Cultivate Wonder

Exploring Science with Children

Encouraging Fledglings

Every year I introduce birdwatching to families in our Wonderworks (STEAM) Storytime ) and encourage them to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. This year’s bird count is this weekend — February 12-15, 2016 — which is a long weekend for many people. My  interest stems from my family’s experience of participating in Project Feederwatch, in which you count birds in your yard over a series of months (November-April). The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great introduction to citizen science as it requires only a very brief time commitment. It takes place over four days, but you can count just once, just for 15 minutes, or every day. You can count on a visit to a park or on a wintery hike, or in your backyard. Sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (the same folks as sponsor project Feederwatch) the Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada. It’s grown into a global phenomenon, as you can see from a map showing last year’s participants, who counted over 8 million individual birds.gbbc-2015This year they are encouraging experienced birdwatchers to introduce young people (fledglings) to birdwatching — to take the pledge to fledge. It’s easy to join in this worldwide phenomenon — instructions and bird guides are available online.

In storytime, I read Simon James The Birdwatchers and About Birds: A Guide for Children by Catherine Sill, illustrated by John Sill (2nd editon; Peachtree Publishers, 2013)About birds

Next the children made birdfeeders with paper towel rolls, crisco, and birdseed.

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I also introduced children to the Merlin Bird Identification app (free, iOS & Android) which helps identify birds. It is very child-friendly, requiring very little reading. The app asks for the size of bird, then gives a range for them to choose from. It ask for up to 3 colors spotted, and where the bird was seen (on the ground, at a feeder, in flight). After a few questions, the app returns a list of possible birds sighted. IMG_9196

 

For each bird, it includes bird calls as well. We identified one bird together  — I told them I had seen one on my way into work that day. I had four iPads with the apps for them to experiment with, with their grownup’s help. Some used a bird book to test out the app; others used the Great Backyard Bird Count poster to see if they could identify the bird depicted (a nuthatch!)

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The interaction between parents and children was genuine and all seemed to really enjoy the activity — one even downloaded it for their phone before leaving the program!

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Why don’t you try out Merlin & join the world in counting birds this weekend? It’s fun and easy and you’ll be contributing to science!

 

 

 

 

 

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Bones, Bones, Bones

One of my favorite science storytimes is all about bones. (See:“The Foot Bone’s Connected to the Ankle Bone”) Partly because I just love S.D. Schindler’s outrageously funny illustrations for Skeleton Hiccups. bodybonesThis year I added a new find: Body Bones by Shelly Rotner and David A. White (Holiday House , 2014), with stunning illustrations that allow children to literally see inside people and animals — to see how bones support and structure living things.

The follow up activity is one I remember from my own childhood: lying down on a huge sheet a paper (huge from my childhood memory) and having someone draw around you so there is an outline of your body.  Accompanying adults are encouraged to participate in Wonderworks, and activities like this require it.

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I love the interaction that you can see going on in the photographs below. I provided a basic outline of a skeleton, and many children and parents chose to use these as a reference, to draw in the bones where they go.

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I overheard great conversations like, “yes, that’s where your ribs go, but I think they are a little longer than that. Can you make them longer?”

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I think the Body Bones book encouraged more children in the past to try this. One child did bones on one side of the paper, then flipped it over and drew their clothes!

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As in the past, I was delighted by the range and variety of their creativity.

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Under the Kapok Tree

Or, what happens after a children’s librarian visits the rainforest?

robinI first explored a trees theme in Wonderworks in the Spring of 2013:

https://cultivatewonder.wordpress.com/category/trees/

Yesterday we revisited the theme with a different twist. On a trip to Costa Rica the previous week, I saw a kapok (ceiba) tree. Of course I’m familiar with Lynne Cherry’s The Great Kapok Tree (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990).greatkapok

But after seeing a 400 year old kapok tree in person, it took on new meaning. To say it was impressive is an understatement. It was simply an amazing, awe inspiring, wondrous thing.

Here are some pictures that I shared with the children:

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kapokcanopyI left these pictures BIG because the tree is just so big and majestic itself.

I also read Debbie Miller’s Are Trees Alive? (Walker, 2003) as an introduction to trees and used the songs mentioned in the earlier post about trees.

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How do penguins stay warm in winter?

It’s all about the feathers . . .

I began by showing the children a globe and asking if they knew what it was. The verbal response was “the earth!” and I supplied the word “globe.” I asked where they lived and showed them Ohio on the globe and pointed out that Ohio is in the Northern Hemisphere, or top half, of the globe. Penguins live in the south, and though we usually think of the south as warm, penguins live soooo far south that it is cold. I pointed out the southern tips of Africa and South America where some penguins (like the one in today’s story live) before showing them Antarctica at the bottom.

