Top Ten Facts I Learned in the MITS (Museum Institute for Teaching Science) Summer Institute Plus A Book Giveaway
The book giveaway was made possible by the following generous creators and their publishers: Amy Sarig King, Anita Sanchez, April Pulley Sayre, Cindy Jenson-Elliott, Debbie S. Miller, Karina Yan Glaser, Kate Narita, Margi Preus, Melanie Linden Chan, Melissa Stewart, Nancy Castaldo, Nicola Davies, Rebecca E. Hirsch, Sarah Albee and Shennen Bersani. The books correlate with the lessons that you can download at the end of the post. To enter the giveaway leave a comment on the blog or retweet and follow before August 31st, 2018.
The Video Transcript
Top Ten Facts I Learned in my MITS Science Course and Book Giveaway
Just so there is no confusion, MITS is an acronym for Museum Institute for Teaching Science, it is not MIT—Massachusetts Institute of Technology. According to the MITS website, “MITS’ educator workshops and programs increase awareness of and improve the quality of teaching inquiry-based, minds-on, hands-on STEM education.” I had an amazing experience working with scientists from Mass Audubon, Tower Hill Botanical Garden and WPI. I’m sharing the top ten facts I learned and the lessons I developed, one along with fellow educator Tiffany Davis, with you. Please note that any errors and misunderstandings are my own.
TEN-There are 4,000 species of bees including bumblebees, carpenter bees, leafcutter bees, mining bees, plasterer bees, resin bees, mason bees, digger bees, sweat bees and of course honey bees. Almost all of their populations are declining, not just honey bees which by the way are not native to the United States. Native bees coevolve with native plants. If a species of bee goes extinct, the plant that has coevolved alongside that bee will go extinct as well. This is because plants evolve to attract specific pollinators, not a wide variety of pollinators. No bees, no flowers.
NINE-Bumblebee species fall into three categories: short-tongued bumblebees, medium-tongued species and long-tongued species. Tongue length determines which flowers bumblebees can pollinate. When many people think about a bumblebee pollinating a flower, they envision a composite flower such as a daisy or an aster. Composite flowers work for short-tongued bees, but not longer-tongued bees. Complex flowers, such as wild columbine, can only be reached by long-tongued pollinators, usually long-tongued bumblebees.
EIGHT-You can identify bumblebee species by looking at a bumblebee’s abdomen. Well, that’s the first step at least! Is it mostly black, half black and half yellow, or mostly yellow? Then proceed to look at the thorax. Finally, check out the head to determine if it’s male or female. If it has a yellow face, it’s male. The best part is you don’t have to remember any of this. Just use the app WPI Professor Robert Gegear developed to help people identify native bumblebees. Here’s a link to an article about the Bee-cology smartphone app http://www.telegram.com/news/20170618/smartphone-app-tracks-identifies-bee-plant-interactions
SEVEN-Did you know insects have learned behaviors? Not everything they do is instinctual. Check out this incredible butterfly video created by WPI Professor Robert Gegear that shows a butterfly learning which color flower will reward it with nectar. For more information on how to bring pollinators into the classroom, please contact Dr Gegear at email@example.com
SIX-Milkweed species have their own ecosystems. It’s not just monarch butterflies that depend on milkweed plants. Some beetle species rely on milkweed plants as well. I caught and released this red milkweed beetle. Just like the monarch butterfly, the red milkweed beetle ingests and incorporates milkweed toxins which turn the beetle red. The red color warns predators that the beetle is poisonous and that the hungry predators should look elsewhere for a meal.
FIVE-Common milkweed plants are clonal. Common milkweed rhizomes, underground horizontal stems, are capable of producing new roots and new plants. But in order for milkweed pollination to be successful, milkweed needs to receive pollen from a plant that is not one of its clones. Plant diversity aids reproduction. This link provides excellent free information about milkweed. https://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Milkweeds-of-Central-US_plus-vendors_XercesSociety.pdf
FOUR-Hand pollination of milkweed is extremely difficult and time consuming. Unlike most flowers, milkweed doesn’t have individual pollen grains. Milkweed has pollen pockets that are hidden in teeny tiny crevices called stigmatic slits. Successful pollinators of milkweed, such as bumblebees, inadvertently stick their legs inside the slit and the pollen packets attach to their legs. Then, when they fly to another milkweed plant, they accidentally stick their leg into the new flower’s stigmatic slit and pollination occurs. Well, we used thin watercolor paintbrushes to mimic pollinators’ legs and tongues. Some of my classmates were successful and joyfully announced the transfer of the packet every now and then. Meanwhile, I was unable to extract any pollen packets. Let’s face it. Humans are not efficient plant pollinators. If we want plants to survive, think about all the fruits and vegetables we eat, we need to protect pollinators. No pollinators, no produce.
