Monthly Archive for September, 2008

Teaching Earth Science with Children's Literature: Snowflake Bentley


Jacqueline Briggs Martin lives in Vernon, Iowa with her family. She is an award winning author who has been honored as the recipient of the Bulletin Blue Ribbon book, SLJ Best book, ALA Notable, and many more. The way she is able to truly incorporate history into a fun and interesting children’s book in just incredible. Snowflake Bentley is based on a true story of W.A. Bentley and his early recordings of snowflakes. The book begins with W.A. Bentley as a child, playing in the snow and absolutely loving each and every snowflake. It then shows W.A. Bentley growing into a teen and how his family spent all their life savings on a camera for Bentley to use to photograph snowflakes. It then leads us to him in his older age, and how because of W.A. Bentley we now get to see pictures of snowflakes.  Another aspect about this book that was really enjoyable was on the side of each page there were true facts about W.A. Bentley himself. Therefore if you had a child which was really interested in learning more about this topic, you could refer him to this book. For example one page talked about how he got a camera, but the side information explained

 The camera made images on large glass negatives. Its microscope could magnify a tiny crustal from sixty-four to 3,600 times its actual size.

This book is truly a wonderful book for children of all ages.

Curriculum Connections
This book would be a wonderful asset to a lesson dealing with weather, observation, change of habitat, and many more. This book can help you cover many of the Virginia SOL’s for second grade.

Additional Resources

  • Jacqueline Briggs Martin   herself has a website with different materials which directly relate to her different books. This is a wonderful way of incorporating different materials along with her books. This is a great site with tons of different activities, check it out!!!
  • It would be really awesome to show the children Wilson Bentley’ actual site with real pictures of snowflakes he actually took pictures of.  This is a sight that you would project up in your classroom and actual read more about  Wilson Bentley himself, and observe some of his work.
  • This is actual a really awesome lesson plan dealing with snowflakes. I found it to be very cute and something that you could very realistically use in the classroom.

Book: Snowflakes Bentley
Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Illustrator: Mary Azarian
Houghton Mifflin
Date:  1998
32 pages

Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: Down Comes the Rain


Have you ever wondered where raindrops come from? Do you want to learn how they form?

Down Comes the Rain, by Franklyn M. Branley and illustrated by James Graham Hale is an informative and brightly colored approach to learning about the life of a raindrop. The book begins simply by stating where raindrops come from: clouds. Children will learn that clouds are made of tiny drops of water that have gone through many phases before they reach the earth. These phases are described by examples of everyday activities children can observe, such as the evaporation of water as clothes dry outside on a line in the sun. Children will learn all the different places that this water in the air comes from and then finally, why it falls to the earth.

In these high, cold clouds,water vapor changes to droplets, and the droplets change to drops. The drops freeze into ice.

 The book then transitions and teaches about hailstones and their creation. This type of weather may be fascinating to a child because it is so rare. In recapturing the child’s interest, the author is again reinforcing the stages that occur in order for it to rain. At the end, there is a recap of all that was covered in the book. The bright and busy pictures and the way that some of the text reads like a comic book, create a more exciting approach to learning about rain.

Curriculum Connections
This book may help a child observe the weather in his/her everyday life (K.8). The student will understand basic types, changes, and patterns of weather (2.6). The student will understand the processes involved in the water cycle (3.9). The student will investigate certain weather phenomena (4.6).

Additional Resources

Book: Down comes the Rain
Author:  Franklyn M. Branley
Illustrator: James Graham Hale
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: 1997
Pages: 32
Grades: 2-4
ISBN: 0-06-445166-6

Teaching Earth Science With Children’s Literature: Fossils Tell of Long Ago


“Magic School Bus” with a splash Jurassic Park for kids crossed my mind when I read this classroom friendly book about fossils! The book Fossils Tell of Long Ago, by Aliki, provides an in depth look at the different types of fossils, how they form and even a simple in class activity to do!

Aliki unfolds the book as a story that explains the formation of fossils to a group of students who looks like they are at a museum learning about fossils. The book clearly explains some of the scientific vocabulary associated with fossils but never gets so technical that a young student would be lost:

“Millions of years ago a fly was caught in the sticky sap of a tree. The sap hardened and became a fossil called amber. Amber looks like yellow glass. The fly was perfectly preserved in the amber (Page 20).”

