Tag Archives: science

Classroom minibeasts – Readilearn

Learning about minibeasts in the classroom is a great way of engaging children with science knowledge, appreciation of nature, the interrelationships between people and the environment, sustainability, and caring for our planet. It fits beautifully into the science curriculum in an early childhood classroom when children are learning about living things, their needs, their external features, and their life stages.

With live minibeasts in the classroom, it is possible for children to observe all these aspects of a tiny creature. They can use their observations to consider how the life stages of minibeasts compare to those of others, including themselves.

My personal favourite minibeasts for the classroom are butterflies, but there are many others equally suitable; such as:

  • Silkworms
  • Meal worms
  • Stick insects
  • Cockroaches
  • Spiders

The timing and choice may depend upon your location.

For Australians, Minibeast Wildlife is a great resource.

This week I have uploaded some new resources to support a unit of work about minibeasts in an early childhood classroom. These are resources I used for many years in my own classroom. I hope you find them useful too.

Butterfly diary is a free printable resource for recording observations of butterflies in the classroom. Observing the stages in these brief lives helps develop an appreciation for all life. Recording observations integrates science learning with other subject areas

Continue reading: Classroom minibeasts – Readilearn

living things sea turtles

Learning about living things – sea turtles – Readilearn

Children love learning about animals and, by adulthood, must of us have a basic knowledge of many. Unless there is a specific reason for us knowing or finding out more, the knowledge can remain just that – basic, sometimes even with misconceptions. For example:

Remaining curious and continuing to seek information is a characteristic of a life-long learner. One of the purposes of school is to encourage life-long learning.

In the early childhood science curriculum, children begin to learn formally about living things, their needs, and their life stages. This knowledge helps to develop an understanding of, and appreciation for, all living things. As well as providing children with the science concepts included in the curriculum, it is important to stimulate their curiosity by encouraging them to ask questions and explore additional information; for example,

This week I have uploaded a new free interactive digital resource to assist children in their first three years of school learn about living things by learning about sea turtles. With interactive features and fun facts, the resource is also suited to multi-age classrooms. It would be of interest to any curious child with a thirst for knowledge.

Continue reading: Learning about living things – sea turtles – Readilearn

The Penguin Lady responds to An Oily Problem

Imagine my delight when The Penguin Lady read and responded to my post!

In a recent post I shared this Ted talk The Great Penguin Rescue in which “the penguin lady” Dyan deNapoli talks about an oil spill that occurred when a ship sank off the coast of South Africa in the year 2000, oiling nearly 20,000 (almost half) of the total population of African penguins, and the efforts made to rescue them.

The rescue was successful with 90 percent of the oiled penguins returned to the wild.

I found Dyan’s story inspiring, not only for the penguin rescue, but for the learning she credits to the rescue, especially that one person can make a difference, and that “when we come together and work as one, we can achieve extraordinary things.”

I was delighted when Dyan read the post and supplied additional information. Since so many of you were interested in her story, I wanted to share with you what Dyan had to say.

This is her comment:

Hello Norah! I just came across your great post about oil and oil spills. Thank you so much for sharing my TED talk about the Treasure oil spill rescue, and for informing your audience about these important issues. I really enjoyed your flash fiction, and listening to Cesar Harada’s TED talk as well.

Thank you for providing information about how folks can adopt a penguin. I wanted to share the websites of a few more penguin rescue centers that are in need of support, and through which folks can adopt a penguin or fund the hand-rearing of an abandoned penguin chick. There are many organizations rescuing penguins throughout the Southern Hemisphere (there’s actually a complete list of these groups in the appendix of my book, The Great Penguin Rescue), but the following three are organizations doing great work that I regularly support and like to highlight. These are all groups that are doing direct, hands-on work to save oiled or injured penguins. (I also regularly support The Penguin Foundation in Australia, which you’ve already listed above.)

SANCCOB (the center we worked with during the oil spill rescue in 2000): https://sanccob.co.za/

Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT – also working to save Endangered African penguins): http://dict.org.za/pages/give-to-save/give-to-save.php

Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust (YEPT – saving Endangered Yellow-Eyed penguins in New Zealand): http://www.yellow-eyedpenguin.org.nz/passion/support-the-trusts-work/make-a-donation

Thanks again – and keep up the great work!

Cheers,
Dyan deNapoli – The Penguin Lady

These are the ones I listed:

Seabirds. Adopt a penguin

The Penguin Foundation

The World Wildlife Fund

Wildlife Adoption and Gift Centre

I hadn’t realised that Dyan had written a book about The Great Penguin Rescue, but I immediately downloaded and started listening to the audiobook. It is a great read and I highly recommend it. I am not alone in doing so. The book has won three awards.

