Common Core & NGSS

STEM Tuesday All About Conservation – In the Classroom

 

This month’s STEM Tuesday Theme is All About Conservation. Click here to see the list of books chosen by our STEM Tuesday Team for the month of April.

Here are a few ways to use this month’s books in the classroom, extending learning beyond simply reading. Enjoy these suggestions, and as always, we welcome your additional suggestions in the comments below!

Explore our National Parks. 

Park Scientists: Gila monsters, Geysers, and Grizzly Bears in America’s Own Backyard by Mary Kay Carson, with photographs by Tom Uhlman, will take readers to three National Parks that deliver on the promise of adventure!

  • Use this fact-packed book to chart the differences between plants and animals found in Yellowstone National Park, Saguaro National Park, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Discuss habitats, climate, altitude, and other factors that influence what species thrive where.
  • Map it out. Use map pins to locate all of America’s National Parks. Find the distance from your school, home, or library to the nearest National Park. Which park is the farthest from you? Discuss reasons why some National Parks receive more visitors than other.
  • In 2016, the National Park Service celebrated its 100th anniversary. Embark on a fact-finding mission to learn who started the park system and why. What are our oldest parks? Newest? Largest? Smallest? Are any in danger of being shut down? What impact does our park system have on the conservation of native species in America?

A Whale of a Tale!

Whale Quest: Working Together to Save Endangered Species by Karen Romano Young offers an in-depth and up-close look a one of the ocean’s most intriguing animals.

Check out the Whale Guide Starting on page 104, the author provides detailed profiles of the world’s most watched whales.

Make a game of it. Middle-graders love trading cards, and The Phylo(mon) Project offers printable trading cards and games that will make whale research fun and interactive. Find them right here.

Geoengineering Earth’s Climate: Resetting the Thermostat  by Jennifer Swanson (who happens to have been the mastermind behind STEM Tuesday here at The Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors) takes a careful and objective look at all sides of a modern and, often politically-charged, topic.  Swanson asks straight out: Is geoengineering too risky? Or is it our best hope of survival?”

Hold a classroom debate:  Middle graders are the perfect age to introduce the idea that there are two sides to most issues. Divide into two groups, one that will highlight the positive contributions of geoengineering and one that will point out its harmful effects.  Using carefully-designed rules for classroom debate (ones that include respect for others’ opinions, careful listening, and an understanding that audience members may come to differing conclusions), hold a classroom debate. Invite another middle-grade class to listen in. Take a pre-debate poll and a post-debate poll. Analyze listeners’ knowledge and feelings about geoengineering before and after hearing both sides of the issue.  For a great, recent article about how to run a middle school classroom debate, click here. 

A perfect fiction pairing to this month’s topic!

Endangered  by Eliot Schrefer is a fictionalized account of a young girl’s experiences growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo and her unexpected affection for a small bonobo named Otto.

After reading the book, take a look at these video resources for more information about this fiction tale, steeped in fact.

Librarian Preview: Endangered

Scholastic Book Clubs Interview with Eliot Schrefer

Eliot Plays King of the Mountain with Bonobos

Tool Use Among Bonobos

Join the CONSERVATION conversation!

What books are you reading that fit into this month’s STEM Tuesday Theme: All About Conservation?  What classroom activities have you done that were a hit with middle-grade learners? Leave a comment below! We love hearing from you!

This week’s STEM Tuesday post was prepared by

Michelle Houts delights in the wild and wacky side of finding fun facts for young readers. She writes both fiction and nonfiction and often finds the nonfiction harder to believe than the fiction. Find her on Instagram and Twitter @mhoutswrites and on the web at www.michellehouts.com.

April New Releases

While April is supposed to bring showers, let’s all hope it actually brings good weather to some places across the country. But, if you do find yourself inside on a rainy day, check out some of these amazing new books. They are sure to delight!

Let’s start with a big Congrats to two of our very own MUF members, Michelle Houts and Tricia Springstubb, for their new books!

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgCount the Wings by Michelle Houts ( Ohio University Press)

When you look at a bird, do you see feathers and a beak? Or do you see circles and triangles? Artist Charley Harper spent his life reducing subjects to their simplest forms, their basic lines and shapes. This resulted in what he called minimal realism and the style that would become easily recognized as Charley Harper’s. Art fans and nature lovers around the world fell in love with Harper’s paintings, which often featured bright colors and intriguing nature subjects. Count the Wings is the first book for middle-grade readers about Harper’s life and work.

Cody and the Heart of a Champion by Tricia Springstubb (Candlewick Press)

What secret is Spencer keeping? Will Wyatt and old P.U. finally become boyfriend and girlfriend? Why does Pearl listen to that big boss Madison? Cody’s got a lot to figure out in the fourth and last book in this lively, award-winning series about a diverse cast of characters and their adventures.

