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Today we are featuring a lovely STEM picture book that has made many of the best of 2020 lists, The Nest That Wren Built by Randi Sonenshine and illustrated by Anne Hunter.

This gently rhyming book about Carolina wrens building a nest follows the style of “The House That Jack Built.”

This is the bark, snippets of twine,
spidery rootlets, and needles of pine
that shape the nest that Wren built.

The text goes into detail about how the wrens gather materials to make the nest. Some of the ingredients are expected, like soft moss for a lining the inside. Others are very surprising, like draping a snakeskin on the outside (to ward off predators). After the nest is built, the story follows the eggs and baby birds through development.

Anne Hunter's illustrations are a fascinating combination of whimsical and realistic. Young readers will have fun looking for little things hidden in each page.

The back matter includes a glossary and additional interesting facts about wrens.

The Nest That Wren Built will enchant nature lovers, especially budding ornithologists. Surprise yourself with a copy today.

Related STEM activities:

1. Child-sized Bird's Nest

Let your young makers assemble their own child-sized bird nest. (This is best as an outdoor activity, although some of the materials could be used inside.)

Gather materials to create nests, using items you can recycle or compost. Here are some suggestions:

  • Cardboard strips
  • Hay or straw (pet supply or craft stores)
  • Grapevines (craft stores)
  • Shredded paper
  • Fallen leaves
  • Branches

Show the children some photographs of nests or the real thing if there are some nearby. Always leave the nests where you found them. Even if they are empty, birds can reuse the nesting materials.

This one fell out of a tree after a wind storm:

bird nest

Talk about some of the reasons birds build nests.

  • Place to raise young
  • Shelter from adverse weather
  • Place to rest

Now have the children build their own human-sized nest. They can work in groups. Young children may need some adult assistance. Be prepared for messy fun.

Note:  If you are working with a number of children, they may remove materials from the nests of others. Decide how you want to deal with this in advance. I told them that birds in nature really do take materials from other birds’ nests. Eventually they decided to leave one member of a group in the nest while the others went to gather supplies, just how birds sometimes handle the problem.

Make sure you have your camera ready. You will find there are many creative ways to make nests. Take pictures of your “birds” sitting in their nests.

 

2. See our previous post with several nest-related STEM activities

3. Consider joining the upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count, Feb 12-15, 2021. Share It Science has a free bird counting printable.

4. Want to find out more? Over at Science Books for Kids, we are building a list of children's books about Animal Architects.

Reading age : 4 - 8 years
Publisher : Candlewick; Illustrated edition (March 10, 2020)
ISBN-10 : 1536201537
ISBN-13 : 978-1536201536

Disclosure: This book was provided by our local library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

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

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What do you notice when you see the owl on the cover of the new nonfiction picture book Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls by Annette Whipple? Maybe the huge eyes? What do you think of? The sound they make? Have you ever seen an owl in real life?

The book starts out with these observations and a stirring question:

"You recognize an owl when you hear or see one, but do you really know these birds?"

From there, each double-page spread features gorgeous color photographs with text in a question and answer format. You will find out what owl's eat, how they hunt, whether they sleep during the day, where they live, and what's up with owl pellets. My favorite questions was whether owls can spin their heads around. Do you know the answer?

The formatting is super engaging, with eye-catching design elements and fun dialogue bubbles with cool facts. Great for visual learners.

Here at Growing With Science, we love back matter and the book does not disappoint. There's a section on how to help owls, explanation of owl anatomy, owl pellet dissection discussion, and a glossary. The hardcover version even includes an Owl Superpowers poster, which you can see at Annette's website.

Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls is nonfiction at its best. It will obviously appeal to young birdwatchers and nature lovers, but also to anyone interested in the world around them. Reading it will make you wiser <wink>.

Note for sensitive young readers:  Owls eat small rodents and the book contains pretty graphic photographs of that natural process. There's also a close up of an owl pellet.

This book is part of The Truth About series. Annette tells us there's Woof! The Truth About Dogs and another untitled book about spiders coming next year.

 

Related Activities:

  1. Owl pellet dissection

We previously talked about owl pellets when we reviewed Melissa Stewart's Bird-acious, a book that comes with an actual owl pellet attached to the cover (see post).

2. Write an Owl Story

Have you ever seen an owl in real life? Write a short story about what you saw and how it made you feel. Do some research and learn more about them to add details to your story. Need help? Check Annette's website for a lesson about the writing process.

