Monday, November 03, 2014

Booklist Feature: Exploring Science and Poetry

I write a regular column on poetry for Book Links magazine and every now and then they double-up and feature it in Booklist Online, too. This is one of those times! My November article, "Classroom Connections: Exploring Science with Poetry" appears in the print issue of Book Links and online at Booklist here.

It starts off:

As literacy expert Bernice Cullinan (1995) reminds us, “Scientists observe with a clear eye, record their observations in precise, descriptive language, and craft their expressions. Poets do the same thing.” Maximizing that reciprocal relationship between how scientists observe and describe the world and how poets do so presents a unique opportunity for us as we work with children. But where do we begin? 

Select a science-themed poem, read it aloud, then work with students to identify all the sensory words and descriptions (sights, sounds, smells, textures, tastes). Then select a news article on the same science topic and identify the descriptors in that piece. Work together to create a simple Venn diagram showing how poets and scientists overlap in their use of language to record and report their observations. Sandy Buczynski and Kristin Fontichiaro suggest, “For the many educators who feel comfortable using literature in the classroom but are timid about their science expertise, using books to build a bridge to science can yield impressive results for teaching and learning” (2013). How can you make science more accessible and "friendly"? Try a short science poem, of course!

It then includes an annotated list of poetry for life science and earth science. Here's the short version of the list with a few additional titles:

Life Science
Blackaby, Susan. Nest, Nook & Cranny
Bulion, Leslie. At the Sea Floor Café: Odd Ocean Critter Poems
Bulion, Leslie. Hey There, Stink Bug! 
Coombs, Kate. Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems
Florian, Douglas. Dinothesaurus
Florian, Douglas. UnBEElievables: Honeybee Poems and Paintings
Franco, Betsy. Bees, Snails & Peacock Tails: Patterns and Shapes . . . Naturally
Gerber, Carole. Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More! Poems for Two Voices
Gifford, Peggy. The Great Big Green. 
Harley, Avis. Sea Stars: Saltwater Poems
Harley, Avis. The Monarch’s Progress: Poems with Wings
Harrison, David. L. Bugs: Poems about Creeping Things
Hubbell, Patricia. Earthmates: Poems
Johnston, Tony. Sequoia 
Latham, Irene. Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems from the Water Hole
Lewis, J. Patrick, Ed. The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry
Mordhorst, Heidi. Pumpkin Butterfly: Poems from the Other Side of Nature
Rosen, Michael J. The Cuckoo’s Haiku and Other Birding Poems 
Salas, Laura Purdie. Chatter, Sing, Roar, Buzz: Poems about the Rain Forest
Sidman, Joyce. Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night
Sidman, Joyce. Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors
Sidman, Joyce. Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold
Singer, Marilyn. A Strange Place to Call Home
Spinelli, Eileen. Polar Bear, Arctic Hare: Poems of the Frozen North
VanDerwater, Amy Ludwig. Forest Has a Song
Wolf, Allan. The Blood-Hungry Spleen and Other Poems about Our Parts
Wong, Janet. Once Upon a Tiger: New Beginnings for Endangered Animals
Yolen, Jane. Birds of a Feather 
Yolen, Jane. Bug Off! Creepy Crawly Poems
Yolen, Jane. Least Things: Poems about Small Natures

Earth & Space Science
Bruchac, Joseph. The Earth under Sky Bear’s Feet: Native American Poems of the Land
Bruchac, Joseph. Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back: A Native American Year of Moons
Florian, Douglas. Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars
Lewis, J. Patrick. Galileo’s Universe 
Salas, Laura Purdie. Water Can Be 
Salas, Laura Purdie. And Then There Were Eight: Poems about Space
Salas, Laura Purdie. Seed Sower, Hat Thrower: Poems about Weather
Singer, Marilyn. Footprints on the Roof: Poems about the Earth
Singer, Marilyn. How to Cross a Pond: Poems about Water

There are also suggested activities (along with the Common Core State Standards identified for each):