 

Rebound by Kwame Alexander (HMH BFYR)

From the New York Times bestselling author Kwame Alexander comes Rebound, a dynamic novel in verse and companion to his Newbery Award-winner, The Crossover, illustrated with striking graphic novel panels.

Before Josh and Jordan Bell were streaking up and down the court, their father was learning his own moves. In this prequel to Newbery Medal winner The Crossover, Chuck Bell takes center stage, as readers get a glimpse of his childhood and how he became the jazz music worshiping, basketball star his sons look up to.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Warriors: A Vision of Shadows #5: River of Fire by Erin Hunter (Harper Collins)

Erin Hunter’s #1 bestselling Warriors series continues in A Vision of Shadows #5: River of Fire. This hardcover edition includes a double-sided jacket with a bonus poster!

StarClan’s prophecy has been fulfilled, and the long-lost SkyClan has returned to its rightful place among the other four warrior Clans. Many cats believe the danger is past. But after moons of division and strife, ShadowClan is in danger of falling apart forever….

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

The Creature of the Pines (The Unicorn Rescue Society) by
by Adam Gidwitz (Dutton BFYR)

A fully illustrated, globe-trotting new middle grade fantasy-adventure series about mythical creatures and their cultures of origin, from the Newbery Honor-winning author of The Inquisitor’s Tale.

Elliot Eisner isn’t exactly excited about starting at a brand-new school in a brand-new town; he’d much rather stay at home and read a book. But things take an unexpected turn when he finds out his weird new teacher, Professor Fauna, has planned a field trip for Elliot’s very first day. Along with a new friend–brave, outspoken Uchenna Devereaux–Elliot gets caught up in a secret group of adventurers, The Unicorn Rescue Society, whose goal is to protect and defend the world’s mythical creatures. Together with Professor Fauna, Elliot and Uchenna must help rescue a Jersey Devil from a duo of conniving, greedy billionaires, the Schmoke Brothers.

 

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Wedgie & Gizmo vs. the Toof  by Suzanne Selfors (Katherine Tegen Books)

Wedgie LOVES the new micro-pig next door. And she LOVES him! They both like to go for walks and roll in smelly things. They are going to be in the school pet parade together. They are best friends. But Gizmo knows the truth. The pig is Wedgie’s new sidekick. Super Wedgie and the Toof have teamed up to stop Gizmo from taking over the world.

But they will not win! Gizmo is an evil genius. He is smarter than most comic book villains. And more powerful than even Darth Vader! He ordered a flying machine online and he will use it to set free all the guinea pigs at the pet parade.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Point Guard (Home Team) by Mike Lupica (S & S BFYR)

Gus and Cassie have always been on the same team off the field, but in this third novel in New York Times bestselling author Mike Lupica’s Home Team series can they stay friends when they’re on the same court?

 

You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly (Greenwillow Books) Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Twelve-year-old Charlotte Lockard and eleven-year-old Ben Boxer are separated by more than a thousand miles. On the surface, their lives seem vastly different—Charlotte lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, while Ben is in the small town of Lanester, Louisiana. Charlotte wants to be a geologist and keeps a rock collection in her room. Ben is obsessed with Harry Potter, presidential history, and recycling. But the two have more in common than they think. They’re both highly gifted. They’re both experiencing family turmoil. And they both sit alone at lunch.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

The Backward Season (Wishing Day) by Lauren Myracle (Katherine Tegen Boooks)

Now that her sisters Natasha and Darya have had their turn, Ava Blok finally gets her Wishing Day. But after seeing the unintended consequences of the wishes her sisters made, she’s not sure what to wish for. The only thing she’s certain of is that it’s her job to set things right.

 

 

Hopeful that she can put her broken family back together, and eager to prove her pessimistic older sisters wrong, Ava realizes that fixing the future means changing the past. Will the journey her wishes take her on end up costing her everything?

 

STEM Tuesday Field Work — Interview with Loree Griffin Burns

Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview & Book Giveaway, a repeating feature for the fourth Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!

Today we’re interviewing author Loree Griffin Burns who wrote this month’s featured book about real-life scientific field work, Life on Surtsey: Iceland’s Upstart Island.

The book takes place on an Icelandic island that’s only decades old. Readers join the scientists studying this new patch of land and the plants and animals that are colonizing it. Loree Griffin Burns earned science degrees from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the University of Massachusetts. Since then she’s been writing books and articles that celebrate our natural world and the people who study it. To research these stories, she’s beachcombed on both coasts, cruised the Pacific Ocean in search of plastic, surveyed birds in Central Park, stung herself with a honey bee, visited the Mexican wintering grounds of the monarch butterfly (on horseback!) and lived on a Costa Rican butterfly farm. Her latest book, Life on Surtsey: Iceland’s Upstart Island was named a 2017 best children’s nonfiction title by both Kirkus Reviews and School Library Journal. Loree lives with her husband and three nearly-grown children in central Massachusetts.

