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For STEM Friday we are highlighting a fantastic book for upper elementary-aged children, Amazing Amphibians: 30 Activities and Observations for Exploring Frogs, Toads, Salamanders, and More by Lisa J. Amstutz (her website).

If you've never experienced one of the Young Naturalists series books from Chicago Review Press, you are in for a real treat. These books are designed not only for children who are independent researchers interested in a topic -- in this case amphibians -- but also for educators who need information and age-appropriate activity ideas for science lessons.

Lisa Amstutz's text covers everything readers will want to know:

  • What an amphibian is
  • What animals belong to the different families
  • Amphibian anatomy
  • What amphibians eat
  • Their life cycles
  • Some of the threats to amphibians
  • And much more!

It is also filled with amazing facts. Did you know that the North American wood frog can survive being frozen solid? How about that some amphibians can absorb water from moist soil by sitting on it because they have specially absorptive skin on their bellies? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to drink that way?

The activities (30 of them!) will keep young scientists engaged for hours. They range from making fake frog eggs from water beads to making your yard more toad friendly.

Some readers may initially think less of the book when they learn the illustrations are color stock photographs, with many coming from Wikimedia Commons. The quality of stock photographs, however, is determined by the person curating them and in this case the photographs are the highest standard, well-matched to the text and to each other.

The back matter is a treasure trove filled with goodies such as a table of the different amphibian orders, lists of resources, and a teacher's guide with even more ideas for activities.

Personal Note:  I absolutely love these Chicago Review Press books and I use them all the time. The activities encourage the type of hands-on learning that develops fine motor skills so useful later in life. They also reinforce learning. Let's face it, touching a fake frog egg made out of a water bead engages more senses than simply reading about eggs on the page.

The bottom line is Amazing Amphibians is an exceptionally well organized and well written introduction to a fascinating group of animals. It is perfect for young naturalists and scientists. It is also a must-have resource for educators. Investigate a copy today!

Related Activities:

Not that a book loaded with oodles of hands-on activities needs any more, but let's celebrate Amazing Amphibians by making a tiny book about frogs, toads, and salamanders to share with younger children.

1. Download the Tiny Amphibian Book Template (PDF) - (click on image that pops up to load).

2. Print out on white paper.

3. Fold using the instructions in the video below. Make the cut along the line shown in the photo.

4. Talk about the illustrations in the tiny book and research any questions that arise. Decorate and add information to your book to make it your own.

Please let me know if you have any problems folding it.

Older children can make a handmade scientific notebook as suggested on page 3 of Amazing Amphibians.

For more frog and toad science activity suggestions, see our previous posts:

  1. Summer Sounds: Frogs and Toads
  2. Frog and Toad Science Activities, includes toad anatomy and building a toad house
  3. A Frog's Life book and activities, includes link to a citizen's science project.

Age Range: 7 - 9 years
Publisher: Chicago Review Press; First edition (January 7, 2020)
ISBN-10: 1641600721
ISBN-13: 978-1641600729

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.

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

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

First I read Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert.

The children had a blast looking for insects in the illustrations. They were fully engaged in the story.

Check out our growing list of butterfly and moth books for more options.

After reading and discussing, they visited the STEM Stations.

STEM Activity Station 1. Insect Versus Not Insect

Prepare a sign or explain:

Insects have three body parts, six legs, and two antennae.

Gather:

  • plastic insect models
  • plastic spiders, scorpions, centipedes etc.  (often cheap and available at party stores around Halloween)

Have the children sort insect from non-insect.

Also presented live earthworms, sowbugs, and snails.

The living animals were a huge hit.

The rest of the stations I arranged roughly by insect order (groups).

STEM Activity Station 2. Chirp like a Cricket

Gather:

      • Craft sticks
      • Small plastic combs
      • Eric Carle's The Very Quiet Cricket board book (version that chirps when last page is opened)
      • Photographs of crickets
      • Cricket life cycle image (optional)

Crickets chirp by rubbing their wings together. Rub a craft stick across the comb to make a sound.

Although I didn't get any for this day, live crickets are available in many pet supply stores. They are easy to care for (see previous post).

