Archive for Interdependence

Addie On the Inside

            Addie on the Inside

             by James Howe

Addie Carle, activist extraordinaire, wakes worrying about states of matters: the state of the world, the state of middle school, the state of her relationship, the state of her friends.  Her voice is too loud for most people.   Her clothes are too blah for others.  And she tries her hardest to ignore whispers asking why he is going out with her.  But Addie has a rich internal mind, and she just can’t help caring about the world.

“I worry about/injustice and/ how to make the world/ a better place,/ because I contend/ that if you are not part/ of the solution,/ you are part/ of the problem./” she says in the second poem of this novel-in-verse.  “I worry how in the world/ the world will ever be okay. Then/I turn off my alarm/ and get on with the day” (p. 7, 9).

Addie wears duct tape over her mouth on her school’s first (unapproved) day of silence.  She responds emotionally to terrible news articles she reads, and isn’t afraid to say it aloud in class.  People don’t always understand her, and this book is rife with Addie’s internal turmoil about how own actions and thoughts and their discrepancy with others’.

With Addie, James Howe brings back one of his characters from anti-bullying groundbreaker The Misfits, offering a very personal look at a socially conscious middle school girl.  Recommended for middle schools (I probably won’t get this for my K-5), Addie On the Inside will appeal to students for its spot-on views of social dynamics, a respectful look at a middle school relationship, and a portrayal of Addie’s need to both fit in and find her own way.  Addie is hard not to like, although middle school students will also understand how others don’t “get” her.   Novels in verse are also a great choice for those who want light reading, but who are ready for real substance.

Curriculum Connections:

Questions for students-

How would Addie fit in in your school?  How would people react to the things she says?  What are some words you would use to describe her?

Do you think Addie approaches social change in a positive way?  What happens when she does or says something (like criticizing the abusive star , or creating a Gay Straight Alliance)?  How do her methods for approaching social change work or not work?  What are the best ways to create social change, and to be a champion at your school?

How does a novel written in poetry give us a different experience than a novel written in prose?  Is it more personal?  Easier to read?  Harder?  How could you go about writing your own novel in verse?


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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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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


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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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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