Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday Fun: Super Silly Science Jokes

Q: Why was the farmer dirt poor?
A: He didn’t have any cent-ipedes in his soil.

Q: What did the mother soil name her baby?
A: Sandy.

Q: What did the soil do after school? 
A:  It had a claydate.

Q: Why was the humus upset?
A: Because everyone treated him like dirt.

Q: What do rocks say when they agree with one another?
A: My sediments exactly.
Looking for more super silly jokes about the weather? Check out Mountains of Jokes About Rocks, Minerals, and Soil.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Behind the Books: Feathers

Yesterday was the official publication date for my new book, Feathers: Not Just for Flying. I am especially excited about this book because it has already received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly and because was illustrated by my friend Sarah S. Brannen.

Sarah is a member of my critique group and first saw the book in its very early stages. But she was so inspired that she created a painting, which in turn inspired me. It made me believe in the manuscript and fight to find the best way to present the information.

So when the manuscript eventually was accepted, I suggested Sarah as a potential illustrator. By this time, she had created several feather paintings and put them added them to the gallery on her website.

Voila! She got the job.

Even after acceptance, this little book had to overcome many hurdles. Three editors worked on the book, and late in the game, we discovered an arcane law stating that it is illegal to even pick up most of the feathers the average American might find on an afternoon walk through the woods. This meant Sarah and the art director had to quickly come up with a way to maintain the book’s magic without showing a kid breaking the law. But it all worked out, and we are both excited to finally bring the book into the world.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Teaching Science with Kidlit: NGSS Performance Expectation 2-LS4-1, Part 3

2-LS4-1. Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the diversity of living things in each of a variety of different habitats.]

After comparing two very different biomes, you can focus on two different examples of the same biome, such as a swamp and a bog (both wetlands) or a prairie and a savanna (both grasslands).
Catfish Kate and the Sweet Swamp Band by Sarah Weeks
Frog in a Bog John Himmelman
A Frog in the Bog by Karma Wilson
Who Lives in an Alligator Hole? by Anne Rockwell
Big Night for Salamanders by Sarah Lamstein
A Day in the Salt March by Kevin Kurtz
Deep in the Swamp by Donna M. Bateman
The Swamp Where Gator Hides by Marianne Berkes
Water Hole Waiting by Jane and Christopher Kurtz
Out on the Prairie by Donna M. Bateman
The Great Fuzz Frenzy by Susan Stevens Crummel and Janet Stevens
African Acrostics by Avis Harley
Pinduli by Janelle Cannon
Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow by Joyce Sidman
Activity 1
Guide students as they create an interactive bulletin board with the title, Where Do These Wetland Plants and Animals Live? Ask each student to draw, label, and cut around the edges of two separate pictures—one of a bog plant or animal and one of a swamp plant or animal. Each student must pick different plants and animals, focusing on the examples included in Frog in a Bog and Catfish Kate and the Sweet Swamp Band. Add a one side of a Velcro button to the back of each picture.
Cover the left side of the bulletin board with light green (top) and blue (bottom) paper and label it bog. Cover the right side with dark green (top) and blue (bottom) paper and label it swamp. Cover a central band of the bulletin board with orange paper and attach seven pockets made from folded sheets of paper and label them: Insects, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds, Mammals, Fish, Other. After sorting the student artwork into the appropriate pockets, stick the other sides of the Velcro buttons to the bog and swamp areas of the bulletin board. When students have free time, they can match the plants and animals pictures to the correct wetland home.
Activity 2
After reviewing the backmatter of Frog in a Bog, encourage students to make eight-page booklets and then create bog field guides that include a decorative front cover, a blank back cover, and labeled drawing of a plant and one animal from each of the following groups: Insects, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds, Mammals. When the students are done, they can glue the back cover into their Wonder Journals.
Activity 3
Haiku poetry has three non-rhyming lines. The first line has five syllables, the second has seven and the third has five. Invite students to use information from the “know” lists and their own creative ideas to write and illustrate haiku poems about the African savanna and the North American prairie. For example:               
            Primrose and daisies
            Bison roam the wide prairie
            Prairie in summer

            Zebras are thirsty
            Less water in dry season
            Sizzling savanna

Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday Fun: Gross Out!

A horned lizard might be small, but it sure knows how to survive. First, it tries to run and hide. If that doesn’t work, the lizard hisses fiercely and puffs up its body to look as big as possible. It may also try to stab an attacker with its horns and spines.

The resourceful reptile has one more trick. It can startle enemies by squirting blood out of the corners of its eyes. Yikes!

For more gross facts about our animal neighbors, check out Animal Grossapedia. But be sure not to read it right after lunch!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Behind the Books: The Animal Book

I don’t usually review books here on Celebrate Science, but today I’m going to make an exception. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I am a huge fan of books by Steve Jenkins, and I can’t help but gush over what is now my favorite of all—The Animal Book.

This is a book I wish I had been handed as a child, and I have no doubt it will inspire a whole new generation of professional scientists and amateur naturalists. Combining art and ideas from a half dozen or so of his past titles with lots of brand new content, Jenkins has created a magnum opus that puts the animal kingdom in context for kids. The result is a clearly presented, visually dynamic overview that is sure to fascinate curious young minds.

Topics range from animal families and animal senses to extreme animals and animal defense strategies. Perhaps most importantly, Jenkins does an excellent job of putting the evolution of life on Earth in perspective for young readers.

