Posts Tagged water

STEM Tuesday — A River Runs Through It– Writing Tips & Resources



Margo here, working to keep the (A) in STE(A)M. Science purists might think the (A) is unimportant but I’m here to argue that it is Very Important. and I will present reasons why.

For instance, this month’s theme is “rivers.” This week, I have examples of books about rivers that are superior at delivering content to youngsters because of that (A). I selected these books because they are perfect examples of using (A) – creativity in BOOK DESIGN that makes the content easier to understand and enjoy. Remember the spoonful of sugar? Plus having students make their own books is the perfect way to evaluate their learning and understanding of the subject matter (more on that below).

The first book is World Without Fish by Mark Kurlansky, illustrated by Frank Stockton. Take a look at this page. The book designer has made the page speak by using color, type design, and compositional tricks. Let’s back up a bit.

In the study of art, you will find that “art” has three components: subject, form, and content. Subject is, well – what it’s about. Subject in a painting might be an apple, in a book – rivers. Content is deeper meaning – the deeper meaning of the apple might be hunger depending how the apple is portrayed. In the book, content could be environmental impact. And form refers to the physical aspects, such as medium (paint or pencil) or such observable concepts as composition and color. Book design comes under the component of form. I argue that appropriate and creative FORM enhances the subject and content. And that (A) art is an essential ingredient in STE(A)M.

In World Without Fish, the subject is of course fish. The content is what is happening to fish, the impact of fishing, and possible solutions to maintaining the oceans environmentally and economically. Now this might be exciting to read just the text, but to some students, it might not. So the publishing team has taken creativity to the form – the book and type design, the colors, the styles and size – to make a book where the content fairly jumps off the page and engages young readers with energy. It includes a comic series that appears at regular intervals throughout the book. So we have the art of “visual narrative” to further the content and engage all types of learners.

The illustrations and creative use of type all serve to draw the reader in.


The next book, Explore Rivers and Ponds, by Carla Mooney, illustrated by Bryan Stone, is an activity book with more examples of creative arrangement of content. The design makes the material easier to understand. It’s almost conversational. It pauses to explain vocabulary and includes activities such as ‘bark rubbing,” which looked like a great active art project for getting kids out into nature and interacting directly with the environment. It’s an activity that requires no “art” experience and can produce some great drawings.






One of my favorite activities with students is making books. It offers a creative and very satisfying way for students to “show off” what they have learned. Let the students try their hand at creative book design. A very friendly and ecologically conscious guide to making books with kids is Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord’s Handmade Books for A Healthy Planet. An enthusiastic environmental artist, she offers many ideas for book projects. Visit her website for many free activities or visit her YouTube channel.


A project I did with university students requires publishing software skills, but it’s a great project that combines research, writing, collaboration, proper citing of sources, and, of course, art, and can be scaled down for younger children. I partnered with Dr, Esther Pearson, a member of the Echota Cherokee Tribe and we produced a coloring book called “Native American Lore.” The students did the research and artwork and had the satisfaction of seeing their work in print. We presented it at an educational symposium and proceeds are donated to a non-profit that provides school expenses for the children of migrant workers in Veracruz, Mexico. The students had an amazing sense of accomplishment to see their research and artwork out in the world. This would be great for science topics and promote teamwork and cooperation. You can still find our book on Amazon.





Please don’t think because you are not an artist, you can’t work (A) into STEM projects. You will find your students have a good sense of art and many will be delighted to help plan. There are plenty of resources such as Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord’s book, and you may find you have more (A) in you than you realize.


Books can be found here:

World Without Fish by Mark Kurlansky, Frank Stockton (Illustrator) ISBN-13: 9780761185000, Publisher: Workman Publishing Company.

Explore Rivers and Ponds! Carla Mooney (Author) Bryan Stone (Illustrator) 9781936749805. Nomad Press (VT)

Handmade Books for a Healthy Planet – Sixteen Earth-Friendly Projects From Around The World, Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord, ISBN-10: 0984231900,

Native American Lore An Educational Coloring Book: Class Research Project Paperback – November 5, 2018 by Dr. Esther Pearson (Author), Margo Lemieux (Author), Riverside Studios Publishing, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1731183933 .

Kaleidoscope for Kids



Margo Lemieux is professor emerita at Lasell University, former regional advisor for SCBWI New England, and a lifelong learner. Her publishing credits include picture books, poetry, articles, and illustration. Her latest publishing project is an anthology with her writers’ group, the Magic Storymakers, titled Kaleidoscope for Kids.



STEM Tuesday — A River Runs Through It– In the Classroom


River systems are an essential part of Earth’s ecosystems. Rivers provide water and habitats for animals and plants. Their flowing waters are a source of transportation and power for the communities that live nearby. Rivers are even a place for celebrations, festivals, and recreational activity. Life would not be the same without rivers.

