Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Fun: Butterfly Coloring Pages

Print out the fun and educational coloring pages listed below and share them with your students. They even reinforce basic mathematics skills!

http://melissa-stewart.com/pdf/Color-a-Butterfly.pdf

http://melissa-stewart.com/pdf/MatchingWings.pdf

For more activity pages, visit my website.


I’ll be on a holiday hiatus for the next two weeks. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Check back on January 3.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Behind the Books: My Birthday

My birthday was last week, and one of the things I did on my special day is watch a great group of kids from Davis School in Bedford, MA, perform the Readers Theater script I wrote to accompany my book Under the Snow.

The second graders did a spectacular job. And the crowd they drew to Barnes & Noble helped to male the school district’s bookfair a smashing success. Thanks so much to Kate Desjardins for organizing the event.

Here are the kids gathering in their costumes:

Here they are lining up just before the performance:


Here are some helpers raising the “snow” that the kids performed under”:

And here are the students performing all four acts. Don’t they look great?






After the play, I did a reading and signing. What a great event! I hope next year’s birthday will be just as much fun.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Take a Look: The Chipmunk’s Perspective

There are lots of different critters that could be nestled inside the dens beyond these woodland entrances, but today I’m going to imagine that the inhabitant is a chipmunk.

Last week, I listed the questions I pondered after spotting these holes. Today I’m going to turn the tables and consider the situation from the chipmunk’s point of view.

“I spotted two of those humans poking around my front door today. Luckily, I was out in the woods, not trapped inside. As I watched their strange behavior, I started wondering about them . . . .

Why are they so curious?

Why do they like to walk in big circles around the pond?

Do they wish they could live inside my little home? I think it’s much nicer than their big houses.

What do their houses look like inside?

Do they live there their whole lives or do they move around?

When they finally continued down the trail, I darted inside my cozy winter home to deposit some nuts in my stockpile. Then I took a nap.”

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Fun: Five Gross and Goofy Body Facts

  1. You can blink up to five times a second. But most of the time, you flit your eyelids thirty to sixty times a minute. That adds up to more than ten thousand times a day and more than ten million times a year.
  2. You don’t blink while you’re asleep, so dust, sweat, oil, and tears don’t get flicked out of your eyes. They pile up in the corners and mix together to form eye gunk.
  3. Like the water slowly dripping out of a leaky faucet, your tear glands are constantly cranking out a fresh supply of tears. Most days, about 1/3 of a teaspoon (1.7 milliliters) of the watery liquid enters each eye. Some of it evaporates. The rest drains into tear ducts, tiny tubes that run between your eyes and nose.
  4. Kim Goodman of Chicago, Illinois, can pop her eyeballs almost half an inch (11 millimeters) beyond her eye sockets. Her eyes were measured on the set of the TV show “Guinness World Records: Primetime” on June 13, 1998.
  5. Close your eyes and gently rub your eyelids. See those flashes of light? The pressure of your fingertips tricks the light-sensing cells in your eyes. They send messages to your brain that make you see yellowish spots, stars, and circles.
Looking for more Gross & Goofy Body facts? Check out my book The Eyes Have It: The Secrets of Eyes and Seeing. To find out more about the whole Grosss and Goofy Body series, read this very thorough review from School Library Journal.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Take a Look: A Cozy Den for Winter

As my husband and I tromped through the woods last weekend, the chilly air and the whipping wind turned my thoughts to all the little creatures that struggle to survive in the winter. Many of them head underground and sleep or rest all winter long. I thought I’d look for signs of their cold-weather homes.

I spotted two very nice examples.

And they really got me wondering . . .

Who dug out the dirt between these rocks?

How long ago did the little critter choose this safe spot for its winter home?

Did original builder stay just one season or did it come back year after year?


What did the chamber below look like?

Was anything nestled inside the inside the snug little den right now?

As I contemplated these questions, we finished our loop around our favorite pond and headed home—to our own cozy, winter home.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Fun: A Perfect Pair

Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights by Debbie S. Miller + How Do the Seasons Change? by Melissa Stewart

Using a clever hours-of-light/darkness diagram at the top of each spread, Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights shows and describes the surprising changes in Arctic light throughout the year. The lyrical text includes not only messages about light and its partner, darkness, but also explains how a variety of wildlife responds to changing light and seasonal changes in the Arctic. Quietly beautiful realistic acrylic paintings often focus on animals within a landscape and are in perfect harmony with the text.