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Then I read the rhyming, nonfiction picture book Pierre the Penguin: A True Story by Jean Marzollo (Sleeping Bear Press, 2010). This story is full of a child appeal — a penguin who loses his feathers and so can’t swim and is shunned by other penguins, until a female biologist thinks of creating a wetsuit to help Pierre. There’s even a video of Pierre: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=293bHffb4QE.

Next it was time for our experiment. We made a circle and then passed around a cube of ice — brrr! it was cold. Then I passed a cube of ice in a dish and a sandwich size plastic bag filled with feathers. They used the feather-filled bag to pick up the piece of ice . . . and discovered it wasn’t cold! So that’s how birds keep warm in the winter . . . feathers!

We hopped around to Johnette Downing’s “Rockhopper Penguin” song from Fins and Grins, with kids choosing to swim, glide, dive, or even slide on their bellies, in addition to much hopping.

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Then we “read” Molly Idle’s Flora and the Penguin, a wordless book. Children took turns describing the action and the mood (very important in this one) of the story.

The art activity was creating penguins out of different shapes of construction paper I provided: black and white ovals, orange and black triangles. I also provided a sheet with different kinds of penguins — we talked about how small Pierre is (African penguins are 18″ tall) and compared his height to that of an Emperor Penguin (up to 48″ tall). We looked at how some penguins have a few distinctive feathers or markings — like the Rockhopper Penguin in the song. I love the variety of details that the children came up with, all starting with the same few materials:

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Pierre the Penguin is on the RIF’s STEAM Multicultural Booklist for 2012-13, which is a wonderful resource for parents, teachers, and librarians. Books on the list have activities suggested (including the ice one I did today) and great handouts for parents.

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Wild about Wombats

diaryofawombatEver since I read Jackie French’s Diary of a Wombat (Clarion, 2003), I’ve been wild about wombats. On a recent visit to the Columbus Zoo, I discovered that they are now home to a wombat, Glen, one of very few zoos outside Australia to have one, as they are very closely regulated (rightly so.) And young Glen is just as adorable as Mothball, charmingly drawn by Bruce Whatley in French’s books. Though Wildlights is one of the main reasons people visit the zoo on a cold evening in December, another great bonus is that the animals in the nocturnal house are awake. Somehow we even lucked into arriving just before feeding time. IMG_2094

As the caretaker entered Glen’s enclosure with a handful of carrots, the little wombat stopped digging and gave all his attention to him, ears swiveling alertly forward. When the person stopped, Glen trotted over eagerly (wombats are actually pretty fast runners as it turns out!) So we saw Glen dig, scratch and roll in the dust, and eat carrots . . . just like the wombat of the book. You can see Glen in this video from the zoo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJHX_8YvbMs

All of this wombat fascination inspired a wombat storytime. I brought in a globe and began by showing the children where Ohio was and then where Australia is. We talked about the several unique animals that are found in Australia: kangaroos, koalas, and wombats.

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In addition to Diary of a Wombat, I shared Carol Diggory Shields’ Wombat Walkabout (Dutton, 2009). with its’ whimsical illustrations by Sophie Blackall.

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In adapting this program for a slightly younger audience, I’m planning to use one of Charles Fuge’s wombat stories.

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Other books include Michael Morpugo’s Wombat Goes Walkabout (HarperCollins, 1999)

one-very-tired-wombat-by-renee-treml-soft-cover.jpgand Renee Treml’s One Very Tired Wombat (Random House, 2013).

Songs included “Here Comes a Bear” by the Wiggles, which does include a wombat in one of the verses. Other than the bear, the animals mentioned are Australian, and children can act out the motions with the song (the kangaroo hops, snake slithers, and wombat crawls).

We learned how wombats are called “nature’s bulldozers” because of their incredible capacity for digging and the large tunnels they dig (again, just like in French’s book, where the wombat digs several holes, including one right up under the human’s house!) We watched a BBC video where the reporter actually goes into a wombat’s tunnel before designing our

own wombat tunnels.

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This craft uses two paper plates and turns so that the tunnel below the ground can be revealed. Children had fun playing a hide and seek type game with the wombat.

wombatcovnRead more about the real Mothball, the inspiration for Diary of a Wombat, on Jackie French’s site: http://www.jackiefrench.com/wombat.html

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Going Batty @ the Library

You can warm up your audience (depending on their age!) with a few batty riddles:

What bat do you find at the circus?

An acro-bat!

Why did the little bat want to get a job?

He was tired of just hanging around.

 Which bat knows it’s ABC’s?

The alpha-bat!

 Little Bumblebee Bat is a just about perfect non-fiction book to introduce bats to a preschool audience. It is in question and answer format, the text is straightforward, short and informative, and appealing illustrations add to the interest.

