Spotlight On Ecosystems | Aquatic Biomes

Environmental awareness, and problem solving, begins with foundational knowledge about Earth’s biomes, including freshwater and saltwater ecosystems such as estuaries, oceans, lakes, rivers, ponds, and coral reefs. This list offers a cluster of recent resources for elementary collections that underscore the idea that kids can be citizen scientists, too.
Environmental awareness, and problem solving, begins with foundational knowledge about the Earth’s biomes, including freshwater and saltwater ecosystems such as estuaries, oceans, lakes, rivers, ponds, and coral reefs. The following titles focus on many of these ecosystems, offering a diverse cluster of texts for elementary library and classroom collections. Many of the books highlight conservation and the preservation of natural resources and underscore the idea that kids can be citizen scientists, too. A Variety of Watery Ecosystems & Their Denizens thesecretpoolA vernal pool is often mistaken for a puddle, but it’s actually a small ecosystem teeming with life. In Kimberly Ridley’s The Secret Pool (Tilbury, 2013; K-Gr 4) tadpoles and salamander larvae provide a feast for migratory ducks and herons. Moss and sprouts attract deer, and algae along the bottom of a vernal pool feed many species of insects. Ridley’s lively narrative combined with Rebekah Raye’s luscious ink-and-acrylic paintings make this a good read-aloud choice for a younger audience, but each page also contains background information, in smaller font, for independent readers and teachers, who will want to elaborate on illustration details. A drawing of a clump of jellylike salamander eggs attached to a twig, for instance, is described as looking like little bubbles on the water. Similar notes run throughout the book, making it a useful title for sharpening observation skills needed on a nature walk or to help budding naturalists create their own drawings. andthetidecomesinAn unnamed Georgia girl is anxious to show her visiting Colorado cousin, Ginger, the wonders found in the low tide of her coastal backyard. Merryl Alber’s And the Tide Comes In…: Exploring a Georgia Salt Marsh (Taylor, 2012; Gr 3-6) is a narrative account of the two girls’ muddy exploration in which they listen to the clicking of fiddler crabs, watch raccoons digging up mussels, and examine snails clinging to the top of marsh grass. Factual information elaborates the story, such as how crabs to use their inner clock to come out at low tide and how ocean shrimp first grow up in the marshland where food is abundant. Nature artist Joyce Mihran Turley’s scenic acrylic illustrations are realistic and uncluttered and will keep readers turning pages to see what the brightly red-haired Ginger discovers next. Smaller, inset illustrations explain the tides, provide a bird's-eye view of estuaries (where tide meets stream), or show labeled parts of a mussel. The narrative serves well as a read-aloud to introduce this common ecosystem and will prompt students to think about what might be in their own backyards. overinariverThe sing-song rhythm of the counting book Over in a River: Flowing Out to the Sea (Dawn, 2013; PreS-Gr 2), introduces the youngest readers to river animals and their offspring. Marianne Berkes's verse includes content information in the most pleasing way: “Over in a river/Where the warm waters run/Lived a mother manatee/And her little calf one.” Another stanza has the mama manatee telling her calf to paddle along, and a map of the United States outlines the St. John’s River in Florida, where manatees are likely to be found. Jill Dubin’s mixed-media illustrations employ textured paper and ink, in nature blues, greens, and browns. She reinforces the concept by including numerals and the corresponding number of creatures on each page. Adding more fun for preschoolers are hidden animals to find and cattails to count. Most valuable for teachers are the appended pages of activities, a song, websites, and animal information. Other titles in the “Over” series include Over in the Ocean (also an app), Over in the JungleOver in the ArcticOver in Australia, and Over in the Forest. theislandA polar bear swims through the ocean and stops along an archipelago, making friends along the way. The wordless picture book by father and daughter team Marije Tolman and Ronald Tolman, The Island (Lemniscaat, 2012; PreS-Gr 2), is a collection of conceptual illustrations that will draw meaning  from readers' imaginations. Throughout, the polar bear is drawn as a tiny figure in an expanse of ocean and sky, such as on one page with giant, rolling blue green waves and little jellyfish. Another page is awash in bright orange, and the bear is atop an abstract tree house along with a monkey, peacock, and other animals. The omission of dialogue or plot elements will appeal to young readers who will seize the opportunity to create their own story about the habitat, the animals, and the polar bear’s journey. For older students, possibilities exist for making inferences