Mom’s Choice Awards were announced last week, and two of Dawn Publications’ books won the Gold in the Picture Book category: If You Love Honey: Nature’s Connections and Mighty Mole and Super Soil. The Mom’s Choice Award honors excellence in family-friendly media, products, and services. It’s trusted world-wide by teachers and parents.
If You Love Honey: Nature’s Connections
Honey is a sweet gift from nature—ALL of nature, actually. Honey is linked in a very real way to dandelions, earthworms, mushrooms, the old oak tree and even the blue jays squawking in its branches.
The author, Martha Sullivan, fell in love with bees as an amateur beekeeper, and then learned to appreciate flowering plants “even ones she once considered weeds” as an important nectar source. She realized how the plants were connected to insects and soil.
A simple but accurate diagram in the back matter explains how bees make honey and also pollinate plants, as well as the role of beneficial insects and decomposers.
Check out the activities in the back of the book and online lesson plans (like the one below). How sweet it is!
Dances with Bees—Standards-based Lesson Plan
If You Love Honey introduces students to a meadow ecosystem and shows how honeybees are a key part of this ecosystem. Honeybees use a “dance” to communicate the location of a flower patch, a part of the ecosystem that is essential to their survival.
Download a free pdf for complete directions to have students reenact bee dances to experience how bees communicate with one another.
STAY TUNED! Dawn Publications is launching an new blog in February. In the meantime, I’ll be featuring blogs from some of Dawn’s award-winning authors. Enjoy this week’s blog by Marianne Berkes.
I have fond memories of winter snow days in upstate New York. Other folks must miss the cold (somewhat) too, since my book Over in the Arctic, Where the Cold Winds Blow always sells best this time of year. Click on the cover to check it out.
When the first really good snowfall came, my students and I couldn’t wait to make angels in the snow! And we filled spray bottles with water and added drops of food coloring to each bottle to paint on the snow!
We also collected freshly fallen snow and made snow cones. Make small snowballs, put them in a bowl and quickly go inside. Place the snowballs on sugar cones and top with fruit juice or fruit juice concentrate. Or you can add some sugar, vanilla and a little milk to a big bowl of snow and make “snow ice-cream.”
Do you know the story of Wilson A. Bentley, a Vermont farmer who had a passion for studying snowflakes? Check out the Caldecott Medal Book Snowflake Bentley. You can study snowflakes too: Freeze a piece of black construction paper so you have it ready for the next snow fall. Have a magnifying glass handy. Go outside and let some snowflakes fall on the frozen paper. Before the snowflakes melt, examine them. Are there any two alike?
I miss not being able to find animal tracks in the snow here in Florida. But we do find animal tracks in the sand along our beaches, especially those of birds, and we build “snowmen” out of sand. But somehow a cup of hot chocolate after being outside doesn’t quite taste the same.
FOR THE CLASSROOM
Check out these fun and educational activities—Tips from the Author, Tips from the Illustrator, and free downloadable bookmarks for your classroom.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marianne Berkes has spent much of her life with children as a teacher, children’s theater director and children’s librarian. She knows how much children enjoy brilliantly illustrated, interactive picture books with predictable text about real animals. She retired to write full time and visit schools, libraries and literary conferences. Marianne is the author of nineteen (and counting!) published picture books for children. Find out more about Marianne’s books for Dawn. And visit her website!
Noted child-development expert Fred Rodgers says, “It’s easy to allow ourselves to get drawn into watching televised news of a crisis for hours and hours; however, exposing ourselves to so many tragedies can make us feel hopeless, insecure, and even depressed. We help our children and ourselves if we’re able to limit our own television viewing. Our children need us to spend time with them – away from the frightening images on the screen.”
Amy’s Light—Written in the rhythm of the holiday classic T’was the Night Before Christmas, this is a perfect book for this time of year. Amy is afraid of dark shadows in her bedroom, but notices a slight glow in the back yard. With exuberance she catches fireflies in a jar, only to find their lights go dim until they are free again. As she frees her fireflies, she also releases her fear of the dark. The photo-illustrations of the author’s daughter are lifelike yet dreamy. The story opens the door for you to talk with your children about their insecurities, fears, and challenges.
