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STEM Tuesday — Astronomy/ Eclipse — Writing Tips & Resources

Astronomy and Poetry

The moon, like a flower
In heaven’s high bower,
With silent delight,
Sits and smiles on the night.

Excerpt from “Night” by William Blake

April is National Poetry month so it’s a natural pairing for STE(A)M Tuesday’s astronomy activity blog. This particular post comes after the eclipse, but we can capitalize on the excitement generated by the event.

What you’ll find in this post is a history of National Poetry Month founded by the Academy of American Poets, a lesson from NASA “Write A Poem About Space.” Then a couple books about poetry and astronomy. Finally some activities that will take curiosity and learning to a new level and help reinforce communication skills.

National Poetry Month

Their website says it was launched by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996, and celebrates poets’ integral role in our culture and that poetry matters. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, K–12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, families, and—of course—poets, marking poetry’s important place in our lives.

https://poets.org/national-poetry-month

You don’t have to be a poet, or even interested in poetry, to use it as a device for writing with kids. Think of it more as allowing the young writers to communicate what they know with excitement and creative expression.

NASA begins their lesson WRITE A POEM ABOUT SPACE by talking about how many of their scientists were inspired by creative works about space.

Painters, musicians, writers and others have long been inspired by space. In ancient times, storytellers looked to the skies, found patterns, or constellations, and created tales about what they saw. Today, there are countless plays, books, songs and other creative works all about space. These works of art have helped inspire many NASA scientists and engineers to pursue their careers in space exploration. And now, their work is inspiring future poets, filmmakers and artists.

The NASA link is below at the end.

NASA JPL logo

Books

Where Did the Sun Go by Janet Cameron Hoult, is a good example of blending science, writing, myth, and poetry. The author has included eclipse stories from around the world and, based on her experiences, described them using poetic form. In addition, it includes illustrations and instructions for making a puppet show based on the stories. Beyond being fun to read, it is a useful resource for parents, teachers, and caregivers who want to have an in-depth, educational, and creative activity for young children. For older children, an enterprising teacher or parent could take it a step further and create a video or animation. Link below to making videos resources.

Where Did the Sun Go? book

Welcome to the Wonder House by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Georgia Heard, and illustrated by Deborah Freedman, includes poetry about astronomy and other science and creativity subjects, enhanced by particularly dreamy illustrations. Besides the relevant content, the colorful page design and imagery is an excellent example for letting creative imagination run free.

Welcome to the Wonder House book

Good writing will always be the Very Best way of communicating any kind of science so giving young people experience in written communication will be a boost to career readiness, no matter where their path leads. Teachers Pay Teachers has many lessons linking science and poetry. Two are listed below. Take a look yourself. They are set up by age group so you can find what you need.

Astronomy poetry resources.

The Academy of American Poets. https://poets.org/materials-teachers

NASA https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/learn/project/write-a-poem-about-space/

Shooting Video to Make Learning Fun. Julie Green (Author) https://bookshop.org/p/books/shooting-video-to-make-learning-fun-julie-green/9504767?ean=9781610802635

Where Did the Sun Go https://bookshop.org/p/books/where-did-the-sun-go-myths-and-legends-of-solar-eclipses-around-the-world-told-with-poetry-and-puppetry-janet-cameron-hoult/12196130?ean=9781432770808

Welcome to the Wonder House https://bookshop.org/p/books/welcome-to-the-wonder-house/18900473?ean=9781635927627

Poetry Templates for Science Writing https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Poetry-Templates-for-Science-Writing-2424654?st=2bcf8791d949fc8f1974a1182c5548ae

SCIENCE POETRY WRITING https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/SCIENCE-POETRY-WRITING-3869139?st=2bcf8791d949fc8f1974a1182c5548ae

Poetry Templates for Science Writing Book
Write a Science Poem book
Shooting Video to Make Learning Fun book

Margo Lemieux is a children’s book author and illustrator who enjoys many different modes of expression. She designed a number of notebook covers which are available on Amazon.