or starting a larger discussion about animal displacement, threats to the ocean habitat, or weather events, using only visual clues. pondwalkNew science standards dictate the need for resources to use as models for inquiry and honing observational skills. Pond Walk (Two Lions, 2011; PreS- Gr 2), written and illustrated by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, follows a young bear named Buddy on a pond walk with his mother. Equipped with colored pencils and a drawing pad, the mother describes physical features of whirligig beetles, duckweed, salamanders, pond skater bugs, and their habitat, while Buddy watches and draws. The mixed-media illustrations feature cut-paper collage, alongside actual photographs of some species and habitat. Buddy’s labeled drawings appear at intervals, modeling age-level expectations, and, in mother-son dialogue, vocabulary words such as limnologist are used to describe their study of ponds. Despite its publication date, the title holds timeless value as a staple for developing our youngest scientists in the classroom. Brimming with life, coral reefs are often referred to “cities of the sea.” These unique tropical ecosystems are comprised of both living and dead corals—creatures that come in thousands of varieties, each with their own shape and color. In his picture book, author and illustrator Jason Chin explains that Coral Reefs (Roaring Brook, 2011; K-Gr 4) have been building in our oceans for more than 400 million years, creating “the largest structures built by any animal” on the planet. These structures also offer a home to other underwater species, resulting in a “complex web of relationships” that exist in and around them. Stunning, full-page artwork depicts these colonies and the colorful creatures that inhabit them through the eyes and imagination of a young girl who gets lost in a book on the topic. An illustrated author’s note discusses human and natural threats to coral reefs, some suggestions on what we can do to protect them, and recommended websites to explore. Endpapers include labeled sketches of some of the denizens of these underwater ecoystems. aplaceforturtlesHumankind has had the biggest impact on turtle populations, from the practice of stocking fish in lakes and ponds (they eat baby turtles) to discarding plastic bags that attract turtles, then trap them—two of the threats discussed in Melissa Stewart’s A Place for Turtles (Peachtree, 2013; Gr 1-4). Stewart’s message highlights the existence of a wide range of species and their ecosystems from bog turtles to desert tortoises to leatherback sea turtles. An awareness narrative, which is appropriate for reading aloud, runs along the top of each page, and more detailed factual information overlays Higgins Bond’s colorful, double-page paintings. Turtle species and habitats are realistically detailed, and the images also include children and adults and pets in scenes depicting negative actions (a pet dog chasing turtles in a stream) or positive interactions with turtles (a community group restoring a wetland). Maps, “Do’s & Don’ts,” and website resources are helpful additions to this environmental awareness classroom resource. wildoceansIn Wild Oceans: Sharks, Whales, Rays, and Other Endangered Sea Creatures (Fulcrum, 2014; Gr 4 Up) Matt Dembicki pairs storytellers and artists in 12 chapters about threatens ocean animals. Each collaboration offers a distinct view on the interaction between an underwater habitat and humans that endangers a species. For example, in the story “The Legend of T. Gigas,” the giant clam is indignant that he is portrayed as a steel-jawed killer of legend who would clamp onto unsuspecting sailors. He describes himself as a benevolent creature who filters water for coral and shelters small crabs. At 500-plus pounds, T. Gigas is a huge target for poachers who want to harvest and sell his shell as a decorative conversation piece. Contributors bring their unique style to their featured animal, sometimes adding factual asides, maps, or diagrams. The collection will appeal to older readers and graphic novel enthusiasts. strangeplacetocallhomeMudskipper fish that walk through muck, camels that know how to wait out a blinding sand storm, and petroleum flies that hatch in oil are among the creatures that have adapted to inhospitable conditions in Marilyn Singer’s A Strange Place to Call Home (Chronicle, 2012; Gr K-3), a poetic look at some of the denizens introduced in the books presented here. Lyrical verse leads readers through descriptions of animals that live “Where it’s dark/Where it’s deep/Where it’s stormy/Where it’s steep…” and other extreme environments. The poems vary from free verse to haiku, terza rima, and triolet and contain content specific vocabulary (hydrothermal vents, carrion, contagion, etc.) that may need more explanation. Endnotes elaborate and offer the scientific name for each species. Caldecott winner Ed Young (Lon Po Po, Philomel, 1989), steals the show with his characteristic abstract collage of mixed