mystery The answer to the clues may be found at the bottom of this column.    Teachers and Parents: Enter to win an entire set of Dawn’s nature books of one title for your home or classroom. It's fun and easy!
Just read the clues below. They describe an aspect of nature—a plant, animal, mineral, habitat, or natural process.
When you're ready to make your guess about who or what I am, click ENTER NOW.
Who Am I?
spacerglass1 Clue 1:  I'm a member of the "dog family."
glass1 Clue 2:  I live throughout North America in deserts, prairies, forests, and even in towns and cities.
glass1 Clue 3:  You might hear me howling at night to communicate with my pack.
glass1 Clue 4:  Don't let me trick you—I am NOT a wolf.
Do you think you know who I am? ENTER NOW.
Entries should be submitted no later than noon on Friday.
If you guessed correctly, you’re automatically entered into the monthly drawing for a set of nature books from Dawn Publications.
A contest winner will be announced at the end of September.
Throughout the school year, clues for a new Who Am I are posted no later than Sunday night, so you can use them with your class on Monday morning.Good luck!
The answer to last week's mystery was: SEASHELLS Although Inside Outside Nature blog is changing it's focus, this weekly "Who Am I?" will remain the same! Teachers, click here to get ideas about how to use the contest with your students.  

Monthly Archives: January 2013

How Do We Know?

This week’s guest blogger is Lynne Cherry! She’s the author and illustrator of the classic picture book about the rainforest The Great Kapok Tree. Her book for older children How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate addresses the timely topic of climate change in an age-appropriate way. (Lynne’s Bio appears at the end of this blog.)


Cherry_smallThe common belief has been that if people understood climate change science they would want to do something about it. But years of teaching and speaking at schools about environmental issues has taught me that messages of gloom and doom elicit reactions of fear, demoralization and hopelessness in children—and the public.

So, if current educational strategies turn people off and motivate them to defer to government authorities or scientists to make decisions rather than trusting themselves to think critically or to change the world, how do we teach about troubling topics? A key to teaching youth about climate change is to teach critical thinking and to teach youth to take action on what they have learned.


Inside: Make a Difference!

side-about2In Lynne’s most recent book, How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate, climate scientist detectives uncover mysteries of the Earth’s climate history through mud cores, ice cores and tree rings. They study birds’ and butterflies’ responses to global warming. Citizen-scientist kids collect data to help the scientists.

Climate change is a critical and timely topic of deep concern, and Lynne’s book tells about it an age-appropriate manner, with clarity and hope.

Working on this book with her coauthor Gary Braasch inspired Lynne to begin her movie project Young Voices for the Planet. Kids can make a difference!

  • Choose from over a dozen engaging lessons, projects, and activities in A Teacher’s Guide to How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate. Suggestions are provided to differentiate instruction and conduct project-based learning. Lessons and activities are correlated to science standards for grades 5 to 8.
  • Watch one or more of the Young Voices for the Planet DVDs with your students, and then discuss the actions you may want to take as a class.


Outside: Become a Citizen Scientist

CLIMTG_StoreLynne Cherry hopes her books and movies will get children excited about going outside and exploring the natural world. An ideal way to get students into nature is through citizen science projects, many of which are described in A Teacher’s Guide to How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate.


Participation in citizen science has the following benefits:

  • Engages students in learning.
  • Makes real-world connections to the classroom.
  • Supports academic skill development. Citizen science is truly an interdisciplinary experience with many opportunities for students to use and practice skills in reading, writing, and math. Research shows a correlation between environmental education and higher test scores.
  • Accommodates students with varying learning styles and differences.
  • Strengthens connections to community.
  • Fosters a sense of stewardship of the environment.
  • Increases a sense of personal worth and competence.
  • Improves school performance.

Download a PDF of several pages from the Teacher’s Guide. Pages 18-23 are specifically about Citizen Science Curriculum.


More Facts and Fun with Climate Change

dvd363_largeI used Hippo Works DVD “Simon Says, Let’s Stop Climate Change” to introduce my 3rd-4th graders to the key concepts related to global warming and climate change. They loved this 30-minute animated adventure with its quirky characters. They were totally entertained while they learned key vocabulary terms, and after watching the cartoon we had a great discussion about concrete actions they could take.


child-flower_90x70There are numerous web sites for Citizen Science Projects, many of which are listed in the Teacher’s Guide. Here are just a few of them:


Lynne Cherry’s Bio

CherryLynne is the author and/or illustrator of over thirty award-winning books for children. Her best-selling books such as The Great Kapok Tree and A River Ran Wild teach children to respect the earth. Lynne lectures widely – and passionately – about how children can make a difference in a democratic society. If they feel strongly about something, they can change the world. She explains to educators how using nature to integrate curriculum makes a child’s learning relevant. Lynne’s books were inspired by her love of the natural world and she is an avid canoeist and hiker.

Visit Lynne Cherry’s website.


The Power of Fun

children_laughing“Your class sure looked happy,” one of my colleagues remarked last week. And I agreed! They were very happy.

When the sun reappeared after a cold spell, I took my Nature Connections students outside for an activity that I was sure would be fun for them.

I’m a firm believer in fun in the learning process. And I’m not alone. Brain research has proven that students learn better when the lesson is fun and enjoyable. Not only does fun promote learning and long-term memory, it also increases dopamine and endorphins in the brain—the “feel-good” neurochemicals.

To be clear, fun doesn’t mean relaxing or goofing off. “Fun means engagement, doing and learning what has meaning and purpose, and it means challenge.”  (Daniel Pink, author of Drive).