Inside All—This is a comforting bedtime book that will reassure little ones that they belong, and are part of something bigger. The story is a simple nesting-doll-like journey. With a few well-chosen words and rich suggestive illustrations, the reader is taken from the outer edges of the universe to a planet, a village, a home, a room, into the heart of a warm, sleepy child, and finally to an awareness of love that somehow encompasses it all. We each have our place inside the All, and the All has its place inside each of us.
Home for the Holidays
This week, in lieu of a lesson plan, I’m providing links to craft projects that can be done at home. Doing crafts with children provides a fun and meaningful way to spend time with your child. Of course these projects can also be done in the classroom. They’re from Enchanted Learning:
The ground under our feet matters more than we often admit. It’s a precious gift from nature. Healthy fertile soil provides homes for plants and it’s important for many natural cycles—from recycling nutrients to purifying water.
Learn more about soil in this week’s featured book: Mighty Mole and Super Soil
Below your feet, Mighty Mole is on the move. Like a swimmer in dirt, she strokes through the soil. Her tunnels are everywhere! She finds food, eludes a predator, has a family, and helps to make Super Soil.
“Vivid illustrations give a genuine sense of living in the underground. Kids will feel like they’re with the moles—in a comfortable way,” said one reader.
Moles live almost everywhere yet are rarely seen. Similarly, soil is a largely invisible ecosystem and yet is vital to the health of the world.
Following the story, two “Explore More for Kids” pages offer a matching challenge and a review of some of the remarkable traits that make moles “mighty.”
Two additional pages of “Explore More for Teachers and Parents” offers activities in visual and language arts, science, technology, and math.
Featured Lesson: Thank You, Soil!
Mighty Mole and Super Soil introduces children to an under-ground ecosystem. What creatures live in the ground and how do they help make the soil healthy? These underground happenings are largely invisible to humans but vital to the health of the planet.
Suggested Grade Level: 1-3
- The book Mighty Mole and Super Soil
- Index cards, 2 per child
- Pencils, 1 per child
- Scotch tape, 1 piece per child
In this activity, children explore the many things in our lives that depend on soil. Download the free pdf Thank You, Soil! to read the directions for this lesson and the Common Core Standards it addresses.
The United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) is being held in Paris from November 30th to December 11th.
To coincide with this important event, this week’s featured book is:
This books gives you the science behind the headlines — evidence from flowers, butterflies, birds, frogs, trees, glaciers, and much more, gathered by scientists from all over the world, sometimes with the assistance of young “citizen-scientists.”
- Download 15 free sample pages from the book!
- Find Climate Change educational resources and videos on our Climate Change Resources page.
We know it’s important to share environmental issues with children with care. Read Climate Change Made Age-Appropriate.
FEATURED AUTHOR: Lynne Cherry
Lynne Cherry is the author and/or illustrator of over thirty award-winning books for children. Her best-selling books such as The Great Kapok Tree and A River Ran Wild teach children to respect the earth. Lynne lectures widely – and passionately – about how children can make a difference in a democratic society. If they feel strongly about something, they can change the world. She explains to educators how using nature to integrate curriculum makes a child’s learning relevant. Lynne’s books were inspired by her love of the natural world and she is an avid canoeist and hiker. How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate is Lynne’s first book with Dawn Publications.
Visit Lynne Cherry’s website here.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that focuses on food. That makes it a perfect time to connect students with food from the garden!
Because this blog is taking a break next week for the Thanksgiving holiday, I’ve included two lessons below. Both of them teach about healthy foods and plant parts.
Lesson: Name That Plant: Students learn about the six parts of a plant and match twelve fruits and vegetables to a specific plant part. All of the fruits and vegetables are introduced in the book What’s in the Garden? Link to a pdf of complete directions for the matching activity.