media. The book’s literary approach is also information rich, making it an interdisciplinary resource for art and poetry lesson plans, as well as habitat and adaptation units. Actions and Hands-On Activities exploreriversandpondsCarla Mooney offers young readers opportunities to dip their toes in lakes, rivers, ponds, streams, and wetlands in Exploring Rivers and Ponds!: With 25 Great Projects (Nomad, 2012; Gr 1-4), a volume in the "Explore Your World Series." The hands-on approach contains separate chapters for each type of ecosystem, with background information, words to know in bold font, fun facts, and examples of plant and animal inhabitants. Suggested activities include experimenting with peat moss and water absorption, simulating erosion conditions, and creating an ecologist’s field kit. Other sections feature everyday water conservation tips, and short career descriptions of ecologists and biologists. Bryan Stone’s black-and-white illustrations are playful, combining realistic landscapes, hand-drawn diagrams, and cartoon animals. The subject matter is indexed and fits nicely in the Next Generation Science Standards specifically for second grade on ecosystems and the role of water on our planet but will appeal to a wider audience, as well. planetarkAdrienne Mason likens planet Earth to an ark sailing through the universe, filled with millions of species and the means to survive in Planet Ark (Kids Can, 2013; Gr 3-5). The metaphor extends to current threats to the Earth’s biodiversity and what scientists and environmental organizations are doing to help. Despite its slender, picture book format, the title is information rich and well indexed for research. Separate sections tackle issues such as invasive species, the overharvesting of trees and wildlife, climate change, and current conservation measures such as creating seed banks to preserve the genetic heritage of plants. A section titled “Modern Day Noahs” highlights schools around the world that are composting, installing wind turbines, monitoring birds, planting trees, and more. Margot Thompson’s soft, acrylic landscapes on textured canvas work well to illustrate numerous animals habitats. Blue ocean waves run along the bottom of each page, highlighting fun facts or close-up details of some of Earth’s smallest species. The book is just one in the "CitizenKid Series" on global issues that also include Rochelle Strauss’s One Well: The Story of Water on Earth (Kids Can, 2007; Gr 3-5). makeasplashPair up a social activist and the grandson of the world’s most famous underwater explorer (Jacques-Yves Cousteau), and you get Make a Splash!: A Kid’s Guide to Protecting our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands (Free Spirit, 2013; Gr 3-6). Cathryn Berger Kaye and Philippe Cousteau focus on the Earth’s precious water resources offer suggestions about taking direct action to preserve them (be a role model and pitch in at a cleanup) or indirect action (fund-raise for water causes). The authors present ideas on how to “be political” when you’re too young to vote and how a dive log (journal) is crucial to the action-planning process. Throughout the colorfully formatted text are inspirational stories of elementary students who explored, researched, and made a difference, such as fourth graders who began an anti–plastic bottle campaign, selling reusable bottles at school and designing informational bookmarks to give out with each sale. Numerous infographics contain such eye-opening statistics as typical daily water consumption and will provide plenty of motivation for the kids to get involved. ecologystudyofecosystemsAs classrooms extend their study of the biomes, they'll want to add Ecology (Scholastic, 2012; Gr 2-4) to their shelves for further context. In this title, Susan H. Gray describes how Greek thinker Theophrastus and others in history studied the relationships among plants, and animal communities, and their landscape. A larger focus on modern ecology explains food chains, food webs, and conservation. A color-coded format helps visual learners, such as bold font on content vocabulary such as predator, species, and biotic. Red font is used to caption photographs of ecologists in the field, and factual asides appear in gold. More of a general introduction to the science than a career guide, the title showcases a wide variety of ecological concerns in aquatic and terrestrial biomes and provides appended book and web resources and an index for inquiry projects. Broad in scope, the volume features photographs of oil spills and glimpses of other environmental cleanup, appropriate for a younger elementary audience. Related resource: "Spotlight on Ecosystems: Terrestrial Biomes & Their Denizens" by Vicki Reutter.
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These are great resources for kids to learn about their planet and how it needs to be protected. I'll be looking into these titles for my 7 year old.

Posted : Mar 12, 2015 07:36




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