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Find more Classroom Connections: Exploring Science with Poetry
In Three Voices: An Invitation to Poetry across the Curriculum (1995), literacy expert Bernice Cullinan writes, “Scientists observe with a clear eye, record their observations in precise, descriptive language, and craft their expressions. Poets do the same thing.” Maximizing that reciprocal relationship between how scientists observe and describe the world and how poets do so presents a unique opportunity for teachers and librarians as they work with children. But where to begin? How can you make science more accessible and “friendly”? Try a short science poem, of course!
Naturally, a single poem is not intended to be an entire science lesson, but it offers an innovative, engaging, vocabulary-full, and concept-rich way to launch or conclude a science lesson. We need to ensure that vocabulary exposure is occurring in many contexts for maximum scaffolding and science learning. In an essay in Teaching Teachers: Bringing First-Rate Science to the Elementary Classroom (2002), edited by the National Science Teachers Association, Valarie Akerson notes, “It is possible to use language arts to support science learning and to use science as a purpose for learning language arts.” She also reminds us that the “use of language arts to promote literacy and support learning in other content areas is (also) recommended and encouraged by the International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).”
With poetry, we can give students a glimpse of a wide selection of science, technology, and engineering topics; spur their curiosity; and perhaps entice them to do supplemental science reading on their own on topics that particularly interest them.
Where Does Poetry Fit?
We can add poetry sharing to a planned science lesson by taking one minute to read aloud a science poem to set the stage for the instruction to come; or, conversely, ending with a poem can help reinforce the concepts introduced in a science lesson by building the knowledge retention that’s so crucial to learning. Using poetry in science units can show children how writers approach scientific topics in very different and distinctive ways. In addition, children will see that they can learn a lot of information from a poem.
Poetry has an advantage in that it typically consists of fewer words than expository-prose passages, and poems can be read and reread in very little time. The brevity of poetry is less intimidating to children who may be overwhelmed by longer prose and streams of new vocabulary, especially students acquiring English as a new language. We can introduce or reinforce a science topic with a poem in just a few minutes with language that is vivid and memorable and activities that are engaging and interactive.
Connecting with the NGSS
As we consider the framework for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), we can explore how poetry might work alongside other texts and experiences to help students understand our “technology-rich and scientifically complex world.” The National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve all partnered to create standards that emphasize both content and practice. In her article “Scientists at Work,” which appeared in the November 2013 issue of Book Links, Sunday Cummins notes, “Traditionally, science standards have focused on core content related to the physical, life, and earth sciences. The new standards, though, include an additional set of core ideas categorized as ‘engineering, technology and applications of science.’ . . . Another important shift in the Next Generation Science Standards is the adoption of the term practices instead of scientific method or skills to describe the work of both scientists and engineers.” This means that there is a shift away from conducting experiments and a new focus on investigating, problem solving, and incorporating technology and math, alongside science and engineering, for an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). For a graph that charts the NGSS’ disciplinary core ideas across grade levels, visit the web resources connected to this article on Booklist Online.
A brief look at the poetry shelves will reveal many poems that easily connect with science, such as collections devoted to animals, weather, seasons, space, dinosaurs, and time, to name a few. Start with What Is Science?, by Rebecca Kai Dotlich; Scien-trickery: Riddles in Science, by J. Patrick Lewis; or Trailblazers: Poems of Exploration, by Bobbi Katz, for example. My title The Poetry Teacher’s Book of Lists (2012) offers input on selecting poetry for young people, with 155 different lists citing nearly 1,500 poetry books in a variety of categories, including poetry-book lists that touch on topics across the science curriculum (animals, dinosaurs, science, space, weather, time, math, etc.). Following is a sampling of poetry for young people that focuses on life science (mostly animals and nature), earth science, and space science.
In addition to the titles below, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science (2014), which I coedited with Janet Wong, features all the NGSS core ideas— from ecosystems to electricity—for kindergarten to grade 5, along with “Take 5” learning activities tailored to each poem and science standard. There are poems about solar power and hybrid cars, about gears and robots, about hurricanes and the human body, about video games and glaciers, about famous scientists and everyday inventions. Here, many poems offer the “kid perspective” too—such as getting a first pair of glasses, studying a cat or dog for unusual behaviors, pushing and pulling a wagon, flinging a Frisbee, looking at stars in the sky, and asking hundreds of random questions. Two poetry books that offer an examination of physics and engineering are Flicker Flash, by Joan Bransfield Graham, and Eureka! Poems about Inventors, by Joyce Sidman. Poets note: we need more poetry for children that celebrates and explores physics and various types of engineering. Those are in particularly short supply!
