This summer, our family discovered that hiking on a glacier is a thrilling way to stay cool. Our destination was the Canadian Rockies–a wonderland filled with glaciers, mountain trails, wildflowers, and wildlife.
Now that autumn is near, and we’ve begun the school year, we have memories to savor of our Summer of the Glaciers. Here are a few photos of our adventures.
From Snow White’s poisonous apple to Harry Potter’s venomous basilisk, storybooks are filled with poisonous brews and venomous beasts.
People are fascinated by poisons, toxins, and venoms, says Mark Sidall, of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Sidall is curator of the exhibition “The Power of Poison,” which will be on display until August 10, 2014. The exhibition explores poison’s roles in nature, myth, and human health. Visitors will discover how poison may be used as a defense against predators, a source of strength, or as a lethal weapon-turned-lifesaving treatment.
Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Mark Sidall for Scholastic’s SuperScience magazine. The resulting story introduces three pairs of predator and prey facing off in toxic arms races. It describes how, over generations, these competitors’ defenses have become more extraordinary and their chemical weapons more extreme.
On a recent author visit to the Macomber School, I was greeted with this beautiful display of reports on some of my nonfiction books. Thank you to the teachers, secretaries, principal, and students for warmly welcoming me, participating enthusiastically, and singing sweetly. I had lots of fun with you all!
After a recent author program, the third grade teacher invited me to his classroom to read some of the writing his children were doing. That is when I discovered Adjective in Detail Poems. The formula is simple.
First pick your adjective and then write:
1) What your adjective is NOT
2) Three examples that show what your adjective is
3) Two examples of what your adjective sounds like
4) Another word for your adjective
5) One thing about your adjective
Here’s the poem I wrote.
Graceful is not a clackety-clanking crash.
Graceful is a silky-swirling scarf.
Graceful is a dainty-tiptoeing dancer.
Graceful is a sparkly-spinning skater.
Graceful sounds like smooth-soothing music.
Graceful sounds like the whisper of floating snow. Another word for graceful is elegant. One thing about graceful is it makes your heart sing.
Now try your own!
You can view or download my school program brochure:
Beneath the Atlantic Ocean, a humpback whale streaks skyward. It bursts into the air and then vanishes beneath the waves with a sparkling splash. Although whales are mammals, and not fish, they are comfortably at home in the water. But scientists have discovered something surprising about these water lovers . . . Their ancient ancestors lived on land. Here’s what the whales’ earliest known relative looked like:
By studying fossils and DNA evidence, scientists have learned much about the whales’ journey from land to sea.
They have also figured who the whales’ closest living relative is.
To get the fascinating facts, I interviewed John Flynn, of the American Museum of Natural History. Flynn is co-curator of the exhibition, “Whales: Giants of the Deep.” The exhibition leads visitors on adventures with models of these mighty creatures. Visitors can take a virtual dive with a sperm whale as it hunts for giant squid. Or they can crawl through a car-size replica of a blue whale’s heart. To learn more:
Using classroom science magazines is an effective and stimulating way to support the Common Core’s Reading Informational Text standards. It is also a way to help you meet the key anchor standards in Reading, Writing, Speaking & Listening, and Language. And of course, your children will be learning about science and current events.
Here is a link to a story I wrote for Scholastic about the Picturing Science exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History. The Art of Science
After your students have read the story, they can investigate the activities I have developed relating to Vocabulary Acquisition and Use, one of the Anchor Standards for Reading. I have also included an Art as Science activity.
Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues
Vocabulary word: DISSECT
The story explains, that instead of dissecting the fish to examine the tiny bones in their ears, Sparks uses a different technique. This technique allows him to keep all the parts that make up a fish’s ears intact. (together)
Since keeping all the parts that make up a fish’s ears intact is different from dissecting, what do you think dissecting means?
Look up the definition of dissecting. Write the meaning that best fits the word as it is used in sentence above.
Write three synonyms for dissect.
