Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: Comets, Stars, the Moon and Mars

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Comets, Stars the Moon, and Mars is book of space paintings and poetry written and beautifully illustrated by artist, Douglas Florian. The book includes clever little poems about all eight planets, the sky, galaxies, and even a sad poem about how Pluto was demoted as a planet. This particular poem starts off as “Pluto was a planet. But now it doesn’t pass…” and goes on before concluding that Pluto was officially fired as a legitimate planet in out solar system. All the poems are easy to read and understand, making it a perfect book for kids to work on reading themselves. The scientific facts about the planets and space objects are neatly folded into the stanza, it never seems forced or cheesy. For example, one poem about black holes includes lines like, “some are small, some are quite wide. Gravity pulls, all things inside,” which subtly gives basic facts about black holes while still presenting a strong piece of poetry.Another helpful resource that the book offers is a glossary in the back with written paragraphs about each planet and space object mentioned in the poems. This is a great resource to help answer questions that arise while reading the poems as you introduce kids to the new topics. I really enjoy the paintings in the book that accompany each poem. I think the book can appeal to many kids because it combines both artistic and scientific thinking.

Curriculum Connections
The book can be used to get kids interested in science and the topic of the universe by letting them read about it in a non-traditional way, through poetry and art. It satisfies the Virginia SOL for earth science 4.7 by talking about sizing, positioning and mass make-up of the earth, moon and sun. I think it could be appropriate for any grade between 3rd and 6th to give kids an alternative and maybe more fun way of looking at earth science.

Additional Resources

  • For some extra detailed information and facts about the planets and the solar system, check out this site by NASA
  • Retreat back to a more traditional science book with this universe encyclopedia.
  • Have students illustrate their own astronomy terms with some ideas here, you could even add in a poetry workshop and have each student create their own poem defining the terms just like in the book.

Book: Comets, Stars, the Moon and Mars
Author:
Douglas Florian
Publisher:
Harcourt Children’s Books
Publication Date:
2007
Pages:
56 pages
Grades:
3-6
ISBN:  0152053727