Archive for the 'science' Category

Classification of Living Things

Scientist have tried to classify living organisms into groups since Aristotle’s time.  Over time this classification system has changed and evolved as we have learned more about organisms.  Advances in technology have fueled many of these changes.  Scientist are now studying the genetic makeup of organisms.  With this new information, scientist believed that the long held system of 5 kingdoms needed to be reevaluated.  In 1990, it was suggested that the name “domain” be used to describe a rank higher than kingdom. The proposed three domain system includes the kingdoms, Protista, Plantae, Fungi, and Animalia under the Domain Eukarya.  The Kingdom Monera was separated into the two domains, Domain Bacteria and Domain Archaea.

This blog is intended to address the needs of educators teaching the classification of organisms using physical characteristics, body structures, and behavior of the organism (Virginia Standards of Learning 5.5).  With over one million different species on earth there is an abundance of books available.  I have tried to find a few excellent examples of books and other resources to get you started.

Book Reviews:

Tree of Life: The Incredible Biodiversity of Life on Earth,
By Rochelle Strauss and illustrated by Margot Thompson

This book is a great introduction to classification.  In a short 39 pages this book covers the traditional 5 kingdoms.  On a two page spread the book gives a colorful overview of each kingdom.  There is a brief description of the kingdom along with examples and a graphic that depicts the size of that kingdom compared to the remaining kingdoms.  The book breaks down the animal kingdom into invertebrates and vertebrates and the five classes of vertebrates.

The Animal Kingdom: A Guide to Vertebrate Classification and Biodiversity
By Kate Whyman

This book is 45 pages full of great information.  But don’t let the size deter you.  The introduction to each class of vertebrates contains a bulleted box that lists the characteristics of that vertebrate.  You can quickly cover the basics by looking at the pictures and bulleted boxes.  This book also contains a great introduction to what is a living thing and classification.  Herbivores, carnivores and the human impact on the animal kingdom are also briefly covered.
bug Bugs Up Close
By Diane Swanson and Photographed by Paul Davidson

Of all the different kinds of invertebrates, insects are the class we are all familiar with.  This book quickly describes the characteristics of insects and then devotes a page to each characteristic.  Photographer Paul Davidson provides amazing close-up photos of different types of insects.
book Amphibians: Water-t0-Land Animals
By Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Kristin Kest

Just like the cover, this book is filled with rich, colorful illustrations of amphibians.  The text is easy to read and brief.  Throughout the book are inserts with additional information and trivia facts.  At the end of the book is a scientific classification chart and glossary.  If you like this book, then you may like one of the other five that is in the series.

crab  Crab Moon
By Ruth Horowitz and illustrated by Kate Kiesler

In this fictional story, a young boy and his mother go to the beach in the middle of the night to see horseshoe crabs spawning.  This book would be a great way to introduce invertebrates to students.  After reading the story, students can discuss the characteristics of invertebrates and arachnids and how they are mentioned in the story.  The book also contains a fact sheet about horseshoe crabs.

Web sites for kids:

Animal Classification.  This site offers a brief description of the characteristics of mammals, reptiles, fish, amphibians, and birds.  The descriptions are four to six bulleted points that are done colorfully and with pictures.  There is a Classification Game that is an excellent review of the different characteristics of the animals discussed.

Classifying Critters.   At this web site, there is a brief explanation of how scientists classify living things and an interactive quiz on vertebrates.  The quiz shows you a picture of one animal and asks that you identify an animal that would be in the same category as the first.  After you identify the correct animal, you are then given a multiple choice question.  The question is, what characteristics do these animals have in common?

Plant and Animal Differences.  To play this game you must quickly sort and drag the items to the correct box.  As the items go by on a conveyor belt you must sort them by bird, mammal, insect, or plant.

A Touch of Class game.  In this game you are given a grid with 16 shadow pictures of living things. You are asked to click the pictures that correspond with the statement at the top of the page.  Some examples of statements are: “things that have a tail” or “things that have a backbone.”

