I learned quite a bit about reptiles this month by reading the following books from the book list.
World’s Biggest Reptiles by Tom Jackson, illustrated by Vladimir Jevtic
Many different reptiles are represented in this book, representing the biggest of the species. It includes lots of information and fun facts, represented in fun, accessible ways. Each reptile featured has a graphic novel style page and a page with a large photograph and general information. Each also includes an infographic showing the animal’s size relative to an adult human. (One nitpick on the infographic is it’s not clear what size the human is.)
Sneed B Collard III’s Most Fun Book Ever About Lizards by Sneed B. Collard III
This book focuses on (surprise!) lizards. It highlights a few specific species, but is written to give more general information about lizards. It has chapters with titles like “Eating Like a Lizard” and “Lizard Troubles.” The tone is very conversational and fun to read, although some of the references may be a little dated.
Sea Turtles are Awesome by Mirella S. Miller
Since turtles are my favorite reptile, I had to read this book! Like all 12-Story Library books, this one has 12 chapters that can be read in any order. There are lots of great photos and fun facts about sea turtles throughout the book.
So what can you do with these books? Here are a few ideas I had…
Check Out the Locals
Research what reptiles you might see in your backyard or local park. Most states have websites with information about the reptiles (and other animals) that can be found there.
This can be a great exercise for entering search parameters into an internet search and evaluating the sources it recommends.
When I enter “New Jersey reptiles” into my search engine, the first four recommended sites are provided by the state of New Jersey, which includes the Division of Fish & Wildlife. Of these, one of my favorite sites is the “Online Field Guide for Reptiles and Amphibians.” Each NJ herp (reptile or amphibian) has a printable fact sheet.
To take this a step further, visit a local park where you might be able to view some of the local reptiles.
Each of the books I read talked about the size and speed of different reptiles. This could become a fun and informative activity.
Pick a reptile to do some comparisons on. How long is it? How heavy? How fast does it move? This could come from the books on this month’s list or from research done on local (or other) reptiles.
Once you have the information on your reptile, you need to find things for comparison. Here are some to try:
Bigger than a _____________________.
Smaller than a ____________________.
Faster than a _____________________.
Slower than a _____________________.
These will be based on a number that came from somewhere. That means it should include a source citation. Explore what makes a source credible and see if you can find multiple sources for each fact. You can also practice how to create a bibliography and/or source notes.
Lots of zoos and aquariums have great resources for researching the animals they have there. Another great resource for animal information is the Animal Diversity Web, produced by the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.
To explore representing information, create infographics that show the relative size and speed of the all the things used in the comparisons.
Participate in the Tour de Turtles
Since 2008, the Sea Turtle Conservancy has been running the Tour de Turtles. Through it, they hope to educate people about sea turtles, how they migrate, and what dangers they face. There is a page dedicated to Teacher Resources, and another for Activities. I love exploring the different turtles and where their travels have been taking them.
In addition to exploring the resources on this web site, you could hold your own Tour de Turtles or Tour de Reptiles. Organize a charity walk/run to raise money for a sea turtle organization like the Sea Turtle Conservancy or other organization that supports turtles and/or reptiles. (This could include organizations that protect lots of different wildlife, like the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ.) To add more education into this exercise, have each participant pick a type of turtle or reptile to research and represent.
Explore Turtle Symbolism
Years ago, we met Native American artist Eli Thomas and bought a print about Turtle Island. It still hangs on our wall, and I still think about the symbolism embedded in it. (You can see the print and read about the symbolism here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/483429848/turtle-art-native-american-art-wolf-art)
Explore how indigenous people view turtles. Here are a few interesting resources.
The Native American Box Turtle Connection – https://www.stlzoo.org/about/blog/2016/10/13/native-american-box-turtle-connection
From Voices of Indian Country: https://blog.nativehope.org/native-american-animals-turtle-keya
Read and explore Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back by Joseph Buchac and Jonathan London, illustrated by Thomas Locker
Then check out these additional resources:
I hope these ideas have inspired you to incorporate these books (and the subject of reptiles) into your plans.
Janet Slingerland has written more than 20 nonfiction books for children. She even got to write about sea turtles in 12 Epic Animal Adventures. When she’s not writing, Janet can often be found exploring the world in her own backyard (which sometimes includes turtles!). For more information about Janet, check out her website at http://janetsbooks.com.