With the unseasonably warm weather we’ve had this winter, it’s hard to believe that spring has actually sprung. It’s time to make egg-carton flowers, ladybug magnets, and tissue paper butterflies! And of course it’s time to enjoy some great picture books to inspire your students to write, draw, and read. I think you’ll enjoy this spring-themed collection, complete with gardening tips.
Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature
Written by Nicola Davies
Illustrated by Mark Hearld
Published by Candlewick Press
The text and illustrations in this great book are reminiscent of Margaret Wise Brown’s The Important Book and Richard Scarry’s Best Storybook Ever. The contents are divided into the seasons and feature poems with titles like "Cherry Blossoms," "Dens," "Berry Picking," and "Deer in the Dawn." With descriptive passages like, “Fresh from the tree, the apple sits in your hand, cool and round, and streaked with sunset colors.” the young writers in your classroom are sure to be inspired.
House Held Up by Trees
Written by Ted Kooser
Illustrated by Jon Klassen
Published by Candlewick Press
Talk about a poignant story! It’s no surprise former poet laureate Ted Kooser wrote this book. He tells the story of a man and his two children who live in a simple house near the woods. Over time, the children grow up, the father stops battling the seedlings popping up in the yard, and the house falls into disrepair. Eventually the house is lifted into the air by the saplings hugging it. The small details found in the illustrations add to the story. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this nominated for a Caldecott.
These Bees Count!
Written by Alison Formento
Illustrated by Sarah Snow
Published by Albert Whitman & Company
If the title sounds familiar, you may have read This Tree Counts! by the same author and illustrator. In this latest offering, Mr. Tate brings his class to visit the Busy Bee Farm, where his students get to observe bees up close.
The last page features a fact page with some great background information on hives and colony collapse disorder. It should be especially helpful if you’re teaching a unit on environmental issues. If you’re looking for some background resources, I love the GEMS series, Buzzing a Hive in particular. Or try my vocabulary extension sheet.
Nibbles: A Green Tale
Written and illustrated by Charlotte Middleton
Published by Marshall Cavendish
When Nibbles the guinea pig learns that the town has run out of his favorite food, dandelions, he takes matters into his own paws. After reading up on dandelions at the library, Nibbles cares for the last remaining plant before spreading the seeds across a field. Much to the delight of his fellow guinea pigs, dandelion greens are once again available.
This is a super book to impress upon students the importance of libraries while fostering a "can do" attitude.
Written by Vivian French
Illustrated by AnnaLaura Cantone, Ross Collins, Joelle Dreidemy, and Andrea Huseinovic
Published by Scholastic
This fun collection of tales imagines the back stories of a number of popular nursery rhymes. Who would have thought Jill was messy and left her toys on the floor; Princess Daisy wanted to sit on Humpty's wall, causing his spill; or that the cow was destined for fame after jumping over the moon? The stories in this collection are just the right size to read before your students take a nap.
Every year I find that we do more work in our classroom garden. What started out as a small plot of land covered with hedges is now an active garden that has been home to sunflowers, potatoes, carrots, beets, beans, peas, lettuce, radishes, and much more. If you want to integrate some social studies into your gardening, try planting some heirloom seeds from places like Old Sturbridge Village. I’m partial to their Jacob’s cattle beans.
Planting in small peat pots is a great way to start your garden. Your students will have firsthand experience caring for the plants. Planting, watering, and transplanting are all part of the experience. You might even consider purchasing a GrowLab. We have one in our room, and it's been well worth the investment.
If you’re feeling really ambitious, try planting a butterfly garden. Involve parents in the planting and maintenance, and you’re sure to be successful. I’ve planted two over the years, and my students have always been thrilled when butterflies pay us a visit.
If you don’t have the space for an outdoor garden, why not try one indoors? Put some planters in your window and have the kids try to grow whatever produce strikes their fancy. Beans and peas are fun and easy if you pop some stakes into the soil to support them.
For more on creating a school garden, see Alycia Zimmerman's post "How Does Our School Garden Grow?" And happy planting!