Author Archive for Tricia

Elementary Science on the Web – Guided Tour

Are you looking for great resources to help you plan and deliver science instruction at the elementary level? Boy, do I have the sites for you! Sit back, relax, and take this guided tour of some great places to start planning for next year. Turn up the volume on your computer so you don’t miss the audio portion many of these sites contain. Are you ready? LET’S GO!

Why don’t we start with terms. Vocabulary can be a big problem for both students and teachers. Let’s look at a great site for science vocab. This site is has resources for grades 1-6. Select your grade level and check out a few terms. Don’t forget to click the speaker when you see it!

Harcourt Multimedia Science Glossary

Here are two more sites from Harcourt. First, take a look at the Science Up Close site. Click on your grade level to find a list of science movies for your students to view. Don’t forget to turn on closed captioning so that you (and later your students) can read along. After that, jump on over to the Student Activities page to find online games, biographies of scientists, and web links for grades 1-6.

Harcourt Science Up Close
Harcourt Student Activities

Scott Foresman is another textbook publisher that has produced many wonderful activities, many online, for students. Visit this site to search for an activity by by grade or by unit, where Unit A=Life Science, Unit B=Physical Science, Unit C=Earth Science and Unit D=Human Body.

Scott Foresman Science – Find an Activity

Science is a class that requires lots of hands on activities. Much of the work in the science classroom begins with measurement and good tools. If you want to learn how to make some of your own resources, these sites can help you get started.

Science Equipment Directions
Recipes: Solutions and Materials
Ooey Gooey Recipes for the Classroom
Make Homemade Science Toys and Projects
Tools for Investigation

Need some clipart, photographs, or movies to jazz up your lessons? Here are few helpful resources.

Free Science Clipart
Animal Web Cams at the National Zoo
Imagine Animals: Photos of Earth’s Endangered Animals
Plant Image Gallery
Welcome to the Planets

How’s your science saavy? Feeling a bit nervous about your content knowledge? No problem! Check out some of these sites designed to help you better understand the science you will teach.

Essential Science for Teachers (K-6): Earth and Space Science
Essential Science for Teachers (K-6): Life Science
Essential Science for Teachers (K-6): Physical Science
The Why Files: Science Behind the News
How Stuff Works: Science Channel
Sport Science

Are you looking for a good book to use during your science lesson? Here are some great sites to help you find titles that work for different concepts in science. Start your search with one of these searchable databases of children’s books. Enter a keyword and see what comes up. (Be careful entering keywords in the first database, as you are limited to 10 characters!)

Children’s Picture Book Database
Database of Award Winning Children’s Literature

In addition to these sites, you can also find annotations for science books online. The National Science Teachers Association, in conjunction with the Children’s Book Council, publishes a list of outstanding science trade books each year. (This appears annually in the March issue of Science and Children.) Also, PBS Teacher Source updates its list of science books monthly. Check out the new recommendations and search the archive.

NSTA’s Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12
PBS TeacherSource Recommended Books: Science

Now that you have your topic and a children’s book to go with it, you probably need an activity to conduct. Here are some sites that offer a wide range of experiments and hands-on activities.

Science With Me: Experiments
The Science Explorer
Magic Schoolbus: Science Fun Activities
Exploratorium Science Snacks (by subject)
Whelmers Science Activities
Try Science Experiments

If you would prefer to review fully developed lesson plans, try any one of these sites.

Science NetLinks Lesson Index
Educator’s Desk Reference: Science Lesson Plans
Academy Curriculum Exchange: K-5 Science
UEN Resources: K-2 Core Lesson Plans (Scroll to content to find science lessons.)
UEN Resources: 3-6 Science Lessons

So, your lessons are planned and you have all your resources ready. How are you going to assess student learning? Here are some sites with ideas for evaluating student work, developing rubrics, and more.

Assessment Ideas for the Elementary Science Classroom
PALS Performance Tasks (K-4)
Exemplars: Rubrics

For those of you looking for resources to differentiate instruction, here are some sites you may find helpful.

