Saturday, March 23, 2013

Earth Day, Arbor Day, and Nature Programs for April

April is a great time for nature programs in your classroom or library.  There is Earth Day ( April 22, 2013) and Arbor Day (April 26, 2013), warmer days, and wonderful Spring things to celebrate.  There are many classic stories about trees, and lots of new favorites, too, but When You Are Camping will, of course, be one of my go-to books this April. I hope you'll consider using it, too. 

Here are some of the other books I'll be bringing along to author visits, and some of the activities I'll be sharing. 

Amelia Bedelia Hits the Trail by Herman Parrish and Lynne Avril.   When You Are Camping's Hazel and Tilly have a friend in young Amelia Bedelia.  This is a perfectly short and breezy read for a school-age group.  Kids always enjoy Amelia's misunderstandings and this book has great tie-ins for activities. 

For example, create a nature table just like Amelia's teacher and invite children to bring something to add to it.  Help them identify and/or label what they found.  Children can work on their narrative skills by telling the story of how they found the object.

Create a "Nature Trail" in your room.  Foot prints and tracks can mark a trail from station to station.  Depending on how many helping-hands you have at your disposal, your space, and your resources, you could set up science experiments, art or crafts, matching or other problems for children to solve, and props for children to explore.

Big Bear Hug by Nicholas Oldland.  Okay, one of the things people often tell me that they like about When You Are Camping, is that there are no bears or other scary animals in the story.  So what am I doing?  Reading When You Are Camping along with a book about a very big bear that scares someone.  Hmmm.  But gosh, this bear is just so darn cute.  Big Bear Hug has a pretty simplistic message--dont' hurt living things--which is just fine for really young children (3-6 years old would be perfect).  Prek and K audiences will love this bear and his big bear tree hugs.  Add a few action rhymes.  Ask children about the animals that Hazel and Tilly saw in the story, and the animal friends that they would like to make in the woods or at the park.  Talk about how to treat small insects and animals.  Now that is one great, Earth-loving, tree-hugging story time!

Painting, coloring, or "collaging" a forest scene would be a nice activity for this young age.  Cut out people figures or a bear for children to glue on.  You could make tree stencils for children to use, or just let them free draw.  Invite families to act out parts of the stories: walking in the woods, telling a story, and especially hugging!

I Can Name 50 Trees Today from the Cat in the Hat's Learning Library is a great non-fiction read for school-age audiences.  The rhyming text is engaging and keeps everyone interested.  Non-fiction books will open up the opportunity for alot of discussion.  What trees would Hazel and Tilly see on their camping trip?  What trees would they see if they camped in the desert, or in the jungle?  What trees have you seen around your house or on camping trips? 

In most parts of the country, April is not a great time for leaf-gathering, leaf rubbings, etc, but there may be flowers, bark, or evergreens to look at.  Help children make a "Tree Journal" so that they can record differences between trees they see, or how one tree changes over the next few months.  Brown paper bags make great journals with perfect pockets for leaves, seeds, bark. and more.

Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World by Laurie Lawlor and Illustrated by Laura Beingessner.  My daughters and I fell in love with this book right away.  It helps that Rachel grew up in Pennsylvania, went to college right down the street from our house, and spent hours looking at the same birds in the Natural History museum that we look at.  These facts brought Rachel Carson to life for me and my children.  Lawlor and Beingessner do a great job of making Rachel Carson a vivid personality who loves nature, works very hard, and creates something very important.  I think most children will find this biography readable and interesting. Biographies can be challenging choices for story times, but I am looking forward to sharing this with young Pittsburgh audiences whether I read it or book-talk it.  Definitely give it a look!


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