STEM Tuesday — Astronomy/ Eclipse — Book List

This is an active month for sky-watchers. Not only will the “Great North American Eclipse” happen on April 8, but the night sky will feature a comet that you should be able to view without a telescope.

Eclipse Chaser: Science in the Moon’s Shadow (Scientist in the Field) by Ilima Loomis, photos by Amanda Cowan

This is a story about the last “Great North American Eclipse” – August 2017 – and how a science team studies eclipses. Not only do they have to find the best place for observing the event, they have a lot of instruments to set up and test prior to the day. Plus, a bagel production line on the morning of the Big Day.

Casting Shadows: Solar and Lunar Eclipses with The Planetary Society by Bruce Betts

This book uses straightforward language aimed at younger middle grade readers. Beginning with shadows, it then shows how eclipses happen and how you can observe them. One chapter focuses on lunar eclipses and one on solar eclipses.

The Science Behind the Wonders of the Sun: Sun dogs, Lunar Eclipses, and Green Flash by Suzanne Garbe

This is also a lower middle grade text discussing the cause and cycle of sunspots, solar and lunar eclipses, solar winds, flares, and ejections, As well as the reason for, and places to find, the green (and rarer blue) flash. Photo illustrated, it also includes fascinating “fact sidebars,” a link to activities, and critical thinking questions.

Astronomy for Curious Kids: An Illustrated Introduction to the Solar System, Our Galaxy, Space Travel – and More! by Giles Sparrow

This browsable book is divided into six chapters, each highlighting some aspect of astronomy. The first two introduce the study of astronomy and tools astronomers use. Others focus on the solar system, stars, and galaxies. There’s a great spread on eclipses and another showcasing comets, plus a section about life in the universe.

Can’t Get Enough Space Stuff: Fun Facts, Awesome Info, Cool Games, Silly Jokes, and More! by Julie Beer and Stephanie Warren Drimmer (National Geographic)

Another browsable astronomy book with engaging photos, a matching game glossary, space puns and riddles, space guessing games, a plethora of amazing facts, “Rad Records” on planets and astronauts, and lots of activities to try.

Sky Gazing: A Guide to the Moon, Sun, Planets, Stars, Eclipses, Constellations by Meg Thacher

A browsable book, divided into sections that focus on the sky, the moon, the sun, planets, and stars and constellations. Each section includes activities, including how to make a pinhole eclipse-viewer and there is a list of upcoming solar and lunar eclipses through 2030.

Stargazing for Kids: An Introduction to Astronomy by Jonathan Poppele

This handy hand-held guide is a wonderful color introduction to astronomy and the observation and mapping of the night sky. Conversational “What can I see?’ and “How do we know?” sections offer ways to spot the planets, stars, galaxies, and satellites. In addition to mini biographies of scientists and scholars, it offers a detailed sky map and guide for each season.

Asteroid vs Comet by Dr. Marc Kuchner, illustrated by Matt Schu

This book is aimed at younger MG readers, written as a fight match with sections that compare and contrast various properties of asteroids and comets. Who’s heavier? Who’s the fastest? And who will come out the winner? End pages feature named asteroids and comets and back mater gets into more details about comets and asteroids.

Out Of This World: Star-Studded Haiku by Sally M. Walker; illustrated by Matthew Trueman

Yes, there IS a haiku about a solar eclipse (with tiny nibbles / the moon gobbles down the sun …) There are also tiny poems about Saturn’s rings, nebulae, and shooting stars. Plus, wonderful back matter. This book will inspire readers to create their own eclipse (or comet) haiku.

The Day the Universe Exploded my Head: Poems to Take You Into Space and Back Again by Allan Wolf, illustrated by Anna Raff

From a “Solar Sunnet” (sonnet) to a “Poem for Three Meteors,” and a black hole shape poem to “The Children of Astronomy” (with their profiles outlined by stars), whimsical illustrations make learning poetry forms and space facts fun. Includes fun side by side solar and lunar eclipse poems, as well as “Notes on the Poems” with additional scientific facts and information on the various poems.