Meeting the Needs of Gifted Students: Differentiating Mathematics and Science Instruction
Mathematics and Science Instruction for Students With Learning Disabilities
Teaching Mathematics and Science to English Language Learners
Special Education in the Science Classroom
TeachingLD: Teaching How-to’s: Content Enhancement and Adaptation

Are you interested in making a home-school connection? Here are some resources to involve parents.

Engaging Families in Mathematics and Science Education
Helping Your Child Learn Science

By now you should realize that there are so many resources on the web for science, that I can’t possibly include them all here. I hope this tour helped you find some resources you can use and excited you about the possibilities of using online resources for both planning and delivering instruction.

New Resources for Parents and Teachers

I often point my preservice teachers to the U.S. Department of Education publications site for useful resources. I’m particularly fond of the the Helping Your Child brochure series. This series “aims to provide parents with the tools and information necessary to help their children succeed in school and life. These brochures feature practical lessons and activities to help their school aged and preschool children master reading, math and science; understand the value of homework; and, develop the skills and values necessary to achieve and grow.”

Several of these popular booklets have been updated and are available for free download. Here are some you may want to check out.

The Ed Pubs site also has a number of great resources on reading. Here are a few.

Nonfiction Monday – Who Lives Here?

1900_cv3.jpg 1899_cv3.jpg

The Who Lives Here? series, written by Deborah Hodge and illustrated by Pat Stephens, examines animals in their natural environments and explains how those animals are uniquely adapted to their habitats. The books are organized by habitat, and include titles on Desert Animals, Polar Animals, Rain Forest Animals and Wetland Animals.

Both Desert Animals and Wetland Animals open with a Table of Contents that begins with a page that defines that habitat (What is a Desert? and What is a Wetland?) and ends with a page containing animals words (pictorial index) and information for parents and teachers. In between are 9 double-page spreads, each introducing a different animal.

The opening pages that ask the question “What is a __?” provide a good basic introduction to the habitat. Here is how the What is a Desert? page begins.

A desert is a very dry place. Almost no rain falls here. Most deserts are found in hot parts of the world, under a blazing sun. Deserts can be sandy or rocky. Only a few are cold.

Deserts are home to many interesting animals. Their bodies are built for living in hot places, where this is very little water to drink.

The facing page briefly describes the growth that occurs when rain does fall, a bit about the plants, and the need for animals to find shade.

Here is an image of similar pages from the Wetland Animals book.


Once the background information has been covered, these books are all about the animals. Each one covers an amazing array. In Desert Animals readers meet the following animals:

  • Fennec Fox
  • Elf Owl
  • Sidewinder
  • Addax
  • Sand Cat
  • Scorpion
  • Bactrian Camel
  • Gila Monster
  • Roadrunner

In Wetland Animals readers meet these animals:

  • Hippopotamus
  • Mallard Duck
  • Capybara
  • Bullfrog
  • Crocodile
  • Beaver
  • Flamingo
  • Anaconda
  • Moose

Each set of animal pages includes a description of the animal and a sidebar with facts about the animal and itsadaptations, as well as an illustration that covers a full one and a third of the double-page spread. Here is an example.

Fennec Fox

(Main Spread, p.6)
The fennec fox lives near desert sand hills, called dunes. These furry foxes are the size of small dogs.

Tiny fox pups are born in an underground den. The mother cares for her babies while the father hunts for food.

(Sidebar, p.7)
The fox digs a hole in the sand called a burrow. It hides here during the heat of the day. Whew!

A fox hunts in the cool desert night. It pounces on its prey — the jerboas and other small animals it eats.

Sharp hearing helps a fox find its prey. The big ears also give off heat to keep the fox cool.

Each of these animal entries is packed with information. The text is easy to read and the illustrations in the sidebar support the text by providing close-up views of the adaptations described. The animal words section on the last page of each book provides a search-and-find opportunity for readers. Six close-up views of a body part are accompanied by a name, page number, and the question “Can you find pictures of these body parts in the book?” The idea here is for students to revisit the pages and think about how the body part helps the animal adapt to its environment.

