STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books

For Earth Day, Celebrate and Teach About the Hard Work and Joy of Discovering a Species

In honor of Earth Day on April 22, explore STEM concepts with students through the lens of environmental science and conservation.

Olinguito, from A to Z! Unveiling the Cloud Forest, Lee & Low Books, 2016


¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z! Descubriendo el bosque nublado /Olinguito, from A to Z! Unveiling the Cloud Forest (nonfiction) Interest level: grades K–6

by Lulu Delacre

Help a zoologist look for the elusive olinguito, the first new mammal species identified in the Americas since 1978! Using the framework of the Spanish alphabet, this bilingual (Spanish and English) book introduces readers to a cloud forest in the Andes of Ecuador; the plants, animals, and other organisms found there; and the newly-identified olinguito, a South American mammal. Not your usual ABC book, the alphabet is an organizing feature to introduce children to rich vocabulary as they learn about a unique environment. Back matter includes articles about cloud forests and the discovery of the olinguito in 2013, and an extensive glossary with scientific names of the species pictured.

Themes: Biodiversity, Environments & Habitats (Cloud Forests), Alphabet (Spanish and English), Field Research & Animal Discovery, Conservation & Species Protection, Interdependence, Animal & Plant Adaptations, Ecuador


Before reading:

  • Have students look at the cover and pictures and determine if the text is fiction or nonfiction. What evidence do they see in the pictures and text features that supports their claim?
  • Locate Ecuador on a map. Based on their picture walk and prior knowledge, have students describe the environment of this area and its suitability for the olinguito, the smallest member of the raccoon family.
  • What do you think a cloud forest is? Tell me what you know about cloud forests or other types of forests.

Comprehension questions:

  • Describe the cloud forest habitat. What makes cloud forests unique from other habitats? In which type of biome does a cloud forest belong?
  • Why does the zoologist have a hard time finding the olinguito? What information about the olinguito’s and habitat’s characteristics would you give someone who wants to see an olinguito in the wild?
  • Read the additional information at the end of the book to students. What can future scientists learn from this experience of discovering a new species? What character trait(s) does a scientist who hopes to discover a previously unknown species need? Why?

 Activity Suggestions:

  • Display a map of North and South America. Locate the Andes Mountains and Ecuador. Then find the part of the United States where your students live. (You may also wish to use the map scale to estimate the distance between the two places.) What is the capital of Ecuador? What countries border it? The Andes Mountains extend over which countries? The Andes is the source to which river (considered the second longest river in the world)? What ocean is near the Andes and Ecuador?
  • Have students write a persuasive essay in response to the question: Can an olinguito survive and thrive in your area of the country? Have students list the conditions necessary for olinguitos to survive and thrive. Students should also examine the olinguitos’ behavioral and physical adaptations. Then encourage students to investigate whether or not those conditions exist in your area. If not, have students find out where in the United States olinguitos could live if there is another suitable place. Additionally, ask students to take opposing sides in a class debate presenting their opinions with evidence.
  • Encourage students to research another rare or elusive animal. Compare the habitat, location, adaptations, food source, and impact of humans on the population of this animal. Create a Venn diagram to share this information.
  • Point out to students that the main text and the back matter both give facts about the cloud forest and olinguito. In a T-chart, have students note the features, including text structure, and author’s purpose of each text. In an essay, encourage students to compare the main text and back matter. How are both examples of nonfiction? What subgenre of nonfiction is each?
  • Write a persuasive letter to Dr. Helgen who discovered the olinguito on where he should consider looking next for other unknown species. Which region or habitat may be the best opportunity for discovering a new species? Why?


It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

Copyright © 2016 Jill Eisenberg. All Rights Reserved.


Author: jilleisenberg14

Jill Eisenberg is the Senior Literacy Specialist at Lee & Low Books. She writes a weekly column for Lee & Low’s The Open Book Blog where she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators:

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