Share it! Science : 2019

Save the Bees! Bee Citizen Science Projects for School or Home

Empower your children or students by showing them some activities that can work toward solving the world's declining bee populations. Whether you are studying pollination, planning an Earth Day project, or teaching an insect unit, understanding the importance of bees to all ecosystems and our food supply is important and interesting at any grade level. In this post you'll find some children's book suggestions for learning more about bees and a bunch of ways you can contribute to professional science through easy bee citizen science projects.

This post is part of the 2019 Storybook Science series on the Inspiration Laboratories blog. For more activities linked to great children's books as well as other citizen science projects to try, check out the list of posts in the series here

save the bees citizen science

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Picture Books for Inspiring a Love of Bees

Bee & Me is a delightful wordless picture book by Alison Jay. It is the fictional story of a girl who meets a bee and cares for it in her city apartment. It eventually grows bigger than the girl and longs for flowers. They travel to the country to collect flower seeds and spread them around the city. The following spring the city is in bloom from sidewalk to roof tops.

Although the story is fantasy, it is a nice entry point to learning about the needs of bees and their part in the life cycle of plants. The end pages have suggestions for attracting and learning more about bees. Another bonus about this cute story is that it has no words, so you could share it with a wide variety of ages from readers to non-readers alike. This is just one example of some of the great new picture books that can inspire STEM activities with kids.

Another bee book I am highly anticipating is the unreleased, "Next Time You See a Bee" by Emily Morgan. The books in the "Next Time You See..." series are well written, engaging non-fiction stories that make great read-alouds for home or the classroom.

Kids Help Professional Scientists: Bee Citizen Science

Citizen Science is a method of crowdsourcing scientific research. Through the participation of volunteers, more data can be collected than might be otherwise. There are many kid-friendly citizen science projects. 

There are so many ways people of all ages can contribute to science, whether it is local or online. Here are several ways to monitor and identify the bees in your area with kids. Contribute your observations to a science project and be part of an important scientific process. 

bee pollination citizen science

Through Bumble Bee Watch go on a scavenger hunt for bumble bees. Snap a photo and submit it for identification. Grab a bumble bee field guide and have kids try their hand at identifying the bees.

With the Great Sunflower Project you can learn how to attract and count pollinators in your yard, and even get discounts on pollinator friendly seeds. Make observations to count how many pollinators visit your yard or observation area, then submit your count!

bee pollination sunflower

In the fall, take The Goldenrod Challenge. Team up with others to see how many different bees you can spot on goldenrod flowers and report your findings. 

If you live in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Missouri or Ohio you can observe and count bees for the BeeSpotter project.

Visit PollinatorLive for all sorts of different pollinator citizen science projects as well as resources for teachers.

More Bee and Pollinator Activities

If you are looking for more activities to keep the bee and pollinator learning going, try out the following:

Communicate like a bee and code directions into a bee dance! 

Learn how to plan and grow a garden that is attractive to pollinators.  

bee citizen science

Find more insect citizen science projects for kids here.

Learn how to build a colorful insect hotel with this project from the STEAM Kids book. (Especially great if you've got plastic straws you are trying to use up before transitioning to paper straws!!) 

Story Book Science

Be sure to stop by Inspiration Laboratories for the full list of Story Book Science activities! You'll find more citizen science, STEM challenges, environmental science and space science themed books and projects this year.

Awesome STEM Picture Books and Activity Ideas

Two of my great loves are children's books and STEM. I truly believe that integrating an engaging picture book with a great hands-on activity is a educational win. In this post I've put together some activity ideas to accompany some wonderful new picture books in the STEM disciplines.

These activities will be great additions to units you may be teaching at school, or could be used to follow your children's interests at home. They would also be great to use in your library sponsored STEM club, summer camp or after school program. There is something here for everyone, from preschool through early middle school!

In addition to this post, you should check out my video resource on how to use just about any picture book for a STEM activity! Find the "Using Picture Books to Teach Elementary STEM" video here. 

STEM picture books and STEM activity ideas

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STEM Books and Activities for Early Childhood and Elementary

CRASH! BOOM! A Math Tale by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Chris Chatterton is a cute picture book that follows the thought process of a little one building with blocks. I love it because it is something that most children can relate to as they have experimented with blocks themselves. A great introduction to early math concepts like shapes, the area of surfaces, and nonstandard units of measurement.

Activity ideas for CRASH! BOOM! A Math Tale:
  • Challenge kids to see how many blocks it takes to build a tower their height. Ask them to make a prediction before they begin!
  • Nonstandard units of measure: Use blocks of different size to measure various items (i.e. How many long blocks does it take to go from one side of the room to another?)

