Posts Tagged Back-to-School

Using Time in Nature to Get Your School Year Off to a Terrific Start

Photo: Jo Hackl

This year presents unique challenges for educators, students, and parents. As we navigate the new normal, why not try a proven technique to reduce stress and increase overall well-being? It turns out that spending time outdoors (even for a few minutes) can help you to do just that. Here’s a summary of some of the growing body of research supporting the benefits of exposure to nature.

Below are some easy ideas to help you incorporate nature into your day. They can not only help to make your day better, but also benefit your entire family.

Photo: Jo Hackl

 

 

1. If possible, eat breakfast outside or by a sunny window. Exposure to sunlight helps you wake up and the sights and sounds of nature help set the mood for a productive, calm day.

 

Photo: Jo Hackl

 

 

2. Whether you’re working at home or going to school, include something from nature in your workspace. Even a simple photograph from nature pasted on the inside cover of your notebook can help you relax if you get stressed.

 

 

3. Unwind at the end of your school day by taking a walk outside. This helps you clear your mind and relax your body.

                              

Photos: Jo Hackl

 

Photo: Jo Hackl

 

 

4. Consider keeping a nature journal. Your journal doesn’t need to be anything fancy. All you need is something to write on and a pen or pencil to record things that interest you in nature. You might try sitting in the same spot every day and noting how the things you see, hear, feel and touch change over the course of the seasons.

 

 

5. Plan your weekend around outdoor activities. It’s easier to maintain social distance outdoors and outdoor activities provide a fun way for your family and friends to make memories. If you’d like to take things a step farther, join me in the practice I’ve maintained for over 25 years—every Sunday I unplug from technology and spend as much time as possible outdoors. My family and I hike. We garden. We take nature photographs. We don’t think about work or school. And that one simple habit makes an enormous difference in our week.

Photo: Jo Hackl

 

If you can’t get outdoors, you can read books with natural settings. In addition to classics such as Hatchet, My Side of the Mountain, and Island of the Blue Dolphins

                                                                                 

 

Below are some other wonderful books set outdoors:

 

A Wolf Called Wander by Rosanne Parry takes readers on a journey with a wolf separated from his family who embarks upon a thousand-mile journey to find a new home. Katherine Applegate, Newbery Medal-winning author of The One and Only Ivan, calls it “[r]iveting and lyrical . . . a vibrantly imagined celebration of the natural world.”

 

 

 

 

Pax by Sara Pennypacker takes readers on an adventure with Peter, who sets out to reunite with his pet fox. The San Francisco Chronicle calls it “at once a wilderness adventure about survival and a philosophical foray into big questions.”

 

 

 

 

The Skeleton Tree by Iain Lawrence takes readers on an adventure with two boys who must survive on their own in the Alaskan wilderness. The Horn Book Review calls it “[a]n emotionally engaging and heart-pounding read.”

 

 

For more information to help you explore the natural world, check out our STEM Tuesday section. You also can find more ideas (and cites to more research supporting the benefits of time in nature) at www.Outdooorosity.org. I grew up in the country and experienced the benefits of spending time outdoors. Years ago, this convinced me to create Outdoorosity as a free resource. These recent months have demonstrated more and more the value of making time to get outdoors to refresh and recharge. And doing so is good for all the people in our lives.

19 Back-to-School Themed Books

As summer winds down, kids are thinking about heading back to school. After you load them up with all the no. 2 pencils they need, get them in the school spirit with a middle-grade book about those first days back in the hallways.

The First Rule of Punk Cover
The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez
First day at a new school and twelve-year-old Malú makes her school’s queen bee, mad, shows up in punk rock attire that is not dress-code approved, and gets in trouble with her mom. Is there a harder age than this? We don’t think so!

Ghosts CoverGhosts by Raina Telgemeier
Catrina is upset that her family relocated to Bahía de la Luna, California, but her younger sister Maya has cystic fibrosis and the sea air in their new coastal town will help her. Exploring, they find out their town is full of ghosts–and it sends Catrina on a journey of her own.