The final section on the last page of the book provides background information about the environment. Though short, this is very important. Nowhere in the text does the author explain that the animals described come from deserts or wetlands around the world. It would be very easy for a reader to make the assumption that all these animals actually live in the same place. However, hippos and capybaras don’t even live on the same continent. The same is true for Bactrian camels and gila monsters. Teachers and parents reading this with young children will need to make it clear that while the animals depicted live in the same type of environment, they do not necessarily live in the same part of the world. This is precisely the information provided in this final section.

Despite this one concern, I found the books to be useful resources for studying how a variety of animals adapt to their environments. The accessibility of the language and detailed illustrations will make them appealing to readers as well.

Books: Desert Animals and Wetland Animals
Author: Deborah Hodge
Illustrator: Pat Stephens
Kids Can Press
Publication Date:
24 pages
Source of Book: Review copies received from Raab Associates.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. Head on over to Anastasia Suen's blog and check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.

Nonfiction Monday – Looking Closely

desert.jpg     garden.jpg

I have always been a fan of the Games Magazine puzzles called “Eyeball Benders.” These are a type of puzzle in which the reader must identify a common object pictured in a close-up and generally uncommon view. Here is an example from the July 2008 cover of the magazine.


Why do I mention these puzzles in a book review? Because the new series Looking Closely from Kids Can Press uses this type of visual puzzle as an introduction to natural environments. Written and photographed by Frank Serafini, the books challenge readers to guess the identity of each close-up photo. The cropped images on the right hand page are framed in black. The small circle that is visible allows readers to focus on just one part of the larger image. The left hand page in each spread begins with “Look very closely. What do you see?” What appears next are two ideas designed to get readers thinking. The page ends with the words, “What could it be?” On the next page each object is shown in its habitat and accompanied by a description.

The first page from Looking Closely Inside the Garden is focused on the wing of a butterfly. The next page begins with the words “It’s a Monarch Butterfly.” The text reads:

In autumn, when the weather grows cold, monarch butterflies fly south to Mexico and Central America. They follow the same path every year.

At the end of their long journey, monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed plants. When caterpillars hatch from the eggs, they munch on milkweed leaves until their bodies are large enough to form a smooth chrysalis. Eventually they emerge as butterflies.

Each of the books highlights nine plants, animals or objects from the environment. The last page features a double-page photograph of the environment.

Looking Closely Across the Desert features plants and animals, as well as sandstone and sand dunes. One close-up photograph is focused on the foot of a spiny lizard. The full page photograph shows why these lizards blend in with their environment. The text describes why this camouflage is so beneficial.

Each book ends with the following photographer’s note.

Photographers pay attention to things that most people overlook or take for granted. I can spend hours wandering along the shore, through the forest, across the desert or in my garden, looking for interesting things to photograph. My destination is not a place, but rather a new way of seeing.

It takes time to notice things. To be a photographer, you have to slow down and imagine in your “mind’s eye” what the camera can capture. Ansel Adams said you could discover a whole life’s worth of images in a six-square-foot patch of Earth. In order to do so, you have to look very closely.

By creating the images featured in this series of picture books, I hope to help people attend to nature, to things they might have normally passed by. I want people to pay attention to the world around them, to appreciated what nature has to offer, and to being to protect the fragile environment in which we live.

Dr. Serafini succeeds beautifully in getting readers to attend to the small details found in nature. His images will surely capture the imagination of children and adults alike.  Readers will delight in this photographic introduction to natural environments. I know I did. I highly recommend these engaging titles, and can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of the series. Other titles include Looking Closely Along the Shore and Looking Closely Through the Forest.

Books: Looking Closely Inside the Garden and Looking Closely Across the Desert
Author/Illustrator: Frank Serafini
Kids Can Press
Publication Date:
40 pages
Source of Book: Review copies received from Raab Associates.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. Head on over to Anastasia Suen's blog and check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.