Video. Select the video titled “Form and Function.”  This video discusses how scientists look at animal’s structure and behavior when comparing them.  After watching this video, viewers should have a better understanding of how animals that look similar can be classified differently.

Teacher Resources:

Lesson plan.  Science NetLinks offers a two-part lesson plan on classification.  In addition to the lesson plans, the site also discusses the misconceptions and the difficultly that most students have in understanding classification. This site also offers assessment and extension activities.

Introducing Classification.  This site offers a brief explanation and history of classification along with descriptions of the 5 kingdoms and examples.  There is also a section that compares the kingdoms and an activity for students that can be printed.

Teacher overview.  At this site educators can review the characteristics of the main kingdoms.  The kingdoms are then broken down into further subgroups and examples of each are given.   Click on “Printable Worksheets” and you will find a 10 question assessment based on the information found on this site. This link takes you to a slide show about classification and discusses the three domains.  Look around the site and you will find great pictures and quizzes that can be used.

Cells: Fifth Grade

In fifth grade, students study cells as part of the living systems unit. Students must understand that organisms are made up of cells, which have defining characteristics that contribute to the organism’s survival (SOL 5.5). This resource set will support instruction during the cell unit.

Plant Cells: The Building Blocks of Plants

Written by Darlene R. Stille and Illustrated by Eric Hoffmann

Plant Cells: The Building Blocks of Plants would serve as a valuable resource for a research project on cells. The book is divided into four clearly defined chapters that address distinct aspects of plant cells. These aspects are the basics, the defining characteristics, the function, and the reproduction of plant cells. Since this book is written at an appropriate reading level, students could read Plant Cells independently in order to collect information for their project. Clear headings and an extensive index create a research-friendly format that will assist students as they search for information related to their topics. Finally, a descriptive glossary and illustrative diagrams support students as they read content-specific vocabulary. Overall, this is an age-appropriate text that enables independent exploration.

Animal Cells: The Smallest Units of Life

Written by Darlene R. Stille and Illustrated by Eric Hoffmann

Animal Cells: The Smallest Units of Life is a good companion resource to Plant Cells. This book explains the vast range of cells, the appearance of animal cells, animal cell functions, and the reproduction of animal cells. Animal Cells specifically emphasizes the impact of cells on all life, from the “smallest ant to the largest elephant.”  Stille distinguishes between one-celled and multi-celled organisms. She also explains how the quantity and type of cell affect the life of the organism. For instance, a one-celled bacteria does not posses the same abilities and characteristics as a 60-100 trillion-celled human being. Concrete examples and detailed images will assist students as they read this book. Once again, this resource lends itself toward independent research. Simple diagrams, fun facts, bibliographical resources, and a descriptive glossary combine to create a valuable resource for student research.


Written by Kimberly Fekany Lee and Designed by Heidi Thompson

Cells is a good resource because it teaches about cells in the context of daily life. This approach supports student comprehension of this difficult topic. For example, the book begins with a description of cells and their size relative to other objects. These descriptions are supported with illustrations of enlarged cells as well as pictures of their size equivalents. For instance, Lee demonstrates the size of human cells relative to a pin head. According to her calculations, one pin head can hold 10,000 human cells. This description concretely conveys the size of a human cell. Cells also explains the various cell organelles and their functions. The differences between the organelles are highlighted through the use of specific examples. For instance, Lee begins by defining the term “ribosome” and explaining its function. She follows up this description with an example that relates ribosomes to the human immune system. Lee explains that prescription antibiotics work by attacking bacteria’s ribosomes. Concrete relationships, such as this one, help students to connect with the content material. This book would serve as an engaging read-aloud for  a unit on cells.