THREE-Springtails. Yes, you read that right, springtails. Before taking the class, I never even knew they existed. Here are a couple of facts that I learned about springtails. In larval form, they live underground. This is true of many, but not all, larval insect forms. However, springtails are no longer classified as insects. They are classified as hexapods, which are pretty similar to insects except that hexapods have an upper lip that covers their mouthparts. My first exposure to springtails in class was looking at this larva which our instructor felt was a springtail. Here it is. I admit, this was not my favorite part of class, but it was still interesting. But this video captivated me. Check it out to see springtails in action and learn lots of cool information about them including the fact that their jumping ability is the equivalent of a human being jumping over The Eiffel Tower. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=27&v=OwOL-MHcQ1w
TWO Full disclosure. I did not learn this fact in MITS. But I did learn it just a few months earlier during a field trip to Wachusett Meadow which is also where the third day of our MITS class took place. From doing research for 100 Bugs! A Counting Book, I knew how to identify and differentiate between the adult forms of dragonflies and damselflies; however, I did not know how to identify or differentiate between the larval forms of dragonflies and damselflies until my fourth graders and I ponded at Wachusett Meadow. Although dragonfly and damselfly adults look very similar, their larval forms look nothing like each other. The dragonfly larva looks wide and squat like a beetle while the damselfly larva is long and thin, which is how it looks in its adult form as well.
ONE Dragonfly nymphs are stunningly gorgeous. Wait a minute you say. That’s not a fact, it’s an opinion. True. But you’ll see as I describe my experience that a fact will be revealed. I haven’t had many out of body experiences, but when they occur, they’re unforgettable. One happened to me while looking at Botticelli’s The Crowning of the Madonna in the Uffizi in Florence, Italy—thousands of miles from home. But this out of body experience happened less than five miles from my home at Wachusett Meadow. Once again I was ponding. But this time, I didn’t have to worry about my students falling into the water. This time I was a student, and I could immerse myself in the experience and not worry about other people. My group took a water sample and placed it in a white tub. Then, we used yogurt containers to scoop out creatures. I scooped out a dragonfly nymph. I was surprised because it was much smaller than the one I scooped above, but it had the same wide, squat body. This time, I had access to a microscope. I admit it. Prior to this experience, I’d always felt a bit inept using a microscope. But this time, I was able to focus the microscope. When the dragonfly nymph came into focus, the world faded away. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Dragonfly nymphs are striped—completely. Every part of their body from the tip of their antennae to the tip of their legs is striped which helps it camouflage itself in the pond’s leaf litter. Camouflaged dragonfly nymphs. The world is full of surprises!
Surprise. It can come from inquiry-based science lessons rooted in the natural world. We have the opportunity to expose our students to wonder every day. Please click on the pdf files below for copies of three inquiry-based lessons, complete with teacher and student instruction sheets, that I developed for the class. If you teach in Massachusetts, please consider taking a MITS course. It will change you and your students’ lives.
In the meantime, here’s a book giveaway to get you started. Leave a comment on the blog to be entered into the raffle. These books will all be in my plants and animal bin for our first trimester. Anytime a student finishes a science lesson and wants to know what to do next, he or she can peruse one of the phenomenal books in the bin.
Perfect Pairs by Melissa Stewart and Nancy Chesley is a superb resource for teachers. Stewart and Chesley pair a fiction and a nonfiction picture book to help teach life science to third through fifth graders.
One of Stewart and Chesley’s lessons, How a Tree’s Structures Help it Survive feature these two books: The Promise by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin, and Are Trees Alive? by Debbie S. Miller, illustrated by Stacey Schuett. The Promise is a gorgeous fiction book about the power nature has to transform individuals and communities while Are Trees Alive compares a tree’s structure to the structure of the human body. I’ll be using part of Stewart and Chesley’s lesson as an attention getter in my first lesson which focuses on woody plants otherwise known as trees.