In a variety of meaningful and participatory ways, we can celebrate poetry while gently introducing and reinforcing science knowledge across the grades. The keys to remember are that a poem should first be enjoyed for its own sake—its language, ideas, and images; that poems presented in participatory ways get students “into the poem” and introduce the science content; and that the main idea is to help children think about science through the lens of a poem and to increase exposure to science content as well as poetic language.
Many scientists recognize that poetry is of vital importance. As Charles Darwin commented in his later years, “If I had to live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week.”
Poetry Books for Science Units
At the Sea Floor Café: Odd Ocean Critter Poems. By Leslie Bulion. Illus. by Leslie Evans. 2011. 48p. Peachtree, $14.95 (9781561455652). 811. Gr. 5–8.
Adeptly penned poems, 18 in all, capture an unusual assortment of undersea life, from the exotic and predatory osedax and sea spider to the more familiar bottlenose dolphin and squid. Varied poetic forms, informational paragraphs, and block-print illustrations ebb and flow with fascinating marine-biology facts.
Bees, Snails, and Peacock Tails: Patterns and Shapes . . . Naturally. By Betsy Franco. Illus. by Steve Jenkins. 2008. 40p. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry, $17.99 (9781416903864). 811. PreS–Gr. 2.
A winning meditation on the patterns and shapes found in the natural world, including the dazzling eyes of the peacock’s feathers and the hexagonal chambers of the bee’s hive. Franco’s spirited poems and Jenkins’ masterful collages explore the many forms and functions of nature’s geometry.
Birds of a Feather. By Jane Yolen. Illus. by Jason Stemple. 2011. 32p. Boyds Mills/Wordsong, $17.95 (9781590788301). 811. Gr. 3–5.
In deftly turned odes to our fine feathered friends, Yolen explores the distinct traits of select avian species—from the kingfisher to the wood duck to the great horned owl—in a variety of poetic forms, while Stemple supplies crisp, close-up photos of the poem’s handsome subjects. Pair this with Yolen and Stemple’s Least Things: Poems about Small Natures (2002) and Bug Off! Creepy, Crawly Poems (2012), by Jane Yolen.
The Blood-Hungry Spleen and Other Poems about Our Parts. By Allan Wolf. Illus. by Greg Clarke. 2003. 48p. Candlewick, paper, $9.99 (9780763638061). 811. Gr. 3–5.
Poems about belly buttons, bones, and brains fill the pages of this decidedly quirky exploration of human anatomy. Inventive illustrations depict an anthropomorphic heart beating a drum, tiny humans on rafts navigating the circulatory system, and a spleen chasing blood cells with a knife and fork.
Bugs: Poems about Creeping Things. By David. L. Harrison. Illus. by Rob Shepperson. 2007. 56p. Boyds Mills/Wordsong, $16.95 (9781590784518). 811. PreS–Gr. 2.
Creepy, wild, and silly, the very simple verses in this title are for reading aloud and joining in. The sounds and movements of ticks, millipedes, worms, grasshoppers, grubs, cicadas, spiders, and more are part of the fun, while the pictures extend the wordplay.
Chatter, Sing, Roar, Buzz: Poems about the Rain Forest. By Laura Purdie Salas. 2009. 32p. illus. Capstone, lib. ed., $26.65 (9781429617055). 811. PreS–Gr. 2.
Salas uses a variety of poetic forms, which are detailed at the conclusion of the book, in this title exploring the rain forest, its inhabitants, and the threats to this delicate and unique ecosystem. Informational tidbits appear in sidebars, while vivid, striking photographs fill the pages.
The Cuckoo’s Haiku: And Other Birding Poems. By Michael J. Rosen. Illus. by Stan Fellows. 2009. 56p. Candlewick, $17.99 (9780763630492). 811. Gr. 1–4.