Goodbye Stranger Cover

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
Growing up together vs. growing apart is the theme of Stead’s novel about three best friends who find that everything changes at the start of seventh grade.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
No BTS list is complete without a mention of “the boy who lived” and his first eventful year at Hogwarts.

The Homework Machine by Dan Gutman
When a group of fifth graders team up as the D Squad to create a homework machine named Belch, everything goes smoothly… at first, but before long, Belch becomes more powerful than they ever imagined, and the kids wind up in major trouble.

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
Aven may make up stories like that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, but she was born without them. She fears that moving across the country and starting over at a new school means she’ll have to explain her physical differences over and over again to new people. But the move allows her to meet a new friend, solve a mystery, and face her fears.

Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge
In this relatable story, Karma is super nervous about starting middle school–for all sorts of reasons, including tricky friend reasons and changes in her family reasons–and most of all, because of the seventeen hairs that suddenly showed up on her upper lip.

Kat Greene Comes Clean by Melissa Roske
Fifth grade Kat lives in New York where she attends a new age New York City private school. In addition to coping with all sorts of fifth grade stuff (like a boy crazy best friend) she has a mother with worsening obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The Last Last-Day-of-Summer Cover

The Last Last-Day-of-Summer by Lamar Giles
Buddies Otto and Sheed are junior detectives in their wacky town where all sorts of crazy stuff happens. As summer nears its end, they’ve got one final mystery to solve before school starts.

Lost and Found by Andrew Clements
Twelve-year-old identical twins Ray and Jay are tired of being known as part of a pair. But when they start at a new school, and Ray stays home sick on the first day, Jay discovers the school has no record of his brother. Cue crazy schemes and shenanigans as the twins trick their new classmates and teachers into thinking there is just one of them.

 

Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff by Jennifer L. Holm
Ginny starts seventh grade with a to-do list of impressive action items but her school year so does not go as planned. Told through Ginny’s stuff (like notes and report cards) this is a fun and unusual way to tell a story.

My Year of Epic Rock by Andrea Pyros
I so remember those back-to-school jitters I wrote a whole book about it. My Year of Epic Rock is my debut novel about Nina, who, on the first day of seventh grade, finds out her best friend has ditched her for a cooler girl. Ouch! Now Nina’s banished to the peanut allergy table in the cafeteria at lunchtime, where she and the other food-allergic kids come together how to have a rocking year.

New Kid by Jerry Craft
This funny, relatable graphic novel follows Jordan as he starts seventh grade at a fancy new private school where he’s one of only a few boys of color. Suddenly he feels adrift, not at home with the friends he left behind nor the new kids at school he feels he has little in common with.

Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham (illustrator)
This graphic memoir explores the pain and challenges of shifting friendships. Shannon thinks Adrienne is her best friend forever, but then Adrienne starts hanging out with Jen and “The Group,” leaving Shannon painfully behind.

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
This whimsical novel is about a town called Midnight Gulch that used to be full of magic, before a curse ended that. Now twelve-year-old Felicity has moved there with her always-on-the-move mother, and Felicity wants nothing more than to heal the town and finally find a home they can stay in forever.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (Origami Yoda Books) Cover

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (Origami Yoda series Book 1) by Tom Angleberger
In the first book in the beloved, hilarious Origami Yoda series, sixth grader Dwight creates a finger puppet paper Yoda, who turns out to be as wise and helpful as the Yoda we all know and love.

The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins by Gail Shepherd
Set in 1985 Tennessee , Lyndie B. Hawkins is the daughter of a veteran. Her love of history, especially family history, puts her in direct opposition to her fusspot grandmother who’d rather keep secrets than expose them.

Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Dèja starts fifth grade at a new school with a secret — she and her family are homeless and live in a Brooklyn shetler. But an inspiring teacher leads to new friendships for Dèja, as well as an understanding about the tragic events of 9/11, fifteen years prior, and their lingering impact on her family and community.

