Posts Tagged ecosystem

STEM Tuesday — Ecosystem Recovery– Writing Tips & Resources

STEM Tuesday – Ecosystem Recovery

Visual information is everywhere we look. Think about the bright red, octagonal stop sign the traffic guard holds. Everyone knows at a glance that means stop! Or, look at a set of assembly instructions for a desk or a LEGO set. They rely on pictures and few if any words to explain how to put things together.

Graphics are an important part of informational writing. Sometimes a graphic (a picture only or a combination of words and pictures) is a better choice than words alone.

This month, we’ll focus on reading, understanding, and creating info graphics, using mentor texts from this month’s book list. As they say, sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

Comparisons

graphic of a burmese python's diet

First, let’s look at the Burmese Python Diet info graphic from Kate Messner’s TRACKING PYTHONS. The graphic itself uses hardly any words. Yet you can immediately see the devastating effect this non-native animal has on native species in Florida. Just look at all that it eats! That’s one hungry python.

Now imagine if Messner had chosen instead to convey this information using only words: 72 mice, 30 cotton rats, 15 rabbits, etc. It doesn’t have nearly the impact. Plus, it’s boring to read. In situations like these, graphics are a great choice.

Step-by-Step Processes

Trying to explain ocean acidification? What about how telemetry works? You can use graphics to break down complicated step-by-step processes. We have two great examples from this month’s book list: an ocean acidification graphic from Patricia Newman’s PLANET OCEAN and the telemetry graphic from Messner’s PYTHONS.

Ocean acidification graphic

This is an image of how telemetry works

Unlike the previous, wordless graphic, these use a combination of words and pictures to help us understand what’s going on.

To understand the impact of the pictures, cover them up, and look only at the words. Or you could even try typing them out into a document. How well do you understand what’s going on? Now uncover the pictures and “read” them. How do the images aid your understanding?

If you are explaining a step-by-step process in your writing, consider whether a graphic could help.

Descriptions/Labeled Diagrams

Like the step-by-step graphics above, labeled diagrams combine text and images. Let’s study this adorable otter graphic from Patricia Newman’s SEA OTTER HEROES.

This is a labeled graphic of a sea otter.What information do the text boxes provide on their own? Imagine if there was no picture of the otter at all, and this information was conveyed in writing only. Would it work? How does the image of the otter add to your understanding of how the otter is built to hunt?

If a reader isn’t familiar with an otter, it would be difficult for them to call to mind what an otter’s ears or whiskers look like. And even if they had seen an otter, their memory might be inaccurate. A picture ensures the reader gets all the information they need, both what the otter’s features look like and how they are used to hunt.

Your Turn

Now it’s time to put what we’ve learned into practice. Have students read through a piece of their own informational writing and identify an area where a graphic might help their audience gain a better understanding. It might be a comparison, a step-by-step process, a description like the otter, or something else.

Next, have them create the infographic. They can draw something by hand or use online tools like Google Slides to arrange photos, clip art, arrows, text boxes, or more.

Finally, have students inert their graphic, and then revise their text accordingly.

headshot of Kirsten W. LarsonKirsten W. Larson used to work with rocket scientists at NASA and now writes about women in science and much more. Her books include the WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane, illus. Tracy Subisak and A TRUE WONDER: The Comic Book Hero Who Changed Everything, illus. Katy Wu. Learn more at kirsten-w-larson.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