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.
This week’s blog continues the theme of Popular Pollinators with the hummingbird! (see previous blogs for Bees and Butterflies)
Zoom! Flapping at over 50 times a second, the bird’s wings are a blur as it zooms to another blossom. Traveling from flower to flower a hummingbird carries pollen on its chest, throat, and the top of its head. Some of this pollen will trigger the growth of seeds, which is why the hummingbird an important pollinator.
Source: Audubon Adventures, an excellent classroom resource available from the National Audubon Society.
Inside: Flower Power
- Hummingbirds are especially attracted to red, orange, purple, and pink flowers that have a tubular shape.
- Bees tend to be attracted by sweet-scented flowers that are yellow, white, blue or purple. The flower also needs to provide a bee-sized “landing platform.”
- Butterflies like sweet smelling flowers that are red, orange, yellow, pink, blue, or white. The best shapes are flat and wide or tubular.
Write the above information on the board. Give each student a 3×5 card and ask them to use their imaginations to draw a flower that would appeal to one of these pollinators. When they finish their drawings, have them write the name of their flower on the tip of the card and the name of the pollinator on the back. Then have them exchange their flower pictures to guess the pollinator that would be attracted to it. They can checking for accuracy by turning the card over.
Outside: Zip in for a Sip
Give your students an opportunity to get an up-close look at hummingbirds by making and putting up a feeder. (Don’t worry, a feeder won’t prevent hummingbirds from visiting and pollinating the plants in your area, but it will supplement their energy needs.) Choose one of the easy-t0-make feeders from the sources below:
- The simplest feeder is from How to Enjoy Hummingbirds.
- The Outdoor Classroom gives explicit directions for a simple feeder.
- National Wildlife Federation’s feeder is easy to make and uses recycled materials.
- Fill your feeder with the correct mix of water and sugar.
Be sure to hang your feeder in a spot outside where you can easily watch hummers zip in for sip.
More Facts and Fun about Hummingbirds
Become a citizen scientist with Audubon’s newest project: Hummingbirds at Home.
Did you know that 30% of a hummingbird’s weight is its flight muscles? Get more interesting hummingbird facts.
There are 17 hummingbird species in North America. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is one of the most common in the eastern half of the U.S. and the Anna’s Hummingbird is common in the west and southwest.