Skip to content


It's STEM Friday and we're hosting this week. It's time to soar with STEM poetry books about astronomy.

Note:  Title links take you to more information at Amazon.


When my son was small, we discovered Blast Off: Poems About Space (I Can Read), compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Melissa Sweet (1995). The book features the poem "Children of the Sun" by Brod Bagert, which starts:

"Mercury's small
Almost nothing at all.
Venus is bright and near…"

It was a wonderful way to memorize both a poem and the names of the planets. Of course it is slightly out of date because Pluto is no longer a planet, but many of the others in the collection are still ring true and clear.

As of today, the poems from Blast Off are available for reading on the Internet.


Out of This World: Poems and Facts about Space by Amy Sklansky and illustrated by Stacey Schuett (2012) really lives up to its name. The poems are fun, creative and absolutely perfect for kids. For example, in the poem "Zero Gravity" some of the lines are flipped over. How creative!

Each poem is accompanied by a black sidebar labeled "Fact" that explains scientific concepts or fills in the history of events that are mentioned.


You could teach a robust unit on STEM poetry with just Douglas Florian's fabulous books. Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars: Space Poems and Paintings (2007) is probably the one most geared to older children.

Personally, I love Florian's playful style and fun-filled illustrations. In this book there are cut out circles in some of the pages that move images from one page to another, some playing with changes in scale while doing so. For example, the planet Mercury is a cut out that reveals the much larger Venus on the page behind it.



And Then There Were Eight: Poems about Space (Poetry) (A+ Books: Poetry) by Laura Purdie Salas (2008) is fresh and lively. Salas is devoted to her craft, and presents poems in different forms, and then explains each in the backmatter. This book would work well for a unit on poetry as it does for a unit on space.



Although not a collection of poems, the rhyming couplets in Roaring Rockets (Amazing Machines) by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker (2000) are perfect for toddlers and preschoolers.

Are you ready to try science poetry now? Do you have any favorite poetry books about space that aren't on the list? We'd love to hear about them!

Related activity: Exploring Space Without a Spacesuit.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.


Our information and activities about turtles today were inspired by A Place for Turtles by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Higgins Bond, the newest picture book in the A Place For... series. In a sequence of two-page spreads, Stewart explains an environmental threat to turtles and then reveals what humans can do about it. For more details and a complete review, see out sister blog Wrapped in Foil.

(Affiliate link)

Let's learn about turtles!

1. What is a turtle? (Identification and classification)



Turtles are reptiles, which means they are cold-blooded, have scaly skin and lay eggs. Some other reptiles are snakes, lizards, and crocodiles. Because they are "cold-blooded" they often bask in the sun to maintain their body temperature.

turtle shell

Turtles are known for their shells or protective outer covering. In hard shelled species, the top shell is called the carapace and the bottom shell is called the plastron.

Many species, like the one in the photograph above, are found in or near freshwater, especially in lakes and ponds.

(Photo from National Park Service)

Sea turtles, such as this Kemp's Ridley, spend virtually all of their lives in the oceans.


Tortoises are turtles that are not associated with bodies of water. Some species can even survive in hot deserts.

To learn more about how to identify different types of turtles, try a field guide or website. For example, Discover Life has an interactive turtle identification guide. Ocean Ambassadors has an extensive page about turtle biology and how to identify sea turtles.

2.What do turtles eat?

Which of the following do at least some turtles eat?

  1. Jellyfish jellyfish
  2. Earthworms
  3. Fruit
  4. Leaves of plants
  5. All of the above

If you said all of the above, you are correct. Many turtles eat a variety of foods.

One exception is the desert tortoise. They do best if fed only the leaves and flowers of native plants, such as wildflowers and grasses.

3. Laying eggs

Turtles lay their eggs in nests of loose dirt or sand. Finding a suitable place to lay their eggs can be a difficult and dangerous business for turtles. When turtles lay their eggs on the land they are often vulnerable to predators not found in the water.

Why did the snapping turtle cross the road?


This snapping turtle is in danger of being hit by cars because she is crossing the road to lay her eggs in a bank along the roadside. Perhaps the warm pavement seems like a good place to incubate eggs?

