of Organisms
Ls1.C: Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms
LS1.D: Information Processing



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

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