In the book, Dyan tells the story of how she came to be The Penguin Lady, provides information about penguins, and explains how the great penguin rescue was carried out. (Probably other stuff too, but I haven’t finished listening yet.) I have also ordered a hardback copy as it includes colour photographs. I’m looking forward to receiving it in a week or two.

In a subsequent comment, Dyan shares some of her story:

And to answer your question about when and how I became interested in penguins, it was quite accidental. I had returned to college at the age of 31 to pursue my lifelong dream of working with dolphins (which I briefly did in Hawaii), and during my senior year I landed a full-time, 4-month internship in the Penguin Department at the New England Aquarium in Boston, MA. From the moment I stepped into the penguin exhibit and found myself surrounded by 65 honking, braying, cavorting penguins, I was pretty-much hooked. Their behaviors captivated me, and I was totally surprised to discover that each individual had their own unique personality and temperament – not really what I had expected in a colonial bird. And I wanted to learn more about them.

I stayed on as a volunteer at the aquarium after graduating, and when a position finally opened up a year later, I applied for and got the position of Penguin Aquarist. I was at the aquarium for 9 years in total, and after leaving there at the end of 2004, I founded my company, The Penguin Lady, to teach kids and adults of all ages about penguin biology, behavior, and conservation. I speak in a variety of settings both locally and internationally, and donate 20% of my proceeds to penguin rescue, research, and conservation groups. One of my favorite gigs is being a guest speaker/penguin expert on nature cruises, and next February I’ll be returning to Antarctica as a guest lecturer for Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic, which I’m VERY excited about!! My mission is to raise awareness and funding to protect penguins – 13 of the 18 penguin species are currently listed as Vulnerable, Near-Threatened, or Endangered, and that is what drives me to do the work that I do.

Thank you, Dyan, for sharing so generously.

There is much more to discover about The Penguin Lady and The Great Penguin Rescue. She is as passionate about education as she about penguins. Through educating us about caring for penguins, she is helping us care for the environment and make a better world. You may be surprised by some of the information in this wonderful educational video. I was.

And I’ll leave you with Dyan’s reminder:

You can connect with Dyan on both Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

 

 

An oily problem

It would be difficult to imagine our daily lives without access to oil and oil products. Transportation is one of the most obvious uses of oil, but did you know that many items we use every day are made from oil or its by-products?

Some of these products include:

  • Plastics such as food containers, toys, computers and printers, white goods, CD cases
  • Synthetics used in items such as clothing, curtains, furniture upholstery, carpets
  • Cosmetics such lipsticks, moisturisers, deodorants and antiperspirants
  • Nylons used in stockings, ropes, tents, parachutes
  • Polystyrene used in cups, coolers, packaging
  • Toothpaste, chewing gum, dentures, contact lenses

The list, unlike oil, is almost inexhaustible.

But there is a downside to oil too. Oil spills in the ocean are an enormous issue for marine life. In this Ted talk The Great Penguin Rescue, “the penguin lady” Dyan deNapoli talks about an oil spill that occurred when a ship sank off the coast of South Africa in the year 2000, oiling nearly 20,000 (almost half) of the total population of African penguins, and the efforts made to rescue them.

deNapoli explains that a degreaser used to remove the oil from the pelicans was invented by a 17-year-old boy. How cool is that. She says that more than 1,000 volunteers turned up each day to help with the rescue, and continues

“After half a million hours of grueling volunteer labor, more than 90 percent of those oiled penguins were successfully returned to the wild. And we know from follow-up studies that they have lived just as long as never-oiled penguins, and bred nearly as successfully.”

It is an inspiring story, not only for the penguin rescue, but for the learning deNapoli credits to the rescue. She says,

“Personally, I learned that I am capable of handling so much more than I ever dreamed possible. And I learned that one person can make a huge difference. Just look at that 17-year-old. And when we come together and work as one, we can achieve extraordinary things. And truly, to be a part of something so much larger than yourself is the most rewarding experience you can possibly have.”

deNapoli finishes her talk with the words,

“Humans have always been the greatest threat to penguins, but we are now their only hope.”

I hope you find time to listen to the entire talk. It is what inspired my flash fiction story in response to the prompt set by Charli Mills this week at the Carrot Ranch. Charli challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes oil. It can be an oil refinery, the raw product or used as a commodity. How does oil fit into a plot or a genre? Go where the prompt leads.