Celebrating Apples and Johnny Appleseed

This Friday, September 26th, is the anniversary of Johnny Appleseed’s birth. Many classrooms are studying apples and fall right now, so I thought it only appropriate to share some selected resources with you.

The American Storyteller Radio Journal, Episode 190 – Nelson Lauver briefly discussed the history of Johnny Apple.

The US Apple Association has a variety of downloadable materials.

Apples and More – Here you’ll find some information on apples, apple history, and apple varieties.

johnny_view.jpgJohnny Appleseed: A Pioneer – This site from the Virginia State Apple Board provides information on John Chapman.

Mrs. Nelson’s Class: Apple Unit – Here you’ll find activities, reproducibles and photographs of finished apple projects.

Passionately Curious: Apple Study – This is a brief description of an apple study that includes samples of student journal entries.

Monthly Theme: Apples – This site from Houghton Mifflin provides a series of activity ideas and downloadable materials.

Wisconsin Apple Growers Association Educational Materials – Here you’ll find apple facts, word games and stories, as well as PDF files for your use.

A is for Apple – This thematic unit has a variety of songs, poems, activity ideas and book suggestions.

Apple Orchard Field Trip Tips – Here are some great ideas if you are planning on visiting an orchard.

Teacher CyberGuide: Apples – This S.C.O.R.E project is focused on second grade activities on apples.

Apple Country Teacher Kit – Scroll down for a series of downloadable lessons and activities on apples.

**Jane Yolen has a new book out entitled Johnny Appleseed: The Legend and the Truth. You can read my review.

Nonfiction Monday – Getting to Know Artists

matisse.jpg rousseau.jpg

Hello Matisse!: Get to Know Matisse Through Stories, Games and Draw-It-Yourself Fun and Hello Rousseau!: Get to Know Rousseau Through Stories, Games and Draw-It-Yourself Fun both by Catherine de Duve, are engaging translations from the French that offer young readers and budding artists an “inside” look at these men and their works.

Hello Matisse! begins with an introduction to Matisse’s early life and his introduction to art at the age of 21. Home sick in bed for many weeks, his mother provided him with a paint set to make the time go by. This event changed his life. Once he recovered he left his office job and went to art school in Paris. His first painting was a still life that he signed with his name spelled backwards. Nearly 60 years later, he was still painting. The double-page spread entitled Matisse Finds Art shows both of these works. Where de Duve’s books differ from other “art history” type books is in the interactive component that is included in this spread. There is  a blank box with directions above that read:

Arrange some objects in a pattern you like and sketch a still life. Sign it with your own unique artist’s signature.

As the book follows Matisse through his life, de Duve highlights aspects of his style and work. All this is accompanied by directives to readers to create art in the fashion of the artist. Some of the interactive components of this book include:

  • Artists use colors to express emotion. Color this butterfly with colors that make you happy.
  • Create a face with different colors in the style of the Fauves.
  • Look out the window and paint or draw what you see, using simple shapes and playful colors.

In some instances, readers are not asked to draw by rather to search for specific details in a painting.  One of my favorite interactive exercises shows a portion of Harmony in Red (Red Room) alongside the exact same image with no color. Readers are encouraged to imagine the room in a different color, then try it and see.

Hello Rousseau! is written in much the same fashion. It begins with an introduction to the time period. What follows is a brief introduction from the artist in which he talks about his early life. It begins:

Hello! My name is Henri Rousseau. I was born on May 21, 1844 in a small town in France called Laval. I have a brother and three sisters. My father was an artisan and fine metal-worker. I was not a very good student but I loved to draw and make music.

As in the Matisse, book this one is sprinkled with interactive bits such as:

  • Draw a far away place from your dreams.
  • Create your own landscape in the style of Henri Rousseau. Look closely at his forms and colors.
  • Color these leaves with different kinds of green.
  • Make up a story about the wide-eyed tiger.
  • Make up a story about the sleeping musician as you add your own colors to this scene.

Both of these books provide terrific introductions to their subjects and allow readers to analyze and learn about the artists and their art in new ways. I particularly liked the focus on color and painting style, and the way their life histories were interwoven to show how life impacted art.