In How Do the Seasons Change?, the title question propels readers through a series of brief chapters that provide background information (how Earth orbits the sun, how Earth spins on its axis, how Earth’s tilt effects us, etc.) that eventually allows students to fully understand the topic and come up with the answer on their own. Photos and clear diagrams expand the text and reinforce the scientific explanations.

Related Activities
Have your students to create a table of sunrise and sunset times throughout the year for your area. Then ask them to make light and darkness diagrams similar to the ones in Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights.
 

Children love to learn by doing, so try this kinesthetic activity. Have all students stand and spin, pretending they are Earth. Then divide students into pairs. One member of each team should pretend to be the sun. The other should act like the Earth, spinning and moving around the sun at the same time. Then students should switch roles. Ask students to draw pictures of Earth moving around the sun.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Behind the Books: More Novelty in Nonfiction Design

Today we’re going to look at some more examples of how the art and design in nonfiction children’s books have changed over time. Let’s look at some stunning styles developed by some very creative people.

Here are some recent books in which the topic and art really dictate the format and design:

Most wildlife photographers refrigerate insects, spiders, and even frogs before the take photos. The cold-blooded creatures slow down when their bodies cool down, and that makes them much easier to handle. But it’s also kind of mean, don’t you think? After all, how would you like to be chilled into compliance?

Well, Nic Bishop is a kind, gentle man as well as a fabulous photographer who will do anything to get just the right photo. He respects the animals he spends time with. He doesn’t toss them in the fridge, and he works efficiently to limit the time they spend under hot lights.

He spends time with the critters—hours, days, weeks. He gets to know them and their habits, and they get to know and trust him. And the result is obvious. His patience and care is rewarded with stunning images.

Nic Bishop Spiders is chock full of big, bold photos of the eight-legged wonders, and the design only adds to the drama. Full page background of fire-engine red and bright orange and colorful pull-out text compliment the images perfectly.

Team Moon by Catherine Thimmesh features a vast array of information from a vast array of sources. It’s a wonder how the author pulled it all together and still maintained a cohesive presentation.

The dark page backgrounds with knock-out text and full-spread images with cleverly-designed sidebars and extended captions skillfully capture the excitement of the era and the camaraderie and teamwork of the many people involved effort to reach the moon.

And here we have some books with a perfect synergy between art choices and the writing style.

In River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant, illustrator by Melissa Sweet uses complex paper-collage illustrations (that often include surprising elements) to capture the time and place in which Williams lived.

The voice of the narrative and the feel of the art blend perfectly into a single art piece.

What to Do About Alice? How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy! by Barbara Kerley (illus. Edwin Fotheringham) has a completely different tone than River of Words, but, once again, it is the perfect integration of art and text that make the book work on so many levels.
The text is written is a sassy, whimsical voice that reflects Alice Roosevelt’s personality and view of the world. The art has the same energy and whimsy to it, so that each contributes to our understanding of Alice as an individual—and as an influence on her father, the President.

Next week, we have a special guest blogger. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Take a Look: My Maple Tree

Okay, okay, I just can’t help myself. It’s time to take another look at the maple tree outside my office window.

Right now, you can see that the tree has lost almost all of its leaves. I raked them up about a week ago. And as I was doing so, I took a look at my tree and answered a question I’ve been thinking about for 6 months.

Last spring, I took photos of the tree almost every day while it was leafing out. I started documenting the annual extravaganza in mid-April when the buds started budding.

But, really, I should have started the story of leafout earlier. Much earlier. Back in . . . well, back in November. Maybe even October. I’m not quite sure because even though I kept an eye out for the first signs of buds all through the summer, I hadn’t taken a close look at my tree for a while.

So we’ll just say that autumn is when new buds start forming. You can see them in this photo.

Why do buds form in fall? Because after a full summer of photosynthesizing, the tree has an ample supply of food and energy. But as the winter progresses, that supply gets depleted. So if the tree wants the biggest, healthiest buds possible, it will make them when it has the most stored up energy. That’s in autumn.