Renowned psychiatrist Dr. William Glasser states:children_laughing-1pctkz7-300x266 “There are four psychological needs that we are individually driven to satisfy: the need to belong (sense of community), the need for power (control over ourselves and our environment), the need for freedom (lack of restrictions), and the need for fun (pleasure and enjoyment). These are things that we need in our lives almost as badly as food and shelter.”

As teachers, we can help satisfy these needs for our students through the way we structure our classrooms and our lessons. I focused on FUN last week. Below are some fun ideas you might like to incorporate into your classroom.


Inside: Fun and Unusual Animals

BABIR_StoreKids love animals, and they’re a source for so many “fun facts.” Especially when the animals themselves are really unusual. There’s Baribusa in My Bathtub: Facts and Fancy About  Curious Creatures by Maxine Rose Schur is full of humorous rhymes and magical illustrations that illuminate the lives of little-known animals.

There’s a loris in your chorus? He’s quite a singer! BABIR4Care to play bingo with a dingo? Watch out, he’s a sharp one. A babirusa in your bathtub? Better leave him there – he loves water!) Witty, lively poems makes learning about these unsung animals fun—and fun to imitate by writing similar poems about well-known animals.


Outside: Creating Blobsters

P1000888A Blobster is an imaginary creature that is made of clay and natural items. The picture shown here is a Blobster I made as a sample for my students.

Here are the steps I used in my lesson:


  • Because we had been focusing on recycling in the classroom, I began this lesson discussing natural objects that can be recycled.
  • I showed my sample Blobster and asked students to identify the natural objects I used to create it. We then made a list of some of the natural objects found on our playground that could be recycled to create a Blobster.
  • I gave each student a small paper bag and took them outside. They had about 10 minutes to collect natural items.

The following steps may be done inside, b02B0ByNg2B9B927.lgbut my students had fun creating their Blobsters outside:

  • We gathered at picnic tables on the playground, and I gave each student a “blob” of clay. (I used about 1/2 pound per student. You can use modeling clay, but I chose to use clay that would air-dry because I wanted the Blobsters to harden. It was also much less expensive than modeling clay.)
  • Students had 25 minutes to create their Blobster. I reminded them to firmly push the natural items into the clay, because the clay would shrink as it dried. They discovered that some items were much more difficult to adhere to the clay than others.
  • I knew some would finish in a hurry, so I had enough clay for those students to create a second Blobster—a “Blobster Buddy.”
  • I had several shallow boxes on hand, and students put their Blobsters in the boxes to transport back inside.
  • A few days later, when the Blobsters were completely dry, we had a Blobster Display and students admired the work of others. I ended the Blobster activity with a science/writing project about the four basic needs of all animals, which is described under More Facts and Fun with Animals.


Note: Although one side of the school still had some snow on the ground, the other side was in the sun, and kids found an abundance of dried leaves, bark, twigs, pine cones, dried seeds, and stems to use.


More Facts and Fun with Animals

All animals have four basic needs: food, water, shelter, and safety. Use the pdf Wildlife All Around Us, to introduce these needs to your students. Once they understand the terminology, have them fold a piece of white paper into 4 quadrants, labeling each quadrant with one of the basic needs. With words and/or pictures, have them show how their Blobster meets its basic needs. On the back of the paper (or on a fresh sheet), have them do the same thing for an actual animal.


Have students create a story about one of the animals found in Nature’s Patchwork Quilt: Understanding Habitats by Mary Miche. Then have them weave the four basic needs into their story in an interesting way.


David Rice, in his book Do Animals Have Feelings Too?, has collected true stories of animal behavior that is not only captivating, but also thought-provoking.



Photo sources: Dawn Publications, Carol Malnor, Brad Montgomery, Colleen Webb


Curious Collage Creatures by Carle

makepicI’d like to introduce you to Eric Carle. You may already know him as the illustrator of the classic children’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar…and 70 other books! vhc

This past weekend I watched a documentary of his life and discovered that he isn’t just a creative genius when it comes to illustrating picture books; he’s also a dedicated nature lover. His earliest childhood memories are of taking long walks in nature with his father. He draws on these memories to tell stories that delight children of all ages, and each story subtly teaches an important lesson.

Some of my favorites are The Mixed-Up Chameleon (a chameleon is finally convinced it should just be itself rather than any other animal), The Grouchy Ladybug (a bumptious bug learns the pleasures of being cheerful), and “Slowly, Slowly, Slowly,” said the Sloth (a sloth explains why moving slowly is a good idea).

imagesThe documentary, Picture Writer, showed Carle working with a group children to create a curious creature. He encouraged them to let their imaginations run wild. I hope you and your children let your imaginations run wild, too, with the activity suggestions below. And watch the movie trailer here.


Inside: Carle’s Collage Art

The Eric Carle website is full of interesting stuff—videos, newsletters, FAQs, and photos. I especially liked watching him paint the colorful tissue papers that uses for his collages. Carle provides these Collage Making Instructions on his website.


Outside: Over in the Arctic

ARCTI_COVER2Another book that is illustrated with paper art is Over in the Artic: Where the Cold Winds Blow by Marianne Berkes and illustrated by Jill Dubin.

Kirkus Review said, “Graceful, stylish cut-paper collages in a mixture of bright colors and patterns create icy backgrounds for each scene.” And a big plus for educators are the several pages in the back of the book that have ideas for curriculum projects. Go to this page on the Dawn Publication’s website to download activities for some outside wintertime adventures.


More Fun with Cut Paper Art

AUSTR_COVEROther books illustrated with Jill Dubin’s cut paper art are Over in the Forest: Come and Take a Peek and Over in Australia: Amazing Animals Down Under.

OVERF_storeEach of Jill’s books has its own unique look and feel. This pdf gives you a quick peek at her techniques!