STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books

Dining with Dinosaurs

dining-with-dinosDining with Dinosaurs: a tasty guide to Mesozoic munching

by Hannah Bonner

48 pages; ages 7-10

National Geographic Kids, 2016

If you are starving for dinosaur knowledge, this book serves up a full-course meal of mouthwatering Mesozoic food facts. Starting with who ate who. Or whom. It’s a basic intro to the “vores” – carnivores eating herbivores who are eating plants which are gobbling down photons at an alarming rate.

We meet the meat eaters – carnivores of all sizes from mega-huge to eagle-sized. There are omnivores that eat anything they can get their hands on, insectivores who eat bugs, and fish-chomping piscivores. There were even dinovores –  dinos that ate dinos – and scavengers that ate anything dead, including dinos past their expiration date.

Then we meet the herbivores, plant-eaters of all sizes, makes and models from tiny crickets with huge appetites to the extra-large Diplodocus who nibbled leaves from the tops of the trees.

Along the way, Hannah (she’s the author) and her Microraptor paleo pal introduce us to scientists who explain tough questions about dinosaur poop, teeth, and more. They even interview a Mesozoic plant about its diet.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for some additional fun and games.

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Experience the World of African Elephants in the Illustrated Travelogue of Ted Lewin & Betsy Lewin

Elephant Quest, from Adventures Around the World series, Lee & Low Books, 2014 (paperback)

Elephant Quest, from Adventures Around the World series, Lee & Low Books, 2014 (paperback)

Elephant Quest (nonfiction, travelogue) Interest level: grades 1–6

written and illustrated by Betsy Lewin and Ted Lewin

Caldecott Honor winners Ted and Betsy Lewin combine their distinctive artistic styles with captivating text to relate their adventure to see majestic African elephants in Botswana. Along the way they encounter a full range of African wildlife: hippos, lions, leopards, wildebeests, giraffes, wild dogs, baboons, and more. Elephant Quest is one of six illustrated travelogues in the Lewin’s Adventures Around the World series.

Honors include:

  • Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students, National Science Teachers Association/Children’s Book Council
  • John Burroughs Award for Nature Books for Young Readers, American Museum of Natural History

Themes: Biodiversity, Animal Adaptations, Habitats & Environments, Human Activity & Impact, Sustainability, Geography

Discussion Questions:

  • Describe the physical and behavioral adaptations of the elephants. What do they need to have or be able to do to survive in their environment?
  • How do Ted and Betsy Lewin and other humans that appear in the book demonstrate respect toward the animals they observe?
  • Why do you think Ted and Betsy Lewin choose to focus on the African elephants? What makes this species unique or interesting compared to the other animals in the habitat and country?
  • What is a reserve? Why do the elephants live in a reserve? What reasons might people have for creating a reserve? Do you think people have a responsibility to protect animals or the environment? Why or why not?
  • Ted and Betsy Lewin are tourists at the reserve and in Botswana. List the consequences (positive and negative) of the Lewins’ trip on the animals, habitat, people of Botswana, and young readers around the world. Do you believe wildlife tourism is beneficial, harmful, or something else to the animals and habitat? Why?

elephant (3)Activity Suggestions:

  1. Have students research the geography of Botswana. What are the physical features, climate, and seasons? Which animals and plants are found there? What culture(s) are found there? What makes the region unique from other parts of the world? How might the region’s geography make it attractive to elephants and ideal for the Moremi Reserve?
  2. Elephant Quest was originally published in 2000. Encourage students to research the status of African elephants today. If the Lewins were to write an update to their travelogue, what might they include about the species and the challenges they face? Explore the conditions of African elephants with the World Wildlife Fund and National Geographic Kids.
  3. If the Lewins were to come to your community, what animal species should they search for and write a travelogue about? Ask students to write a letter to persuade the Lewins to visit this place and study an animal species of their choosing. Describe the species where you live. What does it look like? What does it eat? What are its predators? What challenges does it face?
  4. Encourage students to design and create a travel poster advertising the Moremi Reserve. Persuade tourists to visit this region based on facts about its climate, animals, and geography found in the book. Think about the time of year that would be best to visit this region. Students may wish to study examples of travel advertisements in newspapers, magazines, or online travel sites for inspiration.
  5. Ted and Betsy Lewin choose to use watercolor paint to convey their experiences. How do watercolors help them tell the story and capture their observations? How do watercolor illustrations compare to photographs (check out the photo galleries of Moremi from Expert Africa and Botswana Tourism for examples)? Contrast Ted Lewin’s realistic images to Betsy Lewin’s field sketches. How do the Lewins use watercolors differently from each other? If possible, have students practice painting a scene with watercolor paints. Have students reflect on the material, time involved, and process of painting with watercolors. Have students hypothesize whether the Lewins painted during the trip or after they returned to their studios. Then show them a video interview with the Lewins in their studios.
  6. Home-School Connections: Encourage students and their families to participate in Wildlife Watch, the National Wildlife Federation’s national nature-watching program created for people of all ages. Students and families share the details of the wildlife they see in their communities to help National Wildlife Federation track the health and behavior of species.

stemfriday.tinyIt’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

Copyright © 2015 Jill Eisenberg. All Rights Reserved.


STEM Friday Tales of Animal Tails

Animal Tails by Beth Fielding

36 pages, ages 4-8

Early Light Books, 2011

There are almost as many kinds of tails as there are animals: scaly tails, curly tails, wagging tails, striped tails, tails that sting, tails that warn and even talking tails. Think rattlesnake.

Beth Fielding gives us a visual tour of animal diversity – but this time, instead of tongues and eyes, she’s got us checking out the back ends of animals. Each photo-packed spread focuses on one animal and the special role its tail plays in survival. With kangaroos, it’s balance: those super-long tails help kangaroos balance their weight when they’re jumping. Squirrels use their tails as umbrellas, folding them over their heads and back. When it stops raining they just shake the water off like you’d shake off a wet raincoat. And when it snows, squirrels use their tails to keep warm.

Fielding writes about lizard tails, chameleon tails, cat tails and bird tails – which act like rudders when they’re flying and air brakes when they want to slow down. She even has a section on caterpillar tails – useful for tricking predators into thinking the tail end is the head end.

On each page there’s a nifty fact, something to think about, or an experiment to try. Why are whale tails so effective? Put on a pair of snorkel fins and find out.

At the end there’s six pages of “Tail Talk”- more tales about tails, and even a bit about how animals use their tails to communicate. A dog’ll let you know its happy by wagging a tail – but did you know pigs wag their tails, too? Cats, on the other hand, only wag their tails when they are annoyed or ready to attack. Could this explain the age old animosity between cats and dogs?

Check out more tail tales over at Archimedes Notebook, and take a look at what other people are posting here today.

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