In the Small by Michael Hague

I am not a big graphic novel reader. But I figured the Challenge was a good reason to give at least one more a shot. I chose a random ARC from my pile and it turned out to be In the Small by Michael Hague.

Bestselling illustrator Michael Hague is well-known for his fantasy illustrations. In the Small is a science-fiction/dystopian story about the end of mankind. While I appreciate the theme of environmental consequences, this was just too dark and gory for me. I think if I had read the story it would have been a bit better, but the illustrations just made the blood and gore too real for me. This is a good story, but one I would recommend for 8th grade and up.

June Edition – Learning in the Great Outdoors

Head on over to The Miss Rumphius Effect and take a gander at the June edition of Learning in the Great Outdoors.  This is one of my favorite carnivals, and this month looks especially great!!

Our Eco-art book!

Yay! Today my class’ eco-art photobook arrived, and it turned out beautifully! The book includes photos of both class’ eco-art and the poetry that it inspired in my students. The book was created as part of the Voices….From the Land project through EIRC.

The book, a 12×12 photobook made on Shutterfly

The awesome back cover, a collage of the art created in our schoolyard.

One of the photo/poetry spreads. (Made smaller because I don’t want my students to be recognizable!)

Another photo/poetry spread

One of the poems that a student wrote after creating his group’s artwork.

Another poem.

The final page in the book- a photo I took inCape May coupled with my favorite quote (and mantra).

I am completely in love with this project. It is a great marriage of art, science/ecology, language arts, and technology. We will also receive books from two other schools (including one in New Zealand!). How cool is that?  Even cooler?  The fact that I might get to meet that teacher from New Zealand at a workshop this summer.  Talk about making global connections in a new world, huh?  Absolutely amazing.

My favorite quote from today was, “Wow, Miss M!  I am published in a real book!”


Today, after a morning of standardized testing, I took my students outside to create eco-art.  In the tradition of Andy Goldsworthy we created art from the natural materials readily available around our schoolyard.  My kids were so amazing in this project!

After spending a good amount of time wandering the schoolyard, the students broke into small groups.  For the first time all year, there was no whining or fighting over working together.  Students seemed to naturally gravitate towards working alone or with a small group of friends.  They gathered materials together, brainstormed ideas, and even claimed their area without an ounce of anger or annoyance.  They quickly got to work and produced some amazing art.

Tomorrow, I will print out their artwork and we will use the pieces to inspire poetry and prose.  The words they write will then be combined with the photos before becoming a book on Shutterfly.  Through the Voices…From the Land project, we will share our book with another school and will receive one from another school.  We are very excited!

Grayson by Lynne Cox

Grayson has been on my wishlist and to-be-read pile for months now. For some reason, I didn’t get around to it until tonight. All I can say is, what was I waiting for?!

Lynn Cox weaves a captivating and poetic tale of the brief but life-altering bond between herself and a baby gray whale. While swimming off the California coast she discovers the infant, who has been separated from his mother, and spends a magical morning with him while trying to lead him to his mother. If you don’t believe in interspecies communication, this story will change your mind. Though the encounter lasts only a few hours, the connection between Grayson and the then-seventeen year old Cox is astonishing; though they don’t speak the same language, Grayson and Cox forge a deep bond that transcends any language.

The story is magical, but Cox’s lyrical prose paints a picture of a world most people never see. Her poetic descriptions of the ocean and the lives that fill it remind us that the natural world is full of surprises and magic that most people never take the time to see.

The life lessons from this fable are weaved into the story in an intricate pattern. “Wait as long a you need to.  The waiting is as important as the doing….it’s the written words, what is said, what is left unsaid, the space between the thoughts on the page, that makes the story, and it’s the space between the notes, the intervals between fast and slow, that makes the music.  It’s the love of being together, the spacing, the tension of being apart that brings you back together”.  Gorgeous. Simply gorgeous.

Grayson was originally written as a memoir for adults.  However, teachers began using the book in the classroom and sending their students thoughts and projects to Lynn Cox.  She and the publisher (Harcourt) realized that young people too could connect to the journey of Grayson and Lynn Cox.  I would love to use this as a read aloud in my classroom.  A story about migration and the connection between humans and nature, a memoir that relates to our monarch study- this would fit our class perfectly.  I could imagine using it at almost any grade level, as children and adults can get their own meaning from the story.  In fact, it would also hold up to multiple readings, with readers learning more each time they read it.

Great Posts Around the Blogosphere

-Check out the Learning in the Great Outdoors Carnival over at Alone on a Limb! There are some great links to all sorts of classroom and child-related outdoor learning activities. I am about to go exploring right now. :)

-Get yourself over to the Cybils blog and look for the latest shortlists! I am surprised to see that I have only read one novel on the YA shortlist, but it’s one of my favorites of the year (The Wednesday War). I also have read about half the non-fiction titles and some of the graphic novels (a new genre for me this year) are already on my wishlist. :)

Blog Action Day

So I’m a little late…..