Constructed as a birdwatcher’s field journal, with striking watercolor illustrations and handwritten notes, this collection of haiku is arranged by season and documents various bird species and their distinctive attributes. Prose passages point out such particulars as the birds’ calls, markings, and habits, and appended notes extend the informational content.
Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems from the Water Hole. By Irene Latham. Illus. by Anna Wadham. 2014. 32p. Millbrook, $17.95 (9781467712323). 811. Gr. 2–5.
Illustrated in ruddy, earth-toned illustrations, this collection of poems catalogs the animal residents of the African savanna, from the diminutive dung beetle to the massive elephant and titular wildebeest. Alongside each poem, an informational passage provides even more fascinating detail, including ways that these creatures have adapted to their environment and the symbiotic relationships that sustain them.
Earthmates. By Patricia Hubbell. Illus. by Jean Cassels. 2000. 32p. Marshall Cavendish, o.p. 811. K–Gr. 4.
Playful and physical, with a strong sense of each animal’s behavior and movements, these poems capture some of earth’s wild, astonishing creatures. The viewpoint is always human, whether trying to talk to a frog, straining to hear a whale’s song, or watching bats in the night sky. Realistic watercolor illustrations complete the package.
Forest Has a Song. By Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. Illus. by Robbin Gourley. 2013. 40p. Clarion, $16.99 (9780618843497); e-book, $16.99 (9780547680996). 811. K–Gr. 3.
Twenty-six breezy, accessible poems explore in close-up detail the intriguing microcosm of the forest, exploring its lush sensory experiences throughout the seasons and its charmingly diverse cast of characters, including a courting frog and maple leaves affecting fall color. Crisp illustrations on white backgrounds add another layer of distinction.
The Great Big Green. By Peggy Gifford. Illus. by Lisa Desimini. 2014. 32p. Boyds Mills, $15.95 (9781620916292). PreS–Gr. 1.
Exciting, poetic language describes a mysterious, ultragreen object, an object so green that it incorporates the green of grapes, green moths, traffic lights, ocean waves, and a gaping Komodo dragon. Featuring spirited collage illustrations, this is a celebration of language perfect for prompting conversations about color, vocabulary, and our planet.
Hey There, Stink Bug! By Leslie Bulion. Illus. by Leslie Evans. 2006. 48p. Charlesbridge, $12.95 (9781580893046); paper, $5.95 (9781580893404). 595.7. Gr. 4–6.
“This is / an insect world with humans in it. / We’ll seize the day, but they will win it.” The insects featured in this poetry collection are fearsome, awe-inspiring creatures, and Bulion uses gory, visceral facts to pull children into both the science and the various poetic forms as well as the accompanying informational paragraphs and watercolor-washed linoleum prints.
The Monarch’s Progress: Poems with Wings. By Avis Harley. Illus. by the author. 2008. 32p. Boyds Mills, $16.95 (9781590785584). 811. Gr. 3–5.
This colorfully illustrated poetry collection celebrates butterflies in general and monarchs in particular. The skillful poetry varies in form from rhymed couplets to acrostic verse to haiku, and it explores such topics as life stages, wings, and the usefulness of having taste sensors in one’s feet.
National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar! Ed. by J. Patrick Lewis. 2012. 192p. illus. National Geographic, $24.95 (9781426310096); lib. ed., $28.90 (9781426310546). 808.81. PreS–Gr. 3.
Show-stopping close-up photos of animals in various habitats accompany this collection of poetry by both classic and contemporary children’s poets. Grouped by category (big, strange, and so on), the poems range in tone from serious to sublime, whimsical to witty, and an appended section instructs budding writers in penning their own poetry.
Nest, Nook & Cranny. By Susan Blackaby. Illus. by Jamie Hogan. 2010. 60p. Charlesbridge, $15.95 (9781580893503). 811. Gr. 3–6.
This lively collection pairs verse about animals with black-and-white drawings of creatures in their natural habitats. The various settings, accompanied by notes on nature, will grab young conservationists, while the explanations of cinquains, sonnets, triolets, villanelles, and more show how poetic form can intensify meaning.
Polar Bear, Arctic Hare: Poems of the Frozen North. By Eileen Spinelli. Illus. by Eugenie Fernandes. 2007. 32p. Boyds Mills/Wordsong, $16.95 (9781590783443); paper, $6.95 (9781629791128). 811. PreS–Gr. 2.