Now I’m happy because I’ve seen the whole process from bud formation to fully formed leaves. It’s been really amazing to behold. I can’t wait to see it again, so I’ll keep on watching.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Fun: Five Gross and Goofy Body Facts

  1. Scientists have measured the heart rates of many different mammals and a few birds, too. What did they learn? On average, the bigger an animal is, the slower its heart beats.
  2. Most animal hearts have an upper limit of about 1.5 billion beats. A mouse’s heart beats very quickly, so it uses up its 1.5 billion beats in just a couple of years. But an elephant’s slow-beating heart can keep on pumping for sixty years.
  3. Blood comes in a rainbow of colors. Some lizards have dark green blood. The bloodlike liquid flowing through the bodies of lobsters, crabs, snails, and shrimp is bluish green. The blood of some sea worms is pink or violet. Squids, octopuses, and horseshoe crabs have bright blue blood.
  4. When an elephant feels hot, it flaps its ears. That releases heat from the blood flowing through them. Then the blood travels to the rest of the elephant’s body and cools it off.
  5. When a dog pants, its spit evaporates, or turns into a gas that rises into the air. As the dog’s tongue cools down, so does the blood inside it. Then the dog’s heart pumps the cooled blood throughout its body.

Looking for more Gross & Goofy Body facts? Check out my new book Pump It Up: The Secrets of the Heart and Blood. To find out more about the whole Grosss and Goofy Body series, read this very thorough review from School Library Journal.

In my household, next week is all about family and food, so I'm taking some time off to celebrate Thanksgiving. I have so much to be thankful for this year. I'll see you back here on November 29.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Behind the Books: Novelty in Nonfiction Design

Okay, as promised last week, here are some examples of nonfiction books that make wonderful, innovative use of format and design:

Where in the Wild? Camouflaged Creatures Concealed . . and Revealed by David Schwartz, Yael Schy, and Dwight Kuhn teaches observation skills, but that’s not what kids will notice. To them, the book is a game. They look for hidden animals alluded to in poems on the left. If they’re stumped, they can turn the gatefold to reveal the same image with everything but the animal opaqued.


How Many Ways Can You Catch a Fly? by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page is also as much a game as it is a reading experience. There is a question and little animal clues at the bottom. Readers can turn the page for some more super-cool paper collage art as well as amazing and entertaining answers. And if all that isn’t enough to win you over, take a look at the rich backmatter. It’s chock full of even more information about the featured animals.
And here are some books that offer innovative approaches to high interest topics:

I’ve mentioned An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Hutts Aston (illus. Sylvia Long) before on Celebrate Science, but I just can’t get enough of it. The provocative main text raises questions—and even doubt--in the readers mind, but factoids scattered around the spread clearly and concisely convince us that the language of the main text is completely appropriate. In the end, we gain a whole new appreciation for eggs and the array of life that they contain. But it is the gorgeous illustrations, the font choices, and the clever use of white space that make this book to die for.

Born to Be Giants: How Baby Dinosaurs Grew to Rule the World by Lita Judge is much more than just another dinosaur book. The text is full of cutting edge information and the art brings long-extinct creatures to life for readers AND is full of amazing comparisons that really help us see the world from their point of view. Like An Egg is Quiet, this book makes spectacular use of white space to keep the narrative flow of the piece going.

Next Wednesday, I'll be baking pies and mashing potatoes. But stay tuned for more discussion of nonfiction design in December, including a post by a very special guest on December 8.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Take a Look: A Spider’s Perspective

A couple of weeks ago, Kate Narita suggested another great point-of-view idea. Why not also write a journal entry from the spider’s perspective? I liked the idea so much that I’m trying it today.


“I’m really enjoying stretching out in the sun this morning. It’s been such a rainy week. I can finally build a web and try to catch a little bit of grub before I mate and lay my eggs. I better make sure I keep one leg on that thread. If it vibrates, I’ll know something has landed in the web and I better investigate.”

“Oh, what’s that? That shaking was caused by something a whole lot bigger than a bug! And I can see its giant shadow. What’s going on. I’m going to coil up tight and wait it out. I don’t wan to abandon my web if I don’t have to.”



“Oh no! There it is again. I better run for cover. Whatever’s out there must be pretty dangerous!”

Hey, I like pretending I’m a spider. I bet kids will too. It’s a great way to see the world from a completely different point of view. I’ll have to try it again.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Fun: Friday Fun: Five Science-sational Jokes

Q: Where do young carpenter ants dream of going?
A: Hollywood

Q: Why don’t worker ants ever go on vacation?
A: They heard what happens at the Roach Motel.

Q: What did the ant say to the mosquito?
A: Don’t bug me.

Q: Why did the aardvark jump for joy?
A: He had ants in his pants.