A River’s Impact

Rivers have shaped life all over the world. Students can explore the impact some famous rivers have had in these books:

Ten Rivers That Shaped the World  by Marilee Peters, illustrated by Kim Rosen

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgAs the rivers of our world twist and turn, they also mold our history. Readers can take a metaphorical dive into 10 fascinating rivers that shaped our lives and learn fun facts along the way such as why people in India have gathered to bathe in the Ganges for thousands of years. The book shows readers that rivers can be extraordinarily powerful, not simply because of their fast-flowing currents, but because of their ability to make civilizations rise or crumble. Through a colorful and engaging layout, this book teaches both geography and world history.

Where is the Mississippi River? by Dina Anastasio, illustrated by Ted Hammond

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgPart of the popular Where Is? series, this chapter book traces the history of the Mississippi River from its formation during the Ice Age into the present day. Over time, the “mighty Mississippi” has been a home for wetland wildlife, an important route for trade and military campaigns, and an inspiration for classic literature. Engineering connections are embedded into a section about flooding disasters and various efforts to design flood-prevention structures like levees and spillways.


Great Rivers of the World by Volker Mehnert, illustrated by Martin Haake

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThis gorgeous atlas travels down 17 rivers in six continents, from the Rhine in Europe to the Murray in Australia. Each river is introduced with a full-page map, a short narrative, and  fascinating facts about its history and ecology. With eye-popping icons of landmarks, animals, plants, and people, readers will always find more to discover and explore.


Activity #1

What rivers are closest to where you live? Identify and research a nearby river. What impact has the river had on the local community? What is the river’s history? How was it used in the past? How does that compare to how it is used today? What industries rely on the river? What problems are associated with the river? How can these problems be solved? Present what you have learned.

Activity #2

Rivers are full of plant and animal life. Plants provide food and shelter for many animals. Some animals and plants live under the water, while others live on the water’s surface. Other animals and plants live on riverbanks near the water. What animals and plants live in the river near you? Take a fieldtrip to the river and see how many different plants, animals, and insects you can find. How does each fit into the river’s ecosystem?

Healthy Rivers

A healthy river is essential for the communities and ecosystems that rely on it. Students can learn about efforts to conserve water and improve the health of our waterways in these books.

Going Blue: A Teen Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers & Wetlands by Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A. and Philippe Cousteau with EarthEcho International

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgWritten in conjunction with ocean spokesperson Philippe Cousteau, grandson of the illustrious Captain Jacques Cousteau, this call-to-action book is both interesting and commendable for its well-researched content. The book educates readers about the earth’s water crisis and gives them tangible tools and inspiration to transform their ideas into action. This includes practical suggestions they can implement today in order to benefit our planet’s water system. The content is not only theoretical but also experience based, as it shows readers of the value of community service. The book also includes many stories, interviews, and resources on the topic

My River: Cleaning up the Lahave River by Stella Bowles and Anne Laurel Carter

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThis engaging book tells the story of Stella Bowles, a sixth grade Nova Scotia student who became an environmental activist. She focused her science fair project on her campaign against sewage pipes draining straight into the LaHave River. She doggedly advocated for all three levels of government (municipal, provincial, and federal) to step up and do something about the issue, and after fighting for two and a half years, she succeeded in rallying supporters into funding a $15.7 million cleanup. This is an excellent book about not only environmental activism but also having the courage to stand up and speak out when you see something that isn’t right.

Activity #3

What steps can you take to improve the health of rivers in your community? Investigate existing river health efforts in your community and see how you can volunteer. Many communities have groups that work together to clean and restore river ecosystems. Joining one of these teams will give you a chance to see how one person can make a difference in local rivers. What other changes in daily life can you make to protect river health? Brainstorm ways to conserve water, reduce water pollution, and more.



Carla Mooney loves to explore the world around us and discover the details about how it works. An award-winning author of numerous nonfiction science books for kids and teens, she hopes to spark a healthy curiosity and love of science in today’s young people. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, three kids, and dog. When not writing, she can often be spotted at a hockey rink for one of her kids’ games. Find her at, on Facebook @carlamooneyauthor, or on Twitter @carlawrites.

When the World Runs Dry: Author Interview + Giveaway

When I saw the topic for this book, I was excited to read it. I recently began seeking out books on sustainability as it is a personal interest of mine. I expected that When the World Runs Dry would be solely about drought. I didn’t realize how little I knew about the many ways our water can become unusable.

When the World Runs Dry touches on so many different water-related issues that have occurred throughout the United States and the world. It also shares personal stories of those affected and their efforts to help their community get back their clean water source. I got a chance to learn more with author Nancy F. Castaldo just in time for World Water Day, March 22.


About the Book

Hi Nancy! Thank you for sharing When the World Runs Dry with me. Can you give us a short summary about this nonfiction book?