Child citizen to scientist

Familiar sounds heralded his arrival: feet scraped stairs, bag thudded deck, screen door crashed.

Shouts of “Mum! Mum!” preceded him as he charged down the hallway, arms flailing, holding something aloft.

His words exploded in a jumble.  She deciphered few. Baby stopped suckling, curious.

“Slow down,” she said, patting the sofa with her free hand.

He thrust the brochure at her.

“I wanna adopt a penguin. Please, Mum. Can I?”

“Penguins can’t live here. It’s too hot,” Mum teased.

“Mu-um!” The words tumbled again. “Scientist… school… oil… penguins dying… ‘dangered… We have to save them from going extinct! Please!”

The title Child citizen to scientist refers to the now welcome involvement of citizens in the collection of scientific data, as described, for example, in this article on Fast Company about the collection of pollution data around the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

About 18 months ago, I published a post about a project led by science teacher Cesar Harada who encouraged his students to innovate and problem solve through science. He explained his project in this Ted Talk.

I particularly appreciated Harada’s conclusion about children and their involvement:

Who knows, if my young penguin adopter is encouraged, he may grow up to be scientist too.

For a picture book that introduces children to the concept of caring for our oceans, One Less Fish by Kim Michelle Toft and Allan Sheather is a great starting point. With its beautiful silk paintings, the book helps to educate children about the oceans, the way we pollute them, and what we need to do to protect them and their inhabitants.

If you are interested, there are a number of organisations through which you can adopt a penguin. These are just a few. I’ll leave it to you to investigate your best option. Just remember: you can’t take it home. 😊

Seabirds. Adopt a penguin

The Penguin Foundation

The World Wildlife Fund

Wildlife Adoption and Gift Centre

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

A view from space

Next week sees two celebrations:

wsw-logo-color-wsw-text_dates_white_background1

World Space Week from 4 – 10 October, and

World Teachers’ Day on 5 October.

On the readilearn blog this week there are 20 quick suggestions for teaching and learning about space in an early childhood classroom, as well as a bookmark that can be printed and given as a gift to a special teacher.

Readilearn bookmark

This post is republished from the readilearn blog.

Since its inauguration in 1999, World Space Week has been celebrated each year from 4 to 10 October. Its purpose is to celebrate the “contributions of space science and technology to the betterment of the human condition”. The dates were chosen to commemorate the launch of Sputnik 1 on 4 October 1957 and the Outer Space Treaty signed on 10 October 1967.

wsw2016-poster-final-global-with-text-small

This year’s theme is “Remote Sensing: Enabling Our Future” which focuses on the contribution of observations from space to our knowledge of the world, including our ability to

  • monitor changes in the environment, and
  • understand and predict weather patterns,
  • which in turn assists planning for agriculture and helps to prepare for weather events.

World Space Week has a free downloadable Teacher Activity Guide for classes from K – 12. While many of the activities are more suited to older students, there are some that can be adapted for the early grades.

There are no particular requirements for participation. You choose how to involve yourself and your students. Or, better still, introduce the topic to the children and see where their questions and suggestions lead. Contemplating the skies and what lies beyond has excited imaginations since the beginning of human time. Why not give your children the opportunity to wonder, imagine, and create?

If you have neither the flexibility nor the time to explore “space’ in depth, here are a few suggestions for incorporating learning about space in your busy program:

space-week-display

  • Cover a large display board or wall with dark blue paper. (Each child could paint a piece of A3 paper to contribute to the background.) Add the children’s wonderings, questions, ideas, suggestions, pictures, and writing to the display.
  • Ask children what they wonder about space, and record their wonderings. Many of their wonderings will match those of philosophers and scientists throughout history; for example, “Yen wonders if people live in outer space. Jan wonders what Earth looks like from space. Margot wonders how long it would take to get to the sun.” This is not a time for answers. It is a time for questions. If children are writers, you could supply them with (star-shaped) sticky notes on which to write their wonderings, one per note. Display the wonderings.
  • Record what children want to know about space. This is also a time for questions, and not for answers. There will be time for answers later. It is important for children to know that their questions are both valid and valued; for example, “Marcos wants to know what happens to the stars during the day. Tejas wants to know where the sun goes at night.”
  • Record what children already know, or think they know, about space, space exploration,

Click to continue reading the original post.

Thank you

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One small step

Neil Armstrong walks on the moon, NASA

Neil Armstrong walks on the moon, NASA

It is no secret that I love having time with young children. Their development constantly amazes me. They are curious learners on a quest to find out as much as they can about the world and how it works. They are scientific researchers making observations, forming hypotheses, and drawing conclusions; always with a plan for the next step if the results aren’t what was expected.

