STEM Tuesday

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.

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 

 

STEM Tuesday — Fungi — Author Interview

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

Today, Andi Diehn interviews Sue Heavenrich and Alisha Gabriel, authors of Funki Fungi: 30 Activities for Exploring Molds, Mushrooms, Lichens, and More! Sue is a writer and educator who also hosts a book review blog at Archimedes Notebook. Alisha is an elementary music teacher and writer of fiction and nonfiction elementary through middle grade. They teamed up to bring the wonder and magic of fungi to kids through lots of hands-on STEM projects!

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AD: What inspired you to write about fungi?

Alisha: I’ve always found mushrooms and fungi fascinating! There are so many shapes and colors, and new varieties being discovered each year. Every time I turn around there’s something more to learn about fungi.  Funky Fungi book cover

Sue: My interest was piqued when I interviewed mycologist Kathie Hodge about an insect-infecting fungus for an article in a local newspaper. She took me on a fungus-looking walk, and showed me her workspace at her lab. That article never got published, but it made me think about fungi in a different way. A couple years later I met Alisha at a Highlights Foundation workshop on nonfiction writing. While out on a nature walk, we stopped to look at some interesting fungi and got to talking about potential book ideas. I ended up shelving my idea, so when Alisha asked if I wanted to collaborate on a book I said “sure.”

 

AD: There’s such a huge variety of fungi out there! How did you decide what information to include in your book and what had to be left out?

Alisha Gabriel examines fungi

Alisha finds some funky fungi!

Alisha: When the editor liked our pitch and asked to see a proposal, Sue and I jumped into the research feet first. First, we determined how to break up the chapters by topic. There are certain types of fungi that had to be included in each chapter and simply couldn’t be left out of the book! After that, it became much more difficult to narrow down.

 

AD: What do hands-on projects add to the reader’s experience of your book?

Alisha: This book is part of the Young Naturalists series from Chicago Review Press and all of the titles include 30 activities. The activities are important to help readers extend their learning, and to gain even more enjoyment, as they discover more about fungi!

Sue Heavenrich examines fungi

Sue gets hands-on with fungi!

Sue: As a science teacher and, later, homeschooling parent, I know that many kids learn best by doing. That’s what this book addresses. By design, it incorporates activities throughout the chapters as an integral part of exploring the topic. I mean, how can you read about mushrooms and not want to cut one open to see inside?

 

AD: Some of the projects focus on an art or language activity – why is the A in STEAM so important?

Alisha: Everyone learns in different ways. In education, there’s a huge push for STEM topics, but the artistic aspect of learning isn’t always valued as highly. Sketching a mushroom, or even creating their own, will help readers focus on the minute details. And writing a poem about a mushroom can help a young reader utilize vocabulary and scientific terms, while accurately describing it and its surroundings.

Sue: Art and language are part of science. Scientists in the field often make sketches in their field journals alongside their notes – whether it’s fossils or insects. I feel that drawing a mushroom or other fungus helps develop observation skills. So does writing haiku and poetry. I think there’s a lot in science that inspires art, and art that inspires science.

 

AD: You mention a lot of different people who work with fungi or have made discoveries about fungi. Why did you include these brief biographies in your book?

Sue: Science is a human endeavor. When I was a kid, I loved reading the stories about people who discovered things: Fleming and penicillin, Jenner and the smallpox vaccine. We want to show readers that people are still discovering things about fungi – and maybe some of those readers will see that they could be scientists, too.

 

AD: There are fungi that do beneficial work and fungi that do detrimental work. Why is it crucial to our understanding of fungi to learn about all aspects of the fungal world, not just the ones that help humans?

Alisha: It’s true that some fungi attack our crops or cause human diseases, but other kinds of fungi are used to counteract them. All types of fungi play a role in the environment, even those that are yet to be discovered.  It’s important to show readers the great diversity of fungi because we never know how or when new discoveries will be made. Alisha Gabriel photographs fungi

 

AD: If you could choose a state fungus, what would it be?

Alisha: In an interesting twist, I live in Texas, which is the most recent state to adopt a state fungus! It’s Chorioactis geaster, often called the Texas Star Mushroom, because it’s only found in some parts of Texas and Japan. At first this mushroom resembles a small cigar, but when the spores mature, they burst forth with a popping sound and the sides crack open into a star shape.

Sue: I personally like the Stinky Squid fungus – it looks like an orange squid or chicken claws reaching up through the soil. Its stinky smell attracts flies that will spread the spores. But there is actually a bill in the New York State legislature to name Peck’s milk-cap (Lactarius peckii) as our state mushroom. It’s a pretty orange gilled mushroom and not stinky in the least. And it is named for Charles Horton Peck, New York State botanist from 1867 to 1915, who described and named more than 2,700 species of fungi in North America.

Want more fun with fungi? Check out Funky Fungus Friday photo posts at Sue’s Facebook page!

And Alisha’s #FungiFriday posts on Twitter!

 

Sue Heavenrich writes about science for children and their families, from space to backyard ecology. Bees, flies, squirrel behavior—things she observes in her backyard and around her neighborhood—inspire her writing.

Alisha Gabriel is an elementary music teacher and adjunct professor who has written several fiction and nonfiction books for children, from preschool to middle graders.

Today’s host, And Diehn, is an editor and marketer at Nomad Press and has published 11 nonfiction books.