Full of Fall is lyrical and beautiful as are all of April Pulley Sayre’s books and has scientific information in the back explaining why deciduous leaves change color in the fall.
Your historians will love perusing Celebritrees: Historic & Famous Trees of the World. The amazing Margi Preus highlights fourteen different trees around the world and how they have affected the people around them.
Some students are much more interested in reading about people than plants and animals. So, there are two biographies included in this book giveaway. The first, Karl, Get Out of the Garden by Anita Sanchez describes how Karl Linnaeus developed the system biologists use today for scientifically naming plants and animals. This biography is cool because when students see the scientific names in some of the other books in this set, they’ll know how and why plants and animals have scientific names. The other biography, Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean written by Sigrid Schmalzer and illustrated by Melanie Linden Chan is interesting because it features a person in another part of the world, Chinese scientist Phu Zhelong, and focuses on sustainable farming in China.
Achoo! Why Pollen Counts by the generous Shennen Bersani will appeal to students who like anthropomorphized animals. A mama bear explains to her cub all the reasons why pollen is important. This book is a nice segue into lessons two and three which start to look at pollinators.
Not everybody likes to read nonfiction, so I’ve included two outstanding novels in the giveaway. The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden is the second book in the Vanderbeekers’ series by Karina Van Glaser. Readers will love accompanying the Vanderbeeker siblings as they turn an abandoned lot into a community garden. This book is brand new and won’t be out till late September. So, Karina Van Glaser will send this book to the winner separately. Me and Marvin Gardens by A.S. King is one of my favorite middle grade novels. Students will appreciate how the main character, Obe, is able to get his family to spend more time outside and utilize the land that’s left that’s been in their family for generations. Plus, there’s a new, cute animal. Who can beat cute animals?
The Story of Seeds by Nancy Castaldo is absolutely fascinating. This will appeal to your voracious readers who are interested in absolutely everything: history, science, biography and so on. Hand them this book and they’ll be busy for a while. Bugged: How Insects Changed History by Sarah Albee is an irreverent counterpart to The Story of Seeds and will appeal to students with a sense of humor.
There are six groups of insect pollinators: bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, flies and beetles. Which ones are represented in 100 Bugs! and which ones are not? Ask students why they think this is? An interesting fact, unless a bug’s name had three syllables, I didn’t include it. But, still, there are probably insects that have three-syllable names in each category. So, why aren’t they all there?
Finally, Weeds Find a Way by Cindy Jenson-Elliott, illustrated by Carolyn Fisher and Plants Can’t Sit Still by Rebecca E. Hirsch, illustrated by Mia Posada, are beautifully written and illustrated books that both dispel the myth that plants are still and stay in one place. Students will get lost in the lyrical words and lovely art and emerge with a new understanding of the plants around them.
Parents have been asking me for reading recommendations over the summer. As of today, my summer has officially begun. So, I’m sharing my top ten below, in alphabetical order, along with the reason I’ll be reading the novel.
1. Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead
Okay, I’m going to nerd out about this book from an author’s point of view. I listened to an awesome Publisher's Weekly podcast about this book and what Mass and Stead did is amazing. One author would write one chapter and then send it to the other author who would then write the next chapter. Since one author is a planner and one is not, it was a growth experience for both of them. I love Wendy Mass novels. One of her most famous is The Candymakers. In addition, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is my favorite novel of all time. It’s absolutely brilliant. How could I not read a novel created by both of these amazing authors?
2. Breakout by Kate Messner
Truth be told I love Kate Messner. She’s a former teacher, a TED talk presenter, and an incredibly generous person in the kidlit community. This novel is told from three different viewpoints through various text forms such as newspaper clippings, school morning announcements, poems and text messages. I think it will be in the running for the Newbery. If your child likes reading novels in various text forms, Avi’s Nothing But the Truth is told this way as well.
3. The Doughnut Fix by Jessie Janowitz
This novel has been described as “Superfudge meets The Lemonade War.” Need I say more?
4. Drawn Together by Minh Le and illustrated by Dan Santat
This is a picture book, not a novel, but I can’t wait to read it. In the story a boy and his grandfather use art to overcome their inability to speak the same oral language. The art samples I’ve seen are stunning. Also, having lived in Chile and in Japan, I know firsthand how difficult a language barrier can be, and how wonderful it feels to find common ground. Finally as my students know, I love Dan Santat. His book After the Fall was one of my 2018 Caldecott picks.
5. Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
While this is far from a light read, it’s an important read. When we studied our civil rights unit this year, many students didn’t think the issues we discussed applied to today’s world. Rhodes shows the reader that this viewpoint is far from many people’s truth. I also think this novel will be in the running for the Newbery.
For more about Ghost Boys click on this link to hear what Colby Sharp has to say or listen to Matthew Winner interview Jewell Parker Rhodes on The Children's Book Podcast.
6. The Great Treehouse War by Lisa Graff
You know what I’m going to say by now… I love novels by Lisa Graff! A Tangle of Knots is one of my favorite novels and another that I wish I would have written! Besides, who can resist a novel set in a treehouse?
7. Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
This book is the 2018 Newbery Medalist. It’s a must read.
8. Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson
I’m embarrassed to say I still haven’t read this novel yet. It’s about how three boys plot a send-off for their sixth grade teacher before she starts her cancer treatment. The end of the school year leaves me feeling melancholy, and I’ve been hearing many of my students say similar statements such as, "I'm really going to miss you," and "I don't want the school year to end." This novel might be just the right feel for the end-of-the-school year blues.
9. Out of the Wild Night by Blue Balliet
Again I have to come clean here. I love Blue Balliet novels, and I plan on using this text as a comparison novel as I embark on the fourth draft of the current novel I’m writing. This novel has been described as a love letter to Nantucket. So, you’ll definitely want to pick this one up if your family vacations there over the summer.
10. The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but I love Varian Johnson novels. They’re humorous and full of diverse characters. This novel has been compared to a novel many parents probably read when they were a child, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.
If I haven’t hit on novels you think your child might be interested in or if you’re looking for nonfiction recommendations, please check out the links below.
Happy summer reading!
I'm so excited to share my trailer with you. If you're looking to teach your students about the combinations of ten or if you're looking for some fun insect facts or if you're looking to find out what flowers to plant to attract polllinators to your garden or if you enjoy seek-and-find books, 100 Bugs! is the perfect book for you. Be sure to put it on your list for books to read on the 100th day of school as well. I'm including the script for the trailer below. If you and your class make a trailer of the book, send it my way, and I'll be sure to post it on my blog. Those of you who have been following 100 Book Trailers from the beginning, may note similarities between my trailer and the first trailer I featured-Can an Aardvark Bark? by Melissa Stewart (link below). That's because Melissa's trailer inspired this one. Thanks, Melissa! For more activities centered around 100 Bugs!, click here. If you want to preorder 100 Bugs! and enter to win a free, personalized, autographed book from April Jones Prince or Melissa Stewart or Sarah Brannen or Joannie Duris or Heather Lang, then click here.
Activity Name: 100 Bugs Book Trailer
Activity Description: Looking to reinforce the combinations of ten with your students? Create your own 100 Bugs! book trailer. My class made their own artwork in the above trailer, but you can speed the process up by downloading Suzanne Kaufman's stunning artwork which is included in the file below. Enjoy!
It's true. We all think our dogs are the best... and we're all correct! But I think what's best about this book is the fact that it's perfect for emerging readers. The three-word sentences are repetitive and simple. So, readers will feel successful when they pick up this book. I also love this activity because not everyone has a dog, yet this activity gives everyone a dog they can take home and "walk" whenever they want to. Thanks Curious City!
Activity Name: Walk the Dog
1) Color both dogs on page seven of the activity guide.
2) Fold on the solid line.
3) Cut on the dashed line.
4) Carefully poke 18+ inch wire through hole of dog's collar to craft a leash.
5) Tape 1 inch of the wire inside the dog to prevent slipping.
6) Curl the other end of the wire to make a leash handle and prevent wire poking.
7) Share your dog on Instagram @LaurieAnnThompson #mydogisthebest.
Author Website: lauriethompson.com/
Illustrator Website: www.paulschmidstudio.com/87zu25iim2zgw9tgqsxkg2wda89m8f
You can't beat a birthday party and dinsoaurs in one book! To top it off Matt Forrest Esenwine and his team have developed some fun activities that will not only entertain your students, they'll delight your party guests as well. They thoughtfully included activities in black and white as well as color, so that each indicidual could choose the file(s) that matched his or her resources.
Activity Name: Dinosaur Match Up
Activity Description: This is one of the best matching worksheets I've ever seen because not only does it include facts about the dinos, the facts are written in the same humorous tone of the book. Have fun!
