Archive for Cycles

How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate: Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming

How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate:

Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming

By Lynne Cherry and Gary Braasch,

with a foreword by Prof. David Sobel

non-fiction

Climate change can be a very scary thing to learn about (I picture Ivy and Bean slumped on a bench feeling sad about polar bears), but this non-fiction book presents the information in an action-centered way. Each of the beginning sections consists of two colorful pages that discuss the ways in which the changing world of birds, frogs, butterflies, flowers, etc. show us how climate change is affecting the Earth.

The great thing about these chapters is not necessarily the scientific data, or even the explanation of the incredible inter-connectedness of our world, but rather the citizen science projects that come from the hands of students all over the world. The book discusses students who participate in butterfly or bird migration, frog monitoring, or flower-bud monitoring projects. Students from Vermont are featured, on more than one occasion, as they work to collect data and create positive change in the world. Most importantly, the ideas that everyone can help collect data about climate change and help in concrete ways to slow climate change are pervasive. Be surprised if you’re not inspired to take a look at Journey North or BirdSleuth to see what you can do to be a citizen scientist too!

While middle chapters may be overly complicated for some, especially younger, students, readers can feel free to pick and choose chapters. Just make sure not to miss the list near the end of the book that reminds us of things people can do to help slow climate change or (my favorite) the wealth of great resources listed in the back!

Environmental writer Lynne Cherry (The Great Kapok Tree, A River Ran Wild) and photojournalist Gary Braasch have teamed up to offer an accessible look at science, climate change, the things we can do to learn more and, most importantly, help.

Curriculum Connections:

So many connections can be made with this book!  Consider having your students participate in a citizen-science project that connects with your science curriculum and use this book to show your students how kids are making a difference all over the world.  When talking about environmental problems, use this book to demonstrate the negative changes that are happening, but also to address the work that is being done to curtail the damage being caused.  Scientists make a difference, and student scientists can make a difference too. The scientific process is laid out here and can be a real-world example of how it is used outside of the classroom.

For a math and social justice connection, have students take a look at local data  in their school, community, or state.  How can we understand what is happening by looking at charts, graphs, and numbers.  What kinds of things change over time?  Is there environmental data for your community?  If not, should there be?  This book may just be one connection to understanding data.  Take a look at community demographics and see how they have changed over time.  What can this tell us about changes that might need to be made (i.e. more English language classes, a more wide-spread public transportation system, etc.)?  What can your school do to help address these needs, whether environmental or social?

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The Garden of Happiness

The Garden of Happiness

By Erika Tamar

picture book

    Marisol lives on a New York City block that has an empty, garbage filled lot nearby.  One morning in April, Marisol sees members of the community clearing it out.  They tell her that they are making a garden, and Marisol decides she wants to plant something too.  The garden plots have all been taken, but outside the fence she finds a tiny patch of ground where the sidewalk has cracked.  She picks up a seed from the pigeons and plants it in her little plot.  All summer long she waits, takes care of the seed, and wonders what the plant will be, until the morning when she arrives at the fence and sees a beautiful sunflower blooming high above her.  People in the community stop and smile at the flower, commenting on the ways the flower makes them think of the places they come from, whether Poland, Mexico, or right there in New York City.

As the seasons change, Marisol grows sad as she must collect the last remaining seeds of her dying plant.  All winter, she misses the sunflower.  Then, one day, Marisol is called to come quickly to see something.  Across the street, painted by teenagers in the community, is a beautiful mural of blooming sunflowers.  Under the towering flowers, bright in her red dress, is Marisol watering her growing seed.

The Garden of Happiness blooms brightly with colors and movement-filled illustrations on every page.  Community members play a large, positive part in Marisol’s story, and the growth of her sunflower is an accomplishment celebrated by all.  The Garden of Happiness celebrates one girl’s efforts to help something live and grow, while people all around her are also helping to make the community a more beautiful place.

Curriculum Connections:

The Garden of Happiness is a great book for gardening or community beautification projects.  The story could be read before beginning a garden or mural project meant to make the community beautiful.

The life cycle of a sunflower is depicted from seed until the plan dies and its seeds are collected by Marisol.  Read before planting flower seeds

Marisol also has a supportive community made up of people from all over the country and world.  A focus on diversity could show that even though people are from many different places, they all come together to clean up the city and they come together in their common experiences with sunflowers.

For a focus on the environment, the community works together to remove trash and make the earth healthy again.  Marisol and the rest of the gardeners take excellent care of the garden and take pride in their work and the upkeep of their community. 

Marisol shows that just one person can make a difference.  She doesn’t have a large piece of land or special seeds, but she cares for the earth  by making the effort to plant the sunflower and taking good care of it.



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Seeds of Change: planting a path to peace

Seeds of Change: planting a path to peace

By Jen Cullerton Johnson

Illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler

picture book biography

“Wangari had an idea as small as a seed but as tall as a tree that reaches for the sky.  Harabee! Let’s work together!’ she said to her fellow countrywomen…” (Johnson, page 24)

Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2004, is known for her Green Belt Movement in Kenya, in which she enlisted hundreds of women to plant trees.  Together, they worked against corrupt officials and greedy businesspeople to improve the quality of life for all. Seeds of Change: planting a path to peace is the story of Maathai’s childhood as a precocious learner, her studies as a college student, her work with women and children in Kenya and, finally, her outreach throughout the world.

Curriculum Connections:

Biography units are widespread in education.  Studying Maathai’s biography would be a great connection with studies on environmentalism, social justice, and creating an effective movement.  This book also highlights the important work she did as a woman and for women’s rights.  The economic benefits for the women planting trees can be examined when looking at the sustainability of the movement itself.

Literature connections can be made with other biographies on Maathai, including picture book Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter and, for high school students and adults, Unbowed, a memoir by Wangari Maathai.

Connections can be made when doing greening up projects and tree plantings, or as a positive approach to studies on deforestation and land-use or natural resource issues.  Humans cause damage, but can also help repair it.  We can learn much by being inspired, and Maathai does inspire!

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