#nErDcampNJ STEManities Panel

Today I was part of a great panel at #nErDcampNJ, a literacy-focused “unconference” for teachers, administrators, and authors.  Together with YA author Eliot Schrefer and nonfiction author Nancy Castaldo, I spoke about bringing science and English together through nature writing and reading, critical thinking, and interdisciplinary projects.

One of the magic aspects of #nErDcampNJ is that all session notes are available online.  You can see the notes for my STEManities session here.  There are lots of great ideas from both authors (for middle grade and high school students) and many ideas contributed by the teachers and administrators in the audience.

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Authors Eliot Schrefer and Nancy Castaldo discussing the itnersection of science and English with me at #nerdcampNJ 5/20/17

GIVING READERS A FRONT ROW SEAT by Patricia Newman

The Nerdy Book Club is a must-read blog for teachers. They are always sharing information about amazing books and ideas for literacy across the content areas.

Earlier this week author Patricia Newman posted an entry about her new book, Sea Otter Heroes, that would be great for students to read. She talks about why she writes about science and the process of writing a book about a conservation issue.

Nerdy Book Club

When I was a kid, I loved science. It was so relevant. It helped me make connections to the rest of the world, like the time my second-grade class designed an experiment to understand the concept of one million by making Xs on graph paper during our free time. (It took us forever!) Or when my biology class injected chicks with hormones. The testosterone chick grew larger and developed an aggressive personality. A light bulb went on about why boys do the things they do.

I’m also a nature-lover. I remember our warm-up run for field hockey practice on the cross-country course that took us through the woods. The crunch of fall leaves beneath my sneakers, the earthy smell, the bird song, the peacefulness. I loved that run. And today, my ideal vacation takes me back to nature.

I think that’s why I gravitate toward life science topics—and specifically…

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Slice of Life #2- Field Guide to NJ Species

Yesterday I shared an assignment that my students just completed that I think could be adapted to English classes at any grade level. Feel free to steal!

The Reading Zone

Last week I tried a new assignment with my 9th graders and I’m so proud of how it turned out! Our current unit is called Literature and the Land and we are focusing on nature writing.  Specifically, we began by studying writers like Edward Abbey and John Muir and moved to writers who focus on New Jersey.  Right now the students are reading excerpts from John McPhee’s The Pine Barrens. I’ve also been sharing picture books like Coyote Moon, Finding Wild, and Faraway Fox.

It’s too cold to go outside most days so I wanted to come up with a way for my students to learn about species found in NJ without forcing them to freeze.  I’ve always loved field guides so I decided to challenge them to create a field guide to NJ species. I borrowed a bunch of field guides from the biology teacher to use as mentor…

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Long list for the 2017 Green Earth Book Award

The Green Earth Book Award is one of my favorite lists each year.  Awarded to children’s and young adult books that promote a message of environmental stewardship, the Green Earth Book Award is much-needed today.  As an English teacher who knows that books can be a gateway to the environment for many students, I love to peruse the award’s long list each year.  While I can sometimes predict that certain books will make it on the list I love learning about new books when they are nominated.

This year’s qualifying list is no exception.  I just added a number of books from the list to my TBR pile and I hope a few of them will be appropriate for my 9th grade curriculum.

PICTURE BOOK

CHILDREN’S FICTION

  • Ace, King of My Heart, by Lea Herrick and illustrated by Nora Howell, Krystal Colon, and David Herrick (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform)
  • Maybe a Fox, by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee (Atheneum Caitlyn Dlouhy Books)
  • Pax, by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Jon Klassen  (HarperCollins Children’s Books)
  • Saving Wonder, by Mary Knight (Scholastic Press)
  • The Wolf Keepers, by Elise Broach and illustrated by Alice Ratterree (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt Books for Young Readers/Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group)

YOUNG ADULT FICTION

  • Broken Wing, by David Budbill (Green Writers Press)
  • Dig Too Deep, by Amy Allgeyer (Albert Whitman & Co)
  • KABOOM!, by Brian Adams (Green Writers Press)
  • Keep Her, by Leora Krygier (She Writes Press)
  • Rescued, by Eliot Schrefer (Scholastic Press)
  • Up from the Sea, by Leza Lowitz (Crown BFYR, Random House Children’s Books)

CHILDREN’S NONFICTION

YOUNG ADULT NONFICTION

Kudos to the small presses (and sometimes self-published authors, too!) doing the work to get these stories out there to kids and teenagers.  Take note, major publishers:  we want and need books about environmental stewardship!

Authors for Earth Day- Conservation and Books

How was I not already aware of Authors for Earth Day?  What an amazing concept!

Authors for Earth Day (A4ED) is a grassroots coalition of award-winning children’s authors and illustrators who directly mentor young readers by giving them “an authentic research project with real-world impact.”

Wow! The list of authors is available on their website and it’s a great list.  Visits are available year-round and visits costs the same as a regular author visit.  The difference is that in this case the author donates at least 30% of their fee to a non-profit conservation organization as chosen by the students. Their website has lots of information and all genres are represented.  I’d love to see some more YA authors on the list, but right now there are over 100 participating authors and they’ve done visits all over the world.

This would be a great way to encourage collaboration between different subject areas and to build enthusiasm for literacy and conservation.  It’s a win-win situation!

Voices from the Middle Podcast

I’m very excited to share the latest episode of the Voices from the Middle podcast.  I was lucky enough to be a guest on this episode.

 

The NCTE Voices from the Middle Podcast is a radio show featuring middle level ELA teachers from across the United States, practitioner-leaders in our field, YA and middle grades authors, and other surprise guests. Some podcasts tie to specific issues of the print publication Voices from the Middle, published by the National Council of Teachers of English. Music by Lee Rosevere.

Access the episode by clicking on the audio player below. You can also subscribe to the free podcast in the iTunes Store.

For more information, follow Voices from the Middle @VoicesNCTE

In this episode,  young adult author Eliot Schrefer shares his experiences with school visits.  I was happy to join Eliot to talk about how my students and I prepared for Eliot’s visits to our school (he’s visited twice) and the impact he has had on my students.  Readers of this blog might remember that I interviewed

Eliot a few months ago about his ape quartet books, which are perfect for interdisciplinary work between science and English class.

 

 

Get Those Kids Out of the Room:  Books to Get Your Students Outside and Immersed in Nature by Sarah Gross

Check out my post on The Nerdy Book Club today!

Nerdy Book Club

The onslaught of testing required by the No Child Left Behind Act has resulted in schools pressuring teachers to prepare students for tests, and time spent outdoors has suffered as a result. Nature-deficit disorder is a term used to describe the loss that children and teens experience when they are not given opportunities to have direct contact with nature.  Richard Louv coined the term when researchers began to realize the impact that nature had on children’s health and ability to learn.  Unfortunately, one way that schools have found more time for academics is by cutting recess and physical education, according to the National PTA survey.  Packed schedules after school, rigorous homework, and extracurricular activities too often keep my students inside, bound to their computers and cellphones, rarely giving them the time to be outside.

I am passionate about the need to do more interdisciplinary work in the classroom as a…

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