When the Sun Goes Dark by Andrew Fraknoi, illustrated by Eric Freeberg

This story, published by the National Science Teacher’s Association, uses fiction to introduce young people to the science behind eclipses. It includes some hands-on activities for re-creating eclipses in your living room using a lamp, a tennis ball, and a couple hula hoops.


This month’s STEM Tuesday book list was prepared by:

Sue Heavenrich, author

Sue Heavenrich, who writes about science for children and their families on topics ranging from space to backyard ecology. Bees, flies, squirrel behavior—things she observes in her neighborhood and around her home—inspire her writing. Visit her at www.sueheavenrich.com.

Maria Marshall, a children’s author, blogger, and poet who is passionate about making nature and reading fun for children. When not writing, critiquing, or reading, she watches birds, travels the world, bakes, and hikes. Visit her at www.mariacmarshall.com.

STEM Author Spotlight: Alison Pearce Stevens

I’m delighted to be highlighting some awesome middle grade STEM/STEAM authors on the blog!

The first up is Alison Pearce Stevens. Her new book, Animal Climate Heroes released March 5th. I’ve read the book and it is PERFECT for curious kids.

Here’s a bit more info:

Animal Climate Heroes book

 

Animal Climate Heroes by Alison Pearce Stevens (Author), Jason Ford (Illustrator)

           Godwin Books, March 5, 2024.   BUY it HERE 

 

Summary: In our left corner we have the meanest villain that’s ever existed. Responsible for rising seas and loss of biodiversity, it’s climate change ready to wreak havoc on the Earth. But in our right corner? We have four superheroes ready to save the day!
Forest elephants protect our forests by trampling trees.
Whales boost ocean health with their massive poo-nados.
Sea otters defend kelp forests from purple invaders.
And echidnas bury tons of soil to stop climate change.

But we can’t leave them in this fight alone. We need to protect our heroes who, in return, defend our planet. Get ready to learn all about these four legged, and two-flippered, creatures and how YOU can be a climate hero too!

 

Reviews:

“Along with explaining sometimes complex ecological cycles and patterns in easy-to-understand terms, the author highlights the role of microbes in decomposition, extolling the benefits of composting and leaving autumn leaves on the ground; she even describes the eco-devastation wrought by artificial lawn fertilizers and free-roaming cats. Ford’s engagingly informal ink-and-wash portraits and diagrams generally come with helpful captions and labels.”―Booklist

“Animal Climate Heroes is a captivating exploration of the Earth’s unsung champions in the battle against climate change. In this riveting narrative, author Alison Pearce Stevens introduces readers to four remarkable creatures who stand as mighty defenders of our planet’s delicate ecosystems. Each chapter is masterfully woven together through scientific insight with engaging storytelling, making complex ecological concepts accessible and intriguing for young readers. Not only will readers walk away informed, but they will also be inspired to take action to help safeguard our planet! Animal Climate Heroes truly promises to be an indispensable resource for curious minds eager to make a difference in the world outside their doorstep.”― Melissa Cristina Marquez, author of Mother of Sharks and Wild Survival

“Fun and fascinating! Animal Climate Heroes gives readers an inspiring look at what earth’s creatures are doing to help fight climate change, but also gives us a compelling reminder of just how amazing our planet really is―and why we ought to protect it. This book belongs on every animal lover’s shelf!”―Jess Keating, bestselling author, scientist, & nature artist

 

Alison, thanks for answering a few questions about your book and your writing.

JAS: This is such an intriguing way to approach climate change, how did you come up with it?

APS: During the Covid shutdown, I watched a lot of webinars, and during one of them, the presenter said that her favorite fact was that sea otters help fight climate change. I had also seen an article about the role of great whales in climate, and I knew it was a great angle for a book.

JAS: Can you give us a short explanation of how you relate climate change to animals?

