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STEM Tuesday — Ecosystem Recovery– In the Classroom

What is ecosystem recovery? The Society for Ecological Restoration defines it as “the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed.” This fascinating work is happening all over the globe. Many amazing books have been written to help students grasp the enormity and importance of ecosystem recovery. These books can be used as a springboard for classroom discussions and activities.

 

Bringing Back the Wolves: How a Predator Restored an Ecosystem by Jude Isabella and Kim Smith

After a seventy year absence, gray wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park. The absence of these apex predators directly and indirectly affected many other living things. By bringing the wolves back, the ecosystem in Yellowstone was transformed.

Classroom Activity: In classic literature and movies, wolves are often portrayed as the villains. They are evil, something to be feared. In reality,  however, they are an incredibly important species. Citing examples from this text, have students write a letter, make a poster, or create a Google Slide presentation to persuade others that wolves are actually “good.” Have students highlight the positive effects they have on their ecosystems. Then, invite other students and staff to come into the classroom and listen to your students present their work.

 

The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs by Kate Messner and Matthew Forsythe

As a child, Ken Nedimyer was fascinated by the ocean and the coral reefs of the Florida Keys. But as an adult, he saw that his beloved reefs were dying. Using grafts of newly grown coral, Ken planted new coral colonies. His work has helped save and rebuild coral reefs all over the world.

Classroom Activity: Take students’ understanding to the next level by bringing them on a virtual field trip to the Dominican Republic. They will learn more about coral reefs and what scientists are doing to protect them. Then, have students create their own coral reefs using clay and paint. Click here for detailed directions.

 

Rise of the Lioness: Restoring a Habitat and its Pride on the Liuwa Plains by Bradley Hague

This beautiful book is both the story of Lady, the last lioness in the Liuwa Plains after the collapse of its ecosystem, and the story of what scientists did to restore that ecosystem.

Classroom Activity: Have students research the area where they live (or where their school is located). What plants and animals live there? What is the landscape like? How do both the geography and living organisms shape the ecosystem? Then, have students choose one local animal or plant. How would the ecosystem change if that animal or plant was removed? What effect would that have on the other living things? On the landscape? Would that effect be immediate or gradual?

 

 

Hopefully, these books and activities will help students think critically about the relationships between all living species and how the absence or introduction of one can have a big impact.

 

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Jenna Grodziki

 

Jenna Grodzicki is the author of more than twenty fiction and nonfiction children’s books. Her books include Wild Style: Amazing Animal Adornments (Millbrook Press 2020) and I See Sea Food: Sea Creatures That Look Like Food (Millbrook Press 2019), the winner of the 2020 Connecticut Book Award in the Young Readers Nonfiction Category. Jenna lives near the beach with her husband and two children. In addition to being a writer, she is also a library media specialist at a K-4 school. To learn more, visit her website at www.jennagrodzicki.com.

Inaugural nErD Camp Ohio

It was supposed to happen in 2020 after several educators from the Wadsworth, Ohio school district attended nErd Camp Michigan. The group, including Vicki Fugate, Lisa Owens, Stephine Schmeltzer, Lisa Smith, and Tricia Claypool, were sad that the Michigan camp organizers decided to take a break. The group joked about staging a similar event in Ohio. The conversations took a serious turn after approaching the Wadsworth Schools’ curriculum director, Dr. Michelle Evans, who was totally on board with the project.

The planning began, and the team had 300 educators and media specialists signed up for what was to be the first nErd Camp Ohio that summer of 2020.

Covid reared its ugly head then, so the team postponed until the following year. 2021 wasn’t looking much better, so once again, the team made the difficult decision to postpone for yet another year.

Finally, on July 25-26, 2022, the very first celebration of books, reading, literacy, and educational opportunities in the classroom was held at the beautiful Wadsworth High School campus.

The first-ever nErD camp Ohio attracted 162 registrants and 24 authors and illustrators of books for children. But Covid still was a factor. According to planning committee member Steph Schmeltzer, “I do think that Covid played a part in the author and attendee attendance rate. We did have some authors that declined our invite because of Covid concerns and we had a few that had to cancel last minute due to Covid. We also had a significant amount of attendees that emailed last minute to say that Covid was somehow playing a part in their inability to attend.”

