Archive for Environment

Each Living Thing

Each Living Thing

 

by Joanne Ryder

illustrated by Ashley Wolff

 picture book

 

The outdoors is filled with creatures, both small and large, going about their lives in tandem with human activity.  Each Living Thing reminds us, in simple rhyming phrases, to watch out for every living thing on earth.  Each colorful illustration depicts different children going about daily life (carrying out recycling, planting vegetables, swimming, etc.) and encountering animals in their natural habitats.  Straightforward text encourages readers to do what they can to respect and care for each animal, reminding them to look out for “streaming ants who streak the dusty trails – please step around their sandy towers,” and to watch out for “toads who lurch and leap across the road – please stop to let them pass.”  The ending message to watch out for each living thing advises us to “Be aware of them.  Take care of them.  Be watchful.  Let them be.” 

Each Living Thing is a reminder of the importance of being mindful of all the living things around us.  Just right for young children who may not want to let animals pass without picking them up or taking them home, this book shows a respectful (sometimes wary?) view of wild animals and examines of our role as caretakers of the environment.

 

Curriculum Connections:

Before a nature walk, read Each Living Thing to children as a reminder of some of the animals they may see and of the respectful ways to treat these animals.  During the walk, point out the benefits of leaving these animals to do what they need to do (spiders spin webs that catch pests, etc.).

Have children create a guidebook for others on ways to be respectful toward wild animals. For example, a child could draw a picture or write instructions for capturing a spider with paper and setting it outside instead of killing it.

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Ivy and Bean: What’s the Big Idea?


Ivy and Bean: What’s the Big Idea?

(Book 7)

by Annie Barrows

chapter-book

Second graders Ivy and Bean are stunned when a group of fifth graders share their very depressing report on global warming. They slump on a bench afterward and worry about polar bears and pollution. The whole class arrives at school the following day feeling a little bit sad. When Ms. Aruba-Tate announces that the second grade will participate in a science fair, her students share how discouraged they are. She encourages them to be a part of the solution, and to use science to help solve the world’s problems. She suggests that the science fair’s theme be “Ideas that Fight Global Warming.”

Now, Ivy and Bean simply have to think of a way to once-and-for-all stop global warming. The two girls discover that throwing ice cubes into the air to lower the temperature doesn’t work, tying their hands together to make humans less powerful has unintended consequences, and hammering rice to make clean energy just, well, makes rice dust. Then, Ivy says, “If grown-ups weren’t scared of nature, they’d probably try harder to save it from global warming” and their great idea for the science fair is born (Barrows, 96).

Always funny and engaging, Ivy and Bean tackle the big issue of global warming in a heartfelt and courageous way. The series’ characteristic meanderings and funny moments make this an age-appropriate look at an environmental problem. The ending of the book will touch any adult or child who has wanted to make a real difference in the world.

Curriculum Connections:

What’s the Big Idea? would make a great read-aloud for younger children to connect with scientific method as Ivy and Bean come up with ideas, try them out, and evaluate whether or not they work.

It could also be connected with an upcoming science fair, or used as a positive approach to studies about global warming or environmental problems.

This book especially shows how Ivy and Bean, while not hard scientists, can make a difference by using their natural charm, skills, and talents for communication to share how much they care about the earth.  Before a day of service, or when brainstorming about ways to help in the community, share this book with students before having them think of their own particular talents and how those talents can help bring about big or small changes in the world.

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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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Crunch

CrunchCrunch

Crunch

by Leslie Connor

fiction

What would you do if all the gas pumps ran dry?  For Dewey Marriss, that question suddenly becomes very important.  His parents are stuck up north on an anniversary trip and are unable to get back without fuel.  Dewey and his siblings – 18 year old artist Lil, 13 year old mechanical genius Vince, and five year old twins Angus and Eva – are stuck making it on their own.  Bicycles become the main mode of transportation in town, and as people bike up and down the deserted highway, the family’s small bike repair business suddenly booms.  Now, Dewey must figure out how to keep up with way too many bike repairs, deal with irritable customers, and figure out how to get through daily life without his parents’ help. Then, things begin to go strangely missing from the bike shop.  Can Dewey stay afloat with the business, take care of the twins, and solve the mystery of the thefts?  And when will his parents come home?

Crunch shows us a scenario in which people must adapt to living in a world with minimal fuel.  It deals with a modern situation with an old-fashioned feel, being both a mystery and a family story.  Dewey has a tight-knit family and community, and his newfound independence and responsibility show the ways in which this experience changes him.

Curriculum Connections:

How can we best deal with the challenges that come our way?  Dewey finds that bicycles are a great way to get around when gas runs low.  He discovers that even though the world changes, there are ways that communities can help each other and adapt to get what they need.  How would his experience have been different if he’d lived in a city?  The rural countryside?  How would your community come together to help people get along?

What challenges might we face in the future?  What are ways we can use our knowledge to overcome them, and how can we plan ahead to make our communities more sustainable? 

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Nibbles: a green tale

Nibbles: a green tale by Charlotte Middleton

Nibbles: a green tale

 

by Charlotte Middleton

picture book

There is only one thing Nibbles the guinea pig loves more than soccer:  dandelion leaves!  Everyone in the town of Dandeville loves dandelion leaves just as much as Nibbles.  So what is a guinea pig to do when the population of dandelion leaves dwindles down to almost nothing?  Pay lots of money for just a few leaves?  Eat cabbage instead?  Cabbage-and-broccoli quiche just doesn’t have the same delicious ring to it…

The day Nibbles discovers one last dandelion leaf outside his window, he must make a very important decision.  Should he eat it all by himself?  Or should he think a little harder?  Nibbles goes to the library and finds information about dandelions.  He shields the dandelion, waters it, and picks off bad bugs.  He is so patient that even when his dandelion is perfectly blooming, he doesn’t eat it.  Instead, when the dandelion goes to seed, he climbs the highest hill and blows the seeds out across Dandeville.  Soon, fresh leaves begin to sprout and the sound of eating again fills the town.  But does Nibbles go back to life as normal, or does he try something new?

Curriculum Connections:

Nibbles deals with sustainability through brief looks at economics (the price of dandelions goes through the roof  when the number dwindles), social justice (Nibbles finds a solution that works to provide food to all guinea pigs), and the environment (Nibbles protects the plant so it can go to seed and grow again).

Students can look at resources in their local community and environment, and think about ways to protect those resources for others in the future. For younger students, taking care of trees or gardens, growing food for others, and exploring the role of farmers would help bring the idea from book to practice.  Nibbles is one “person” who makes a big difference by doing the responsible thing.

Older students can expand upon the intersections between environment, economy, and social justice, and explore those relationships further by looking at fuel consumption, mining, and practices that utilize our natural resources.  How does the cost of dandelions change when supplies dwindle?  How can we make sure to plan our resources for future use?  What happens if the cost of heating homes sky-rockets and not everyone can afford it?

So – how can we best take care of our last remaining “dandelions?”  This book gives a few answers, but an even bigger opportunity for conversations.

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