From “Caribou” (“Thrumming and drumming / Caribou coming / Romping and stomping”) to “Polar Bear Family,” the rhythmic poems and icy scenes in this picture-book collection combine simple wordplay with captivating biological facts to present the sights and sounds of animals in the wild tundra landscape.
Pumpkin Butterfly: Poems from the Other Side of Nature. By Heidi Mordhorst. Illus. by Jenny Reynish. 2009. 32p. Boyds Mills/Wordsong, $16.95 (9781590786208). 811. Gr. 2–5.
The excitement of the natural world, from a thrilling lightning storm to butterflies “untethered from earth,” is a child’s joyful discovery in this poetry collection, which is filled with fun action rooted in physicality, whether it is shooting a cherry-pit missile or making frozen angels in the snow. Bright watercolor, oil, and tempera illustrations extend the playful metaphors.
Sea Stars: Saltwater Poems. By Avis Harley. Illus. by Margaret Butschler. 2006. 32p. Boyds Mills/Wordsong, $16.95 (9781590784297). 811. Gr. 3–5.
Butschler’s color photographs of creatures on the seashore and in the aquarium inspired Harley’s brief, concrete poems. The wordplay will grab readers (“An anemone’s enemies are you and me”), while brief notes fill in the fascinating biology of each creature.
Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More! Poems for Two Voices. By Carole Gerber. Illus. by Eugene Yelchin. 2013. 32p. Holt, $17.99 (9780805092110). 811. Gr. 2–4.
Accompanied by colorful graphite-and-gouache artwork, Gerber’s 18 poems for two voices address the flora and fauna found in many backyard gardens: a bunny patiently awaits a “new shoot” and then devours it in one bite, and a red cluster of berries realize that their seeds are destined for dispersal in bird poop. The dual voicing makes these poems, rooted in science, ideal for classroom performances.
Sequoia. By Tony Johnston. Illus. by Wendell Minor. 2014. 40p. Roaring Brook, $17.99 (9781596437272). 811. K–Gr. 3.
This examination and appreciation of a giant sequoia tree takes the point of view of the tree itself. The text describes what the sequoia experiences throughout the seasons, exploring what the old tree sees, smells, hears, and feels, all richly depicted in gouache watercolors. “Some Notes on Sequoias” contains fascinating facts about sequoias while calling for saving these splendid trees.
A Strange Place to Call Home: The World’s Most Dangerous Habitats and the Animals That Call Them Home. By Marilyn Singer. Illus. by Ed Young. 2012. 44p. Chronicle, $16.99 (9781452101200). 571.1. K–Gr. 3.
Fourteen poems celebrate the unusual animals that have adapted to equally unusual habitats. Young’s textured-paper collage illustrations evoke some of the planet’s less hospitable locales, while endnotes offer more information about each animal as well as the poetry forms used.
UnBEElievables: Honeybee Poems and Paintings. By Douglas Florian. Illus. by the author. 2012. 32p. Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane, $17.99 (9781442426528). 811. Gr. 2–5.
From the opening, “Welcome, Welcome to Our Hive!,” to the closing verse, which notes the diminishing number of bees, these poems comment on topics such as body structure, life cycles, roles in the hive, and dance-like communication. Facts appear alongside the verse, as does a full-page illustration, an arrangement that works well and helps the information stick. Florian has created numerous poetry titles that tie in with the life sciences, including Dinothesaurus: Prehistoric Poems and Paintings (2009).
Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems. By Kate Coombs. Illus. by Meilo So. 2012. 32p. Chronicle, $16.99 (9780811872843). 811. Gr. 1–4.
Varied in form and tone as well as subject, these short, precisely worded poems offer new takes on seemingly familiar subjects and subtly shift the reader’s way of seeing. So’s watercolor illustrations work in tandem with the playful, evocative verse, taking keywords and ideas as inspiration for the watery scenes.
Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold. By Joyce Sidman. Illus. by Rick Allen. 2014. 32p. Houghton, $17.99 (9780547906508); e-book, $17.99 (9780544465077). 811. K–Gr. 3.
The creators of the award-winning Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night (2010) offer here a dozen winter-themed poems detailing the natural world. Topics range from migrating tundra swans and hibernating snakes to shivering bees and diving beavers. Each double-page spread contains a poem, full-page art, and a scientific note. A glossary concludes. Also excellent resources are Sidman’s Eureka! Poems about Inventors (2002) and Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors (2010).
