Posts Tagged writers

STEM Tuesday: Snow and Ice– In the Classroom

What can we learn by studying ice and snow? From chemistry to poetry, try these classroom activities to get your students excited about the cold!


Mission: Arctic: A Scientifc Adventure to a Changing North Pole: Weiss-Tuider, Katharina, Schneider, Christian: 9781771649568: BooksMission: Arctic: A Scientific Adventure to a Changing North Pole

by Katharina Weiss-Tuider and Christian Schneider


Until now, the world of the Arctic was a mystery. This guide follows the 2019 MOSAiC expedition whose mission was to let their vessel freeze in the sea ice and drift to the north pole. Why? To study how the Arctic is changing. Featuring photographs, facts, diagrams and more; the thrilling world of the Arctic will come alive as readers discover its secrets.


Student Activity

The MOSAic expedition site has a whole list of educational activities for elementary to high school students. They can learn more about the Arctic ecosystem, make ice cores, and much more. Find the entire list here: Also check out educational resources about the expedition here:




What Was the Ice Age? by Nico Medina and Who HQ

What Was the Ice Age?

by Nico Medina

A part of the “What Was” series, this book is a look at our world 20,000 years ago when glaciers and ice covered most of our planet.


Student Activity

All kinds of interesting mammals lived during the Ice Age. Have students research some of their favorites. Here are some ideas: woolly mammoths, saber-toothed cats, giant ground sloths, and Irish elk. Have them create diagrams of their ice-age mammal, drawing pictures of them, labeling different parts, and including facts when they can. Here are a few sites where students can find more information about their favorite ice-age mammals:



Out of the Ice: How Climate Change Is Revealing the Past: Eamer, Claire, Shannon, Drew: 9781771387316: Books

Out of the Ice: How Climate Change Is Revealing the Past

by Claire Eamer and Drew Shannon

A fascinating look into how unexpected things have been emerging from ice melting due to global warming. The book  discusses glacial archaeology, a scientific field in which researchers study these finds and discover new things about our past.


Student Activity

Ice mummies are revealed when ancient ice melts. And there is so much we can discover about their lives by studying their remains. Ask students to read more about an ice mummy, such as Ötzi the iceman, and then write a story about a day in the life of that person. Tell students to include factual information in their narratives, citing their sources.


Ice! Poems About Polar Life Book Review and Ratings by Kids - Douglas Florian

Ice! Poems About Polar Life

by Douglas Florian

With poetry, wordplay and lots of humor, poet Douglas Florian introduces children to animals that live in the polar region, and also explores scientific concepts like global warming, animal adaptations, and much more.


Student Activity

Take a look at a different part of the cold—snowflakes. Show students some macro photographs of snowflakes, explaining how each is unique. Have students pick a favorite and write a poem about its shape and form. The Library of Congress has some great resources for students.




Karen Latchana Kenney loves to write books about animals, and looks for them wherever she goes—from leafcutter ants trailing through the Amazon rain forest in Guyana, where she was born, to puffins in cliff-side burrows on the Irish island of Skellig Michael. She especially enjoys creating books about nature, biodiversity, conservation, and groundbreaking scientific discoveries—but also writes about civil rights, astronomy, historical moments, and many other topics. Visit her at

STEM Tuesday– Evolution– Writing Tips & Resources

The Gift of New Writing Approaches

It’s the holiday season, and soon we’ll usher in a whole new year. It’s a time filled with family and friends (hopefully), good food, and gift-giving. This year, as my present to you, I want to discuss the gift of trying new approaches with our writing (CCSS ELA Writing Standard 5).

This month’s book list contains an irresistible assortment of approaches to the same topic of Evolution. Skim the list, and you’ll find:

  • A graphic novel – Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth by Jay Hosler, illustrated by Kevin and Zander Cannon
  • A modernized primary source – Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” adapted by Rebecca Stefoff
  • Evolution told through the lens of a single species (humans) – How to Build a Human by Pamela Turner, illustrated by John Gurche
  • A hands-on book loaded with activities – Evolution: How Life Adapts to a Changing Environment with 25 Projects by Carla Mooney, illustrated by Alexis Cornell
  • A biography – One Beetle Too Many: Candlewick Biographies: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwinby Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Matthew Trueman
  • A narrative focused on a relationship (the Darwin’s marriage) – Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman
  • A narrative focused on an event – The Monkey Trial: John Scopes and the Battle over Teaching Evolution by Anita Sanchez (to be released in March 2023)

As writers, part of the revision process requires us asking if we’ve accomplished the goals we had for our writing.  Did we make the point we wanted to make? Will our readers understand the story we are telling and the information we share? If not, could a new approach help?

Techniques to try

If you’re feeling stuck, try some of these techniques:

  • Flip the format: If you’ve written an informational or narrative piece could you add images and turn it into a comic?
  • Narrow your focus: If you’ve written a broad overview of a topic, what would happen if you rewrote your piece using a different lens focused on a single person, place, or thing?
  • Rethink your main character: Any person, place, thing, or event could be the center of a narrative. If you’ve focused on a person, could you refocus on an event or a relationship instead?