The text is also nicely complemented by illustrations that further clarify the text. Throughout the book the students examine fossils of fish, plants, dinosaurs and even fossils found in the Arctic and in amber. Not only does the book explain the formation of fossils but it explains how they are used, where they can be found and who finds these “stones”. One of the most impressive aspect of the book is that is has some repetition that drives home the key concepts about fossils but never becomes boring or unnecessary. The book ends with a quick activity that could be done in your class, where students make imprints of their hands in clay. If you are familiar with the “Magic School Bus” series, this book gives off a very similar vibe with both the layout and approach but seems to more manageable for a younger student to read.

Curriculum Connections
This book can provide students with an introduction to fossils and how animals lives are impacted by the land environments around them. Students can learn about the change over time that occurs in natural things. In Virgina this would address the SOL where students need to understand that change occurs over time at both fast and slow rates and that these changes can be noted and measured in natural things (Science Standards of Learning K.9 a, b).

Additional Resources

Book: Fossils Tell of Long Ago
Publication Date:
 32 Pages

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


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
Douglas Florian
Harcourt Children’s Books
Publication Date:
56 pages
ISBN:  0152053727

Teaching Earth Science with Children's Literature: The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System


What would it be like to take a field trip through the solar system?  In The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System, Joanna Cole’s lovable super-teacher, Ms. Frizzle, leads her class on one of her signature adventures.  The reader journeys with Cole’s well-drawn characters to the sun, the moon, and each planet and then compares the characteristics to all of the other space bodies.

Cole describes,

“Below the clouds, Venus was as dry as a desert.  The ground was covered with rocks.  And it was HOT!  It was about 400 degrees Centigrade!  That’s much hotter than an oven baking cookies!”

The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System calls the reader’s attention to many interesting facts about the planets that are fun to learn about.  For example, by reading The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System, you will learn that Jupiter is so big that more than one thousand Earths could fit inside it.

Curriculum Connections
This book could be used throughout the elementary school grades to teach about Earth Science and the structure of our solar system.  In Virginia, The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System can be used in connection with SOL 4.7 in which students learn the motions of the Earth, moon, and sun.  Students learn through this book all about the relationships that the sun and moon have with the planets.

Additional Resources

Book:  The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System
Joanna Cole
Bruce Degen
Scholastic Inc.
Publication Date:
36 pages

Teaching Earth Science With Children’s Literature: Where in the Wild?


Have you ever wondered how an animals uses it’s surroundings to protect itself from predators or to silently hunt for prey? David Schwartz shows kids how animals can camouflage themselves to blend in with their surroundings in the book Where in the Wild?: Camouflaged Creatures Concealed … and Revealed.

Schwartz starts off the book by explaining to kids the importance of an animal being able to camouflage itself for survival. He explains that:

Whether an animal is looking for something to eat or trying to avoid being eaten- or both- it will probably survive longer if it blends into its environment. That’s why some creatures hide with their colors. It’s called “camouflage.” An animal can be so well camouflaged that it practically vanishes in plain sight. To stay camouflaged, some creatures change their appearance from one minute to another or from season to the next.

Schwartz then allows kids to actually try and find animals that are camouflaged in their surroundings. Each picture has a poem that goes along with it providing hints on how to find the animal or what type of animal it may be. An example for the green snake is:

Silently gliding, slithering, sliding, in the grass hiding, coiled and cunning, swift and stunning, on a rock sunning, long and lean, smooth and green, serpentine.

Then, once kids have found the animal, or give up, they can open the flap and see where the animal was. In addition, there is a little summary of the animal including facts about physical properties, how they camouflage themselves, habitats, etc. The animals included are: a coyote, a gray tree frog, fawns, a weasel, a moth, a killdeer, a crab spider, a flounder, a green snake, and a red spotted newt.

The book is a fun and interesting way to introduce camouflage and gets kids active in their learning. In addition to exploring the advantages of camouflage they are also being introduced to different types of animals that they have never heard of or seen!

Curriculum Connections
This book can be used as a fun way to introduce how animals camouflage themselves in their own surroundings. In Virginia it can be used to explain how seasonal changes affects animals and their surroundings including effects on the behavior of living things, including camouflage (Science Standards of Learning 2.7a).

Additional Resources

  • This Website offers a great explanation of the different types of camouflage!
  • Here is a lesson plan that includes activities for kids to learn about camouflage!

Book: Where in the Wild?: Camouflaged Creatures Concealed … and Revealed
David Schwartz
Publisher: Tricycle Press
Publication Date: 2007
44 pages

Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: Sun Up, Sun Down


Sun Up, Sun Down takes the reader through a day in the life of the sun and some of the possible weather changes that may affect the weather. Writer and illustrator Gail Gibbons uses a sense of fun and fascination to present basic facts about the sun and various other weather patterns.

