Environmental Disasters

April 26, 2012

I’m back from my wonderful vacation through New England and will have a new post up this Wednesday.  Today, I’m featuring one of my recent books with Rourke.  Take a look at the original post here.

SimplyScience 12-14-11

Filling the Earth withTrash

February 22, 2012

Visit Nonfiction Monday at The Children’s War blog for some more great NF books.

Filling the Earth with Trash

By Jeanne Sturm

Rourke Publishing, 2011

ISBN #9781617411601


Grades 1-3

“We buy food in boxes and bags. Our toys come wrapped in plastic. What do we do with all that trash? Throw it all away?”

Filling the Earth with Trash addresses the question of what do we do with our trash in a simple, straightforward explanation in this book for early science readers. In understandable terms, the book takes the reader from discard to landfill and what happens there. It brings up the questions arising from our increasing amounts of trash and addresses ways we can begin to make changes in our own lives to deal with this problem.

This child-friendly book makes trash interesting and evokes questions about our responsibility about trash. Large, bright photos accent the text and the spreads invite the reader forward. It’s an interesting book and fun to read. Back matter includes a Try This checklist test, glossary, index, and websites.


Plan a way to cut down on the trash you or your household generates. Go through this list and choose 2-3 things you can start doing. Create a chart to document your activities and your success for a week. After a week, see if you can add one more way to reduce your trash.

The NIH has some fun and games for kids here.

Get some more trash facts and activities here and here.

National Science Standards: natural hazards;  human impacts on earth systems

Book provided by Rourke Publishing

Join me on March 7 for Dr. Fred Bortz’s Meltdown Blog Tour. Dr. Fred will write about his path from physicist and work with nuclear reactors to writing for children and young people. It’s a fascinating story.

Here’s the tour schedule:

Spellbinders Monday 3/5/12 plus giveaway Monday 3/19/12

Simply Science Wednesday 3/7/12

USA Science and Engineering Festival Blog (perhaps on Huff Post) Wednesday 3/7/12

Writing with a Broken Tusk March 8
Liz Jones Friday 3/9/12

TFCB Blog Lerner Books Blog 3/12/12

Cynsations Giveaway 3/12/12

The Scientists Behind THE ENVIRONMENT

February 1, 2012

February 3, 2012 STEM FRIDAY

Welcome to STEM FRIDAY! Leave your links and information in the comments and I’ll update throughout the day.

Jeff at NC Teacher Stuff has a review of Step Inside!, a poetry book about animal habitats by Catherine Ham.

Sue at Archimedes Notebook reviews Inside Earthquakes and includes a short interview by author,  Melissa Stewart.

Join Roberta at Growing With Science, where they’re learning all about Desert Tortoises by Elizabeth Black.

Rourke Publishing is featuring  Understanding Biomes by Jeanne Sturm.

Anastasia at Picture Book of the Day has Feeding the Sheep and at Chapter Book of the Day offers Glaciers (Eye to Eye with Endangered Habitats)

Thanks for joining me for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math last FRIDAY. Be sure to check back on March 7 for a special guest post with Fred Bortz, author of Meltdown!

The Scientists Behind the Environment

By Robert Sneddon

Capstone, Heinemann Raintree, 2011

Sci-Hi Series

ISBN:  9781410940469

Grades 6-10 (reading level grade 4)


“We read and hear a lot about the environment in the news. Often we’re told that we should do what we can to protect it. But what do we actually mean by ‘the environment?’ Your environment is everything around you. It includes all the other living things you come into contact with, such as bird, bugs, and your buddies!”

You may recognize the names John Muir, Rachel Carson, and Wangara Maathai. However, James Lovelock, James Hansen, and Vandana Shiva may not be so familiar.

The Scientists Behind the Environment begins with an explanation of the environment and extends it to its broadest form. It continues with a definition of ecology and touts the value of conservation and sustainable development. Then the scientists arrive.

Each of the scientists discussed are introduced and followed with an interesting set of facts, sidebars, and photographs showing their work and contribution to our environment. The book is a fascinating exploration of each persons’ work and addresses common and controversial topics.

This is an excellent book to accompany a study of the environment, pros and cons of ecological actions, biographies, and current events. The layout is reader-friendly and invites a quick perusal or reading for details. It’s the perfect book for strong elementary readers, middle school, and early high school.


Choose one of the lesser known scientists and read a biography about that person or research their contributions. Develops a way to show those contributions and present the information in an interesting manner.