APS: The key is to remove the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Animals don’t do this! But many animals, including the four featured in the book, help boost photosynthesis in trees, plants, and algae. (For anyone who hasn’t thought about photosynthesis in years, plants use the process to combine carbon dioxide and water to make food.) Exactly how the animals boost photosynthesis in their local plants or algae varies by animal and ecosystem, and the book goes into more detail about each one. The gist of it is that these animals are helping photosynthesizers get what they need to grow, whether that’s nutrients, space, or water, and that helps remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.


JAS: Can you give us a sneak peek of one or two of the animals that you highlight?

APS: Absolutely. Sea otters are helping to protect kelp forests. Kelp can literally grow up to two feet a day, and it sucks lots of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to make that happen. Forest elephants tend their forest like gardeners, planting seeds, dropping plenty of fertilizer, and pulling weedy trees. This reduces competition for the massive tree species, so they get enough water and nutrients to flourish. The bigger the tree, the more carbon it stores. Elephants are absolutely essential to maintaining tropical forests in Africa.

JAS: What do you want young readers to get out of your book?

APS: Two things: I want every reader to understand how incredibly important nature is to us. It’s not just about climate (even though that’s all we hear about in the news), it’s about protecting all kinds of natural systems. We need them as much as they need us. And I want everyone to feel empowered to take steps to reduce their impact on the planet. Yes, industries play a huge role in this, but each and every one of us can reduce our personal impact, as well. By taking some of the steps I recommend in the book, people can tread more lightly on Earth and help sway industries to make more sustainable decisions.

JAS: Can you list a few actions that everyone can take to reduce climate change?

APS: Ride a bike instead of driving—or at least turn off the engine instead of idling. Rethink your lawn care practices if you own a home or talk to your landlord about how the property is maintained if you rent and there are green spaces. Most fertilizers are products of the oil industry and applied excessively; they wash downstream along with herbicides and other pesticides. When they reach the ocean, they harm marine life (and there’s good evidence they’re harming us, too). Lawnmowers and leaf blowers release huge amounts of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, so making changes to lawn care practices can go a long way. Even replacing a showerhead with one that’s EPA Water Sense certified can cut your carbon footprint and reduce the amount of water you use. All of those changes save you money, to boot.

JAS: Do you have any tips for writers who want to break into nonfiction children’s books?

APS: Be persistent and work on your craft—attend conferences, workshops and webinars to really learn how successful authors create their stories. And get to know other people in the kidlit community. It’s incredibly supportive, and many of my writing opportunities arose from events I attended and the connections I made while I was there.

JAS: What are you working on now?

APS: I am planning a second research trip for THE WILD MILE. This MG NF will be part of Holiday House’s Books for a Better Earth collection. It features efforts to rewild cities—to re-create lost habitat in an effort to bring wildlife back into the concrete jungle. THE WILD MILE will look at these efforts in general and specifically highlight the Wild Mile project in downtown Chicago.

 

Thanks so much for joining us, Alison. You can learn more about Alison below. 

Alison Pearce Stevens Headshot

Bio: Alison Pearce Stevens has been chased by a trumpeter swan, bitten by a bronze-winged duck, and served as a climbing wall for geckos and baby bats. She used to be a beekeeper and still thinks pollinators are some of the coolest things on the planet. Once upon a time, she was Dr. Stevens, science professor, until life took her overseas, at which point she started writing about science and nature for kids, because she’s an educator at heart and had to find new ways to share cool things with the world’s most curious people.

Alison writes lots of fun nonfiction: articles, picture books, and middle grade books. All of her work is inspired by a love of science and nature. She a regular contributor to Science News Explores, Highlights for Children, ASK, and other kids’ magazines, and has co-authored four books for National Geographic Kids. Rhinos in Nebraska: The Amazing Discovery of the Ashfall Fossil Beds (2021) and Animal Climate Heroes! (2024) were both Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selections. Rhinos also won three Nebraska Book Awards. Detective Dogs are on the Case will release in September 2024.