I know there are children out there that will spend hours happily poring over this beautiful crafted, informative book. So please buy this book and put it in their hands.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Teaching Science with Kidlit: NGSS Performance Expectation 2-LS4-1, Part 2

2-LS4-1. Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the diversity of living things in each of a variety of different habitats.]

After students have a clear understanding of what a habitat is, you can introduce the term biome (a large area of land with special features) and compare the diversity of life in a rain forest biome and a desert biome. Here are some great books to share with kids:
The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry

Here is the Southwestern Desert by Madeleine Dunphy

Desert Voices by Byrd Baylor

Here is the Tropical Rainforest by Madeline Dunphy

The Desert is Theirs by Byrd Baylor

Rain, Rain, Rain Forest by Brenda Z. Guiberson

Activity 1
After reviewing the cumulative format of Here Is the Southwestern Desert, invite students to create their own cumulative text that features at least three rain forest plants or animals. Here’s an example:
   Here is the tropical rainforest.
   Here is the kapok tree
   that grows tall:
   Here is the tropical rainforest.

   Here is the toucan
   who sits in the kapok tree
   that grows tall:
   Here is the tropical rainforest.

   Here is the jaguar
   who hunts the toucan
   who sits in the kapok tree
   that grows tall:
   Here is the tropical rainforest.

Encourage students to illustrate their cumulative texts.

Activity 2
Show your class how to make a pyramid by folding a piece of 12 × 12 drawing paper. (Excellent directions can be found online.) After each child has created two pyramids, invite students to turn each pyramid on its side to make a diorama frame. Then provide art materials, so that students can create at least one plant and two animals to add to a desert biome diorama and a rain forest biome diorama.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday Fun: Super Silly Science Jokes

Q: How did the first pterosaur learn to fly?
A: She had to wing it.

Q: How did Archaeopteryx get the worm?
A: It was an early bird.

Q: Why did Gigantosaurus eat raw meat?
A: It didn’t now how to cook.

Q: What did the baby mammal say to its mom?
A: Got milk?

Q: Why were woolly mammoths banned from the beach?
A: They kept walking around with their trunks down.

Looking for more super silly jokes from long, long ago? Check out Dino-mite Jokes about Prehistoric Life.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Behind the Books: Is the Internet Reliable?

Even a first grader knows the answer to this question. Sometimes.

But kids vary in their ability to know how to deal with this reality. Most know that Wikipedia can’t be trusted, for instance. But beyond that, many aren’t sure how to evaluate sites. So today I’m sharing a tip that I hope kids everywhere will start using.

Think before you click.

What does that mean? After you have done a search on your browser of choice but before you start clicking on individual sites, take a minute to look at the list.

First, look at the domain names—the last three letters in a website’s address.



Every third grader should know how to identify a domain name, and they should know what the three letters stand for. For example, the first three listed above indicate that the website is owned and maintained by a business or company.

Are these sites reliable? Well, kids should ask themselves, what is the main goal of a business? To sell something and make money. So then, is providing accurate information a priority for them? Not necessarily.

But by and large, organizations, educational institutions, and the government are committed to gathering and sharing reliable information. They make it a priority to check the accuracy of their content and to update their websites as necessary.  

So if you’re doing a report on the human heart, it’s okay to trust the American Heart Association, but avoid sites that sell love potions.

And if you are doing a report on giraffes, you can trust information from the San Diego Zoo or the National Geographic Society. But stay away from sites that well stuffed giraffes.

By thinking about the motivation of the people maintaining a site, students can make better choices when using the Internet for research.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Teaching Science with Kidlit: NGSS Performance Expectation 1-LS4-1

2-LS4-1. Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the diversity of living things in each of a variety of different habitats.]

The word “habitat” is misused more than just about any word I can think of. According to scientists, every living thing has its own unique habitat. So while a lion’s habitat is vast and is pretty much the same as the habitat of the other lions in its pride, a midge’s habitat might be no bigger than a few square feet of forest. To make that clear to young readers, you can use the following books:

A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle

Song of the Water Boatman by Joyce Sidman

The Raft by Jim LaMarche

Trout Are Made of Trees by April Pulley Sayre

Necks Out for Adventure by Timothy Basil Ering

Star of the Sea: A Day in the Life of a Starfish by Janet Halfmann

Mining the Book
After reading the title poem in Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems, ask the class the following questions: Where is the water boatman’s habitat? (The bottom of the pond.) Where is the backswimmer’s habitat? (The top of the pond.)

Then ask: Can you find any clues in the text that explain why the two insects live in different parts of the pond? If students struggle to answer this question, break it down as follows:

·   What does the text say the water boatman eats? (green goo)

·   According to the text, where is that food found? (floating in the water)

·   What does the text say the backswimmer eats? (wee beasties)

·   According to the text, where is that food found? (on the water’s surface)

·   Based on the answers to these questions, why do you think water boatmen and backswimmers live in different habitats? (They eat different foods, and they live in the part of the pond where they can get the food they need to survive)

Activity 1
Let your students know that, unlike a water boatman, a predacious diving beetle can find food in the air as well as in a pond. Then invite your students to write and illustrate an imaginative adventure story in which a predacious diving beetle moves to another habitat. How does it survive in its new home? What does it miss about living in the pond?

Activity 2
After reading A House for Hermit Crab, use Google Images to identify its habitat. (the sea floor) Then find photos of the ocean creatures mentioned on the final page of the book  (sponges, barnacles, clown fish, sand dollars, electric eels). Encourage students to write a sequel to A House for Hermit Crab—a second story in which Hermit Crab travels along the sea floor in his new shell and meets these creatures. How could these new creatures help Hermit Crab?