Earth and Space Science
And Then There Were Eight: Poems about Space. By Laura Purdie Salas. 2008. 32p. illus. Capstone, lib. ed., $26.65 (9781429612074); e-book, $49.32 (9781476532745). 811. K–Gr. 2.
Fifteen brief poems, in various forms, explore our universe. Large, clear photos of space accompany verse that describes celestial bodies, space travel, the Mars rover, and more, in simple, concise language. Concludes with two glossaries—one for space terms and one for poetry—and a bibliography. Salas’ Seed Sower, Hat Thrower: Poems about Weather (2008) is an excellent companion title.
Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars. By Douglas Florian. Illus. by the author. 2007. 56p. Harcourt, $17.99 (9780152053727). 811. Gr. 3–5.
This large-format book looks at astronomy through the magnifying, clarifying lens of poetry. Each broad, double-page spread features a short, accessible poem about a subject such as the sun, each of its planets, a comet, a constellation, or the universe, set within an impressive painting.
Footprints on the Roof: Poems about the Earth. By Marilyn Singer. Illus. by Meilo So. 2002. 48p. Knopf, o.p. 811. Gr. 5–10.
The poems in this collection are deeply earnest celebrations of the natural world and are accompanied by fluid, childlike watercolors. Some selections are immediate, with sounds and images that will capture young readers, and other poems are filled with an older person’s sense of significance. Best are the poems that show connections—that nature is everywhere: the taste of the earth and rain in food, for example. A companion volume from the same collaborators, How to Cross a Pond: Poems about Water (2003), offers more excellent earth-science poetry.
Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back: A Native American Year of Moons. By Joseph Bruchac and Jonathan London. Illus. by Thomas Locker. 1992. 32p. Puffin, paper, $7.99 (9780698115842). 811. Gr. 1–5.
Drawing on his Abenaki heritage, Bruchac has collaborated with London to present stories from 13 different tribes. Explaining that the 13 scales on the turtle’s back represent the 13 moons of the year, a young Abenaki boy’s grandfather introduces the chronologically arranged stories, and a dramatic oil painting accompanies each short tale. Also excellent is a companion volume by Bruchac: The Earth under Sky Bear’s Feet: Native American Poems of the Land (1995).
Water Can Be . . . By Laura Purdie Salas. Illus. by Violeta Dabija. 2014. 32p. Millbrook, $17.95 (9781467705912); e-book, $13.95 (9781467725392). 553.7. K–Gr. 2.
A fine read-aloud for the classroom or home, this offers a series of brief phrases illustrating some of the roles that water plays on earth: “Water can be a . . . Tadpole hatcher / Picture catcher / Otter feeder / Downhill speeder / Garden soaker / Valley cloaker.” The artwork aids in comprehension, and an appended section of notes explains each phrase.
Sylvia M. Vardell is a professor of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University and the author of the Poetry for Children blog.
Hands-on activities can make combining science and poetry fun and experiential, and science experts encourage kids to become engaged by “doing” science. A science-themed poem can be a launching pad for such active learning. The following are suggestions for incorporating science-themed poetry into the curriculum while implementing the Common Core State Standards. You can find more information about the standards at www.corestandards.org.
In the Classroom: Discuss the role of weather reporting in current events and how it helps us keep up with changes in weather from day to day. Talk about the recognizable weather elements described in Laura Purdie Salas’ poems in Seed Sower, Hat Thrower: Poems about Weather. Topics could include humidity, clouds, thunder, lightning, and rain. Challenge students to describe the current day’s weather and how it may have changed from yesterday. Record temperatures and weather for five straight days to look for patterns and contrast with weather reports online or on television.
Common Core Connections
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.K.5. Recognize common types of texts (e.g., storybooks, poems).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.1.4. Ask and answer questions to help determine or clarify the meaning of words and phrases in a text.
In the Classroom: Talk about the steps one might follow in inventing or making something new, including gathering materials, consulting books, and looking things up online. What kinds of things can students imagine creating? Refer to wikiHow.com, a multilingual how-to site for ideas. Use sample poems, such as selections from Eureka! Poems about Inventors, by Joyce Sidman, to promote creative thinking and spark discussion.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.4. Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.6. Compare and contrast a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.4.1.c. Pose and respond to specific questions to clarify or follow up on information, and make comments that contribute to the discussion and link to the remarks of others.