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Bats Are Sleeping
(tune: Frere Jacques)

Bats are sleeping
Bats are sleeping
Upside down.
Upside down.
Waiting for the night to come,
Waiting for the night to come,
Then they’ll fly around.
Then they’ll fly around.

I’ve sung this several times with kids, but this is the first time that I’ve had kids act it out to the point of lying down and putting their legs in the air to pretend to sleep upside down!upsidedown

 

Song/Video: “Doing the Batty Bat” and counting bats with Count von Count from Sesame Street:

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 Bat Loves the Night by Nicola Davies is a wonderful non-fiction picture book.

Additional books you could use are Stellaluna by Janell Cannon, Bats in the Library by Brian Lies, and Bat Jamboree by Kathi Appelt.

Next we  did a night/day game activity about bats. I held up one sign that said “night” with a picture of a moon and the children  flew around like bats and when I showed the other sign that said “day” they curled up (as upside down as they could get!), wrapped their arms (wings) around themselves and pretended they were sleeping.

 We also played a sonar game so they can understand what it is like to “see” with their ears. One child is the bat and wears a  blindfold.  All the other kids are the insects (bat food).  The bat went “beep, beep” and the insects went “buzz, buzz” and if the bat caught the insects she sent them to the bat cave.

We finished with a black bat craft.batcraft

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My Anatomy

For our final week of summer session Wonderworks, we learned all about the parts of our bodies and how they work together to make us who we are.

After our opening song, Energy, by Nancy Stewart, we all took a moment to stop and feel how quickly our hearts were beating (it is a long song with a lot of movement). We talked about our day’s theme and allowed our heartbeats to return to normal, and then, we tried to feel them again.  We noticed that our hearts had settled down and were no longer beating as rapidly.

We read our two books back to back, beginning with Tedd Arnold’s very humorous picture book, Parts. Next, we moved on to the very engaging and informative beginning reader Fascinating! Human Bodies, by Katherine Kenah. This was an excellent book for our theme, as it not only discussed some of the different parts of the body – internal and external, but also introduced fun facts that the children really enjoyed. We learned that like fingerprints, the iris of each human eye is unique. We also learned that the longest case of hiccups lasted 69 years!  If you are interested in teaching preschool age children about the inner workings of the human body, I highly recommend this pairing.

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After we finished our books, we did two songs with bean bags. First, we did the popular Beanie Bag Dance from Greg and Steve’s Kids In Action album. In this song, the children dance along to the music while cues in the song tell them on which body part to put their bean bag. The second song that we did was a much quieter song and one that we’ve never tried before, called Up Goes the Castle.  It is sung by Ernie from Sesame Street. In this song Ernie instructs you to lie on the floor and put your hands on your stomach (I asked them to lie on the floor and place their bean bags on their stomachs), and then as he sings the song (which is about a castle moving up and down on a mountain), the children watched their beanbags as they rose and fell on their stomachs. Before beginning this song, we talked about how our lungs got bigger and smaller when we breathed in and out.  We practiced breathing in and out and noticing how our chests got bigger and smaller. *I must be honest, I was worried that the children would have a difficult time staying still and would move around or get up before the song had ended; however, they did not. Over twenty children all remained on their backs with their bean bags on their bellies for a song that was 3:30 seconds long. I will definitely use this song again.*

For our activity, I made packets of organs and skeletons (from the website: Confessions of a Homeschooler: Life Size Human Anatomy Activity) for the children and their adults to cut out together and to arrange and glue on to large sheets of butcher paper. I had examples hanging up so that they would know where everything should go (basically). The adults were able to first trace an outline of the children in crayons, and then, they cut out the organs, colored and labeled them and glued them into place. This was actually a much more time consuming activity than I had anticipated, and so the overall storytime, which is ordinarily 45 minutes (including activity) went over by an additional 45 mintues (I had nothing going on in the room after, so this was not a problem, but if you are on a stricter schedule, you might want to schedule more time or to make this as a take home activity).

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As far as our Wonderworks program goes, I would say that this was probably one of my favorite themes.  It was not only fun but also very educational.  The books were enjoyable and engaging, the the songs were fun and relevant, and both the children and their adults had a great time working together on the activity.

I hope you all are enjoying your summer! We’ll be back again soon when Wonderworks fall session begins at the end of August. Feel free to contact Robin Gibson or myself, Jen Thomas, anytime. We’re always happy to share ideas and get to know other individuals interested in STEAM programming.

 

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Senses and Sensibility

Most of us have five senses.  Some of us have six (if you happen to be one of those rare individuals, you already know what this blog is going to be about and need not read on).

In last week’s Wonderworks Storytime, we tested each of our five senses: seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling.