How many times do they need to release a spoon to be confident that it will always be pulled towards the floor? How early do they laugh when something doesn’t perform as expected; for example, when a balloon floats up instead of falling down?

Many of a young child’s explorations seek answers to questions they ask of themselves; questions that may never be verbalised.

childrens-questions

After they have investigated their immediate environment, and their language begins to develop, they start to look at the wider world, and begin to ask questions about how things work and why things happen.

Here are a couple my granddaughter asked me recently:

“Norah, you know about gravity? Why do clouds stay up in the air? Why don’t they fall down?”

“If babies grow into adults, and adults give birth to babies. Which came first the baby or the mother?”

questions-children-ask

The determination and persistence of young children is also almost limitless. Watch them learning to roll, or to sit, or to stand. It is never achieved on the first attempt, but that doesn’t stop them. They don’t give up. They try and try again until they do it. The look of satisfaction on their faces is priceless. No stickers are required. Sometimes, when the result differs from expectation, the look is of surprise. But even then they are quickly deciding what to do next.

Without formal instruction of any kind, in their first few years, children perform amazing feats. Without the imposition of test requirements or standardised assessment, children are driven to learn. Intrinsic rewards, accompanied by the encouragement of significant others, for example, parents, are sufficient.  Children are driven by a “yet” mindset and a belief that there is no such thing as “can’t”. This ensures they continue to practice until they succeed. Immediately they succeed, they set themselves another challenge. That is, unless they are taught otherwise.

When they are nurtured in an environment that is encouraging and supportive, with a balance of comfort and challenge, and well-timed feedback, children will thrive physically, emotionally, and mentally. They will learn through their observations and interactions with people and objects. Each question answered will stimulate the next.

These are just a few of the remarkable achievements made by children before setting foot inside any formal education establishment. They learn to

  • interact
  • roll over
  • sit up
  • crawl
  • clap hands
  • stand
  • walk
  • place things inside, and take things out of, other objects
  • feed oneself
  • talk
  • run
  • undo and do up buttons
  • push buttons (of all sorts)
  • open doors
  • play games

Given an encouraging, supportive environment with caring adults who respond to their needs, surround them with language, love them, and model behaviour, children learn amazing things.

This week at The Carrot Ranch Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an amazing feat. My response is a tribute to the amazing feats performed by little ones every day.

One small step

Everything she had ever done was preparation for this moment. All eyes were on her. The audience’s expectation was palpable, bolstering her determination. She pulled herself up to full height and looked around, smiling. The audience waited. She checked the positioning of her feet, and her balance. She held up one hand, signifying that an attempt was imminent. She put one foot forward; then raised the other hand as she brought her back foot alongside the first. She paused, poised, momentarily. Immediately cameras clicked and cheers erupted. After two more steps, she launched, triumphant, into her father’s waiting arms.

Here are photos of my two little (now big) ones. While not of their first steps, these photos were taken within the first month each of them walked.

 

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

bec-walking

© Norah Colvin

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

Author Spotlight: Rebecca Johnson

This post is republished from the readilearn blog.

Hi, welcome to the readilearn blog and the first in our Author Spotlight series.

Spring is here and summer is on its way in Australia. The excitement of new life is everywhere as flowers bloom, birds sing, and insects abound. The excitement flows into the classroom as children observe and record the life stages of the amazing minibeasts that inhabit our world.

There is no better time than spring to introduce you to Brisbane author Rebecca Johnson and her Insect Series which was awarded the 2014 Whitley Certificate of Commendation for Best Educational Series.

rebecca

Rebecca Johnson: award-winning author and primary school science teacher

about-rebecca-johnsons-books

Rebecca’s Insect Series of ten books focuses on metamorphosis, survival, adaptations, properties of natural materials and the usefulness of insects through fiction stories. The stories are accompanied by stunning close-up photos of insects of all kinds.

The books, which won the 2014 Whitley Award for Best Educational Series, have strong listed links to the Australian Curriculum for many year levels. They are a great resource for teaching and learning about insects. The fiction stories that accompany the facts make the learning even more fun. Two free blackline masters support the use of each book. The blackline masters can be accessed on the Blake Education Website.

While the books feature Australian insects and have links to the Australian curriculum, they are loved by children all over the world. I am happy to introduce you to Rebecca and her lovely series of books.