This is my contribution to Blog Action Day, an attempt to bring the global community of bloggers together to explore one issue: the environment. Today’s the day! If you have your own blog, why not join in?

Novels with an Environmental Theme:
-The Talking Earth (Jean Craighead George): Billie Wind is a Seminole Indian whose father works for NASA. She doesn’t believe in the legends and beliefs of the traditional Seminoles. Instead, she “wants answers”. Billie is punished by the elder council and sent to live in the Everglades until she believes in the little people and talking animals. Her journey takes her through the Great Swamp, meeting all sorts of creatures. Her perspective on life changes by the end of the book. A great book for dealing with over-development and endangered species.

-California Blue (David Klass): John Rodgers lives in a small logging town in California. While running in the forest one day, he stumbles upon a strange chrysalis. It turns out that an extremely rare butterfly makes its home in the redwoods. John is thrust into the middle of a vicious fight between environmentalists and loggers in his hometown- loggers that include his father.

-And Then There Was One: The Mysteries of Extinction (Sierra Club Books): While this is not a novel, I do love this book. A great non-fiction book, the author cites specific animals and explains how humans are impacting their lives. While it is a very serious topic, the information is presented in a fun and interesting manner.

-The Lorax (Dr. Seuss): This is my favorite book with an environmental theme. I read it aloud 5-6 times each year and also perform it as reader’s theater. The Lorax ties into my journeys theme, environmentalism, and so much more! Of course, I always use The Lorax with my monarch butterflies, and my students love it!

-Pond Scum (Alan Silderberg): Eleven-year-old Oliver enjoys tormenting insects, but his life takes a turn when his family moves into an old house which an assortment of animals do not want to vacate! A fun book, great for reluctant readers.

-First Light (Rebecca Stead): Peter’s father is a glaciologist and his mother is a geneticist. The family moves to Greenland temporarily so that his father can research the effects of global warming on glaciers. Thea lives in a secret world under the glacial ice. Their two worlds collide and Thea and Peter discover that their destinies are more intertwined than they ever could have imagined.

There are many more novels with an environmental theme out there. This is just a quick glance at some! Let me know if you want to add any more to the list!

Monarch Magic

Tomorrow morning, I will leave bright and early to head down to Cape May Point. I will be meeting up with my friends in the
Monarch Teacher Network
, for the semi-annual Teachers for Biodiversity meeting. While this may sound odd for a Language Arts teacher, I raise monarchs with my class every fall. My classroom theme is “Journeys”, as my students are on the final leg of their journey to middle school. They also get the chance to emerge every morning, as a new person. Just like our caterpillars.

At 7am, I will begin the 2 hr drive to Cape May. As Erik, the director, states: “Each year the Teachers for Biodiversity group (a network we support) conducts two, one-day events for somewhere in …. for teachers and their friends/families, the Spring and Fall Gatherings. Because it seems likely this fall will be the best migration of monarch butterflies in over a decade… the 2007 Fall Gathering will be held at Cape May Point on Saturday, September 22… THE PEAK period for monarch migration in NJ with lots of hawk and songbird migration as well. The 2007 Fall Gathering offers the chance to explore Cape May, a world-famous migration site… and to socialize/share knowledge with people who share the same passions… “

I can not wait for tomorrow. I have never been anywhere that is home to thousands of monarchs at once. I am hoping to see more monarchs than I ever have before. I also hope to see a monarch roost. A roost is when many monarchs (sometimes hundreds!) choose a tree, fence, or other safe area to rest or stay out of bad weather. When monarchs are migrating, they also rest in trees as part of a roost. I have never been lucky enough to see this and hope I can tomorrow!

I am sure I will a ton of pictures tomorrow, and I will be sure to post them!

First Light by Rebecca Stead

I picked up Rebecca Stead’s “First Light” a few days ago, after reading reviews on a few other blogs. One of my goals this year is to have read the Newbery winner (or an honor book) before it is chosen this year. It got rave reviews all over, so I grabbed it on one of my many trips to Barnes and Noble.

When I first read the flap description, I thought I might use this novel as a read-aloud during our survival unit this fall. However, after reading it I may move it to our ecology unit. Honestly, it would do well in either place.

“First Light” is actually two stories in one. This made me wary at first, because I wanted to skip ahead. However, I trusted that Rebecca Stead would not lead me astray and that the two stories would intersect. Thankfully, I was right!

Peter is a young boy living in NYC. His parents are both academics, which leads to his “vacation” of sorts in Greenland. his father studies glaciers and mom is writing a book about mitochondrial DNA. What a great concept! What kid would turn down a trip to Greenland during the school year? It sounds exciting, fun, and definitely not school-related. ;) Of course, Peter has a lot to learn- about Greenland, his parents, and the wider world.

Thea is the second protagonist in the book. She and her family live in another world of sorts, below the earth’s surface. Both stories intersect brilliantly by the middle of the book. By the end, I was cheering on all of the characters!

I enjoyed this book a lot and look forward to using it with my students this fall. It is exciting, full of action, and still packs a punch in regards to global warming (without preaching!). It will make a great conversation starter.


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