Cells and Systems

Written by Holly Wallace and Designed by Celia Floyd

The first four chapters of  Cells and Systems focus on cells. This section of the book begins with a simple definition of the term “cell.” Clear illustrations support this definition. Additionally, the author differentiates between animal and plant cells. Two diagrams highlight the defining organelles of each cell type. The second chapter emphasizes the different functions of cell organelles as well as their placement in animal and plant cells. Bold terms, definitions, and exemplary images help readers develop an understanding of the content-specific vocabulary. The third chapter focuses on plant organelles and their role in the plant system. This includes an in-depth view and explanation of chloroplasts, cytoplasm, and stomata. The final cell chapter describes vacuoles and the importance of vascular tissue within plants. Diagrams and photographs outline a plant’s water transport system. These four chapters can be utilized as a read-aloud or as independent reading. Students will benefit from the clear illustrations, simple definitions, and organized layout of this book. Cells and Systems is an approachable text that students can use to develop their background knowledge of cells or to clarify an abstract concept. This resource will help students gain a deeper understanding of  cells and their vital role in our lives.


Written by  Darlene R. Stille and Designed by Tammy West

Cells focuses on different cell types. In this book Stille explains cell reproduction and explores the connection between different cell types and life processes. For instance, Stille describes vascular tissue and its vital role in a plant’s transport of water, minerals, and nutrients. Stille also examines the similarities and differences between various cell types. For example, she defines the three types of muscle cells as well as describes their defining features. Due to the extensive nature of this book, the teacher should focus on each chapter individually. Each chapter could serve as an introduction to a lesson on cells. This book could also be used as an independent resource. Students could use this text when researching a specific topic on cells. Through this book, Stille helps students to understand cells’ function and importance in their lives.

Student Resources

  • Vascular Plants: This tutorial explains vascular plants through the use of interactive models and grade appropriate descriptions.
  • Cell Structure: Students can use this interactive model to recognize the differences between animal and plant cells. Additionally, students will learn about the functions of the organelles in these two cell types.
  • Cell Rap: This rap describes the components of animal and plant cells through simplistic rhyme. Its description of organelles and their functions will help students to differentiate between the various organelles and their purposes.
  • Cell Practice Test: Students can test their knowledge of animal and plant cells with this comprehensive online test, which is aligned with the Virginia SOLs.

Teacher Resources

  • Plant Cell Lab: Through this interactive lab activity students will be able to view and compare plant cells. Students are asked to draw sketches of their observations, answer comprehension questions, and compare and contrast two different cell types.
  • Cell Project: This assignment requires students to construct a 3D model of an animal or plant cell. Through creating a cell model students will develop a deeper understanding of cell components. This assignment also includes a rubric and photos of two sample cell models.
  • Cell Webquest: This webquest leads students through a guided explanation and exploration of animal and plant cells.
  • Cells are the Starting Point: This website provides explanations about cells and their organelles. These explanations are written at a level appropriate for use in interactive notebooks or study guides for fifth grade.
  • Animal and Plant Cell Worksheets: These two worksheets provide students with a diagram of each cell type. Additionally, students are required to color code the corresponding organelles as well as answer analysis questions.

Trees, Trees, Trees….

     Trees have always provided us with essentials to life: both food and oxygen. As technology has advanced trees have been used  more and more, for shelter, medicine and tools.  Trees improve our air quality, conserve water, preserve soil, and support wildlife. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.” Trees control climate by moderating the effects of the sun, rain and wind. Clearly, trees are a very important resource to humans and the entire world. As more and more forest land is cut down, we need to educate the next generation about the importance of trees. These resources can be used for SOLs from all grade levels  having to do with plant structure, life cycles, needs, recycling, animal habitats, and erosion (k.6b, 1.4 a-c, 1.7a, 2.4b, 2.7b, 3.4a, 4.4a, 5.7e,f).


The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rainforest by Lynne Cherry

This book is a great story about a man who is going to chop down a Kapok tree in the rainforest. He decides to take a nap and while he is asleep all the animals that live in and depend on this tree- snakes, butterflies, a jaguar, and a child, come to him and whisper all the reasons not to cut down the tree. It really shows the interconnectedness of all living things. When he wakes up and sees all the animals around him he decides not to chop down the tree and walks out of the forest. This beautifully illustrated book speaks to the importance of conservation as well as related subjects such as endangered animal species.

Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing Trees By Jim Arnosky

Crinkleroot's Guide to Knowing the TreesThis book is one of a great series of guide books for kids on nature. Crinkleroot is a loveable, wise, old man who explains about trees along his walk through the woods. He details the difference between hardwoods and conifers, and gives detail skecthes of the different types of leaves. He tells about why we need a rich diversity of different types of trees to provide shelter and food for animals. He even talks about the role that dead trees take in the forest, as well as how seedlings and saplings grow and factors affecting their development. With rich watercolor illustrations, and information dense text, this succint book will engage and activate curiosity in students. Also check out, I Was Born in a Tree and Raised by Bees and Crinkleroot’s Guide to Walking in Wild Places by the same author.

Forest Explorer: A Life Size Field Guide By Nic Bishop

 When encouraging outdoor exploration, Forest Explorer is a must. This field guide built for miniature naturalists, shows real, oversized photographs of common animals and insects living in the forest. It has a critter index in the back with pictures, tips for things to look for in all seasons, and many other hints that excourage students to get out there and get dirty exploring the forest!

Nature’s Green Umbrellas by Gail Gibbons

Product Image

This book, using great watercolor illustrations entice students to become a part of the rainforest while learning with straightforward text. The ecology of the rainforest is discussed, with simple definitions of terms and labeled animals. Global warming  and the danger of destruction of the rainforest and its potential impact on the world are discussed as well. The author also suggests methods for reducing damage to the rainforests from cutting. This is a great book to give students an introduction to the rainforest and the issues associated with it.

 A Tree is a Plant  by Clyde Robert Bulla, illustrated by Stacy Schuett

From the Lets Read and Find Out leveled readers series, this book shares a breif overview of general tree knowledge and then focuses on the apple tree to show  its parts and functions, as well as its seasonal changes. The author uses direct and simple language. Impressionistic illustrations engage the eye while also show the functions of the plant  like with arrows indicating the water intake route. This book features large pictures, with a diverse group of kids in the outdoor scenes. Extension acitivities are included in the back like a transpiration experiment and measuring the age of a tree.

Student Resources:

A Walk in the Woods is a great website acitivity with visual pictures, sound, and text educating kids on different things they can find in the woods. This would be a great precursor to a real walk in the woods. This would give hte kids some great ides on what to look for.

What Tree is That? This interactive tools allows students to practice identifying features of different trees when given a mystery tree sample.

Exploring the Secret Life of Trees This interactive presentation goes through the basic stucture of trees and what they need to survive. The student learn about the root system and have to stack soda cans to represent how deep roots grow. With the same host- Pierre the acorn, also try Trees are Terrific.

Dichotomous Tree Key is an interactive site where kids can choose the feature of their tree and see what species they end up with. This illustrates all the factors that are considered when trying to identify tree types.

SmokeyKids has information and several interactive features and games having to do with forest fires, prevention and how they put forest fires out. I especially like the Smoke Jumpers game, where students put fires out before they burn all the trees.


Teacher Resources:

Real Trees 4 Kids Printable Teacher guides

This website created by the National Christmas Tree Council has leveled lessons for all age groups having to do with tree farming and trees in general. There are many great actvitities, especially in the grades 3-5 section such as classifying trees, growing cycles, and recycling. More childrens’ literature suggestions are found here as well.

Tree Cookies/My Life as a Tree This a great classic lesson showing students how to count how old a tree is. They can also see for themselves the cambium, bark and hardwood. They then will create their own tree cookie on a paper plate to represent their own lives (with the same number of rings as their age). They will label all the parts that would be on a real tree cookie, but also major events of their life on the appropriate ring year. This could also be a great brainstorming activity for a narrative writing assignment.

