Category Archives: Common Core & NGSS

Environmental Issues: What Would Harry Potter Do?

Teachers: with Earth Day approaching (April 22), you might be spending time going over the [now] 4 R’s with your class. Maybe you’re discussing environmental issues. With the pressure of addressing common core standards, it can be hard to fit in a unit on the environment. But I say, let’s take the topic and repurpose it (the latest R!): instead of the focus being solely on the environment, hide it in the literacy curriculum. Everyone has a cause that’s close to his or her heart…even fictional characters.

EARTH DAY LESSON PLAN

OBJECTIVE: Analyze main characters at a deeper level based on character traits in the book.

MATERIALS NEEDED:

  • a book recently read (either read individually, within a guided reading group, or as a whole class)
  • [optional] picture books addressing environmental issues (list at bottom of post)

PREPARATION: [Optional]

  • Discuss ways we protect the environment. As a class, create and display a list of these environmental issues. (See the list at the bottom of the post.)
  • Research/read about local environmental issues as well as ones in other areas of the world.
  • Add to the list any new issues you’ve discovered.

LESSON: Discuss how fictional characters would protect the environment.

POSSIBLE QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION (click here for the pdf):

1. Based on what you know about the main character from details in the book, what environmental issue or issues would he or she support?

2. What details from the book make you draw this conclusion?

3. What would he or she do for this cause (what action might be taken)?

4. What obstacles might he or she face?

5. Think about the antagonist. Would he or she support the same cause? If not, what would his or her cause be?

6. How about any secondary characters? Would they support the same cause as the main character?

POSSIBLE PROJECT: Have students create a piece (short story, comic, essay, etc.) addressing the main character and his or her environmental cause.


SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS: Here are great picture books about people protecting the environment.

  • One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul (Millbrook Press)
  • The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins (Beach Lane Books)
  • Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World by Laurie Lawlor (Holiday House)
  • Planting the Trees of Kenya by Claire A. Nivola (Frances Foster Books)
  • I am Jane Goodall by Brad Melter (Dial Books)
  • The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter (Schwartz & Wade)
  • Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story by Suzanne Slade (Sleeping Bear Press)
  • Magic Trash: A Story of Tyree Guyton and His Art by J. H. Shapiro (Charlesbridge)
  • The Soda Bottle School: A True Story of Recycling, Teamwork, and One Crazy Idea by Seno Laura Kutner and Suzanne Slade (Tilbury House Publishers)

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES: Here are some issues to consider.

deforestation
global warming
land degradation
pollution (air, water, soil)
loss of biodiversity/endangered plant and animal species
habitat destruction
natural resource depletion
waste disposal
urban sprawl

STANDARDS ADDRESSED:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.5.2
Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.5.6
Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.5.1
Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 5 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

 

Interview and Giveaway with Science Author Patricia Newman

I’m so excited to welcome Author Patricia Newman to the MUF blog today. She writes SCIENCE books!  YAY!

Patricia (middle) is shown here with Lilian Carswell (L) and Brent Hughes (R).  Photo credit:  Elise Newman Montanino

 

Author Patricia Newman has written several titles that connect young readers to scientific concepts, including Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem, a Junior Library Guild Selection and recipient of a starred Kirkus review; Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a Green Earth Book Award winner; Ebola: Fears and Facts, a Booklist Editors’ Choice selection; and the upcoming fall 2017 release, Zoo Scientists to the Rescue. In her free time, she enjoys nature walks, the feel of dirt between her fingers in the garden, and traveling. She lives in Northern California with her husband.

Patricia is here to share her newest book,

Sea Otters: The Predators that Saved an Ecosystem (Millbrook Press, 2017)

 

Why do you write science books? 

I like the way science connects to nearly all aspects of our world. For instance, in Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem I show kids how saving endangered predators can benefit our air, our water, and our food supply. In my opinion, for kids to be successful in the 21st century, they will need to become global citizens who look at the bigger picture. Science can help us do that.

 

How do you choose your subjects for your books?

In the case of Sea Otter Heroes, the subject chose me. I was invited to the David Smith Conservation Research Fellows Retreat in April 2015 by Chelsea Rochman, one of the scientists that I featured in Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. She thought her colleagues might be interested in learning more about communicating their research to children.

 

I conducted a day-long writing workshop, and somewhere in the middle, marine biologist Brent Hughes and his mentor Lilian Carswell (the Southern Sea Otter Recovery Coordinator with US Fish and Wildlife) approached me to see if I would be interested in writing about Brent’s sea otter discovery. He explained to me that he’d discovered a trophic cascade in which sea otters, the apex predator in an estuary off Monterey Bay, restored the natural food chain and healed the ecosystem so it could perform functions that benefit us. The more I spoke with Brent and Lilian, the more I liked the idea. Everyone thinks sea otters are adorable, and every kid knows about food chains, but Brent had found an amazing twist that most kids wouldn’t know about.

 

You seem drawn to eco-friendly topics. Is that something that you are passionate about? 

Yes, without a doubt. We have only one planet. It sustains us in so many ways. The ocean produces nearly 75% of our oxygen, it feeds us, and it entertains us. In a world where concrete is king, I think kids (and adults) benefit from getting closer to nature. In the current political climate, I want to persuade kids to love nature before they are corrupted by “alternative facts.” Caring is key because we protect what we love.