 Mary Kay Carson: How did this book come about?

Loree Griffin Burns: In the spring of 2014, I had the opportunity to travel with my husband to Iceland. While we were there, we took a day-trip to the island of Heimaey, which is the largest of an archipelago off the southwestern coast of the country. It poured rain the entire time we were on Heimaey, so we toured by bus instead of on foot. At one point, as we rounded the southern end of the island, our bus driver pulled to the side of the road and pointed out to sea. “You see that island?” he asked. “The furthest one out?” We squinted through rain-soaked bus windows to see the rock he was talking about. “That’s Surtsey,” he said, “and I stood on the very spot this bus is parked, when I was a boy, and watched as it was born.” I knew the moment he said this that I’d just heard something incredibly special. I took out a notebook and started taking notes on everything he said from that moment on, including the fact that Surtsey was closed to all but the Icelandic scientists studying its transformation from a seething hunk of lava to an island that supported living, breathing organisms. As soon as I was home again, I began to research Surtsey’s story and became convinced it was the perfect subject for a ‘Scientists in the Field’ book. Once I’d convinced my editor of it too, I wrote to the Surtsey Research Society, the organization that controls access to the island as a research site, and pitched the idea the them. I was thrilled when they sent back an invitation to join an expedition the following summer.

MKC: Would you like to share a favorite part of spending time in the field researching this book?

Loree: I spent one working week, Monday through Friday, on Surtsey, as part of an expedition that included ten other scientists. Eight of those were Icelandic, and one was a Polish botanist who was living and working in Iceland at the time. Our team consisted of three women and seven men. Some of my favorite moments were getting to know the people I was with. As you’ll see when you read the book, I spent the most time with entomologists Erling Ólafsson and Matthais Alfredsson. But I got to know some other fascinating people, too. One of my favorite mornings was the one I spent with Lovisa Ásbjörnsdóttir, a geologist who has spent a lot of time on Surtsey. We hiked Austurbunki and Westurbunki together, mountains formed from Surtsey’s two volcanic cones, and spent several delightful hours sharing our work, our homelands, and what drew us each to Surtsey. Another highlight that didn’t make it into the book was my exploration inside the island. Underneath the hard lava crust of Surtsey is a network of lava tubes—tunnels through which molten lava once flowed but which now snake, empty and exploreable, underground. When botanist Paweł Wąsowicz first mentioned them to me, I didn’t believe him. And once I realized they existed, I was very nervous about checking them out. But I did, and it was an unforgettable experience.

Purchase a copy of  Life of Surtsey

MKC: Do you have a STEM background?

Loree: I do. I spent my twenties in a research lab studying the expression of genes in yeast cells and earning a PhD in biochemistry. So, science has been part of my life for a long time. I tell kids all the time that for me, science is not a subject, or a career, but a way of looking at the world, a way of asking questions about how it works, and then figuring out how to find the answers.

MKC: Could you give us a peek into your process by sharing how you’re tackling a current project?

Loree: I recently finished a picture book manuscript for older readers about fruit flies and how scientists came to realize they are a useful organism for studying DNA. I know. I know. It doesn’t sound like proper picture book material, does it? But it really is! The focus is entirely on the flies themselves, their bodies, their life cycles, their strange and adorable (!) laboratory habits, their easy to manipulate DNA. I think the right illustrator could have a great time with this book. (If you know one, send them my way.) While I try to find the perfect publishing home for the fruit fly book, I am working on another insect book: The Moth Ball. Coming from Charlesbridge in 2020, this book is an invitation into the nighttime exploits of the lesser-loved cousin of the butterfly: the moth. Right now, I’m reading up on moths and moth identification, and sketching out ideas for how best to structure a book that will excite readers about studying the moths in their own neighborhoods. The second spring finally arrives here in New England, photographer Ellen Harasimowicz and I will start calling moths into our own yards, using black lights and special sugar baits, and we’ll begin recording every moment for our book. We’re both pretty excited! What you can see from these two examples is that my bookmaking process involves a lot more than just writing. I spend a lot of time researching my subjects, by reading the words of other writers and by having my own first-hand experiences with the topic. I also spend time getting my finished manuscripts into the hands of publishers who can help me bring them to readers. This variety is one of the things I like about making books.

MKC: Any recommendations for readers who loved Life on Surtsey?

Loree: Nonfiction books are my passion, and titles I’ve loved lately include: Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d by Mary Losure; The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman; Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins; Seeing into Tomorrow: Haiku by Richard Wright, Illustrated by Nina Crews.

More about Life on Surtsey:

Win a FREE copy of  Life of SurtseyEnter the giveaway by leaving a comment below. The randomly-chosen winner will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (within the U.S. only) to receive the book.

Good luck!

Your host this week is Mary Kay Carson, fellow nature geek, science nerd, and author of Mission to Pluto and other nonfiction books for kids.

 

SaveSave