Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Behind the Books: NSTA

Last week, I spent four glorious days in Philadelphia. The weather was perfect, and I was hanging out with some of my favorite people on Earth—science teachers.

There weren’t many book children’s book publishers exhibiting at this year’s conference, but I did get a nice shot of Charles and Emma (Holt, 2009) by fellow I.N.K. blogger Deborah Heiligman. See it on the top shelf? It's the opne with all the well-deserved award seals! The book was displayed with other Macmillan titles in the Kingfisher booth.

To speak at NSTA, you have to submit a proposal almost a year in advance and then cross your fingers. I was delighted to talk to a room full of enthusiastic teachers about how to creatd fun readers theater scripts from wonderful science-themes books written by April Pulley Sayre, Sneed Collard, Steve Jenkins, and Robin Page, Brenda Z. Guiberson, John Himmelman, and others.

A few weeks ago, I discovered that I’d be doing even more fun stuff at the conference. This year I am very fortunate to have three books (Yup, you read that right. Three!) on the prestigious NSTA-CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students list. They are Under the Snow, A Place for Birds, and Why Are Animals Blue?.

So I was asked to participate in a roundtable with fellow science writers Sally Walker, Debbie Miller, and Pam Kirby. I edited a book Sally Walker wrote about 10 years ago, and I’ve corresponded with her a few times since, so it was a really excited to finally meet her. I only wish I had thought to get a picture of us together. Drat!

Luckily, I did get photos of some other important folks. First of all, here I am with Cindi Smith-Walters of Middle Tennessee State University. She was a member of the NSTA-CBC committee and one of the biggest advocates for A Place for Birds. She wrote a blurb about it, which appeared in the current issue of the NSTA publication Science & Children.

“Beautiful illustrations and clear, concise text provide a fascinating look at a variety of birds of North and Central America, the ecosystems that support them, and efforts to save them. Included is a list of actions that individuals can take to help protect these amazing creatures. Selected Bibliography, Range Maps of selected species inside front and back cover.”

The blurb for Under the Snow was written by Nancy Chesley of the Maine Math and Science Alliance. I’ve met Nancy several times at science and literacy programs I’ve attended in Maine, but unfortunately, she wasn’t able to attend NSTA this year.

“Under the snow lies a variety of habitats in which animals live and survive during the chilly winter months. This book describes these habitats in delightful lyrics supported by watercolor illustrations that capture the wonders under the snow.”

I never did find out who wrote the blurb for Why Are Animals Blue?, but he or she also did a great job.

“Surprising examples of blue tongues, blue feet, blue feathers, and blue faces demonstrate how color can startle a predator, fool an enemy, or even warm up a body on a cool morning.”

As part of a separate presentation, NSTA’s 2010 Presidential Award winners were asked to put together displays about the books on the list. Let me tell you right now, those teachers did a fabulous job!

Karon Massado from the Elementary Science Cadre Office of Curriculum and Instruction in Wilmington, Delewarwe, did a joint presentation for Under the Snow and The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder by Lark Cassino (Chronicle, 2009).

Would you believe I lost the card for the nice woman from Michigan who did a great poster presentation for A Place for Birds and What Bluebirds Do by Pam Kirby (Boyds Mills, 2009)? I feel terrible that I can't remember her name. If she reads this, I really hope she sends me her name.

Cathy Barthelemy of the Forth Worth Museum of Science and History in Forth Worth, Texas, developed a series of useful activities based on the BCBS 5E (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate) Instructional Model to accompany Why Are Animals Blue?. Unfortunately, she had stepped out of the room while I was enjoying the other posters, so I didn’t get a chance to meet her.

NSTA has always been one of my favorite conferences. It leaves me feeling refreshed and renewed and ready to plunge back into my work.


  1. I like Debbie S Miller's new book-
    'Survival at 40 Below'.
    If you go onto her website you can hear the sounds of the animals/amphibians on the book. Kids really like the ptarmigan.

  2. Debbie gave a wonderful presentation at NSTA. I can't wait to see her new book. I think it would probably pair nicely with UNDER THE SNOW.