STEM Activity Station 3:  Lady Beetles

Gather:

  • Lady beetle photographs and/or models
  • Lady beetle anatomy diagram (available in previous post).
  • Photographs of aphids
  • Diagrams of lady beetle life cycles
  • Model of lady beetle life cycle (optional)

STEM Activity Station 4:  Ants, Bees and Wasps

Gather:

  • Photographs and illustrations of ants, bees, and wasps
  • Board books
  • Models of honey bee comb
  • Ant life cycle diagram (Ask a Biologist)
  • Honey bee life stages diagrams

STEM Activity Station 5:  Cicadas

Gather:

  • Cicada exoskeletons (collect and save during summer)
  • Cicada models
  • Cicada life cycle diagram (Super Coloring has an amazing assortment of realistic life cycle diagrams)
  • Clicker to replicate cicada buzzing

STEM Activity Station 6:  Butterfly and moth life cycles

Gather:

  • Butterfly life cycle models and illustrations
  • Silkworm cocoons (raised previously and saved)
  • Silkworm eggs (raised previously and saved)
  • Silkworm life cycle diagrams (also from Super Coloring)

 

Also provided assorted crafts and crayon-rubbing templates.

Note:  At this age the templates slid around too much. Consider taping them down with painter's tape to help hold in place.

Also, fingerprint insects are fun, but I didn't have any washable ink stamp pads at home. Need to pick up some for next time.

We finished with We Dig Worms by Kevin McCloskey, which is what the children chose.

Soon they were counting all the earthworms on each page. It was a great way to end the class.

Visit our Pinterest Board for more insect science activity and craft ideas.

pin code insect activities

Have you looked into nonfiction picture books about the solar system for preschoolers lately? There's a trend to use less-than-serious illustrations to capture the reader's attention, for example images of the earth, moon, sun, and other planets with expressive faces, mixed with text that contains serious science vocabulary, facts, and concepts.

At a recent STEM story time for preschoolers, I read Nerdy Babies: Space by Emmy Kastner.

 

Follow the "Nerdy Baby" astronauts as they travel into space (floating), orbit around the sun, go back to the moon, then discover each of the planets in the solar system, with one significant fact noted about each.

The format is question and answer. For example:

Do you love the moon?
Earth sure does!
They travel around space together.

The pacing, vocabulary, and information presented all work perfectly for preschoolers in the 4-5 year old range.

The only thing that was off-putting was that the author included the Nerdy Baby branding in the text, which starts with:

"Hello, Nerdy Babies!"

Preschoolers might not like to be called babies (or nerdy), so decide how you want to deal with that part.

Overall, Nerdy Babies: Space is a sweet, well-paced introduction to our solar system.

Related Activity:

Find the coloring sheet at the author's website. Color the planets, then cut them out. Use the planets to make puppets (tape to craft stick), a solar system mobile (tape string to back and hang), or create a solar system poster to mount on the wall.

Series: Nerdy Babies
Board book: 32 pages
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (May 7, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1250312051
ISBN-13: 978-1250312051

Our second book is Moon! Earth's Best Friend by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Stevie Lewis.

On the surface this picture book looks similar to the one above. There's a moon with a sweet face on the cover. Open it up and begin to read, however, and you've entered an entirely different world, one more appropriate for older children.

First of all, Moon! is narrated by the Moon (in first person). Next you will find some big numbers.

Average distance between Earth and me:  238,855 miles.

There's also a summary or the most recent ideas about how the moon formed when a planet-like rock the size of Mars crashed into the Earth.

On the other hand, there's a lighthearted discussion of why cows can't really jump over the moon.

Overall, Moon! is for serious young readers who enjoy learning science facts. However, it might also be a good choice for older reluctant readers who will be sucked in by the more creative aspects.

Related:

If you enjoy this book, check out the others in the series, Sun! One in a Billion by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Stevie Lewis, and Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years by by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by David Litchfield.

Also, check out our STEM Story Time space activities,

and be sure to visit our growing list of children's books about the moon and lunar landings


plus our list of children's books about planets and the solar system
at Science Books for Kids.

Age Range: 4 - 8 years
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (June 11, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1250199344
ISBN-13: 978-1250199348