Q: What is an ant’s favorite African animal
A: An eleph-ant.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Behind the Books: Trends in Nonfiction Design

The design of nonfiction books has changed a lot in the last couple of decades. Of course, fiction design has changed too, but not quite as dramatically (with the notable exception of graphic novels).

When I entered the publishing industry in the early 1990s, books were pasted up. What does that mean?

Exactly what it sounds like. Get out your scissors and rubber cement and go to town. This process was both tedious and time consuming and no one wanted to make changes to the layout unless it was absolutely necessary.

Forget the idea of “playing” with design. It just wasn’t an option. Photos were few and far between and they were more decorative than anything else. They certainly weren't teaching tools that add to the power of the overall presentation.But as computer technology advanced, desktop publishing software came on the scene. And that changed everything. The software was introduced in 1987 and it really caught on around 1992. Most publishers had fully transitioned by 1996.

At the same time, DK Publishing came up with a startling new format, which they exploited in their huge and hugely successful Eyewitness Books series. These titles were first distributed in the U.S. in 1991. And by the end of the 1990s, they had revolutionized children’s nonfiction.
Now designers and art directors really began to have fun. Format and design and art choices were limited only by their imaginations.

Next week, we’ll look at examples of books that make great use of design and art to delight as well as inform. Sometimes they even invite young readers to participate.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Take a Look: A Scientist’s Description

Okay, so last week I wrote a wondrous first person account of a lovely spider we encountered while hiking on the border of Hudson and Berlin. That means today it’s time for the serious third person description. Let’s see how I do.

10:14 hours, October 16, 2010
Gates Pond and nearby vernal pool, Hudson/Berlin, MA
Sunny, clear sky, 58 F
Old conifer stand with deciduous under story to the west, deciduous forest to the east, limited species diversity

Three photos of a female Argiope spider approximately 5 inches in diameter were taken on the east portion of the trail, approximately 1.5 miles from the trailhead. A male Argiope was also spotted, be he dashes into the vegetation before he could be photographed.

Photo 1. Slightly blurred image. Undisturbed spider perched on her web. Not the second leg touching the web so that she can detect even the slightest vibration.


Photo 2. After disturbing the web, the spider has curled her legs to stay balanced. She is ready to spring into action. Note the pattern of the web’s thread visible at the bottom of the image.

Photo 3. Excellent view of the abdomen as the spider scurries toward the safety of the branch on which her web is anchored.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday Fun: Five Gross & Goofy Body Facts

  1. A dragonfly’s 29,000 eye lenses wrap almost all the way around its head. They help the ferocious flier see what’s going on behind it.
  2. Tarantulas have eight closely clustered eyes—two large ones and six small ones. With so many eyes, you might think tarantulas have excellent eyesight. Think again! They rely on their sense of touch to understand the world.
  3. Hippopotamuses and crocodiles have eyes high up on their heads. They can see what’s going on while most of their bodies are hidden underwater.
  4. Some crabs and snails have eyes on antenna-like stalks that can move up and down and swivel in any direction. What a great way to view the world!
  5. Chipmunks and chickadees, giraffes and goldfish have many enemies. Because their eyes are on the sides of their heads, they can see far to the right and left. That means they can constantly scan their surroundings—without moving their heads.

Looking for more Gross & Goofy Body facts? Check out my new book The Eyes Have It: The Secrets of Eyes and Seeing. To find out more about the whole Grosss and Goofy Body series, read this very thorough review from School Library Journal.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Behind the Books: Nonfiction Has Come a Long Way, Baby

Not so long ago—just 10 or 15 years ago—nonfiction for kids was very different. It looked different and it was written differently.

It consisted of big blocks of terse text. The design was uninspired at best, and completely ignored at worst. Occasional images acted more like decorations than as powerful teaching tools that extend and expand the book’s message. The term “sidebar” hadn’t been invented yet. And in books for middle school and high school students, color was a rarity.

Today’s nonfiction for kids is vibrant and fun and, in some cases, even participatory. We’ve come a long way, Baby.

Why has nonfiction changed so much in just a decade or so? That’s a question I’ll be examining here over the next few weeks. The first reason is financial, which is to say that publishing is a business. And publishers make books that they think, they hope will sell. And when times get tough, the stakes increase.

About 80 percent of all children's nonfiction titles are sold to schools and libraries. That was great in the 1980s and 1990s when teachers were able to find lots of creative ways to integrate children’s literature into their lesson plans.