National Science Standards: Application of science, along with the individual fields.

Book provided by Capstone.

Environmental Disasters

December 14, 2011

Environmental Disasters

By Shirley Duke

Rourke, 2012 (available now)

ISBN #978-1-61741-784-9

Grades 4-6


“In 2010 an explosion shattered a quiet April evening in theGulf of Mexico. Flames roared into the air on the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil platform. Startled workers scrambled to escape. Most of them reached safety. Millions of gallons of light crude oil gushed from the site.”

After writing a report on fires in 7th grade, my interest in disasters grew, along with learning the science of them. It’s interesting that I ended up writing this book. It followed Enterprise STEM and Forces and Motion at Work, and it was fascinating to research. I learned much more about our environment and the charge we have to keep it healthy. The most interesting part of writing this book was revisiting the history of some disasters that had happened in my younger days.

Each section in Environmental Disasters relates the situation about how the disaster happened, explains the consequences, and tells what may prevent it in the future. The book opens with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It goes on to discuss solid wastes like those at Love Canal and the problems with plastics and electronic wastes, nuclear meltdowns here, in Chernobyl, and Japan, acid rain, and the ozone. It includes a chart of small changes children can make to get involved in making the Earth safer. Each chapter includes diagrams that illustrate new vocabulary and more details about the processes involved.

The book has bright photographs with captions containing pertinent information not included in the text. It has a glossary, websites, and index, and an about the author section.

Activity 1

Look up information about the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown, the Three Mile Island disaster, and the more recent Japanese reactor problems following the tsunami. Use a Venn diagram to contrast and compare two of those disasters and their results.

Three Mile Island



Activity 2 (easier)

Make a timeline of disasters and display it. Use the book’s information to begin and find others to include.

Find more disasters at this site.

National Science Standards: matter and its interactions; human impacts on Earth systems

A Place for Fish

August 3, 2011

A Place for Fish

By Melissa Stewart

Illustrated by Higgins Bond

Peachtree, 2011

ISBN # 978-1-56145-562-1

Nonfiction picture book

Ages 6-10

 A Place for Fish is the fourth book from Peachtree in this series by Melissa Stewart. The book tells of the environmental threats to fish and how the actions of human affect fish, along with ways people can help stop harmful actions that threaten fish and change them to improve the habitats of fish. Sidebars fill in specific fish information such as how fins help them swim, why certain fish are nearly extinct, and interactions of shelter and how their demise affects fish.

Lush, colorful spreads draw in the reader and show the physical features of the fish in their environments. Inset art with the name of the fish adds more information. The acrylic art is done in the lovely style for which Peachtree is known and provides an up close picture of a variety of fish in their habitats.

This book would make a good introduction to a study of environments, Earth Day, habitats, and interactions of animals in their environments. Read it to introduce children to the importance of human actions on environments and the effect people have on them.

Activity 1

Make a list of the actions people take in the book that harms the environment of fish. Add additional ideas to what young people can do to help keep the environment cleaner for fish.

Activity 2

Look up what one of the fish from the book eats and what eats it. Create a simple food chain to show the importance of their relationship.

 Activity 3

Find out what an invasive species is and read to see how it hurts fish and their environments.

Learn more about oceans and pollution here.

Learn about water pollution at this site.

Here’s a fun coloring activity about fish.

This page has  another  interactive activity.

National Science Standard: organisms and their environment

 Book provided by publisher for Librarian’s Choice book review committee.

The Green Mother Goose

April 27, 2011

The Green Mother Goose

By Jan Peck and David Davis

Illustrated by Carin Berger

Sterling Publishing; Sterling Children’s Books, 2011

ISBN #978-1-4027-6525-4

Picture book

Besides The Green Mother Goose, Jan Peck and David Davis are the authors of many other books for children. I’ve seen their terrific school visit program, too, and it’s a fun one.

“Together we’ll do it—

We’ll help save the Earth,

Our emerald home,

The place of our birth.

Come now, rhyme with me,

Let’s turn our hearts loose,

And fly ‘round the world

With Green Mother Goose.”

This clever, creative book takes a look at classic nursery rhymes and makes them “green.” The suggestions in each rhyme explain or provide ways that everyone can help improve the Earth. Rather than preaching about saving the Earth, the information is available for the taking in a fun-filled, short rhyme that will stay with you. Authors Peck and Davis surely had great fun matching rhymes with green ideas.