Parents may want to make one of the kid-friendly recipes described in the book for their Thanksgiving celebration.
Lesson: Have a Plant Part-y: Treat your students to a healthy “pre-Thanksgiving feast” by making a yummy, colorful salad with plant parts, such as leaves (lettuce), stems (celery), roots (carrots), fruits (tomatoes), and seeds (sunflower). Students work at stations to prepare these and other vegetables shown in Molly’s Organic Farm. Link to a pdf of complete directions and salad ingredients.
Common Core Standards (ELA K-3)
- Reading: Literature–Key Ideas and Details (K.1, 2.1, 3.1); Craft and Structure (K.5, 1.5, 2.5, 3.5); Integration and Knowledge of Ideas (K.7, 1.7, 2.7, 3.7)
- Reading: Informational Text–Key Ideas and Details (K.1, 2.1, 3.1); Integration and Knowledge of Ideas (K.7, 1.7, 2.7, 3.7)
Next Generation Science Standards (DCI K-3)
- LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: A. Structures and Processes; B. Growth and Development of Organisms
- LS2: Ecosystems: A. Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics; B. Cycles of Matter and Energy in Ecosystems
- LS3: Heredity: A.Inheritance and Variation of Traits; B. Variation of Traits
November is a perfect time to introduce your students to turkeys and play the “Animal Trail Game.” It may be played inside or outside. Of course playing it outside adds to the fun, provides more of a nature experience, and allows kids to get some much-needed exercise.
LESSON PLAN: Animal Trail Game
In this lesson, students move from station to station along an imaginary trail of animal tracks. Students will strut, flutter, and hop as they discover what animals live in your area. Along the way, each student collects Animal Cards–facts about each of the animals. Playing the game will help your students become a Young Naturalist like Jenny, the main character in the book. Young Naturalists are kids who are curious and careful about the natural world around them!
Suggested grade level: K-3
- The book Gobble, Gobble
- 6 Animal Posters, sheets (8 ½ x 11 ) available from Nature Exploration Activities pdf, pages 6-12
- 6 business-size envelopes, one for each poster
- Animal Cards, one sheet (8 ½ x 11) per student, available in pdf, page 13. *Note: If these animals are not found in your area, you can create Animal Cards of different animals using the blank cards provided in the pdf, page 14. You will also need to create corresponding posters
- Print the 6 posters.
- Create a pocket at the bottom of each poster by cutting off the top flap of an envelope and gluing it to the bottom of the poster. Refer to the diagram on page 3 of the pdf.
- Copy Game Cards, cut them apart, sort them into piles by animal, and put them into the corresponding poster pocket.
- For non-readers, arrange for 6 helpers, one per poster. The helper may be a parent or older student who can read the poster and help young students write/draw the answers to the questions.
1. Read aloud Gobble, Gobble. Ask students: How did Jenny first discover she had turkeys in her yard? What did she find in the mud? (Ans: Turkey tracks) Ask: How long did Jenny observe the turkeys? (Ans. 1 year) How do they know? (Ans: The season changed from spring to summer to fall to winter.) How did the turkeys behave differently in each season?
2. Transition students into the game by saying something like the following:
- Even though you may not SEE the animals in your neighborhood or nearby woods, they do leave traces behind. Often you can tell who has been there by spotting and identifying tracks just like Jenny did.
- We’re going to play a game that helps you learn the tracks of woodland animals. To play the game, you will look for a poster with an animal on it. The poster will ask you some questions. You may know some of the answers or you may not—just make a guess. Once you make your guess, take a card from the pocket of the poster—it will have all the answers. You get to keep the card.
- Going to the next station: Look below the animal’s picture to get two clues about the station/poster you should go to next: (1) You’ll see the tracks that the animal makes. (2) You’ll see directions about how you should move to get to the next station, such as: flap your wings, scamper, etc. Go from station to station until you’ve gone to all 6.