But then 2001 rolled around. That’s the year the No Child Left Behind Act was passed. And everything changed. Suddenly educators had to teach to the test. They no longer had much time for creative teaching strategies, and they had to greatly reduce their use of trade books in the classroom.

During the last decade, many schools have eliminated school librarian positions and even closed school libraries all together. At the same time, public library budgets have been slashed.

So with fewer sales outlets and less funding available, successful nonfiction books must really stand out from the crowd. And that means nonfiction authors and publishers have to work harder than ever before if they want buyers to choose their titles.

The resulting changes have affected art and text and designed—creating exciting and dynamic new products. Next week we’ll take a look at changes in design.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Take a Look: A Super Spider

Wow! Wow! Wow! Look at this fabulous Argiope spider. I’d recognize this spectacular species anywhere, anytime. Its size and colorful body and legs are a dead giveaway.

These three shots show the story of our interaction with her. (I know she’s a female because the males are much smaller. We spotted one—probably a potential mate, but he ran away before I could snap a shot. Bummer.)


First, I got as close as I thought was prudent. I wasn’t quite close enough for the macro lens to focus, but it’s still a cool image.  I especially like how well you can see the colors of the spider's legs in this photo.
Then I accidentally shook the web. I backed away a bit for the second image, but you can see that the spider is now very nervous. See how her legs are coiled in. Sorry, spider.
Finally, she had had enough of me. As she ran away, I ended up with a nice shot of her back side. Oh, okay, I should really be scientifically accurate and say it’s her abdomen.

I always like looking for spiders while enjoying the fall foliage. Autumn is the time of year when spiders are most active because they are looking for mates. But this lovely lady was just hanging out on a web built very close to the trail. What a wonderful surprise!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Behind the Books: Cybils Awards

The nominees for the 2010 Cybils Awards were announced last week, and I was thrilled to see three of my books in the list. I’ve already blogged about two of the titles, A Rainbow of Animals and A Place for Frogs, but I’ve never gotten around to the third book, Ants.

Ants is a Level 1 National Geographic Reader, and it was nominated in the Easy Reader category. It’s the first time I’ve had a book recognized in this category, so I’m really pleased.

When my editor suggested this book to me, I was excited (ants are so cool) and a little bit intimidated. After all, there are some wonderful books out there on this topic. I’m talking authors like E.O. Wilson and Bert Holldobler and Mark Moffett. Luckily, they write for adults, and I write for kids. (At least, that’s what I kept telling myself.)


Believe it or not, there are more than 10,000,000,000,000,000 and alive right now. They come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors, and they live almost anywhere you can think of. Ants thrive wherever they go, adapting as needed to their ever-changing world.

My main goal in writing this book was to share the wonder of ants with kids. These little creepy crawlies are part of a large, diverse group with an amazingly sophisticated social system. I wanted to show kids what makes ants special and completely fascinating.

As I was writing, I kept thinking back to my trip to Costa Rica. My eight-year old niece (seen here with a bunch of ants) was so excited by the huge leaf-cutter ant colony we saw in the tropical rain forest. Their nest was a mound as big as a hill. It was just incredible. We also saw cecropia ants protecting the trees they are named for. Those little guys are really hard workers!

After learning so much about ants, you might wonder if I have a favorite. I do. It’s the Dracula ant, which gets all its nutrients from a single source—the blood from ant larvae. How cool is that?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Take a Look: Good Morning, Maple

I was planning to write a wondrous first person description of a really cool spider I recently saw while hiking,but it looks like that will have to wait.

When I began this new strand, I mentioned that I might revert to writing about the beloved maple outside my office window, and that time has come sooner than I expected. It was a dry, hot summer here in Massachusetts, and we’ve all been wondering if that would affect the fall foliage. Because I took weekly photos of my maple for a whole year, it’s easy for me to make comparisons.

To be sure, some years the autumn leaves seem more fiery than other years. And this year, it seemed to me that the oranges and reds were much more dominant than usual. And it turns out, that wasn’t just my imagination. My photos provide irrefutable proof.

Here are photos of my maple tree last year on October 19 and October 26.

On October 19, the tree is just beginning to show hints of yellow.


By October 26, nearly all the leaves are bright yellow. Some leaves have brown areas near the center.














And here are this year’s photos of the same tree on the corresponding Mondays, October 18 and October 26.

On October 18, about one-quarter of the leaves are orangy-red. Some are yellwo around the eddges with red in the center and along the veins.
Now about 80 percent of the leasves are red or orangy-yellow.