In the Classroom: As a class, collaborate to create a quick “glog”—a digital interactive poster (using Glogster.com), pulling together images and keywords from a science-themed poem in a new visual representation of the poem’s topic. Show students the choices of text, fonts, color, graphics, and even animation, if possible, while you input those items and create the finished product together. A Strange Place to Call Home: The World’s Most Dangerous Habitats and the Animals That Call Them Home, by Marilyn Singer, could be a useful source for a poem.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.1.4. Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.6. Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe.
In the Classroom: Use the details in Laura Purdie Salas’ poem “Go Fly a Kite,” from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science, edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, to talk about factors that influence kites in flight: pressure, streaming, breezes, lift, and drag. Check out NASA’s online “Beginner’s Guide to Aerodynamics” to support the discussion (http://1.usa.gov/1sWYSK3). Contrast “Go Fly a Kite” with poems about bird flight found in Jane Yolen’s Birds of a Feather or Michael J. Rosen’s The Cuckoo’s Haiku: And Other Birding Poems.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.3. Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.7. Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears.
In the Classroom: Share moon-themed poems, such as selections from Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars, by Douglas Florian, to prompt student discussion about the moon, beginning with attributes of the moon and then considering tides, seasons, and the observable appearance of the moon throughout its phases. Then consult “Solar System Exploration” at NASA’s website (http://1.usa.gov/1pykEkb) to fill in more information and enhance the discussion.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.9. Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative language such as metaphors and similes.
In the Classroom: Use poems to jump-start a discussion of earth’s renewable resources—including air, plants, water, and animals—and nonrenewable resources, such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Encourage students to examine the importance of conservation. Consider selections from Kate Coombs’ Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems or Footprints on the Roof: Poems about the Earth and How to Cross a Pond: Poems about Water, both by Marilyn Singer. Then have students work together to find more information about using the sun as a source of electricity at SolarEnergy.org/answers-younger-kids and have them present their findings as a written or oral report.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.7. Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.2. Summarize a written text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
In the Classroom: Talk about how scientists use a variety of tools to collect information and conduct investigations. In studying the human body, one measure of overall health is pulse rate. Demonstrate how to take a pulse and compare results while resting or exercising after sharing Betsy Franco’s poem “Moving for 5 Minutes Straight,” from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science or selections from The Blood-Hungry Spleen and Other Poems about Our Parts, by Allan Wolf.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.1. Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.3.2. Determine the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
The following poem is from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science (2014), edited by Sylvia M. Vardell and Janet Wong and endorsed by the National Science Teachers Association. The poet, Renée M. LaTulippe, maintains the No Water River website (www.nowaterriver.com), a rich resource of videos and content related to poetry and picture books. Here, LaTulippe shows us how poetry, history, and engineering can all fit together.
STEM + Poetry
Da Vinci Did It!
by Renée M. LaTulippe
In Italy, long, long ago,
a genius lived—
a painter, sculptor, mathematician,
engineer, and skilled musician
who dreamed up—
robots, carts, and parachutes,
flying planes and diving suits.
as long as time did not forbid it,
you can bet da Vinci did it!
Copyright 2014 Renée M. LaTulippe. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
1. Read Renée M. LaTulippe’s poem “Da Vinci Did It!” aloud, pausing between stanzas for added effect. Then show pictures of da Vinci and some of his drawings and inventions found at the website DrawingsofLeonardo.org.
2. Share the poem again, and invite students to read the first line of each stanza (“In Italy, long, long ago / He was . . . / who dreamed up . . . / In fact . . . “) while you read the rest of the poem aloud.
3. Da Vinci was both an artist and a scientist. Talk about how drawing and inventing might go together.
4. Use the examples in this poem to talk with students about how information and critical thinking are used in scientific problem solving in da Vinci’s time (1500s) and now. What kinds of inventions might they imagine for the future? For background information, go to the Museum of Science’s “Welcome to Exploring Leonardo” (Legacy.MOS.org/sln/Leonardo/).
5. For a poem about inventing things in the future, look for “Invention Intentions,” by Kristy Dempsey, in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science.
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