Overall, I found both books to be highly informative and engaging. One of the features I enjoyed most about the books, the interactive pieces, is also the one I find most problematic. I don’t encourage kids to draw in books, so I’m not sure how this will play in libraries and classrooms. I would love to see kids so excited about art after reading these titles that they just have to pick up paints and create works of their own. I just hope it will be on a canvas or medium other than these fine books.

Book: Hello Matisse!: Get to Know Matisse Through Stories, Games and Draw-It-Yourself Fun
Catherine de Duve
Birdcage Press
Publication Date:
32 pages
Source of Book:
Review copy received from Raab Associates.

Book: Hello Rousseau!: Get to Know Rousseau Through Stories, Games and Draw-It-Yourself Fun
Catherine de Duve
Birdcage Press
Publication Date:
Pages: 32 pages
Grades: 3-6
ISBN: 978-0873589260
Source of Book: Review copy received from Raab Associates.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. Head on over to Anastasia Suen's blog and check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.

Nonfiction Monday – Ballots for Belva


I’m tired of politics. No, really. I’m tired of speeches, commercials, trash talk, e-mail messages and the constant chatter (not all of it polite or respectful) that has hijacked many a listserv and lunchroom conversation. Don’t get me wrong, I am invested in this election and following closely, but I just don’t want to hear/talk about it all the time. So, while you won’t find me blogging about the presidential election, I’m happy to review books relating to politics and elections. Enter  Ballots for Belva: The True Story of a Woman’s Race for the Presidency, written by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and illustrated by Courtney A. Martin.

This is the story of Belva Lockwood, an independent-minded woman who ran for president in 1884 and 1888. Early in this biography we learn that Belva was married, gave birth to a daughter, was widowed, graduated from college, worked as a teachers, started a suffrage group, and married again. At the age of 39 she decided she wanted to become a lawyer, but no law school would admit her. A response from one was:

Madam- The Faculty of Columbian College have considered your request to be admitted to the Law Department of this institution, and, after due consultation, have considered that such admission would not be expedient, as it would be likely to distract the attention of the young men.

Belva didn’t give up, and soon she was one of 15 women invited to enroll in the newly formed National University Law School (now George Washington University Law School). The school didn’t make things easy for the women, and int he end, only two women finished all their coursework. Belva was one of them. However, the law school refused to grant a diploma to a woman. Only after writing a letter to President Ulysses S. Grant, also president (ex officio) of the law school, did Belva receive her diploma. Not only did Belva become the first female graduate of National University Law School, but she also became the first woman to practice law in federal court and the first to argue a case before the Supreme Court.

Long having fought for the equality of men and women before the law, Belva was a staunch supporter of a woman’s right to vote. She attended two Republican conventions in an effort to make women’s suffrage a part of the official platform, but her pleas were ignored. Then, in August of 1884, Belva was nominated at the Women’s National Equal-Rights Convention for President of the United States. On September 3rd she accepted the nomination. Belva selected another woman, Marietta Stow, as her running mate.

Belva faced an uphill battle all the way. Newspapers called her campaign “the most laughable masquerade this city has every witnessed.” Many women opposed her run for president. Men dressed up in women’s clothing pretending to be her. The National Woman Suffrage Association did not support her. Belva didn’t let these things stop here. She traveled across the country, delivering her message of equal rights for all, regardless of race or gender.

Belva didn’t win the election (Grover Cleveland did), but she did win votes. While the number recorded is 4,711 popular votes, there could have been many more, because many of the votes cast for her in the election were never counted. The votes in Pennsylvania were thrown away because “the vote counters couldn’t believe anyone would actually vote for a woman.” In some cases her votes were given to other candidates, like in New York, where all 1, 336 votes for Belva went to Cleveland. The book ends with an author’s note, glossary, timeline of women’s suffrage in the U.S., and selected bibliography.

The book is richly illustrated with 13 double page spreads. You can see some of these gorgeous illustrations at Courtney Martin’s blog.