 Tree Kit by University of Illinois has many many lesson plan ideas to do with all things related to trees. There are three units with over 15 lessons/activities to explore. One I liked in particular is Dead and Alive showing how the animals and plants around a dead tree still use it to help them flourish.

Tree Chain Game This lesson explores all the things that seeds need in order to germinate and grow into a seedling and then into a tree. Student learn that they have to have a certain order. They then play a game where each student is assigned a “need” or a “seed” card. The “seeds” have to run between two areas playing a memory type game to try to collect all their needs in the correct order. Once they find their next need that student has to run with them making a chain until all the needs are collected.


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.

Teaching Process Skills Through Children’s Literature: What’s That Sound?

whats that sound

What's that Sound by Mary Lawrence with illustrations by Lynn Adams combines science with literature to engage children's problem solving and reasoning skills.  Tim and his older sister, Amy, are on vacation in a spooky, old house that Tim believes is haunted.  Amy assures him that it is not by explaining every noise he believes to be a ghost.  By the end of the book Tim becomes brave and explores the sounds on his own, only to find a man playing the tuba!

The book offers fun and colorful cartoon illustrations that children enjoy, while at the same time every page explains why and how a sound occurs in a scientific manner.  The book also includes suggestions for related sound activities, such as making a kazoo or creating a sound code.

Curriculum Connections

 This is a great book that is easy to apply to the big picture of learning science, learning how to use what we know and applying that to solve problems.  What’s that Sound can be used to get kids thinking and creating ideas (3.1a, 3.1c).  This book can also be used with younger students (K.1a and K1.b).

Additional Resources

  • Auditory Processing provides games and songs for children to have to repeat and learn different types of sounds and games to help children improve their auditory memory.
  • Processing Skills is a website that provides auditory games for children with disabilities.  These activities can be done either at home or a school, so it is useful for both teachers and parents.
  • Hotchalk provides a fun science activity for younger children that requires then to uses their senses to observe, describe, and figure out what an object is.

 General Information

  • Book: What’s That Sound?

  • Written by: Mary Lawrence

  • Illustrated by: Lynn Adams  

  • Publisher: Lerner Publishing

  • Publication Date:2006

  • Pages:32

  • Grade range:  K to 3rd grade

  • ISBN:1575651181

Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: Discover the Planets

Discover the Planets

Discover the Planets, a Kids Can book written by Cynthia Pratt Nicolson and illustrated by Bill Slavin, introduces kids to the planets in our solar system.  This book is written at a level for kids to be able to read on their own.  Therefore, it is not as in depth as other books but it is a great resource for introduce students to the basic facts about our solar system and the planets.  The beginning answers questions like “What is a planet?” and “How can we compare the sizes of the planets?”  Then the book spotlights each planet giving facts like how long it takes to orbit around the sun and information about any moons.  A mix of photos and illustrations keeps the pages visually interesting and informative.

Curriculum Connections

Discover the planets can be used to teach students about the organization of the solar system (4.7) including details about the planets (4.7a), their order from the sun (4.7b), and their relative sizes (4.7c).  This book also covers information about Earth in relation to the the sun and moon (4.8).

Additional Resource

Go to the Head of the Solar System – a fun trivia game sponsored by NASA.

Make a mobile as a model of the Solar System.

Make your own Planet at KidsAstronomy.

Listen to kids’ interviews with NASA scientists to find out more about space and working for NASA.

General Information

Book: Discover the Planets
Author: Cynthia Pratt Nicolson
Illustrator: Bill Slavin
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Publication date: 2005
Pages: 32
Grade Range: K-5
ISBN: 1553378261

Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: Rain


Rain, written by Robert Kalan and illustrated by Donald Crews, explores what rain looks like in different types of landscapes and in different types of weather. There is “rain on the red car” and “rain on the green trees” and at the end of the book there is a beautiful landscape with a rainbow.  This book simply explains how rain can start all of the sudden and how rain and weather can effect different things in the world like grass, trees, flowers, houses, cars, and the road. This book is also a great example for teaching students their colors. It starts off showing a clear blue sky, then adding a bright sun, then it adds a few clouds, and then it begins to rain. The book has very few words and draws the readers attention to what is happening in the story: the rain!