Science activities 
Hands-on activities can make combining science and poetry fun and experiential and science experts encourage kids to become engaged by “doing” science. A science-themed poem can be a launching pad for such active learning. Here are just a few examples:
  1. Discuss the role of weather reporting in current events and how it helps us keep up with changes in weather from day to day. Talk about the recognizable weather patterns that are described in the poems of Laura Purdie Salas in Seed Sower, Hat Thrower: Poems about Weather such as humidity, clouds, thunder, lightning, and rain. Challenge students to describe today’s weather and how it may have changed from yesterday. Record temperatures and weather for 5 straight days to look for patterns and contrast with weather reports online or on television.
  2. Talk about the steps we might follow in inventing or making something new: gathering materials, consulting books, looking things up online. What kinds of things can students imagine creating? Refer to, a multilingual how-to site for ideas. Use sample poems like “Tinker Time” (from PFAS) or selections from Eureka! Poems about Inventors by Joyce Sidman to promote creative thinking.
  3. Collaborate to create a quick glog, a digital interactive poster (using, pulling together images and key words from a science-themed poem in a new visual representation of the poem’s topic. Show students the choices of text, fonts, color, graphics, and even animation, if possible, while you input those items and create the finished product together.
  4. Use the details in the poem “Go Fly a Kite” (in PFAS) to talk about factors that influence kites in flight: pressure, streaming, breezes, lift, and drag. Check out NASA’s “Beginner’s Guide to Aerodynamics” for help, available here: Contrast this with poems about bird flight found in Jane Yolen’s Birds of a Feather or The Cuckoo’s Haiku and Other Birding Poems by Michael J. Rosen.
  5. Share moon-themed poems (such as “Queen of Night” in PFAS or selections from Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars by Douglas Florian) to talk about what we know about the Moon, beginning with attributes of the Moon and then considering tides, seasons, and the observable appearance of the Moon over time during its phases. Consult the NASA web site:
  6. Use poems to jumpstart a discussion of Earth's renewable resources, including air, plants, water, and animals; and nonrenewable resources such as coal, oil, and natural gas; and the importance of conservation. Consider “Solar Power” (in PFAS) or selections from Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems; Footprints on the Roof: Poems about the Earth, or How to Cross a Pond: Poems about Water. Work together to find more information on using the sun as a source of electricity at
  7. Talk about how scientists use a variety of tools to collect information and conduct investigations. In studying the human body, one measure of overall health is pulse rate. Demonstrate how to take a pulse and compare results while resting or exercising after sharing “Moving for 5 Minutes Straight” (from PFAS) or selections from The Blood-Hungry Spleen and Other Poems about Our Parts by Allan Wolf.
And here are a few suggested resources that were not included in the article OR online, an extra bonus!

Websites for science fun
The discussion of science topics nearly always leads to exploration (of objects, of the world, of technology) and fortunately there are many excellent online resources that can provide helpful guidance and encourage discovery and playfulness. They offer many ideas for follow up activities to accompany a poem for five minutes of science fun. Many of the science activities listed in the “Take 5” activities for each poem in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science, for example, suggest websites to match specific poems to expand science learning. Here are just a few favorites.
Teaching resources
In addition, as we connect poetry and science, it can be helpful to know about resources that provide background for building science understanding. This select list focuses on science teaching with children and includes blogs, websites, videos, and more.

National Science Teachers Association resources;

Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading

Understanding Science (Lawrence Hall of Science, UC Berkeley)

Bill Nye, The Science Guy

Edheads Science and Math Games

Mr. Parr’s YouTube Videos

Bookish Ways in Math and Science

Science for Kids

And of course there are even more resources and 200+ science-themed poems in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science. Get your copy now, if you haven't already! We're so proud to earn the "NSTA Recommends" status for our book from the National Science Teachers Association, too! In this article in Booklist, you'll also enjoy Renee LaTulippe's poem, "Da Vinci Did It" along with the Take 5 activities that accompany the poem. Enjoy!

Image credits:;;;

Posting by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2014. All rights reserved.


Linda said...

Sylvia, you always give us such fabulous resources! I'm going to share your post with the science teachers at my school. I'm sure they will love it!
I'm looking forward to seeing you at NCTE!

Sylvia Vardell said...

Thanks, Linda, I appreciate your kind words and your help in getting the word out to your science peeps! Looking forward to meeting f2f at NCTE!