"The sun wakes me up. It rises in the east and shines through my window." Gibbons uses a narrative story telling form, taking the reader through the sun's and the main character's day. From the moment the story begins the main character serves as a typical child asking questions about the sun and informing readers about certain characteristics of the sun; such as it is too bright to look into and it helps plants grow. In the back of the book, Gibbons even includes "Some Sunny Facts" that will help intrigue young readers to read further into the subject.

Doubling as the illustrator, Gibbons uses generic, yet bright colors to fill the pages. The pictures clearly illustrate what the words on the page are saying and help demonstrate some concepts that children may find tricky: such as how far away the sun is, which way shadows face, prisms and rotations. The words are clearly separated from the pictures, which leaves clean lines to read and more space for the picture to develop.

Curriculum Connections
The reading level of Sun Up, Sun Down is more advanced and I would recommend it for grades 3-5, however, the ideas and pictures are equally appropriate for younger students if the book is read to them. Gibbons presents Earth study information in this book such as shadows, prisms, rotation, sun facts, rain and agriculture. The pictures can help students determine certain characteristics of the sun in relation to the Earth, as well as a weather related segment and light (such as rainbows, bending light and prisms). In Virginia, this book relates to science SOL 4.7 a-c.

Additional Resources

  • Whatever the Weather includes numerous facts about how to dress for the weather, different aspects of the weather, activities, weather forecasting, poems, charts, songs, and games. An all inclusive website, including additional children's books, for a variety of ages.
  • Let the Sun Shine! is a lesson plan for younger primary students that uses Sun Up, Sun Down to learn about different activities to do in the sun. Includes coloring activities and suggestions for assessment.
  • Start with the Arts includes several drama type activities for students to act out different aspects of the sun and celestial bodies. Includes ways to differentiate activities for all students, small ways to role play and ways to learn at home.
  • Hello, Sun! offers a variety of websites for all grades about the sun, shadows and time. Also has websites to movies about the sun and math lessons using geometry in relation to the books about the sun. Also has a list of other book similar to Sun up, Sun Down.

Book: Sun Up, Sun Down
Gail Gibbons
Publisher: Voyager Books
32 pages

Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: Everybody Needs A Rock


Some may say a rock is just a rock. But after reading Everybody Needs A Rock you will realize that is just not true! Bryd Baylor’s story tells of how everyone needs to have their own rock and the ten rules that must be used in finding one’s special rock. This is a great book that can be used to present many different subjects to a class, such as scientific investigation, earth science, or an appreciation for nature, just to mention a few!

While Everybody Needs A Rock may not be the quickest approach to teaching children about rocks, it does provide a creative standpoint that requires the reader to stop and contemplate nature and its importance, especially rocks. The ten rules bring up issues such as where rocks are located, how it might be on a mountain, or “even an alley, even a sandy road.” Then there are multiple rules that require the use of more of the senses than the typical sighting of a rock. The characteristics of rocks are also addressed, all the different sizes, shapes, and colors that rocks appear as. Another important concept that is presented within the ten rules of picking a rock is self-confidence, which doesn’t quite fit in the science category like the other concepts, but is also a very important concept that everyone needs to grasp.

Along with Baylor’s creative viewpoint that appears in the writing is Peter Parnall’s creative pictures found on every page. The pictures are more of abstract sketches in just two colors, black and brown. While it may not sound like the most thrilling book to entertain children, it does provide an unique opportunity for kids to be subjected to a less traditional sense of art.

Curriculum Connections
There are many directions a teacher can take when using Everybody Needs A Rock as an introduction to a new topic. For Virginia teachers, this is a great way to fulfill the Science SOL 4.8c, which requires students to investigate and understand important Virginia natural resources, especially minerals, rocks, ores, and energy sources. As mentioned before though, there are other paths that can be perused as well, such as the senses, and scientific investigation.

Additional Resources

  • Here is an already prepared five day lesson plan filled with activities for students to do after reading Everybody Needs A Rock.
  • Use this recipe to make Sedimentary Rock Snacks for the class to enjoy.