Curriculum Connections
This book is a great introduction to weather observations like watching how, when, and where rain starts, and before that how the sun shines, and how clouds can cover the sun (VA SOL K.8 a).  This is also a nice example of how to show students that rain can help things like plants and flowers grow (VA SOL 1.7 a).

Additional Resources
1. Rain Lesson Plan– This website offers a lesson plan about the rain/water cycle.  It also incorporates the Nandi folklore tale “Bringing the Rain.” This site also has a nice craft to make to go along with the water cycle.
2. Water Cycle– This page is a great printout for older students to complete the water cycle. There is a reading passage to complete fill-in-the-blank parts as well as a picture of the water cycle.
3. Weather Worksheet– This worksheet is a great idea for younger students who are just learning about weather.  They match the items with the appropriate weather symbol.

General Information
Author: Robert Kalan
Illustrator: Donald Crews
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: 1991
Pages: 32
Grade Range: K-2
ISBN: 0688104797

Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: The Magic School Bus Blows Its Top


 Introduction and Summary 

Written by, Joanna Cole and illustrated by, Bruce Degen, The Magic School Bus Blows Its Top is a great book of adventure to be enjoyed by children of many ages.  Ms. Frizzle is at it again.  This time the class is trying to construct an enormous globe but they find that some of the pieces are missing.  Apparently there is an island so new that it hasn’t been discovered yet so it wasn’t in the globe kit.  The class decides to search for the mystery island so they can name it.  You can probably guess what happens next.  That’s right, the magic school bus stretches and spins and pulls and takes the class to the bottom of the ocean to discover where and how this new island is forming.  It turns out to be a volcano erupting and the class arrives just in time to learn how the process can eventually form a new piece of land.  The students name the island and write  a book about their experiences.

Curriculum Connections

This very recognizeable text is a nice way to introduce an adventurous spirit in the classroom.  Its great companion literature when introcucing  Earth sciencet topics with students.  It could be used when teaching about volcanoes or how the Earth is constantly changing due to natural events.  The book serves as a nice, playful introduction to some potentially complicated topics. (5.6, 5.7)

Additional Resources

This Scholastic interactive site is could be a nice place to direct students for independent center time activities on the internet.

Here’s a place to look for lesson plan ideas related to The Magic School Bus Blows Its Top and volcanos.

This National Geographic site has great pictures of real volcanoes so students can see what the eruption looks like in action.

General Information

BookThe Magic School Bus Blows Its Top

AuthorJoanna Cole

IllustratorBruce Degen

Publisher:  Scholastic Inc.

Publication Date:  1996

Pages:  32

Grade Range:  2-5

ISBN:  0590508350


Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: Oh Say Can You Say What’s the Weather Today?

Oh Say Can You Say What's the Weather Today?

Oh Say Can You Say What’s the Weather Today? written by Tish Rabe and illustrated by Aristides Ruiz is another educational and entertaining addition to the Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library.  The Cat uses silly rhymes in Dr. Seuss style to introduce complex weather phenomena and the instruments that are used to measure and predict weather.  The rhyming text and illustrations simplify the complexity of the vocabulary and terminology.  “First stop is the top of Mount Karakakoo, where they study the weather.  (That’s all that they do!)”  They learn about thermometers. anemometers, wind vanes, and folklore weather predictors like “[f]rogs croak a lot more when it’s going to rain.”  Next kids learn about cloud formations, rain, snow,heat and cold, humidity, thunderstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes.    Each term is briefly explained with occasional supporting explanations and drawings.  And in the end, the Cat leaves no question about the importance of weather.  “You see, weather keeps changing but one thing we know.  It makes life exciting wherever you go.”   A glossary is included at the end end of the book.

