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Teaching Process Skills with Children’s Literature: June 29, 1999

June 29, 1999

June 29, 1999, written and illustrated by Caldecott Medalist David Wiesner, chronicles the strange events that occur exactly one month after the story’s young scientist, Holly Evans, launches vegetable seedlings into the sky on seed flats with Acme weather balloons. “Holly intends to study the effects of extraterrestrial conditions on vegetable growth and development.  She expects the seedlings to stay aloft for several weeks before returning to earth.”  What she doesn’t expect is for the skies to fill with giant vegetables one month later.  “Cucumbers circle Kalamazoo. Lima beans loom over Levittown. Artichokes advance on Anchorage.”  The dry report like style of Weisner’s writing, only serves to accentuate the absurdity of his story and the humor in his drawings.  But Holly is puzzled when arugula, eggplant, avocado, and rutabaga all show up on the news; Holly didn’t grow these specimens and can only conclude that the giant specimens are not the result of her experiment.   “More curious than disappointed, Holly asks herself, ‘What happened to my vegetables? And whose broccoli is in my backyard?”   Wiesner answers her question with a surprise twist that children will love on the last two pages of the book.

Curriculum Connections

This book is great fun to read and to look at and provides a wonderful opportunity to introduce the scientific investigation, reasoning, and logic to grade school children (K.1, 1.1, 2.1, 3.1, 4.1, 5.1).  But it is perhaps best suited for third grade students who have already been exposed to the scientific method and are beginning to plan and conduct their own investigations or experiments where predictions and observations can be made, questions developed to formulate hypotheses, data gathered, charted, and graphed, and inferences made and conclusions drawn (3.1a, c, g, j).  Wiesner’s book follows Holly’s experiment and the unexpected events of June 29, 1999 without giving anything away too early, allowing students to make their own observations and draw their own conclusions.  Teachers can pause throughout the text to ask questions that reinforce this manner of thinking and encourage students to make their own hypotheses about Holly’s vegetables.

Additional Resources

  • Predicting Story Outcome – This lesson plan is actually geared toward developing reading analysis skills using Wiesner’s book, but it could easily be shifted to focus on scientific prediction.
  • Science Equipment: Planters – Teachers interested in helping students to conduct their own experiments with plants can use these guidelines to create cheap easily constructed planters in the classroom.
  • Process Skills Lesson Plans – This site includes numerous lesson plans intended to teach a variety of process skills including a number of experiments that focus on the process of scientific investigation.
  • Scientific Method Worksheet – Teachers will love this worksheet that introduces the scientific method to elementary students with simple language and graphics.

Book: June 29, 1999
Author and Illustrator: David Wiesner
Publisher: Sandpiper
Publication Date:
Pages: 32
Grade Range: PreK-3
ISBN: 0395727677

Teaching Ancient Civilizations with Children’s Literature: The Trojan Horse


Warwick Hutton masterfully retells and illustrates the famous legend of  The Trojan Horse. The familiar story is told in child friendly language that provides context to the simple and beautiful  watercolor and pen illustrations.  For those who may be unfamiliar with the 3000 plus year old legend (or need a refresher as I did), Helen of Sparta and Paris, the son of the King of Troy, fall in love and flee to Troy.  The issue at stake is that Helen is already married to the King Menelaus of Sparta.  When the Greeks gather an army and travel to Troy to retrieve Helen and wreak revenge, a ten year war begins between the Greeks and the Trojans.  “Many battles were fought – and there were many brave heroes – but the armies were equally matched.  For weeks, for months, for years, both sides fought, watched, waited, then fought again.”  Imagine the Trojans surprise when the Greeks sail away one morning leaving behind an enormous wooden horse.  Children will delight in learning how the Greeks won the war by tricking the Trojans with the wonderful horse.  In the end, Hutton writes, “[e]veryone had forgotten Paris and Helen, who had started it all.  But there in the city square stood the wooden horse, and over the smoking ruins of Troy its bright painted eyes still gazed.”

Curriculum Connections

The ancient Greeks are responsible for a wide variety of contributions to the modern world including: architectural styles, art, legends and myths, many aspects of our democratic government, trial by jury, and the Olympics (3.1)!  Pretty impressive!  The Trojan Horse is an engaging and perhaps familiar story for a read aloud to introduce a unit on the Ancient Greeks.  Teachers can call attention to the geographical features of the Aegean Sea and how water impacted the culture of the Greeks with respect to travel, trade, and war (3.4).  The Mycenae-ans were great seamen, warriors, and traders with a respect for beauty as well as function.  The architecture of the Trojan wall in Hutton’s drawings demonstrates the use of sculpture to enhance a functional object with beauty.  Even the legend itself presents an opportunity to talk about the Greek alphabet and mythology and the ways that this story has been passed down to us today. If used in conjunction with other sources such as the Usborne Book of World History or Every Day Life in the Ancient World, the book can be used to grab the attention and interest of young readers, who may not have as much background knowledge to pull from, in order to share the many contributions of this ancient civilization.

Additional Resources

  • Greeks at War – Use this file to develop a lesson plan related to the culture and lifestyle of the Greek warriors.  Includes great activities to capture the imagination of transitional readers.
  • Ancient Timeline – This timeline designed for kids can be used to help highlight the “ancient” in Ancient Greece!
  • Greek Quiz – This could be a great pre-activity to determine what background knowledge (if any) students might have.

General Information

  • Book: The Trojan Horse
  • Author: Warwick Hutton
  • Illustrator: Warwick Hutton
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
  • Publication Date: 1992
  • Pages: 32
  • Grade Range: K-5
  • ISBN: 0689505426

Teaching Physical Science with Children’s Literature: It’s Science! Solid, Liquid, or Gas?


Introduction and Summary
It’s Science! Solid, Liquid, or Gas? written by Sally Hewitt, is about the different states of matter. It explores matter throughout the book with a key word on each page, such as “Gas”, followed by a description of what the matter is. Each page also describes an experiment or question related to the topic of the page. For example: Gas has an experiment in the Try it Out! section that asks a child to blow into a balloon to see the gas blow it up and feel the gas come out of the balloon.

Curriculum Connections
This is a great book to introduce young elementary students to the states of matter and exploration of water. One of the topics is water where the different states of water are explored (SOL K.5a) as well as whether objects sink or float in the water (SOL K.5c). The question of “sink or float” can be explored in a simple experiment in small groups. The students will determine if the objects given to them will sink or float in the water. Another section of the book describes dissolving. There is an experiment determining what materials will dissolve in water (SOL 1.1). Finallly, the sections about melting and changing shape can be useful when one is learning about the processes of changing states of matter (SOL 2.3)

Additional Resources

  • States of Matter Lesson Plan  This is a lesson plan geared for grades 1-3 about states of matter using balloons filled with ice, air, or water.
  • Song about Matter :This is a fun song about matter using the tune “Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be?” It might be a bit complicated for Kindergarten but was used in a 2nd grade classroom. It also has a video with a child singing the song.
  • Sink or Float Lesson Plan:   This is a lesson plan about objects that sink or float that also uses a book about Christopher Columbus to incorporate how his ship floated across the ocean. What else can float in the water? What sinks?

Book: It’s Science! Solid, Liquid, or Gas?
Author: Sally Hewitt
Publisher: Children’s Press
Publication Date:
Pages:  32 pages
Grade Range: Kindergarten-2nd grade
ISBN: 0613375459