Teaching Science Through Children’s LiteratureBy Diana Wehrell-Grabowski on June 21, 2010 in Teacher Training Workshops
On a balmy Friday in June on the Gulf Coast of Florida thirty elementary teachers took part in a six-hour hands-on-minds-on inquiry-based teacher training workshop. Teachers were immersed in exploring intermediate level (grades 3-5) science concepts through popular children’s literature. Children’s authors included Dr. Seuss, John Himmelman, Anthony Fredericks, Jean Craighead George, Carol Hiaasen, Roberta Edwards, Robert Byrd, Janis Herbert, Laura Driscoll, Jennifer Dussling, Lynne Cherry, Kevin Kurtz, and many more authors. Teachers explored Big Ideas within the four of the new world-class Sunshine State Standards (Nature of Science, Earth and Space Science, Physical Science, and Life Science) through hands-on-minds-on- inquiry-based investigations. Teachers explored the states of matter by making Oobleck, a unique Non-Newtonian substance that takes on the characteristics of both a solid and a liquid. Teachers also used Oobleck to teach earth and space science concepts including: mudslides, landslides, and volcanic eruptions. Dr. Seuss’s book Bartholomew and the Oobleck was the literary connection in this investigation. Teachers designed and constructed terrestrial or aquatic bottle biology ecosystems to explore a wide-range of life science concepts including: ecosystems, food chains, food webs, consumers, decomposers, consumers, limiting factors, oxygen cycle, water cycle, nitrogen cycle, photosynthesis, and the animal kingdom. The following children’s literature were reviewed during the designing and construction of the bottle biology ecosystems:Everybody’s Somebody’s Lunch by Cherie Mason, A Pill Bug’s Life and An Earthworm’s Life both by John Himmelman, Under One Rock by Anthony Fredericks, and others. Teachers observed and studied mangrove seedlings and learned all about mangrove ecology. Lynne Cherry’s children’s literature book The Sea, The Storm, and the Mangrove Tangle was used in this investigation to reinforce mangrove ecology concepts. Teachers were introduced to the vast array of ideas and inventions of Leonardo daVinci by exploring simple machines, airplanes, helicopters, and parachutes. Who Was Leonardo da Vinci by Roberta Edwards was the primary children’s literature book used during the investigations. However, teachers were also introduced to many other children’s literature books that cover Leonardo daVinci’s life, innovations, and inventions. Teachers studied bird feathers to make connections to bird anatomy, aerodynamic concepts, and gravity. There’s an Owl in My Shower by Jean Craighead George as well as books about Leonardo daVinci were used during this investigation. Teachers explored the concepts of erosion and weathering, and the rock cycle through the Ellen Prager’s book Sandand Kristine and Robert Thorson’s book Stone Wall Secrets. Teachers explored the concepts of erosion and weathering through hands-on investigations using Coquina Rock. The culminating investigation involved the teachers exploring the behavior of light waves with emphasis on reflection, refraction, visible spectrum, electromagnetic spectrum, the use of spectroscopes by astronomers to analyze stars. Teachers constructed a simple spectroscope out of a mailer tube and diffraction grating material. The children’s literature used during this investigation was The Rainbow Mysteryby Jennifer Dussling part of the Science Solves It! Series. The teachers left the workshop with children’s literature books listed in this article, science references, Teaching Science Through Children’s Literature manual by Dr. Diana Wehrell-Grabowski, models made during the workshop, and a wealth of additional knowledge. Once again, I was elated to have had the opportunity to meet a wonderful group of teachers willing to expand their own scientific knowledge during their summer vacation. All of the books used during Teaching Science Through Children’s Literature can be found and ordered from this site on the books page.