Curriculum Connections

This book is a fun  introduction to the terminology necessary to understand the basic types, changes, and patterns of weather (2.6) and the tools used to measure and predict weather conditions and phenomena (4.6).  None of the concepts are explained in depth, but the rhymes are crisp and interesting and the book effectively covers a lot of terminology in the Cat in the Hat’s familiar, simple, and entertaining style.  Used at the beginning of a unit, the book is a wonderful way to engage students in the concepts of weather.

Additional Resources

  • Making Rain – This website includes an activity for teacher’s using Oh Say Can You Say What’s the Weather Today that reinforces the lesson on rain and the water cycle with a tea kettle and a large metal lid.
  • What is Weather Lesson Plan – This lesson plan for lower elementary introduces key weather terminology using Oh Say Can You Say What’s the Weather Today and weather pictures.
  • The Weather Channel Kids – This site includes a broad range of activities and information for kids ranging from an interactive weather forecasting tool that allows you to build your own forecast, to information about weather jobs, a glossary, games, and videos about weather phenomena.
  • Bulletin Board Theme Ideas – This pdf includes a number of ideas for weather related bulletin boards for upper elementary classrooms.

Book: Oh Say Can You Say What’s the Weather Today?
Author: Tish Rabe
Illustrator: Aristides Ruiz
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 2004
Grade Range: PreK-3
ISBN: 0375922768

Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: The Magic School Bus Inside the Earth

Magic School Bus


Introduction and Summary:

Lord, have mercy! Ms. Frizzle is up to her old tricks again! In The Magic School Bus Inside the Earth, written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen, Ms. Frizzle’s class has spent the last couple of weeks studying animals and their natural habitats, they are pretty excited when Ms. Frizzle announces, “We are going to study about our Earth!”. While the kids are excited about studying something new, they didn’t realize who Ms. Frizzle was. After a failed classroom homework assignment in which the class is required to bring in a rock to class, Ms. Frizzle takes them on another one of her wacky field trips; this time it’s to the center of the Earth! The class goes through each of the four layers of the Earth, collecting different types of rocks in both the crust and the mantle, before ending up on “one big volcano!” When the field trip ends, the class puts together a rock display, showing the different kinds of rocks they found, their classification and their uses. A wonderful book that teaches kids about earth science & geology while also incorporating wacky humor as well.

 Curriculum Connections:

 This book does much more than just teach children about the different types of rocks that exist in the world. It provides students with an in-depth look at the interior of the Earth’s surface. There are four layers- the crust, mantle, outer core and inner core-and the earth’s surface is constantly changing. Ms. Frizzle shows her students how different rocks and minerals are identified using a classification key(igneous, sedimentary or metamorphic) and also how the soil that we stand on is a natural resource. The students also get to understand the basic properties of rocks just based on direct observation: which rocks are rigid, which rocks are smooth, and even some rocks that float! The book is a geology/earth science encyclopedia that is just waiting for somebody to get their hands on, pick up, read & enjoy! (Virginia Standards of Learning: K.1, K.4, 3.7, 4.8, 5.1 and 5.7).

Additional Resources:

The Magic School Bus:  The home page of the delightful children’s book series. Filled with fun, adventure and learning, this website will keep students entertained for hours at a time.

Geology for Kids:  If you’ve ever wanted to learn about geology, the earth and rocks, then this is the website for you. It provides useful information for teachers to use in the classroom and it also has fun and unique games that children will want to play again and again.

Rock and Mineral Activities for Kids:  The name says it all. This website is filled with several activities for children to partake in that involve several different kinds of rocks and minerals.

General Information:

Book: The Magic School Bus Inside the Earth

Author: Joanna Cole

Illustrator: Bruce Degen

Publisher: Scholastic Inc.

Publication Date: 1993

Pages:  40

Grade Range: K-2

ISBN: 0-590-40760-0