Vocabulary word: EMIT
The section on the Radiant Reef explains that fluorescentreef animals absorb blue light and emit green or red light. Another sentence says that these neon green and red creatures glow like aliens.
Since the fluorescent animals are glowing red and green, what do you think emit means?
Look up the definition of emit. Write the meaning that best fits the word as it is used in sentence above.
Write three synonyms for emit.
Vocabulary and Alliteration
Alliteration is the use of similar sounds at the beginning of words. For example, Cichlids are a family of fish.
To make your own phrases using alliteration, look up synonyms for the word group. Choose three synonyms and write a phrase about a group of animals for each one. Here’s an example: a bunch of bugs
You can also add an adjective: a bunch of bustling bugs
Try another one.
In the story, I described the fluorescent reef animals as a dazzling display.
Look up synonyms for the word dazzling. Choose three synonyms and write a phrase using alliteration for each one. Here’s an example: shining ship
Art as Science
Find something from nature that has a pattern, such as a seashell, a turtle shell, a rock, an insect wing. Using a magnifying glass or a microscope, observe the pattern up close. Now fold a piece of paper in half. On one side draw a close-up picture of the pattern. On the other side draw the whole object. (Instead of making drawings, you can also take photos.) Post your close-up picture on a bulletin board with a piece of paper below for other students to write their guesses about what they think the object is. When everyone has made their guesses, open up up the paper and re-post it so your classmates can see if they’ve guessed correctly.
Get in the mood for Halloween with scorpion heads, rodent teeth, and spider claws. Fantastic photos of these objects are part of the art show at New York’s American Museum of Natural History. The exhibition’s “artists” are the museum’s scientists. Their “artwork”—scientific pictures created with advanced imaging techniques. The exhibit features the work of:
John Sparks, who hunts for Madagascan cichlids in rivers crawling with crocodiles to study the fish’s hearing structures;
David Gruber, whose photos of neon green and red fluorescent reef creatures glow like aliens;
Ebel Denton, who blasts meteorites with electrons.Dentonis curious about the composition of these space rocks, which were wandering through our solar system for billions of years before crashing to Earth;
Read the story I wrote for Scholastic about the exhibition at: Art as Science
As a science teacher for nine years, and a nonfiction author, I am delighted with the new emphasis on nonfiction in the Common Core State Standards. Incorporating nonfiction into your curriculum is a fun and effective way to teach literacy skills while integrating content subjects like science, social studies, math, and English language arts.
In light of this, I will begin creating posts that introduce literacy skills and are linked to Teachers Pages featuring related classroom activities. The first installment is below. Have fun!
Making Music with Alliteration
Alliteration is a literary technique that adds a lyrical touch to writing with the repetition of initial consonant sounds. “Making music” is an example. In Why Does It Rain I used alliterationto add a poetic touch to a scientific topic: the water cycle. There are seven examples in this excerpt below. To check your findings and for related classroom activities see the Teachers Page: Making Music with Alliteration .
Wrapped in Water Can you tell when it is going to rain? What are the clues? Sometimes the wind whisks through the grass or sweeps up swirls of dirt. Tree limbs creak and sway. Their leaves flutter as if they might fly away. Gray clouds shade the sun. The dark of dusk comes during the day.
Then the rain falls. It may plop down in plump drops like pounding feet. Or it may drizzle in drips like little tiptoes. When the rain ends, the air smells cool and clean. It seems as though a window has opened in the sky.
Once again I was honored to present programs for the Greenwood School Authorfest. Thank you to the Authorfest Committee for organizing this fascinating week of activities. For details and photographs of the other authors who visited the school, see Colleen Guida’s story in the WakefieldPatch and visit Greenwood’s Authorfest Facebook page.
A special “Hello” to Zach, whom I happened to meet at the market. Glad you enjoyed the program!
Students discover that octopuses are weird but wonderful.
Here’s is the real thing–a friend I photographed on a visit to the New England Aquarium, while I was researching the book, Octopuses.