Hello! Happy to be here to discuss WHEN THE WORLD RUNS DRY.  Like me, and my readers, you’ve probably seen stories in the news about water quality and quantity. They seem to be everywhere. My latest book addresses those stories and provides readers with ways to help preserve and protect this precious natural resource. After all, WATER IS LIFE!


When did the come out?

The book hit bookstore shelves in January!


What is your personal connection to this topic?

Well, I need water to live, just like every other organism on our planet. I also was fortunate to have a mom who taught me that my voice mattered as she worked to keep our water supply healthy when I was a kid. We all should be concerned about keeping our water available and clean. Global water issues impact everyone.


About the Author

Tell us about you. Did you read a lot of nonfiction as a child?

I read everything – Nancy Drew mysteries, fables and folktales, and nonfiction. I can still picture my elementary school library’s nonfiction shelves. I loved poring over biographies about women. Marie Curie was a favorite. But even before I could read, I loved hearing my parents read nonfiction books and poetry to me.

It’s always so fun to see authors as kids!

Who are some of your favorite authors?

On the adult side, I am greatly inspired by Rachel Carson. When I talk about kidlit, I love so many of the books by my nonfiction author friends, including Patricia Newman, Deborah Heiligman, and so many others. I also love reading the poetry of Jeannine Atkins, Margarita Engle, and Joyce Sidman.

You mentioned tagging along with your mom when she petitioned in the neighborhood. At the time, did you understand the significance?

My mom was also my Girl Scout leader. She was a huge force in my life and for the girls in our troop. Yes, I was old enough to understand. My mom also brought me with her when she served as a US census taker. These experiences opened my eyes to the world around me.



Did you travel to the locations mentioned in your book for research?

I was fortunate to be able to visit most of them. You’ll see my photos throughout the book from Flint, Tucson, California, Venice, Colorado, Hoosick, and New Hampshire. Speaking firsthand with people in these communities was essential for me.


Did you write a proposal on this topic for submission? If not, how did it come to be?

Yes, all my nonfiction books begin with a proposal that includes fragments of my research.


Have you made any changes in your own life as a result of your research?

While I was already aware of how I could conserve water in my own home, researching this book did change my shopping behaviors. I strive to use less energy and less plastic. I shop less for clothes and pay attention to the bathing and cleaning products I flush down the drain. In addition, my interest and activism in environmental justice issues increased.


You are the author of many nature/nonfiction books for all ages. What is your favorite age to write for?

I can honestly say I don’t have a favorite age to write for. Each story dictates the genre and age. For me, story comes first.


Information On Water

I loved your analogy comparing straws in a milkshake to too many people trying to access clean water. Can you explain?

If you’ve watched the movie There Will Be Blood, you might remember hearing Daniel Day-Lewis using the straws-in-the-milkshake analogy to describe underground reserves of oil. Like oil, water reserves also run underground under communities and homes. I borrowed that analogy to describe the pipes leading from these groundwater supplies to our homes, business, and schools.


What are the easiest changes people can make in their life?

In the book, I’ve included many ways that we can help preserve and protect our water resources. A great first step is to find out about your own water supply. Where does your water originate? Is it treated in any way? What might impact it? Knowing more about your own water will help determine the best way to protect it.

I hope that teachers and readers will find lots of ways to help in the last chapter of WHEN THE WORLD RUNS DRY. In addition, the Resources section will then point them to books to read, hashtags to follow, and videos to watch to provide jumping off points to more learning. I hope teachers will take a look.


Information for Teachers

I hadn’t heard about the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. Can you tell us a bit more about this and how teachers can involve their students?

It’s a fantastic opportunity for curious, budding scientists and inventors. I was so impressed with the winning water-based inventions and was happy to include a couple in WHEN THE WORLD RUNS DRY. Teachers can find out more about it at


Are you doing school visits related to this book? Tell us more!

Yes, I have been doing virtual visits throughout the United States for middle school and high school grades. I’ve loved hearing so many insightful questions from my readers.


Do you have a curriculum guide or discussion questions posted online?

Teachers can explore my recent LitLinks post on Patricia Newman’s blog to find an activity about drinking water for their students.


How can we learn more about you?

Readers and educators can learn about me and my books from my website,  Instagram at or follow me on  Twitter @NCastaldoAuthor.


Thank you for your time. This is such an important topic, and you did a great job breaking it down for your readers.

Thank you! One of my favorite quotes came from an Audubon magazine review: WHEN THE WORLD RUNS DRY is the book to read “if you want to go from depressed to fired-up and ready for action.” I’m hoping my readers feel the same way.

Nancy F. Castaldo will be giving a copy of When the World Runs Dry to a lucky reader. Enter the giveaway below for a chance to win a copy. (U.S. addresses only)

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