Book: Everybody Needs A Rock
Author: Byrd Baylor
Illustrator: Peter Parnhall
Publisher: Aladdin Paperbacks
Publication Date: 1974
Pages: 32 pages
Grades: K-5

Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: Shadows and Reflections


As a child, were you ever fascinated by a shadow?  Shadows are always very exciting to watch as children, especially one’s own shadow.  However, there are many shadows that are more difficult to define.  Shadows are all around us, yet are highly overlooked in everyday life.  Tana Hoban clues children into this phenomena, creating a story, Shadows and Reflections, that explores the beauty of shadows.

Tana Hoban’s Shadows and Reflections, is a visual experience, that features a variety of photographs.  These photographs document shadows in daily life.  Even without the use of text, Shadows and Reflections is a very successful story, that is relative to many children.  Tana Hoban creates a book that is uniquely tied together in one theme, yet is open to the imagination- without the use of text, the reader can use the photographs to create his own story.  Shadows and Reflections urges children to use their imagination, that clues the reader in on how the world works.

Shadows and Reflections is exciting in large part to the large range of shadows displayed.  Hoban features both very obvious shadows and more difficult ones, capturing a large audience.   The book continuously has the reader asking, “What does this represent?”  She begins with a photograph of a street sweeper, showing his body from his legs down, yet also capturing his full form, in his shadow on the ground.  Other shadows include a bouquet of flowers and an iron chair, grass on a dune, the planks of a fence, hands playing Cat’s Cradle, a bicycle, sailboats in a marina, and many more!

Curriculum Connections
Shadows and Reflections
serves as a great introductory book for a lesson on shadows.  This book can easily be related to the study of the interrelationships between the earth and space systems.  Hoban provides a great foundation to teach children that shadows occur in nature when sunlight is blocked by an object (Virginia SOL K.7a).  Using the range of photographs, it would be great to have children compare the shape and sizes of the shadows.  During or after reading Shadows and Reflections, further questions for discussion may include: How does the size of an object affect the size of its shadow?  When can you see shadows?  How does the location of the sun affect the formation of shadows?  You can test students responses by tracing students shadows with chalk outside on a sunny day!  Connecting what children saw in Shadows and Reflections to a personal, live experience, will have children eager to learn more about shadows!

Additional Resources

  •  Check out this site for a lesson plan on shadows called, “Me and My Shadow.”  The lesson plan includes four days of activities investigating how the sun forms shadows throughout the day and how these shadows differentiate.
  • Are you looking for more books on shadows?  This site provides a list of books about shadows written in many different genres.
  • Use this shadow handout , “Shadow Watching,” with students as they record and observe their shadow!  The handout instructions students to draw a shadow as well as the location of the sun, to indicate the source of the shadow.

Book: Shadows and Reflections
Tana Hoban
Publisher: Greenwillow 
Publication Date:
32 pages

Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: Our Changing World


Curious about how the world changes from day to night, season to season, and place to place. In Our Changing World, by Ingrid Selberg, the reader is able to learn and see the differences through the revolving pictures.

The book describes different and very distinct regions. The reader first learns about the the region through a brief summary of how it is like to live in that area and what animals live their. The description tells the differences of day and night for the woodlands. This summary elaborates about the woodpecker which thrive in the woodlands during the day. However, different animals are then introduced because they only come out in the night(e.g. the owl, shy badger, hedgehog, bats…) There is also a rotation picture that shows the woodlands in the day and night with all the different animals included.

Ingrid Spelberg tries to show how the environment changes from day to night. She also the differences in regions because she then show the desert and how it looks in the day and in the night. It is great to see which animals also live here and which cannot survive the heat.

Ingrid Spelberg does compares the Mountain region, lakes and marshes, and Arctic Tundra but this time she is compares the different seasons. She describes the animals that come out as well as how the region looks in the winter and summer. The rotating pictures are a great visual tool to compare and contrast.

Curriculum Connections
Our Changing World is a great introduction for students to begin acknowledging a world that is constantly changing, whether it be through day and night or season to season. This is a great tool for teacher to use when they want students to notice whether observations in there daily life which correlates to sol k.8 a and c in Virginia.

Additional Information

  • Instructor Web Has a great lesson in which students are able to create their own pictures of the seasons and describe them with a short sentence or phrases. Great compare and contrast activity.
  • Love the Outdoors has great activities. One activity that connects perfectly is a scavenger hunt that allows students to go outside and look for animals and plants. This activity allows students to understand that there are many living things outside.
  • Teaching is a Work of Heart has a great lesson that is geared for young students. The students create a tool to see the direction of wind, this allows them to notice more things about the outdoors.

Book: Our Changing World
Ingrid Selberg
Illustrator: Andrew Miller
Putnam Pub Group
Publication Date:
13 pages