This isn’t just a book for election time, but one that will serve as a useful resource for the study of women’s rights and suffrage. This is an amazing story, remarkably told. I highly recommend it.

Book: Ballots for Belva: The True Story of a Woman’s Race for the Presidency
Sudipta Bardham-Quallen
Courtney A. Martin
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers
Publication Date:
Pages: 32 pages
Grades: 2-6
ISBN: 978-0810971103
Source of Book: Review copy received from publisher.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. Head on over to Anastasia Suen's blog and check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.

Nonfiction Monday – When I Grow Up


In honor of Labor Day, I thought it appropriate to review When I Grow Up: A Young Person’s Guide to Interesting and Unusual Occupations by Jessica Loy.

When I was growing up, I never dreamed about “normal” occupations. Doctor, lawyer, teacher and the like were not on my list. I longed to work with Jacques Cousteau and study marine mammals, study the fossil record of human evolution with the Leakey’s, or work in animal breeding and conservation at a zoo. My dream jobs grew largely out of reading about the work of famous scientists. I wanted to have those same adventures and make the same kinds of discoveries.

Young people today can learn about a whole host of jobs on television and online. However, it’s the printed page that still holds me captive, and a means for learning I hope young people will continue to use. Jessica Loy’s new book When I Grow Up is a winning entry in this category. Loy has done a fine job of capturing men, women and families in her profiles, and has selected occupations that are sure to encourage readers to “think outside the box” when it comes to career options. The book begins this way.

How do we decide what we want to be when we grow up? We might get ideas from our families and teachers or from people we admire.

Inside you will find fourteen careers that began as a dreams and have turned into lifelong pursuits. Many started as childhood interests. Maybe there is something you love to do that will someday become your career.

There are so many possibilities!

The fourteen careers profiled include:

  • Entomologist
  • Alpaca Farmers
  • Archaeologist
  • Master Cheese Maker
  • Research Biologist
  • Game Designer
  • Chocolatier
  • Percussionist
  • Lobsterman (actually a woman!)
  • Guitar Makers
  • Kite Designer
  • Pet Photographer
  • Set Designer
  • Robotics Engineer

Each occupation is described through the profile of a person who actually holds that job. The pages are filled with photographs of the person at work. There is a tremendous amount of information on each occupation’s double-page spread. The entry for Alpaca Farmers profiles a family in New York. There are photos of the family and the alpacas, alpacas being sheared, and a very interesting series of photos and captions about making yarn from alpaca fiber. After reading nearly every entry I found myself nodding my heading and thinking, “Now THAT would be a cool job!” I think young readers will feel the same way.

The book ends with contact information for each occupation profiled, complete with home/work addresses (should readers care to send mail the “old-fashioned” way) and web sites. The facing page provides a list of summer camps ideas that “offer an opportunity for kids to explore potential career paths.” Included is information for space camp, culinary camp, robot camp, computer camp and many more ideas.

Overall this is a well-researched, highly informative and engaging read. I highly recommend it.

Book: When I Grow Up: A Young Person’s Guide to Interesting and Unusual Occupations
Jessica Loy
Henry Holt
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 40 pages
Grades: 4-8
Source of Book: Review copy received from publisher.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. Head on over to Anastasia Suen's blog and check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.

Nonfiction Monday – A Food Chain Trio

While I’ve been preparing my syllabi for fall, my son and I have been reading sets of books on some of the topics that are covered. Our recent reading has taken us into the realm of food chains and food webs. Here is a trio of books that examines different aspects of the energy transfer in nature.

Trout Are Made of Trees, written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Kate Endle – What happens when leaves fall from a tree and land in a stream? “They ride in a rush above rocks and over rapids. They snag and settle soggily down.” From here they become food for bacteria and a home for algae. They are further broken down by little critters, like crane flies, caddisflies, shrimp and stoneflies. These critters are eaten by predators. Guess where those leaves are now? When the predators are eaten by trout, the trout are made of trees. This is a beautifully illustrated book (mixed media collage) that not only introduces a simple food chain, but also the life cycle of trout.

