Share it! Science : "Flight of the Pollinators" a Picture-Perfect Science Lesson

Friday, April 8, 2016

"Flight of the Pollinators" a Picture-Perfect Science Lesson

I am so pleased to be reviewing a science lesson from an upcoming book in one of my all time favorite teaching series, Picture-Perfect Science. The Picture-Perfect Science series, written by Karen Ansberry and Emily Morgan combine inquiry science lessons with fantastic children's picture books.

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I first stumbled upon the series when I was developing curriculum for Preschool through 6th grade at a small independent school several years ago. I was already using different children's books to connect my elementary students with science ideas and concepts and thought it would be a great idea if more people did so. I was lamenting the fact that there weren't more resources available for this. Very shortly thereafter I found Picture-Perfect Science in an National Science Teacher's Association (NSTA) catalog. Low and behold I was not the first one to think of such a thing!

There are several different Picture-Perfect Lesson books (details on each below) spanning from grades K-6. The lesson I'll be looking at in more depth today is called "Flight of the Pollinators" and will be part of the next installment of Picture-Perfect Science. Designed for K-2, this timely lesson about pollination and how plants and animals mutually benefit from it not only engaging but also informative.

Each Picture-Perfect lesson utilizes 2 different children's texts, one written in a narrative style, and another in a non-narrative informative style. "Flight of the Pollinators" introduces students to the beautifully illustrated and written, Flowers are Calling by Rita Gray and illustrated by Kenard Pak and What is Pollination? by Bobbie Kalman which is filled with excellent photographs, diagrams and clear informative text.

The lesson is clearly laid out so that seasoned science teachers and those with less confidence in the sciences can easily engage students in the lesson. A suggested daily schedule using the 5 E inquiry instructional model  is laid out for each lesson. Additionally, information on standards that apply to the lesson and background information on the topic of pollination are offered.

"Flight of the Pollinators" engages students by reading Flowers are Calling, and then allows them to explore flowers by investigating examples in a hands-on way.

After students have had an opportunity to explore flowers on their own, instructors move on to the explain portion of the lesson, giving information and context by reading aloud What is Pollination. Picture-Perfect Lessons always include discussion questions to use during read alouds. These truly engage students with the story and help to solidify science information. Students then complete a cloze activity for reading comprehension.

Pollinator in action. ©SBF 2014
My favorite part of this lesson is the elaborate portion, where students are asked to design their own pollinator. This activity not only helps students move toward the Next Generation Science Standard performance expectation for second grade: "2-LS2-2 Develop a simple model that mimics the function of an animal in dispersing seeds or pollinating plants", but also engages their creativity and imagination. Students practice research skills to choose a real pollinator that they would like to model. Then they are challenged to design their pollinator in a way that achieves the task of moving "pollen" (pom poms) from one "flower" (cup) to another "flower" (cup). A link to a clip from the incredible movie, Wings of Life, is included so that students can actually see pollinators doing their work.

"Flight of the Pollinators" wraps up by evaluating students through a presentation of their pollinator. Rubrics are always included in the student pages section of Picture-Perfect lessons, and these are easy to follow guidelines for students and teachers on what is expected during their project or presentation. Students present for their class or make a video presentation. Their presentation includes a demonstration of how their pollinator moves from one flower to another, a description of the pollinators body parts (specifically how the pollinator gets food from the flower and the body parts the pollen sticks to), an explanation of how pollinators and plants benefit from pollination, and finally an explanation of how humans benefit from the process.

Pollination in the Garden. ©SBF 2015
My favorite feature of this new lesson is the "STEM at Home" letter in the student pages. Although I've seen reproducible letters to send home that sum up lessons in other curriculum books, I absolutely love the way this one engages the student in the process. Students fill in the blanks of the form letter for who it is addressed to, and fill in "I learned that:___________" and "My favorite part of the lesson was:__________". Additionally the letter offers a web link to a video that can be watched at home on how engineers are designing robotic bees to pollinate flowers. The last portion of the letter is a place for the student and their home caregiver to sketch what their robot pollinator might look like if they built one together.

I found this to be an excellent addition to the lesson, because it gives the teacher one last assessment and check-in to see what the student learned in the lesson, and it allows the student to engage someone at home directly. This tactic is much more likely to result in a shared STEM experience at home, rather than simply sending home a photocopied generic form letter.

I am so excited for this next edition of Picture-Perfect science to be available. Until then, I encourage you to check out the other titles in the series: Picture-Perfect Science Lessons - Expanded 2nd Edition: Using Children's Books to Guide Inquiry, 3-6, More Picture-Perfect Science Lessons - Using Children's Books to Guide Inquiry, K-4, and Even More Picture-Perfect Science Lessons - Using Children's Books to Guide Inquiry, K-5. You can purchase these on Amazon through the links I have provided, or through NSTA.

If you are an NSTA member, which I also highly recommend, you can purchase these books and tons of other great titles for teaching science, at the member discount. NSTA membership also includes many other great perks like journal subscriptions, excellent professional development (like Picture-Perfect Science Workshops!!) and a networked community of excellent educators.

It is important to note, however, these books are not just great for science teachers. These lessons can easily be used for homeschooling, after school programs and library programs. Do you know a parent or educator who might be interested? Pass along this post!

If you are interested in other science activity ideas that link to children's books, check out my post: The Dandelion Seed: Design a Seed Engineering Challenge that was part of the Storybook Science blog series. This is an entire month of children's book inspired science activities!

Learn more about the Picture-Perfect Science series from the authors, Karen Ansberry and Emily Morgan in this interview:

Before you go, you might also want to check out author Emily Morgan's series "Next Time You See". These are awesome children's books on exploring, observing and learning about nature. They'll make you look at things differently and more closely next time you are outdoors. Click the images below for more details.

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