But, for those of us who were able to attend, what a day it was!

Melia Wolf and Bryan Loar were there from Cover to Cover Books, based in Columbus, with titles from every participating author. It was fun perusing (and buying, I mean, come on!) the titles by the amazing variety of talented authors and illustrators of children’s books, from picture books to YA.

The first day began with an awesome keynote by Margaret Peterson Haddix, who spoke about finding and being with Kindred Spirits. Her reflections were perfectly in tune with the camp, as we, as book lovers, producers, readers, and educators are all kindred spirits. Her latest release, The School for Whatnots, focuses on friendship and being with like-minded individuals.

Following the inspiring opening, we all split into our divided sessions throughout the school. The organizing team did a fabulous job in organizing the sessions so that subjects didn’t conflict, as well as scheduling the workshops in easy-to-find locations.

Session titles included:

Where I’m From: Helping students discover the stories in their own backyards-

Jenn Bishop and Tricia Springstubb

Teaching STEAM Through Fiction and Exploring Diverse Perspectives- Jo Hackl

The Importance of an Inclusive BookshelfValerie Thompkins

So many sessions and only so much time!!!

I had the pleasure of moderating a panel that included Leigh Lewis and Nancy Roe Pimm. Titled “Shining a Light on Little Known Women in History,” Leigh and Nancy shared their biographies of fascinating women whose stories have not been told previously. You must check out Pirate Queens by Leigh, and The Jerrie Mock Story by Nancy.

Author Louise Borden offered a beautiful session on finding the truth in fiction and nonfiction, and shared the term BOOK JOY with us all.

Louise spoke about her various amazing titles and her journey involving finding the truth in the stories, including traveling to Colorado and Italy for Ski Soldier. Louise’s latest work is Full Speed Ahead! America’s First Admiral: David Glasgow Farragut.

It was exciting to see new voices in Middle Grade too, with a panel featuring these debut middle-grade authors; Leigh Lewis, Stacky Nockowitz, Erik Jon Slangerup, and Misty Wilson. Check out their new works!
There were so many amazing sessions, it made me wish I was there as simply an attendee vs presenting author.
Lunch was a “Beach Party” with food trucks in the courtyard, and attendees gathered on blankets and lawn chairs, enjoying a beautiful summer day.
The afternoon featured nErd Camp Jr. with workshops staged by many of the participating authors and illustrators including my session on The Tale of Three (or more!) Writers, sharing the importance of writing and journaling with middle-grade students.
The fun and educational sessions continued on Day 2, with author sessions in the morning, followed by an “unconference” in the afternoon. Attendees volunteered to offer presentations in the afternoon on topics impacting educators.

Planning committee member Steph Schmeltzer summed the whole experience up best, “My favorite part of camp was spending time with other educators, librarians, authors, and illustrators that share the same love of books that I do. Seeing everyone enjoying their time made it all worthwhile. “

A picture speaks a thousand words, and this beautiful video created by Cover to Cover bookstore sums up the BOOK JOY we all experienced.

Click Here to see the video!

Here’s to the 2nd annual nErD Camp Ohio in 2023!

STEM Tuesday — Ecosystem Recovery– Book List

Ecosystem recovery and restoration is a fascinating topic and these books offer glimpses of what it takes to tackle such an endeavor. Pick a habitat and dive in, you won’t be disappointed!

 

Rise of the Lioness: Restoring a Habitat and Its Pride on the Liuwa Plain by Bradley Hague

The story of Lady, the last lioness, is where the book begins. It’s a heartbreaking tale of how an ecosystem can decline in a short period of time. With great information about the Liuwa plain ecosystem, Hague delivers an excellent discussion of its successes and failures; particularly referring to the lost pride of lions. Additionally, he follows with an examination of the recovery program implemented for the plains. With an instructive glossary of terms; Rise of the Lioness is a great tool for those interested in ecosystem management and the challenges involved.

 

The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs by Kate Messner and Matthew Forsythe

Although this book has spare text, it focuses straight away on the scientific method using Ken Nedimyer’s research as its muse. Ken’s interest in the ocean and the changing coral reefs began a movement resulting in reef restoration around the globe. His queries and testing allow readers to understand the process involved in research. His story is a great example of how one person can create something wonderful, Messner and Forsythe did a wonderful job of bringing it to life.