Author Website: https://mattforrest.wordpress.com/
Author Website: www.deborahbruss.com
Illustrator Website: www.louiechin.com/
If you like the humorous tone of this book, besides checking out the creators' websites, you should also look at this trailer. Ame Dyckman's You Don't Want a Unicorn! pairs well with Don't Ask a Dinosaur.
When I listened to Colby Sharp interview Grace Ling on The Yarn, I knew I had to feature When the Sea Turned to Silver. The podcast talks about the power of friendship, love, and writing one's own endings. One of the reasons why I enjoy working with kids so much, is that they have the ability to write their own everything. Well, okay, maybe not the very beginning of their life story, but everything after that is still a blank page. There is a particular magic and wonder in working with people who have their whole lives ahead of them. As teachers, we have the ability to help them write a positive chapter in their lives. Reader's Theater can be a fun part of that chapter. It's a delight to see Grace Lin participating in Reader's Theater with this group of students. Many thanks to The Curious City for this activity. Enjoy!
Activity Name: "The Story of the Red Stone" Reader's Theater
Activity Description: Bring When the Sea Turned to Silver to life with Reader's Theater. The script has many parts, and it's color coordinated which makes it easier for kids to follow along.
Okay, this trailer makes me super happy. It reminds me that soon the grass will be green, and that I'll be driving past baby cows on my way to work. The thirty degree weather will not continue forever. It also reminds me of something even more important-there is always enough love to go around. I love looking at The Curious City activity guides. They're always full of creative ideas. Enjoy!
Activity Name: Making Lists with Raisin
Activity Description: "As you can see on the cover and throughout the pages, Raisin is a list maker. In the book she has a list of “my favorite things,” “yuck!” and “places to run away to.” Whether your readers are
writing on their own or not, they can create their own lists. How?"
___ Print the Yuck! / Favorites lists on page 9. Print enough so that each reader can have one of
each. Cut the printed sheet in half vertically.
___ Set aside pencils or crayons for list writing.
After finishing a round of standardized testing, I'm in the mood for some fun! This graphic novel will entertain and the accompanying activity will immerse kids in their own creative world.
Activity Name: Q & Ray Panel Fun Sheet
Activity Description: This is an easy way to begin your own graphic novel. Download the sheet and get started!
Any book by Melissa Sweet is breathtakingly gorgeous. It's always a gift to open her work. This past fall, I used this biography to teach my students about hooks. The book does a fantastic job detailing the various revisions E.B. White wrote in order to craft his stunning first line of Charlotte's Web, "Where's Papa going with that axe?" We talk about how starting with dialogue, thought, action or sound grabs people's attention, and discuss that this line is much more interesting than the other first lines White experimented with in previous drafts. The activity below presented by The Curious City would be a fun follow up to the hook discussion. I'd have students add their own favorite quotes from White's work as well.
Activity Name: Some Writer: Quotes to Collage
Activity Description: Make a collage using E.B. White's quotes. The file below includes quotes, but students can find their own quotes as well in White's classic books, or find more quotes in Some Writer.
If you want to tie the quotes into the hook discussion, you could have students sort the quotes into four categories: dialogue, thought, sound and action.
Engaging early chapter books are hard to find. If you have emerging independent readers, you'll definitely want to check out this series. Love the idea of Kindness Cards. I do something similar each year in my classroom at the end of the year, but I like the simplicity of the template below. One thing I've learned when doing this type of activity is to make sure that everyone is assigned a specific person to give the card to and include due dates. Otherwise, people's feelings are hurt.
Activity Name: Kindness Cards
Activity Description: This could be a fun Friday activity. Give each student five kindness card templates and assign them five different names of students in your class. Then, let students spend time decorating the front of each card. I'd tell students that they have one week to include one specific, kind comment about each person on the left hand side of the template and to finish decoerating the front of each card. After one week, I'd collect all the cards to make sure the comments were kind. Then, the following week each student would pass out a card each day of the week. By the end of the week, each student would have five cards with five specific kind comments about himself or herself.
Weekly Wall Recommendations
For the 2018-2019 school year, students will be choosing books to display on our classroom recommendation wall. The wall is a lending library. It showcases the various literature choices in the classroom, celebrates students' voices and choices, facilitates getting to know each other through our literature choices, and facilitates communication with the global learning community.