The Green Mother Goose is a great book to open dialogue with kids about the Earth, recycling, and what they can do on their own. The rhymes cover the simplest steps, like recycling, to the more complex additions of windmills and solar panel additions. It also opens the discussion of new vocabulary, for the book is rich in terms related to helping the environment.

The whimsical appeal of the art serves to focus and expand on the ideas behind the writing and sets a perfect tone for the book. The cut paper collage comes from “found papers and ephemera.” The book is produced with a “practice what you preach” style mentioned on the credits page.

The Green Mother Goose lends itself to a unit for Earth Day, reading, units on the environment, recycling, story time, and introducing the National Science Standards about organisms and their environments and changes in environments. It would make a fun poetry memorizing unit and a wonderful Reader’s Theater production. I can also see it in a PTA program and school wide presentation produced by the students—especially for Earth Day activities.

It’s delightful to pick up a book and really love it. This is one of those books. It would be an excellent lesson if paired with the original Mother Goose nursery rhymes. What a fun discussion!

 Activity 1

Choose one of the rhymes from the book. Identify the environmental concept from the new rhyme and research it to find more information. Write a paragraph explaining the problem and suggest some ways to help.

Activity 2

Make a list of activities mentioned in the book to help save the Earth. Create a poster suggesting things kids can do to help the environment and Earth. Decorate the poster with cut paper collage similar to the art in the book.

Saving the Earth suggestions

Activities to help

National Geographic’s green tips

National Science Standards: organisms and the environment; changes in environments

Book from my own autographed library collection. Jan and David signed it at TLA!


March 9, 2011

Oil Spills

By Christine A Caputo

Capstone Press, 2011

First Facts

ISBN #9781429666589

Grades 1-3


Today is Nonfiction Monday. See all the  links at Chapter Book of the Day.

“Where does gasoline come from? What is used to make both electricity and plastics? The answer is oil.”

This book introduces early readers to what oil is and its uses, how spills happen and their effects on life and the environment, and how they are cleaned up. Definitions are included on the page where they are used in small inset sections and clear pictures, many of them labeled, and interesting graphics support the text.

In light of the recent Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, this book is timely and is a good way to introduce the subject to young readers in a way they can understand. It has a table of contents, glossary, more reading, Capstone’s fact hound website, and an index. This book would be a good way to start off an environment study or energy study as well as a history topic for young learners.

Activity 1

Do the experiment at the NOAA site. Write up the results and explain how this relates to cleaning the animals covered with oil in an oil spill.

Activity 2

Review how electricity and motor vehicles require using oil. Look up ways to cut down on how much electricity you use. List all the ways you can find. Make posters to remind people about the ways that taking even small steps can help reduce our oil dependence.

Here’s a good source of information about oil spills from the National Wildlife Foundation.

National Science Standard: changes in environments

Book provided by publisher.

Survival at 40 Below

August 18, 2010

Survival at 40 Below

By Debbie S. Miller

Illustrated by Jon Van Zyle

Walker & Company, 2010

ISBN # 9780802798169

Grades 2-5


     “Along the Koyukuk River, towering mountains guard the magnificent valley. Their sheer faces watch the seasons change.

     Click…click…click. Snapping hooves and grumbling voices fill the autumn air. With heads held high, a herd of caribou follows the river through Gates of the Arctic National Park. These regal deer wear new coats of dense fur, with velvet antlers curving toward the sky. Ready for winter, the caribou have gained a thick layer of fat from summer grazing on the tundra.”

The approach of the autumn season begins this story of the animals living in Gates of the Arctic National Park. Busy birds, squirrels, weasels, and deer prepare for the coming frigid winter and the narrative text follows more animals and their adaptations who must ready themselves for the 40 below temperatures. Antifreeze frogs and air gulping fish mix with the animals that hide and hibernate. The return of spring reintroduces the animals now ready to face the return of their activities in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

The writing is beautiful and descriptive and wide, landscape orientation allows for full spreads that show the vast expanse of this land. Endpapers feature a map of Alaska and an inset of the park’s location within Alaska. An author’s note explains her 75 mile trek through the park and what led her to write about these animals that survive the extreme temperatures here. My only complaint is the coloring of the title. It’s a glaring gold and doesn’t seem to fit the beautiful landscape with the caribou on the front. Other than that, the design is gorgeous. The back matter includes a glossary, temperature scale of extremes, and further reading and resources.


Choose one of the animals from the book. Research information and trace the animal’s life cycle. List the adaptations that that animal has to survive the extreme cold.

Learn more about the Gates of the Arctic National Park.