If you post your story online, please leave a link in the comments.

For example:

One snowy day while cross-country skiing at a nature preserve in South Dakota, I passed a thicket of pine trees, dark green against the wintry white. A brownish blur passed in front of my face. It was an owl, flying. The stillness of the snow, the peacefulness of the setting, the silence of the owl in flight have all stayed in my mind since that day.

Other owls we have encountered:

We sometimes see small owls called burrowing owls here in Arizona. Because they nest in animal burrows, which have become rare, conservationists have started making artificial tunnels for them to nest in.

What do you think these owls are doing?

great horned owlWhat about this great horned owl? I saw it in a cottonwood tree early one morning. We often hear them calling softly to each other just before dawn.

3. Interested in birds in general? Consider joining the Audubon's 121st Christmas Bird Count which runs from Monday, December 14, 2020 through Tuesday, January 5, 2021. Details at their website.

4. Read more books about birds.

We have a growing list of excellent children's books about birds at Science Books for Kids.

Reading ages : 6 - 10 years
Publisher : Reycraft Books (September 30, 2020)
ISBN-13 : 978-1478869627
ISBN-10 : 1478869623

Disclosure: ARC was provided by the author for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

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

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Did you know that before author and illustrator Beatrix Potter began her career writing the famous children's classics, she was a scientist?

In her new picture book Beatrix Potter, Scientist (illustrated by Junyi Wu), Lindsay H. Metcalf reveals how as a child Beatrix Potter was curious about plants and animals, but devoted her life as a young adult to studying fungi.

Like the illustration of Beatrix on the cover, the book focuses a lens on her lesser-known years as a mycologist (one who studies fungi). Although Potter had no formal schooling in science, Beatrix Potter was introduced to mushrooms  by a talented amateur named Charles McIntosh. He became her mentor and sent her samples to study. Beatrix made beautiful detailed drawings of each specimen. She also figured out a way to prove that new mushrooms grow from spores, something that wasn't well known at the time. However, like other women scientists in the 1800s and early 1900s, Beatrix Potter encountered resistance when she tried to share her findings.

After finishing the book, educators and parents will likely want to discuss with young readers the pros and cons of how Beatrix ultimately dealt with the rejection.

The back matter is extensive, and includes a section that gives more detail about Beatrix Potter's life and studies, a timeline, a bibliography and suggestions for further reading. It is well worth perusing.

Overall Beatrix Potter, Scientist will appeal to both young readers interested in STEM and also those interested in women's history. Investigate a copy today!

Activity: Draw or Paint a Fungus

What better way to celebrate Beatrix Potter's work than to make a detailed drawing of a mushroom.

First, look at some of Beatrix Potter's illustrations online (for example, here).

You will need some art supplies, such as:

  • Paper
  • Colored pencils
  • Crayons
  • Watercolor paints

Find a mushroom to draw.

Safety note:  A few fungi are poisonous, so avoid handling wild ones.

Fungi obtain nutrients by decomposing plants, particularly living or dead woody plants, so you will often discover them in forests.

The mushroom that we see is called a fruiting body. The fruiting body is like the flowers of a plant because it is how how a fungus makes more of itself or reproduces. The rest of the fungus is made up of threadlike strands called hyphae which form a mat called the mycelium. The mycelium is often hidden within the tree or soil and may grow for years unseen.

When conditions are right, a fungus produces its fruiting bodies. They often prefer cool, moist conditions and fall is a great time to find them.

Photograph by Karen Gibson

Some fruiting bodies have a stipe (scientific term for the stalk part). On the underside of the mushroom in the middle of the photograph you can see ridges. Those are called gills.

Photograph by Robert Pratt

Others form shelves. Sometimes the shelves are soft.

Sometimes the shelves are hard. These fruiting bodies may be called brackets or conks. They can be quite colorful.

If you have trouble finding a mushroom in nature, you may want to examine a cultivated mushroom from the grocery store instead.

Observe the mushroom closely and draw what you see.

You can find out more about fungi in these related posts:

Be sure to check out our ever-growing list of biographies of women scientists at Science Books for Kids.

Grade Level : Preschool - 3
Publisher : Albert Whitman & Company (September 1, 2020)
ISBN-10 : 0807551759
ISBN-13 : 978-0807551752

Disclosure: This book was provided electronically by the author. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

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