Wonder

Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Starting at a brand-new school in fifth grade is hard enough, but for Auggie, born with facial differences that make him stand out, it’s even harder. This lovely and moving novel guides readers to “Choose Kind.”

 

 

 

Back to School: The Teacher-Author Partnership is Thriving

It’s August.

Here’s what Natalie Babbitt had to say about August in the opening lines of Tuck Everlasting:

To me, August is like a breath held for a moment. We’re not quite ready to give up summer. There’s summer left to be savored. And, yet, school bells are starting to ring. A friend in Tennessee tells me that school started yesterday there. Here in western Ohio, it will start in two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve experienced this time of closure and renewal as a mother, a teacher, and as an author, and just lately, I’ve been struck by the number of exciting and innovative ways teachers and authors are teaming up to bring a love of books and a desire to learn to their students and readers. Let’s look at few:

#KidsNeedMentors When author Ann Braden teamed up with fellow author Jarrett Lerner and then with 5th grade teachers Kristen Picone and Kristin Crouch, something magical happened.  Using Twitter as their connection, the foursome created a mentorship campaign that connects a teacher and their class with an author in a year-long exchange of ideas and encouragement. In it’s first year, #KidsNeedMentors will support 300 author/teacher pairs! Click here to read a recent School Library Journal article about the program.

Nerd Camp The original Nerd Camp was held in Michigan six years ago with 180 educators in attendance. Organized by teacher Colby Sharp and his fantastic team, this FREE literacy event has grown to include 1500 educators and over 50 authors. Did you hear me say, it’s FREE?  And it always will be.  Nerd Camp Michigan now receives so much author interest that they have to turn away published authors each year, and most of these authors are volunteering to come on their own dime. (Some receive publisher backing, but most don’t). I can’t think of anything more lovely and genuine than this show of  support for the professionals who teach reading and writing.  Since its inception, Nerd Camps have been popping up all over the United States, borrowing from the model set forth by its originators. If you’d like to know more about starting a Nerd Camp in your area, first, take a look at the Nerd Camp MI website, and then contact Colby Sharp for more information.

Teacher/Librarian Bloggers As an author, I want to stay connected with my readership. And by readership, I mean not just those who read my books, but those who read any middle-grade fiction or nonfiction. It’s good to know their reading habits, but it’s even more important to know about them.  What makes a middle-grader laugh? What are they afraid of? What relationships matter the most?  The best educators are students of their students.  They know them as learners and as human beings navigating their way through life. There are some amazing teacher bloggers out there. If you follow one, share their blog in the comments below. And, I’ll share with you two of my favorite.

First, here’s a link to Pernille Ripp’s Blog. She’s introspective and always evaluating her methods and materials based on her current students. Check it out.

And, another favorite is Matthew Winner’s website and blog. Matthew is an elementary librarian, author, blogger, and podcaster, so his website contains lots of kidlit books, interviews, and information all rolled together into one fun package. See what he’s got to say.

Author Visits Finally, my very favorite way that teachers and authors connect:

School visits!

There’s nothing better than meeting face-to-face with readers, answering their questions (all of their questions, even the personal ones), and hearing their ideas (which are often so brilliant, I can’t wait to see what these young people do when they grow up!) School visits, when done right (which takes communication and planning for both the author or illustrator and the school personnel) can connect children and authors in a very meaningful way. Most of the time, it also means  financial investment on the part of the school, and some schools can’t locate the funds to make that happen. However, with some preplanning, creative funding options, and the use of technology, though, it might be more possible than you think. Here are some links to previous posts about Author Visits.  Face to Face with an Author or Illustrator.   Memorable Author Visits and 21 Ways to Fund Author Visits.

Whether you’re preparing for the Back-to-School season as a parent, a teacher, a librarian, an administrator, an author, or an illustrator, one fact is certain: we’re all connected by the young readers we serve. And, quite frankly, I’ve never been more excited about the ways in which we’re reaching out to one another!