See this park site for kids. There are games and a slide show to watch with some of the animals.

National Science Standards: life cycle of animals; organisms and their environment

Book provided by publisher for Librarian’s Choices at TWU.

31 Ways to Change the World

July 7, 2010

31 Ways to Change the World

By 4,386 children, we are what we do, and YOU!

Candlewick, 2010

Walker Books, London, 2008

ISBN #9780763645069

Ages 8-12


Changing the World

“Changing the world seems like a pretty massive task. Not the sort of thing you squeeze in before breakfast or check off while you’re tying your shoelaces. “Yup, done. Next job!’ Right?

Wrong! It turns out that there’s tons of things you can do that don’t take long at all but that can really change things. Big Things.”

The book’s introduction continues on to give fascinating statistics about lifetime activities that leads to the point that what an individual does can have a huge impact on the world. The premise is that small actions multiplied by lots of people will equal big change. Emphasis on the small things kids can do in a short amount of time fills the introductory spread and is followed by the actions provided by real kids.

The book is kid-friendly and fun to read, whether it’s in order or simply jumping around. Each action fills a two page spread with a short paragraph explaining the action and fun, brightly colored photos that complement the action. A wide variety of actions prompt the reader to get started and everyone can easily find an action that he or she can take to start their own contribution to changing the world. The final action is left open and provides the prompt for the reader to add his or her own action. Then he or she can go to the website and add it to the list, telling the world. The final pages recap the actions and explain more about We Are What We do and what’s next.

I can see a teacher, parent, or librarian reading one action a day and challenging the kids to keep track of the ones they do. This book is fun and can set the tone for educating children about their place and responsibility in their world.

Activity 1

Have each person create a chart of the actions from the book. You may want to set it up with an X and Y axis. Then, as they perform one of the actions, they can place a symbol to show they’ve done that action.

Activity 2

Write actions that you can take to change your world.

Excellent link to a number of educational and support resources for changing the world.

It’s Nonfiction Monday over at Abby (the) Librarian. Check out all the great books at the roundup.

National Science Standard: changes in environment; regulation and behavior

Book provided by publisher for Librarian’s Choices Book Review Committee, TWU

A Coral Reef Food Chain

November 4, 2009


A Coral Reef Food Chain : A Who-Eats-What Adventure in the Caribbean Sea

Follow That Food Chain series

by Rebecca Hogue Wojahn & Donald Wojahn 

Lerner, 2010

ISBN # 0-8225-7611-2

Nonfiction, grades 3-6

“This coral reef lies hidden in the warm, shallow water just off the shore of a Caribbean island. From the beach, waves gently roll over calm water. But duck your head under the waves, and you’ll see an underwater jungle full of life.”

This new food chain book from the series Follow That Food Chain allows the reader to create a food chain by choosing the next link in the food chain and then following that organism to the page listed. This particular book is especially good because it includes so many invertebrates and other varied species that are not well-known to children within the complex ecosystem of a coral reef. Animals such as fan worms, corals, sawfish, parrotfish, moray eels, nudibranchs, and sea urchins are among the consumers, with the producers and well-explained phytoplankton included in the chain information. Decomposers and their job in the chain are also included.

The sidebars add additional sections of information and the value or relationship of some of the organisms are explained. The main text highlights the unfamiliar words that are in the glossary. Bright photos and diagrams of specific connections forming a food web from the chains allow the reader to picture the connections of the organisms they’ve just read about. The book also contains a further reading section, a bibliography, and an index.

I’ve blogged on the temperate forest food chain book in this series, but this one has so many invertebrates I wanted to highlight  it. Food chains are important parts of the science curriculum, and these books provide an excellent way of teaching both organisms and the complex ideas within a food web.

Activity 1

Create your own food chain by following one of your choosing from the book. Make a diagram to show the energy flow.

Activity 2

Look through the book and find the invertebrates. Choose one invertebrate and look it up. Find out in which group it is classified according to the phylum, class, or order. Then find other animals in each group.

For more information about food chains and definitions, see this site.

This site has good information about the energy flow within a food chain.

Lovely coral reef and organism pictures

My previous blog on temperate forests is here. Go to my website and click on links in the toolbar to see my TLA presentation that includes a lesson on food chains.

See another book in the series at Miss Rumphius Effect.

Other books:

Ecosystems – Life in a Coral Reef by Hayley Haugen

Jump Into Science: Coral Reefs by Sylvia Earle

National Science Standard: organisms and environments

 Book provided by Lerner


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