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For STEM Friday, let's delve into a new middle grade book,  Living Fossils: Survivors from Earth's Distant Past by Rebecca E. Hirsch.

In Living Fossils, Rebecca Hirsch has scoured the earth for animals that not only look like their fossil ancestors, but also are the last few species of their kind. She has put together a fascinating collection of six amazing animals.

I knew that Living Fossils would be one of my new favorite books when I flipped the pages to the introduction and spotted a velvet worm. Every entomologist knows about velvet worms (Phylum Onychophora) because they have characteristics of both arthropods (the phylum containing insects) and annelids (earthworms, etc.). However, you don't often see these unusual critters mentioned in children's books.

Chapter 2 reveals the both heartbreaking and hopeful story of the horseshoe crab, which up to recently has been the only source of a chemical with important value to the medical field.

The next chapter features the chambered nautilus (also shown on the cover). Have you ever seen one of these cool mollusks at an aquarium? If not, I've dug up a video for you.

The nautilus is a cephalopod, and like their octopus cousins, are intelligent enough to learn how to negotiate a maze.

 

Public domain illustration

Chapter 6 discusses another of my most-liked creatures, the platypus. It took forever for scientists to figure out where to categorize these animals that look like a bird/mammal mash up. Hirsch writes about how the decision was made.

I'm not going to reveal the next animal she picked, but it was one I -- a biologist -- had never heard of before. What a survivor it is, one that has managed to stay hidden from humans for decades.

All in all, this book is a tribute to the incredible diversity of animals on our planet, as well as a clear call that we need to conserve them.

Living Fossils will entrance budding biologists. Educators will appreciate the deep, careful research and extensive back matter. You will want to investigate a copy today!

Related STEM Activity Suggestions:

Grade Level : 3 - 8
Publisher : Millbrook Press ™ (October 6, 2020)
ISBN-10 : 154158127X
ISBN-13 : 978-1541581272

Disclosure: I won this book in a giveaway contest. 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. Note: this is a new link as of 10/2018.

What has happened to Bug of the Week? Where has it been? This summer and fall it has been excessively hot and dry. The heat and lack of water has been hard on the trees, hard on the insects, just plain hard.

This week, however, there's been a break in the weather.

Convergent lady beetle at Boyce Thompson Arboretum.

Surprise!

It's great to be back.

Have you found any insects where you live this week?

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We haven't offered a giveaway in some time, so in honor of STEM Friday one lucky winner will receive a copy of the new picture book biography Marjory Saves the Everglades: The Story of Marjory Stoneman Douglas by Sandra Neil Wallace and illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon courtesy of Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books (U.S. addresses only, please. See Rafflecopter for entry below).

About Marjory Stoneman Douglas

Marjory Stoneman Douglas grew up in Taunton, Massachusetts with her mother, but a one-time visit to her father in Miami sparked her lifelong interest in Florida.

In fact, she moved there after college to become a reporter for her father's newspaper.

After serving in the Red Cross in Europe during World War I, she returned to Florida where she found, much to her dismay, acres of wild land had been drained and burned to build tracts of homes and businesses. She saw how all the unique plants like ghost orchids and Florida Scrub Ziziphus, plus animals like roseate spoonbills, storks and even manatees were disappearing as the Everglades were being destroyed.

Roseate Spoonbills (Public Domain Image)

Marjory realized how important wetlands like the Everglades were both for wildlife and also for replenishing fresh water supplies. She knew she had to act to save this precious resource. Would she be able to make a difference?

About The Book

You can see how powerful and inspiring her story is in this book trailer:

Sandra Neil Wallace has distilled 108 year's of Marjory's life into 56 pages of essential reading. The back matter is so full that it has spilled into the end papers. There's an author's note with more facts, resource lists, source lists, and an extensive timeline. Plan to linger there.

Rebecca Gibbon's illustrations capture the lush green vegetation of Florida as well as Marjory's lively disposition. Young readers will delight in finding all the hidden animals and plants in her illustrations of the Everglades.

Marjory Saves the Everglades shows how one person really can make a difference. It will delight both young historians, ecologists, and conservationists alike. Wade into a copy today!

The STEM Connection:  Ecology

How does the biography of a reporter from Miami fit with STEM? Actually, much of the book is about the Everglades, which are a special kind of wetlands ecosystem. As Marjory wrote, "There are no other Everglades in the world." Let's learn more about it.

Ecology Vocabulary

Ecosystem – A community of living things and their distinctive environment

Wetland – Ecosystem covered at least parts of the year with either freshwater, brackish water (partly salty) or salt water. Types of wetlands include:

  • Swamps –wet areas with trees
  • Marshes – Low-lying wet areas dominated by grasses and some bushes rather than trees. Can be found at the edges of lakes or streams. Salt marshes occur along oceans.

River – A large volume of water that runs downhill.

Rather than a swamp or a marsh, the Everglades is a meandering river that is roughly one hundred miles long and fifty miles wide.  Marjory described it as a "river of grass."

Many one-of-a-kind animals and plants live in the Everglades, which can vary between wet and dry from season to season and place to place. Some of the animals found there are land creatures, like the marsh rabbit. Some animals are equally at ease both in the water and on land, like otters. Other animals found in the Everglades are water creatures, such as manatees.

Make a list of some of the animals mentioned in the book or the Everglades park website. Decide whether they are land animals (terrestrial), live both on land and in water (semi-aquatic), or only live in the water (aquatic).

Then make a picture or diorama featuring the animals in their preferred habitats.

White peacock butterflies live in the Everglades.

 

Related:

 

 

Grade Level : Preschool - 3
Publisher : Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books (September 22, 2020)
ISBN-10 : 1534431543
ISBN-13 : 978-1534431546


Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Disclosure: This book was provided by Blue Slip Media for review. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. 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.