3. Divide the class into 6 groups and position each group at one of the stations. It doesn’t matter where they begin because each poster will direct them to the next one. Continue play until students have visited all 6 posters. Debrief the activity by asking students to share something they learned about one of the animals.
Common Core ELA (K-3)
- Key Ideas and Details: K.1, 1.1, 2.1, 3.1; K.3, 1.3, 2.3, 3.3
- Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: K.7, 1.7, 2.7, 3.7
Next Generation (DCI K-3)
- Life Science: LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
- Earth Science: ESS2: Earth’s Systems
WATCH A BOOK TRAILER OF GOBBLE, GOBBLE
Pumpkins, pumpkins, and more pumpkins! These big, round, orange fruits take center stage from Halloween through Thanksgiving.
Bring pumpkins into your classroom to engage your students in science, and don’t forget the picture books. Pairing fiction and nonfiction picture books to teach science is explained in the Picture Perfect Science series and Teaching Science Through Trade Books.
A pumpkin is a fruit?
Yes! Even though we often refer to pumpkins as vegetables, they’re actually the fruits of a pumpkin plant.
It’s a good follow-up to a lesson on plant parts.
Both of these lessons are based on Molly’s Organic Farm, a picture book that uniquely combines both fiction and nonfiction.
Have you ever thrown a maple seed into the air and watched it helicopter to the ground? What would happen if you took the “wings” off of the seed — would it still fly? Isn’t it remarkable that a big, beautiful maple tree lives inside the tiny seed?
Emily Morgan, author of the Next Time You See book series, explores these and other questions in her beautiful book Next Time You See a Maple Seed. As a lover of maple trees, this book holds a special appeal to me.
But all of the other books in the series are just as enchanting — and informative. Each one focuses on a common element of the natural world, many of which we see every day — a sunset, seashell, pill bug, firefly, and the moon.
These nonfiction books have it all — easy hands-on experiences, fascinating information, beautiful photography, and heart-opening inspiration.
The back cover says the books are appropriate for grades K-6; but as an adult, I love reading them too!
I encourage you to visit Emily’s website where you can find lessons for each of the books, like this one Maple Seed Journal Activity. It includes guided observations, experiments, and even space for wondering. I think it’s the perfect follow-up activity to the dandelion “seed dispersal” lesson from my blog last week.
The following video will give you a sense of the beauty of this book.
(BTW: Emily and her co-author Karen Ansberry have created the Picture Perfect Science series of curriculum guides…they’re fantastic! Be sure to check them out, too!)
Before the first airplane, the scientists and engineers who were developing “lighter-than-air” aircraft looked to parachutes and gliders to meet engineering challenges. It is from these early beginnings that aviation and space flight have become what they are today.
A dandelion seed is a perfect example of nature’s parachute and glider.
The full comprehensive NASA unit (preschool through early elementary) investigates gliders in nature; balloons, parachutes and kites; helicopters and airplanes; the impacts of aviation through children’s literature; and science and engineering activities.
LESSON PLAN: Gliders in Flight
This lesson (created by NASA) is based on the book The Dandelion Seed by Joseph Anthony. It includes an engaging demonstration, inquiry and discovery experiments, and writing practice for letters “F” and “G.”
Suggested Grade Level: K-3
- The book The Dandelion Seed
- Images of animals and plant seeds that fly/glide
- Maple seeds (2-3 per student)
- Paper clips
- Crepe paper or streamers
- Whirly-bird template (provided as free download)
- Go to NASA’s Teacher’s Guide: With You When You Fly: Aeronautics Pre-K, available as a pdf download.
- Follow the detailed instructions on pages 8-23 to do one or more of the activities.
Taking It Further:
For more adventures with Dandelion Seed read The Dandelion Seed’s Big Dream.
COMMON CORE STANDARDS (ELA K-3)
- Key Ideas and Details: K.1, 1.1, 2.1
- Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: K.7, 1.7, 2.7
NEXT GENERATION SCIENCE STANDARDS (DCI K-3)