We read the nonfiction book Our Senses, by Janine Scott, which discussed each of the five senses. In order to keep the children engaged as we read, we asked them questions regarding each sense, such as, in the case of smell: “What are some things that smell bad?”  and “What are some things that smell good?” and so on.  The children all enjoyed sharing their favorite and least favorite smells, flavors, sights, sounds, and textures.

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We passed out shakers and used Jim Gill’s song Alabama, Mississippi between books, explaining that we would be using our senses of hearing to note the parts where we sang loudly verses the parts where we sang quietly.

Our picture book was Ed Young’s Seven Blind Mice, the story of seven unseeing mice who have to use their sense of touch and their combined impressions to discover the identity of an unknown entity in their midst.

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For our activities, we created many different stations to test each of the senses.  For smelling, we made smelling jars, using cotton balls, scented with a variety of essential oils – some not as pleasant as others (according to the children).

For sight, we printed off thaumatropes that the children could cut out and glue together on coffee stirs.

For sight, sound and touch we took pictures of a bunch of different items such as marbles, wooden beads, popcorn kernels, bells, coffee beans and oatmeal, and then we printed out these pictures on card stock.  Then, we placed these items in plastic eggs and balloons.  The children then had to try to match the image with what they believed to be the balloon (by sense of touch) and the egg (by sense of sound).

For taste, we popped served popcorn and lemonade.

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We get many of our ideas from Pinterest, so feel free to visit our Pinterest page for additional ideas and instructions. http://www.pinterest.com/jenmthomas/stem-storytimes/

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Spiders are *not* Insects!

Spiders have eight legs. Insects have six.  Spiders are *not* insects. This is one of a variety of things we learned during our spider-themed Wonderworks.

We opened this storytime with a funny, yet educational, YouTube video from Sesame Street, which features actor Jim Parsons and a large spider-shaped muppet, both trying to explain the definition of “arachnid.”

Our nonfiction book selection was Spiders Are Not Insects, by Allan Fowler.  This Rookie Read-About Science book uses color photos and simple text to teach facts about spiders and to illustrate the differences between spiders and insects.  It also shows several popular varieties of spiders – large and small, poisonous and non-poisonous.  Although physically small, this book series rarely fails to keep the children interested and engaged.

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After our book, we acted out the rhyme, Little  Miss Muffet a few times, hooking our thumbs together and wiggling our eight fingers around to make our spiders. We also discussed how spiders were not insects but rather arachnids.  To help us remember the word “arachnid,” we clapped out the each of the three syllables as pronounced it.

RhymeLittle Miss Muffet

Little Miss Muffet

Sat on a tuffet

Eating her curds and whey

Along came a spider

Who sat down beside her

And frightened Miss Muffet away!

After our rhyme, we read the picture book Aaaarrgghh! Spider!, by Lydia Monks, a fun story about a spider who wants to be a family pet.

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Next, we sang Sharon, Lois, and Bram’s song, The Eensy Weensy Spider from their Great Big Hits cd.

For our activities, we made paper plate spider webs and Styrofoam egg carton spiders with eight little pipe cleaner legs.

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Trees in the Library!

Have you noticed the new trees in the library?

 

A recent STEM Storytime celebrated trees.

We read A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry — beginning by discussing the physical book itself, asking children, “What do you notice about this book? What shape is it?”treeisnice

 

Then I showed the children different kinds of seeds (an acorn, a walnut) and we talked about trees providing food and shelter (for who? squirrels, birds, people). We talked about how even our book came from trees! I had enough maple seeds to give them each one,  which they threw in the air and watched spin like a helicopter. I also had several different pine cones to show them and introduced the word “conifer.”

Next we watched and listened to the They Might Be Giants song, “C is for Conifers” from Here Come the ABCs.

Then we read Are Trees Alive? by Debbie S. Miller.

This accessible informational picture book compares each tree part to body parts: “roots anchor a tree, like your feet help you stand.”  So the trunk is compared to legs; branches to arms; bark to skin, veins in your hand to veins in a leaf;  sap to blood, and more!

Next we learned “the tree version” of  Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes:

Leaves, branches, trunk, and roots, trunk and roots.

(waving fingers for leaves, arms for branches, touch tummy for trunk and touch toes for roots)

Leaves, branches, trunk, and roots, trunk and roots.

Trees are important to you and to me…                     

Leaves, branches, trunk, and roots, trunk and roots!

We ended by dancing to Laurie Berkner’s “Under a Shady Tree” with shakers.

The scientific skill we emphasized in this program was Observation and vocabulary for today included “conifer” and the parts of a tree: bark, trunk, roots, crown, sap.

At the end we went outside to do bark rubbings from real trees!

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