 

Tell us a little about how you do your research. How much time do you spend? What type of sources do you look for?

Nonfiction requires digging, and like my colleagues I dig through scientific journals, online sources, books, magazines, and newspapers. I also interview scientists conducting amazing research, and if I’m lucky I take a field trip to visit their labs. For Sea Otter Heroes, I spent a day on Brent’s research boat enjoying the sun on my face and the crisp ocean breeze, watching pelicans dive and sea otters crack open crabs with a rock. There are definitely worse jobs!

 

Why is back matter useful for readers?

As a researcher, I love back matter because it contains all sorts of gems. But for kids, I hope it extends the reading experience. When a novel or a fictional series ends, we have to say good-bye to beloved characters, but nonfiction science back matter lays more research, more videos, and more books within a child’s reach and encourages continued inquiry—the basis of all science.

 

Anything that you are working on that you would care to share? Other books that we can look for from you soon?

Photographer Annie Crawley (from Plastic, Ahoy!) and I team up again for Zoo Scientists to the Rescue (Millbrook Press, Fall 2017). We had a great time with this book, traveling to three different zoos, getting up close and personal with the animals, and fighting a fierce Colorado blizzard. The book features three endangered species—orangutans, black-footed ferrets, and black rhinos—and shows how zoos protect them and their wild habitats. Annie and I are excited to introduce our readers to the three scientists that we interviewed. The two women and one man are amazing role models for kids.

For fall 2018, think elephants.

 

Do you do school and/or Skype visits? Why do you think these are helpful to students?

I visit schools in person or virtually every year. Author visits motivate kids to apply themselves to reading and writing. We introduce them to a variety of literature—some of which is bound to pique their interest. Authors also show kids what real revision looks like and that writing takes perseverance. I tell students that writing is the hardest job I’ve ever had, but even in the face of rejection I refuse to give up on myself. What child who shares a piece of writing with me or asks about writer’s block or struggles to put ideas on paper wouldn’t benefit from believing in him/herself?

If you want to learn more about Patricia’s books or just drop her a line, you can find her on Twitter @PatriciaNewman  or visit her website at http://www.patriciamnewman.com/  to check out some of her other amazing science books:  

 

 

 

 

It’s Time for a Giveaway!!    Patricia’s publisher, Millbrook Press/Lerner, has generously donated a copy of her Sea Otter Heroes book. For a chance to win, leave a comment below about your favorite animal!


Jennifer Swanson is an award-winning author of over 25+ science books for kids. Visit her at her favorite place to explore the world around her www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com

 

 

Weird and Wacky Facts

worstSometimes while authors are researching books, they run across strange and interesting facts. Some of these discoveries make it into the book, but others don’t. Editors may decide certain facts shouldn’t be included. Other times there isn’t enough room to include them all.

I recently finished writing a book called Exploring Ancient Rome that will be coming out next year. The editors wanted to include information about government and road building; I want to include odd and unusual details about daily life.

If you were reading the book would you rather know that Rome was once an empire, or that the emperor Caligula built his horse a marble stable and gave his horse a top government position? Or that gazing on the emperor’s balding head was a capital offense?

Would you rather know that Romans used the arch to create the Pantheon, or that they ate flamingo tongue, stuffed dormice, and pickled sow udder?

Would you rather know that the Romans adopted ideas from other cultures, or that they washed their clothes with urine? The ammonia in urine gave a washing solution good whitening power, so Romans also used urine to brush their teeth. Other cosmetic tips from ancient Rome:horrible

  • To dye hair black, let leeches rot for 40 days in wine
  • Instead of soap, rub your body with oil and scrape off the dirt.
  • Hippopotamus skin helps prevent balding.
  • To cover gray hair, boil walnut shells, earthworms, and ashes.

egypt For me, quirky information like that is what makes a subject come alive. A few books that provide unusual facts about Rome are Horrible Jobs in Ancient Greece and Rome by Robyn Handyman, The Totally Gross History of Ancient Rome by Jeremy Klar, and Top 10 Worst Things about Ancient Rome You Wouldn’t Want to Know! by Victoria England and David Antram. Other books in these series cover different countries.

For a little extra fun, author Bobbi Miller volunteered some interesting tidbits she unearthed while researching her book, Girls of Gettysburg. 51nj-iaqbkl-_ac_us160_

  • The youngest soldier serving in the Civil War was a nine-year old boy from Mississippi.
  • In a single day, the one million horses serving in the Civil War would have peed enough urine to fill more than 12 swimming pools.
  • Robert E. Lee had a pet chicken named Hen. Every morning, Hen laid an egg under Lee’s cot, which Lee then cooked for breakfast.
  • The artillery barrage during Picket’s Charge could be heard 100 miles away in Pittsburgh.
  • After President Lincoln was diagnosed with a mild form of smallpox, he said, “For once in my life as President, I find myself in a position to give everybody something.”

Perhaps people who find history boring are reading the wrong things. What fascinating facts have you discovered?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A former teacher and librarian, Laurie J. Edwards is now an author. In addition to Exploring Ancient Rome, she has written more than 2300 articles and 30 books under several pen names. Some of her other books on history include Pirates through the Ages, Imperial China, West African Kingdoms, Exploring Ancievt Rome.  Visit Laurie at www.lauriejedwards.com.