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Recently, we featured a story time about the solar system for preschoolers. Today our activities are inspired by the upper-elementary/middle grade book Dr. Maggie’s Grand Tour
 of the Solar System by Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock 
and illustrated by Chelen Écija. Check out our sister blog, Wrapped in Foil, for a review/details.

Suggested Activity to Accompany the Book: Stargazing

When is the last time you have gone outside at night and looked up at the stars? With less pollution haze, stargazing can be a fun activity right now. Be sure to follow local safety guidelines.

Some things you can point out to youngsters:

  1. The Moon - The Moon is currently waxing, which means you will gradually see more as it heads to the full moon on May 7, 2020. It will be the last "supermoon" of the year and is called the flower moon.
  2. Planets - Venus has been bright lately as the sun sets in the west. You should also be able to spot Mars, Saturn and Jupiter.
  3. Constellations - Different constellations will be prominent depending on how clear your viewing is. Pollux and Castor show up in the west near nightfall. See various websites linked below for details.
  4. Comets- There are three comets in the skies this month; Atlas, Swan, and T2PANSTARRS. They probably won't be bright enough to see without a telescope, but keep an eye on news reports just in case.
  5. Meteor showers- Last week the Lyrid meteor shower was in the news, but the lesser known Eta Aquarid meteor shower should be at its peak right before dawn Tuesday. Unfortunately, the moonlight will probably interfere with viewing all but the brightest meteors. Other large showers include the Perseids in mid-August and the Geminids in December.
  6. Human-made items - Most of us can recognize an airplane flying at night because of the blinking lights. What you might not have seen, however, are the Starlink satellites. These look like points of light that travel quickly in a definite path across the sky ( a photo). Once you spot one, you are likely to see them again and again. According to reports, they should be less visible as they tilt over time and later launches will have built in shades that are supposed to reduce visibility. See them while you can.

For more see our Astronomy category, starting with Three Hands-On Astronomy Activities.

Websites for adults to learn more:

Ages: 8+
ISBN:  978-1-68464-034-8

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

See our growing list of children's books about the solar system at Science Books for Kids.

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Just in time to celebrate Earth Day on April 22, 2020 we have a new picture book This Raindrop: Has a Billion Stories to Tell by Linda Ragsdale and illustrated by Srimalie Bassani.

This picture book...
Starts with a single raindrop that "has billions of stories to tell" then follows it through time and space at it cycles again and again. Readers will be thrilled as the words flow like water.

"Its magical molecules morph into thin air
then shape-shift into something new,
like a single drop of dew in the morning. "

This picture book...
Has incredibly imaginative illustrations that play with perspective, zooming in and out, then up and down from spread to spread.

This picture book...
Has a little something extra. It features a lovely arlin paper cover with foil text enhancements, illustrated end papers, plus back matter including an explanation of the water cycle, the importance of water conservation, and resources for further reading.

This picture book...
Could help save the planet. As the sticker on the cover says, "Every Book [purchased] Plants a Tree."

What could be better than that?

Related Resources and Activities:

1. The author suggests learning more about water conservation and celebrating World Oceans Day, June 8, 2020.

2. Check out our previous posts with activities for Exploring the Water Cycle and Water Can Be... Very Important.

3. Visit our growing list of children's books about water and the water cycle.

4. Check Parade magazine's list of 50 Activities for Earth Day for water conservation organizations and events like the #WednesdaysForWater Twitter hashtag.

Age Range: 5 - 8 years
Publisher: Flowerpot Press (April 7, 2020)
ISBN-10: 1486718175
ISBN-13: 978-1486718177

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher 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.

 


Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.

In another in our series of STEM story times, let's explore reptile-themed books, learning centers, and activities.

The Books:

To start story time, I began by reading an older picture book from my bookshelf, Lizard in the Sun by Joanne Rider and illustrated by Michael Rothman.


Although this book works well when read one-on-one, it was a bit long for a group of preschoolers. They began to distract each other.

After talking about what reptiles are and visiting the activity stations, we finished with their choice from a pile I provided, Get to Know Gila Monsters (Get To Know Reptiles) by Flora Brett.

STEM Activity Station 1. Lizard in the Sun (Under a lamp)

Explore the concept of "cold-blooded" or ectothermic (having a internal temperature determined by-and-large by the external environment.)

Gather:

  • Two lizard shapes cut from black construction paper
  • Small desk lamp

Place one lizard shape directly under the lamp and one at least three feet away, preferably in a shaded or dark area. Have the children compare the temperature of each.

(Older children could record the temperature difference with a thermometer.)

Optional:  Added graphic of temperature vs. lizard activity on page 3 from Sonoran Desert Museum's Leaping Lizard's handout.

 

STEM Activity Station 2. Box of Reptiles (Sorting activity)

Gather:

      • Toy or model reptiles:  snakes, alligators, lizards, turtles
      • Box or bin
      • A few toy or model animals that are not reptiles:  mammals, birds, insects, fish, or frogs

Mix the animals in the box or bin. Prepare a sign that reads:  Some animals were put into the box of reptiles by mistake. Can you find the ones that aren't reptiles and take them out?

STEM Activity Station 3:  Senses Learning Station

Gather:

  • Images of snakes with prominent heat sensing pits (sense heat)
  • Images of snakes tongues and Jacobson's organs (smell)
  • Point out the eyes (sight)
  • Hearing- although reptiles don't often have obvious ears, they can hear

Place this station near the lizard in the sun station so can compare how we detect heat with how a snake detects heat.

(I included this station because we had previously learned about human senses).

STEM Activity Station 4:  Make a macaroni snake craft (fine motor skills)

Gather:

  • Chenille stems (pipecleaners)
  • White glue
  • Pasta shells
  • Penne (red lentil for color)
  • Marker
  • Red craft foam cut into tongue shape (Y)

Make a loop in one end of the chenille stem to form the head. Feed the penne onto the chenille stem to cover the body. Bend the end back to hold the penne on. Add eyes to a pasta shell and slip over the head loop. Glue into place (do this after the body so it doesn't get dislodged). Glue on the tongue. Allow glue to set before playing with the snakes.

See our previous snake craft using paper beads and a more detailed pasta version at The Pinterest Parent.

STEM Activity Station 5:  Make a reptile book

Gather:

  • reptile book PDF - print out number of copies needed
  • Scissors
  • Markers/crayons/colored pencils to decorate

For instructions how to fold the book, visit the Making Books website or watch this video:


Note:  This project was a bit too difficult for preschoolers, but their parents seemed to enjoy it. The children will color/decorate them at home.

Mini field trip:

The center where the story time was held had a timely exhibit of snakes and lizards, so we made a mini field trip to see it.

The information about Gila monsters probably sparked the children's interest in reading the book about them at the end of story time.

The exhibit included an actual shed snake skin to touch. Cool!

Pointed out the different sizes and shapes of the scales on the bottom versus the top.

This unit was a hit. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

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Visit our Pinterest Board for more reptile STEAM ideas.

Want to read more children's books about reptiles? Try our growing list at Science Books for Kids.