In A Place for Turtles, Melissa Stewart describes how people in Alabama built a fence to keep turtles out of the road.

4. Turtles as pets?

Keeping turtles as pets is being discouraged for a number of reasons.

First of all, small turtles are likely to carry Salmonella bacteria, which can be fatal to susceptible humans.

Secondly, people who don't realize how much work it is to keep a pet will often dump their unwanted turtles into a nearby park or natural area. This is a problem because the pet store turtles may kill local turtles or infect them with diseases, or the area might simply not be suitable for their survival.

My family recently found a tortoise that had been dumped in a park. It was so cold out that the tortoise couldn't move. It needed to be in a safe place to prepare for its hibernation, not tossed into a park.

Did you know a desert tortoise may live to be over 100 years old? That is a long time to be responsible for a single pet!

Related Activities:

1. One great way to learn more about turtles is the build a model.

An easy craft for the youngest set is making a turtle using a paper bowl. There are instructions all over the Internet, but here is a good example at A cute variation is making a turtle using a section of egg carton at the National Wildlife Foundation.


For older children, encourage more elaborate models, like this one using Model Magic.  Create an appropriate diorama to study the habitat a particular turtle is found in.

2. Look for citizen science projects involving turtles, like this one in Arizona looking for ornate box turtles, Leatherback Watch in California, or one from the Piedmont Wildlife Center about box turtles.


3. Letter, Numbers and Books has a cute sensory activity to explore turtles laying eggs in sand for young children.

4. Learn how to draw a desert tortoise and investigate its life cycle.

5. Back to our featured book, A Place for Turtles has a section about the hazards of plastic grocery bags. Find out more about how plastic bags harm sea turtles with this coloring page.

A Place for Turtles and others in the series would be a perfect choice for an Earth Day celebration. Unlike some books about threatened and endangered animals, this book remains positive by explaining what can be done to help mitigate threats. What a great way to learn more about turtles and help them at the same time.

Ages: 6-10
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (March 1, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1561456934
ISBN-13: 978-1561456932

Book was provided by publisher for review purposes.

More books by Melissa Stewart and Peachtree Publishers.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

Time to celebrate Susan Stockdale's newest book, Stripes of All Types by taking a peek at the science behind the stripes. stripes-of-all-types

This visually-stunning picture book is suitable for the preschoolers and early readers. The text is a deceptively simple rhyme that draws the young reader in and gives clues to the unfamiliar words. Stripes of All Types incorporates art, poetry and science all into one highly attractive package. For a review see our sister blog, Wrapped in Foil.

Susan says she got the idea for the book after observing some brightly striped frogs at a museum. It got her to thinking of all the other striped animals there are and why that might be. Let's take a look at some common ones.


We know some animals, like the skunk on the cover of the book, have bold stripes and contrasting colors as a warning to other animals that they are "armed and dangerous," or at least can spray a noxious chemical.


Animals that are yellow and black, red and black, or those with prominent stripes like this paper wasp are thought to be advertizing their ability to defend themselves.


Some animals, like this monarch caterpillar, do not have an obvious defense like a stinger. It turns out they are protected by being poisonous to eat.


What about this stripy caterpillar?


Check out the stripes on this moth.


This swallowtail butterfly even has a stripe down its body.

Stripes in some animals may be a form of camouflage to break up the outline of the body to confuse predators, such as birds.


That was long thought to be the case for the zebra. Some very recent work, however, has suggested that the stripes may have a different role. It turns out a zebra's stripes may be protecting it from biting flies (summary of the study at the BBC).

Given that many insects are susceptible to parasitic flies, it will be interesting to see if this finding is applied to other organisms.

Are you excited about stripes yet? Be sure to look for some more!

In Stripes of All Types, Susan Stockdale features many unusual and intriguing animals with stripes. In the back matter she discusses each animal in more detail, giving its name, where it lives and more about what its stripes might have to say. She also has a matching game at the end to reinforce learning, asking the reader to match the sample of stripes to the animal.

It will be hard to wait, but Stripes of All Types is coming to bookstores April 1.

Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (April 1, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1561456950
ISBN-13: 978-1561456956

The books was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.