Welcome to readilearn, Rebecca. We are looking forward to getting to know you a little better.

Thanks for inviting me!

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was reading a lot of picture books to my very young children and could see how much they loved them.

Where do you write? Do you like to be by yourself in the quiet, or do you like to write in a noisy space?

I do most of my ‘writing’ in my head.  I think about my stories for ages and pitch them verbally to victims until I am sure I have it all sorted in my head, then I sit to write in my lovely, quiet study overlooking my garden. I encourage children to tell their stories out loud before they write too, because, in my opinion, it is almost impossible to write a good story if you can’t tell one.

What do you use to write – pencil and paper or computer?

Head first. VERY few drafts, then I type it into the computer. I can type a 7000 word novel in a week that is publisher-ready, but I have thought about it and pitched it and sounded it out in my head for weeks beforehand. I hate sitting down all day, and I hate re-doing things over and over even more, so I do heaps of my drafting mentally whilst I do other (fun) stuff like gardening, then by the time I sit down to write, it’s like typing out a movie I know really well. People give you more honest feedback too, when you tell them a story. They feel less nervous about letting you know how they really feel about it. Try it some time.

When is the best time for you to write?

I do my best work from 5am when the house is really quiet. I’m always too tired at night (I still teach three days a week) for anything too creative.

When and where do you get your ideas?

From my life’s experiences as a mother, teacher, child and my own children. I think you have to write about what you know and love.

What gave you the idea for this series about insects?

I am a science teacher and I love insects, and I just couldn’t find the books I needed to succinctly and factually tell kids about the life-cycles and characteristics of insects in a fun way, so I wrote some.

What do you like best about the series?

Kids love them because they are funny and a bit silly, but they are still full of facts and information. I think they remember things better if it is presented in more appealing and humorous way.

What can you tell us about the photographs that illustrate the books?

My sister (Narinda Sandry) took most of them and it was hilarious. We didn’t want to harm any of the insects, so we had to put some, like the mealworms, in the fridge for a while to slow them down to get the shots. I will always smile as I recall the day we sat around a cow pat in a paddock trying to photograph dung beetles before they re-dug themselves in! The old farmer that had let us into the paddock stood to the side scratching his head in disbelief.

caterpillar-spread

How did your feel when you wrote these stories?

I was really pleased when they came out because the photos are just gorgeous, and they were very well received by schools and parents. Winning the Whitley awards was really lovely recognition too.

How do you hope readers will feel?

Hopefully empowered with more information and knowledge, and perhaps inspired to look more closely at the wonderful world of insects and an appreciation of the benefits they bring.

How would you like teachers to present your books to children?

I’d love them to make them part of their science lesson, and even team them with some real insects (like mealworms) to make it all so much more engaging. There are two free blackline masters for each one too, that are designed to be able to be used independently by children in reading groups etc. There are heaps of facts inside the covers, and a glossary of terms, so plenty to learn in each one.

Are there any messages you would like them to discuss?

The main thing is that insects are so important and not just a good excuse to whack something!

Do you have any advice for teachers in their role as writing guides?

As I said earlier….talk before writing as much as you can. It is amazing how hard kids find it to describe something verbally and yet we ask them to do it in the written form all the time with disappointing results.

Do you have any advice for children as writers?

Tell, tell, tell, and don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes a long time to get it right. It took me five years to get my first book published.

What is your favourite picture book? What do you like about it?

I have so many favourites, but Bob Graham’s Greetings from Sandy Beach always makes me laugh out loud, and humour is really important to me in a book.

Who is your favourite children’s author? What do you like about his or her work?

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (CS Lewis).  He made me see a movie in my head. I could picture every scene, decades before there was a movie.  I remember thinking that one day, I wanted to make a reader feel like that.

thank-you-authors-and-illustrators

Thank you Rebecca Johnson for sharing these insights about your Insect Series and your writing process. We wish you success.

Thank you, and thanks for having me!

To find out more about Rebecca and her award winning books visit her website at rebeccajohnson.com.au. You can find out about and purchase her Insect Series and other books on her website.

Look what's new

This interview and information about Rebecca is available as a printable resource in a new subcategory in readilearn literacy resources: Author Spotlight. The information may be displayed in your classroom or included in a class book about authors and illustrators.

Check out the readilearn resources My Minibeast ABC and Minibeast Alphabet – A list for teachers which can also be used when learning about minibeasts.

Thank you

Thank you for reading.

Happy teaching and learning.

Norah

 

You can contact me:

via email hello@readilearn.com.au

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on my other blog NorahColvin.com

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