I’ve been keeping my door opened lately so I can listen to the sounds of spring—the tweeting of baby birds, the chirping chorus of frogs, and the buzzing of bees. These vibrant sounds are an integral part of the seasonal change from the quietness of winter to the exuberance of spring.
But what if spring was silent? Rachel Carson first posed this question when the use of DDT threatened our environment. She bravely sounded the alarm against the indiscriminate use of toxic pesticides.
Rachel Carson’s concern grew out of her love for all living things. As we teach our children to love the natural environment, they will want to care for it too.
Inside: Make It Yourself
Making books gives young children a creative way to learn subject matter while practicing basic skills, such as fine motor control and following sequential directions.
Use these step-by-step directions to help your students make their own books using readily available materials.
Outside: Make Sound Maps
In this outdoor activity, children listen to natural sounds and record them on a map of their own making. Joseph Cornell, the creator of Sound Map says, “Children love this activity—they become completely absorbed and sit surprisingly still while making their sound maps.” Get complete directions and teacher tips for Sound Maps.
More Facts and Fun about Rachel Carson and Spring Sounds
Read Noisy Bug Sing-a Long and learn who is making what sound, and why. Then have children imitate the sounds to create your own classroom chorus.
Rachel said, “I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the parent seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to know as to feel.”
Teachers: get inspiration for awakening a love of nature in your children from Rachel’s book, The Sense of Wonder.
In general, the new standards go beyond science as simply a list of facts and ideas students are expected to memorize. Instead, they emphasize teaching “how” scientists actually investigate and gather their information. Teachers will be expected to focus more on concepts, giving students a deeper understanding of a topic.
One of the topics that students will gain a deeper understanding about is climate change—a concept that can’t be neglected from the curriculum any longer. The new standards recognize that climate change is a critical and timely topic of deep concern.
Inside: Glaciers and Greenhouses
How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate (by Lynne Cherry and Gary Brasch) and my companion Teacher’s Guide are the perfect books to use with your older elementary and middle school students.
In an easy-to-understand format, students can read about and actually see the evidence scientists have gathered from flowers, butterflies, birds, frogs, trees, glaciers, and much more.
Outside: Young Scientists
How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate includes the important role “citizen-scientists” play in gathering data.
For example, until 1975, butterfly scientists did not know where monarchs went on their fall migration south. People had seen them in Texas and along the Gulf Coast, but nobody knew where they went next.
Canadian scientist Dr. Fred Urquhart was the first to mark the butterflies with tiny tags to track them across the continent.
Thousands of citizen scientists helped him gather the data. Monarch Watch is one of the many citizen science projects your students participate in. You can find dozens more citizen science projects for the classroom in the Teacher’s Guide.
More Facts and Fun about Climate Change
Climate Change.org provides K-12 teachers with the BEST interdisciplinary resources.
Young Voices for the Planet DVD, by author Lynne Cherry, presents inspiring and replicable youth success stories showing kids “taking the reins.” They’ll encourage both children and adults to embrace the seriousness of climate change and to take action.
Especially for Elementary Teachers: Explore the “Big Questions” about Climate Change at NASA’s Climate Kids website.
Mother’s Day is next Sunday—a perfect time to celebrate the bond between mothers and their babies in the natural world. Fran Hodgkins does just that in her book If You Were My Baby: A Wildlife Lullaby. You’ve been introduced to some of these mothers during the past month through the clues in the “Who Am I?” mystery contest. They’ve included a wolf, squirrel, bison, as well as last week’s mom—an opossum.
I always find it interesting to know how authors get their book ideas. Fran’s book grew out of a lifetime of love for wild creatures. She says that her mother taught her “how to watch and how to really see the squirrels, jays, sparrows, bugs, and worms….” One of her earliest memories was watching a garden spider build a web in her tire swing. She says, “I seem to remember staying put for hours just to see what would happen as the spider worked.”
When Fran became a mother, she shared her love of “watching and seeing” animals with her daughter, Rosie. “Rosie inspired the book through her questions about nature and animals,” Fran says. If You Were My Baby is the result of three generations of women nature lovers!
Which animals are the ”best” and “worst” mothers? National Geographic features three short videos of their choices.
Inside: Creative Non-Fiction
Fran calls her writing “creative non-fiction because the facts are there but they don’t hit you over the head.” Have your students choose an animal and write their own creative non-fiction short story. Begin with the facts and then have them add their imaginations to present the facts in an interesting way. Good sources for animal facts include Creature Features on the National Geographic site and Ranger Rick (magazine or for iPad).
Outside: Schoolyard Homes
More Facts and Fun about Animals
- Watch interesting wild animal behavior via the San Diego Zoo’s Animal Cams and Videos.
- Read what animal kids might say to their wonderful mothers at “Thanks Mom.”
- Kids will have fun acting like an animal when they play the Animal Imitation Game from National Wildlife Federation.
- Read the book Do Animals Have Feelings, Too? by David Rice. Then discuss the animal behaviors that demonstrate various feelings.