Wow, these photos show two very interesting things:

1. The leaves on my tree started donning their bright colors a little earlier this year, and the colors are lasting a little bit longer. I wonder when the leaves will wither and fall off?
2. Last year the leaves were predominantly yellow, and this year they are much more orangey red.
I never really realized the same tree could turn different colors from one year to the next. I guess that explains why autumn seems more ablaze with color this year. Pretty amazing.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Fun: A Perfect Pair

The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer + A Place for Frogs by Melissa Stewart
The Salamander Room
is a gentle tale with an important message. A boy finds a salamander in the woods and asks his mom if he can keep him. Instead of saying “no,” she asks him questions that require him to think about what the salamander needs to survive and, ultimately, to realize on his own that he cannot create an adequate home for the salamander in his bedroom. Lush, shadowy paintings perfectly capture the mood of the boy’s increasingly elaborate plans for transforming his room into a suitable habitat for the little amphibian.


Clearly written and richly illustrated, A Place for Frogs provides a gentle introduction to the environmental hazards frogs face and promotes environmental stewardship by providing concrete examples of how scientists and citizens are working together to protect frogs and their habitats. Pointers on how youngsters can help frogs in their area are included.

Discussion QuestionsAsk students what the books have in common. [They are about protecting amphibians and their habitats.]
How are the books different? [One is a story with people as characters. The other provides information about how people’s actions can help and harm frogs.]
Discuss what makes one book fiction and one nonfiction.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Behind the Books: Just the Right Word, Part 5

As far as I’m concerned, there’s one more important instance where choosing the right words can make all the difference. Sensory details can really bring a piece of prose to life.

Why is appealing to the senses so powerful? Because they are how we experience and interpret the real, 3-D word we encounter every day. Sights, sounds, and especially smells can instantly transport our minds to a place, an event from 10, 20, 30 or more years ago. It can enliven and enrich a new experience or something we read in a book. Here are a few of my favorite examples. They happen to be from adult books.

From Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey
“Sound preceded sight. Odor preceded sound in the form of an overwhelming musky-barnyard, humanlike scent. [Then we heard] a high-pitched series of screams followed by a rhythmic rondo of sharp pok-pok chestbeats . . . The three of us froze until the echoes of the screams and chestbeats faded. Only then did we creep forward under the cover of the dense shrubbery to about 50 feet from the group. Peeking through the vegetation, we could [see] . . . furry-headed [gorillas] peering back at us.”



From The Outermost House by Henry Beston
“I like a good smell—the smell of a freshly plowed field on a warm morning after a night of April rain, . . . the morning perfumes of lilacs showery with dew, the good reek of hot salt grass and low tide blowing from these meadows on summer afternoons.”

See how these sensory details allow you to draw on your past experiences, and in so doing help take you to the place and event the author is describing? How do you think you or your students can work sensory details into a work-in-progress?


Monday, October 18, 2010

Take a Look: A Scientist’s Description

Back on October 4, I used a wondrous first person voice to describe this incredible fungus. I was blown away by it, and just had to take a photo. Today I’m going to use a “serious third person voice” (as Mrs. Techman and I have dubbed it) to describe the same fungus.

This description will be more precise, but less engaging. As we saw from Michelle Cusolito’s comment, one benefit will be the ability for other curious folks to find the fungus.

10:46 hours, September 4, 2010
Eagle Mountain Trail, North Conway, NH
Sunny, clear sky, 74 F
Moist, shady mixed forest with rich understory

About three-quarters of a mile from the trailhead, two unusual white and tannish-beige fungal fruiting bodies were observed. They were 3.5 to 4 feet above the ground on a snag—a dead tree that is still standing.

The smaller structure was about the size of the observer’s fist.

The larger structure was about a foot across and approximately 8 inches from top to bottom. It consisted of two lobes. Each lobe was made up of a series of tiers and appeared to grow from the bottom up. Each tier consisted of 12-15 long, triangular structures that were tinges with the darker color (tannish-beige) along the edges.

At the top of the larger structure, a thin, transparent film resembling the exterior of a soap bubble ran between the second tier of the fruiting body and the tree. The film appeared to be pulling away from the tree as the entire structure shifted, likely due to the presumed weight of the lobe and the force of gravity. It would worth returning to the site to monitor the progress of the fruiting body over a period of time.

Later, the observer identified the unfamiliar species as a white coral tooth fungus.