As writers, a flexible approach to our writing is key, especially when something’s not working. So give yourself a gift this holiday season – the freedom to try something new.

One more parting gift

If you’re looking for another way to reenergize your writing as we approach the New Year, you might try Julie Hedlund’s 12 Days of Christmas for Writers, which begins Dec. 26. Teachers, you can sign up for the daily emails here and share the process with your students after break.

Per Julie’s site, the 12 Days of Christmas gives writers:

  • Exercises to evaluate and integrate their previous writing year so they are ready for the new one.
  • Tools to illuminate successes in order to go even further in their writing.
  • Inspriation for how to write through tough times.

I go through this process each and every year and love what it does for my writing life.

Wishing you and yours a safe and healthy holiday season!

STEM Tuesday– Evolution– In the Classroom

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and discovery of natural selection changed the way people viewed themselves and the world around them. The idea that organisms adapt over time to survive in their environment was groundbreaking. It contradicted what people had always assumed to be true. Many incredible books have been written to help students understand the importance of this discovery and how it influences our understanding of the world today. These books can be used as a springboard for classroom discussions and activities.


cover of the book "One Beetle Too Many," featuring an illustration of Charles Darwin peeking through leaves at insects

One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin by Kathryn Lasky and Matthew Trueman

This book does an excellent job of making Charles Darwin relatable to young readers. He was a child who loved all type of creatures, including insects and worms. He loved being outside and took great pride in his collections. Kids may see that they aren’t too different from Darwin, and that will keep them engaged throughout the entire book. The illustrations complement the text perfectly, and students will want to look closely to take in all the details.





Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman

Many biographies of Charles Darwin focus on his research and his time spent on the HMS Beagle. Charles and Emma, however, starts after that adventure is already over, when Charles is trying to decide if he should get married. The relationship between Charles and Emma was a loving one, but she, like many others at the time, had trouble accepting his Theory of Evolution. It completely contradicted peoples’ religious beliefs. This book explores Charles and Emma’s relationship and how that impacted his thinking and his work. Young readers will view Darwin through a different lens.





cover of the book "Evolution" featuring a multicolored chameleon on white background

Evolution: How Life Adapts to a Changing Environment with 25 Projects by Carla Mooney and Alexis Cornell

In this book, STEM Tuesday’s own Carla Mooney makes evolution accessible to middle grade readers. She clearly explains what it is, how we think it works, and how this ongoing process will affect the future of our planet. The thought provoking essential questions and subsequent activities give students hands on opportunities to discover how and why animal adaptations occur.

The following two activities were taken directly from this book and are ones I think students will especially enjoy.



Activity 1 – Create Your Own Animal

In this activity, students will create their own animal with useful adaptations. They will begin by considering the following questions.

  • Where does the animal live?
  • How much water is in the area?
  • What is the climate and weather like in this location?
  • What does the animal eat? What predators threaten the animal?

Using these details, students will create their animal. What does it look like? How does it behave? Have them write a paragraph describing their animal and its behaviors. Draw a picture of the animal. What adaptations does the animal have to help it better survive in its environment?

Now try this: Have students design another environment. Imagine their animal in the new environment. What features are useful for the animal in the new environment? What features are not helpful? If the animal stays in the new environment, what new adaptations do you predict will arise during many generations. Why?


Activity 2 – Darwin’s Finches

In this activity, students will demonstrate how different adaptations can help different birds collect food.

  1. Gather several objects that represent different types of seeds a bird might encounter, including large seeds, small seeds, dried beans, rice. etc.
  2. Find or design several “tools” that they can use to pick up the seeds. Ideas include forks, spoons, knives, chopsticks, tweezers, and straws. Students can also build their own tools.
  3. Using each tool, attempt to pick up each type of seed. Which tool works the best? What type of seed is the easiest to collect? Which tool is the least effective? Which seed is the hardest to collect? Do some tools work better with certain seeds and not others?

Now try this: Students will demonstrate the process of evolution by natural selection using the seeds and the tools. Using only one type of food, assign each of the tools to the students. Set a time limit and see how many they can collect with their assigned tool. After the time has expired, see which tools have collected the most food. Those that did not collect enough food will die out and be replaced by the top-performing tools. Have students repeat this process several times. What happens to the tools in the population? What was the role of natural selection in the outcome?


Peppered Moth Simulation

In this online game, students will see how camouflage protects moths through the eyes of a predator. Click here to access the game.


Speciation Video

Further explore the idea of speciation by having students watch this video from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Click here to access the video.


Hopefully, these books and activities will help students understand the Theory of Evolution and how it influences our understanding of the world today.



Jenna Grodziki

Jenna Grodzicki is the author of more than twenty fiction and nonfiction children’s books. Her books include Wild Style: Amazing Animal Adornments (Millbrook Press 2020) and I See Sea Food: Sea Creatures That Look Like Food (Millbrook Press 2019), the winner of the 2020 Connecticut Book Award in the Young Readers Nonfiction Category. Jenna lives near the beach with her husband and two children. In addition to being a writer, she is also a library media specialist at a K-4 school. To learn more, visit her website at