 

Planet Ocean: Why We All Need A Healthy Ocean by Patricia Newman and Annie Crawley.

Planet Ocean is a fabulous journey in understanding the role oceans play in our lives. Newman and Crawley circumnavigate the globe as they observe and discuss changes that are occurring in today’s oceans and what that means for us. QR codes are included, they lead to videos that help explain the concepts discussed. Additionally, the book highlights people of all ages interested in saving the oceans – including students. There is a glossary of terms and a bibliography for those interested in learning more about the subject to round out the material. Visually stunning, this book is a must-read for ocean enthusiasts. 

 

Bringing Back the Wolves: How a Predator Restored an Ecosystem by Jude Isabella and Kim Smith.

This is a beautiful book on an incredible story of transformation, and of the delicate balance in nature. In the 1800s, the American government paid hunters to hunt down wolves that were a danger to the cattle ranches near Yellowstone National Park. It resulted in wolves being completely removed from the ecosystem, leading to an overpopulation of elk, which caused devastation in nearly every part of the ecosystem. In the 1990s, wolves were introduced into the park again, and it revived the balance of nature. Filled with beautiful art and informative sidebars, this is a very accessible book for both the casual and the serious reader.

 

A World Without Fish book

World Without Fish by  Mark Kurlansky (Author), Frank Stockton (Illustrator)

Kurlansky does a superb job of connecting all the dots—biology, economics, evolution, politics, climate, history, culture, food, and nutrition—in a way that kids can really understand. It describes how the fish we most commonly eat, including tuna, salmon, cod, swordfish—even anchovies— could disappear within fifty years, and the domino effect it would have: the oceans teeming with jellyfish and turning pinkish orange from algal blooms, the seabirds disappearing, then reptiles, then mammals. It describes the back-and-forth dynamic of fishermen, who are the original environmentalists, and scientists, who not that long ago considered fish an endless resource. It explains why fish farming is not the answer—and why sustainable fishing is, and how to help return the oceans to their natural ecological balance.

 

Wangari Maathai book

Environmental Activist Wangari Maathai (STEM Trailblazer Bios) by Jennifer Swanson

 

Swanson does a great job of highlighting an amazing STEM trailblazer who helped to rebuild an ecosystem. When Maathai was young, it was unusual for girls in Kenya to go to school, but she was determined to learn more about science and nature. As an adult, she noticed that people were cutting down too many trees. Maathai knew that forest loss was bad for the health of the environment and people. She started the Green Belt Movement, which educated women in rural villages and paid them for every tree they planted. The program helped plant millions of trees and brought money to the villages. For her environmental and human rights work, Maathai became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Puffin Plan boo

 

The Puffin Plan: Restoring Seabirds to Egg Rock and Beyond 
by Derrick Z. Jackson (Author), Stephen W. Kress PhD (Author)
 
Fifty years ago, a young ornithologist named Steve Kress fell in love with puffin. After learning that hunting had eradicated their colonies on small, rocky islands off the coast of Maine, he resolved to bring them back. So began a decades-long quest that involved collecting chicks in Canada, flying them to Maine, raising them in coffee-can nests, transporting them to their new island home, watching over them as they grew, and then waiting—for years—to see if they would come back. This is the story of how the Puffin Project reclaimed a piece of our rich biological heritage, and how it inspired other groups around the world to help other species re-root in their native lands.
 
 
 
 
Restoring the Great Barrier Reef by Rachel Hamby
 
This book examines the threats to the vibrant barrier reef off the Coast of Australia. The threats include climate change, overfishing, tourism and chemical runoff from farms. The book describes how the government, scientists and farmers are all working together to restore the reef. This book is one of four in the “Saving Earth’s Biomes” series. The others are: Protecting the Amazon Rainforest, Restoring the Great Lakes and Saving the Oceans from Plastic.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Susan Summers can be found exploring ecosystems near her, enjoying what nature has on offer. Visit her at her website: https://susan-inez-summers.weebly.com/

 

Shruthi Rao is at home among the trees. Her home on the web is https://shruthi-rao.com