Vulture View, written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Steve Jenkins – Scavengers and decomposers play a very important role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. In helping to break down dead organisms, they are responsible for returning basic nutrients to the soil so that they may reenter the chain. In this book, we get a glimpse of the scavenging role that vultures play, along with some poetry and interesting facts about these oft maligned birds. For more information on this book, please read my review.

Wolf Island, written and illustrated by Celia Godkin – What happens when a top predator in well-balanced ecosystem disappears? This story highlights the changes that occur on an island after a family of wolves accidentally leave the island for the mainland. Without predators, there is nothing to keep the deer population in check. When it swells, the deer eat so much grass that rabbits and mice have fewer young. This results in less food for foxes and owls. This is a terrific resource for demonstrating how the balance of an ecosystem can easily be upset. It also does a fine job of explaining why the top predators in a food chain are so important.

There are other books about food chains and food webs, but these are my favorites and the least didactic of the bunch. All make great lesson starters for teaching elementary students about this topic.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. Head on over to Anastasia Suen's blog and check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.

Nonfiction Monday – 10 Things I Can Do To Help My World


I was browsing the stacks at a local bookstore yesterday when this book jumped out at me. I was struck in part by the light bulb cutout on the cover and in part by the recycling symbol and statement indicating that the book was made from 100% recycled material. After being drawn in by the cover, I was hooked once I leafed through the pages. My son’s school has adopted a “green theme” for the year, so this book will be the first one I donate to the library, as it’s a real gem.

10 Things I Can Do to Help My World: Fun and Easy Eco-Tips, written and illustrated by Melanie Walsh is not only about being eco-friendly, it serves as an excellent model. There is not one bit of wasted paper or space in this book. There is no front matter to the book, and the copyright information is included on the back cover. As soon as the book is opened the reader is launched into the text. Remember that light bulb cutout that grabbed my attention? When the cover is opened the reader finds a page in black except for where it is bathed in light from the bulb and four insects are basking in its glow. The text reads “I remember . . . ” When the page is turned readers find a double-page spread bathed in black with only white text and eyeballs staring out at them. The text on the left page reads “to turn off the light when I leave the room.” On the right page the bulb is outlined in a bit of concrete text that reads “Turning off lights and using more efficient lightbulbs saves valuable energy.” There is quite a bit of this concrete text throughout the book. It comes running out of the faucet and can be found around the edges of trash cans and trees. It’s not poetry, but it is a wonderful bit of design. (To get a feel for what these pages look like, view an inside spread at the Candlewick site.)

The tips in the book include:

  • turning off lights
  • turning off the faucet while brushing teeth
  • throwing away trash
  • feeding birds in winter
  • using both sides of a piece of paper
  • unplugging the television when not in use
  • making toys from objects that are often thrown out
  • walking to school
  • planting seeds
  • sorting materials for recycling

The acrylic illustrations are refreshing and often appear on pages where edges have been cut or shaped for an interesting effect. The final set of pages includes the text “I help . . . ” on the left hand side, accompanied by illustrations of sets of objects such as bottles, cans and food scraps. The right hand page pictures a variety of receptacles with cutout openings. The beauty of this double-page spread becomes apparent when you turn the page, for what appears are labeled receptacles with the appropriate items insides. Readers will find cans, glass, compost, plastic and paper bins filled to the brim along with the text that completes the sentence begun earlier “sort the recycling.”

The final endpaper is a black page covered with stars and a semicircular fold that reads “All because . . . ” When readers fold the flap down they find the earth and the words “I love my world.”

This is a fabulous resource for early elementary classrooms studying recycling and caring for our world. I recommend it with enthusiasm!

Book: 10 Things I Can Do to Help My World: Fun and Easy Eco-Tips
Melanie Walsh
Candlewick Press
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 40 pages
Grades: K-3
Source of Book: Personal copy purchased at a local bookstore.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. Head on over to Anastasia Suen's blog and check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.