Bee & Me by Alison Jay is a sweet and fanciful wordless story about a girl who befriends and helps raise a bee in the city. The bee misses flowers, so they go collect seeds in the country and spread them around the city. This story introduces the importance of bees in a gentle, kid-friendly way. It very quickly became a favorite book at our house!

Activity ideas for Bee & Me:

Anywhere Farm by Phyllis Root and illustrated by G. Brian Karas is a fun story illustrating the idea that you can grow food just about anywhere. It also hammers home the needs of seeds and plants.

Activity ideas for Anywhere Farm:
  • Design a creative container garden!
  • Build a germination jar and watch plants grow
  • Investigate where our food comes from
  • Measure and graph plant growth
  • Sort seeds
  • Monitor the light your plant is getting with a light meter or the water in a pot with a moisture meter to add in some technology.

The Girl With a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague by Julia Finley Mosca and illustrated by Daniel Rieley is another wonderful story of triumph over adversity in the "Amazing Scientists" series. It follows Raye Montague's path to becoming the first to create a computer generated design of a U.S. Naval ship. With rhyming, kid-friendly text the story of this remarkable engineer is accessible for the elementary crowd.

Activities for The Girl With a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague:

STEM Books for Upper Elementary and Middle School

Animals by the Numbers by Steve Jenkins is another of his beautifully illustrated book featuring animals. Each page shares an infographic containing fascinating facts like the number of wingbeats per second for various flying animals, or how many hours a day different animals sleep. Lots of great information presented in a visually stunning way!

Activity ideas for Animals by the Numbers:
  • Research an animal and create an infographic poster
  • Research an animal and create a digital infographic
  • Design a fictitious social media profile for a researched animal or animal group 

Counting Birds: The Idea That Helped Save Our Feathered Friends by Heidi Stemple, illustrated by Clover Robin is the true story of the inception of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count and how citizen science really got started.

Activity ideas for Counting Birds: The Idea That Helped Save Our Feathered Friends:
  • Participate in an Audubon bird count
  • Keep track of birds at a feeder, collect data about the species and number and then graph it.
  • Log in to eBird and contribute your bird observation data to scientific research.
  • Use an app to learn bird calls and a field guide to learn bird identification.
  • Install a wildlife camera and photograph birds at a feeding station, analyze their behavior

Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover by Markus Motem is a fun look at the "life story" of one of the Mars rovers. Really understandable and informative text paired with engaging illustrations.

Activities for Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover :
  • Give an engineering design challenge of any sort
  • Jump start a unit on space exploration and the solar system
  • Build robots
  • Try some coding
  • Research a planet and decide what criteria a rover or space probe would have to meet to travel and work there

Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact by Jennifer Swanson is a book teeming with information, photos and inspiration about space and sea research and exploration. Although it is not meant to be a read-aloud book, kids who love the ocean and outer space will pour over the pages chock-full of images and information.

Activities for Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact:

This Book Stinks!: Gross Garbage, Rotten Rubbish, and the Science of Trash by Sarah Wassner Flynn is literally jam-packed with images and information. Sometimes the most disgusting is the most interesting to kids, and this explores all aspects of the real-world issue of waste!

Activity ideas for This Book Stinks!: Gross Garbage, Rotten Rubbish, and the Science of Trash:
  • Recycling challenge- supply some recyclables and challenge students to think of how many ways they could reuse and repurpose them
  • Explore upcycling with Terracycle
  • Build a model landfill and see what happens to the garbage
  • Build a worm composting bin
  • Set up a mini-makerspace with recyclables as the supplies to work with
  • Study materials science and trace an item back to its beginning

More Book Linked STEM Activities!


    STEM picture books and STEM activities

    My Go-To Science Curriculum Resources

    As I was recently putting together a list of science resources for developing curriculum, I began to think of my most useful and dog-eared science curriculum books. There are so many resources out there, sometimes it is difficult to weed through it all. Although having a seemingly endless supply of digital information available, it is sometimes really nice to have an actual, honest to goodness book to look at.

    In this post I've put together the short-list of my most valuable elementary and early middle school science curriculum resources. If you are a beginning teacher, trying to revamp your curriculum, working on curriculum mapping or developing curriculum from the ground-up, you are sure to find these books useful!

    science curriculum resource books

    This post contains affiliate links, meaning I receive a small commission from purchases made through these links. Please see disclosures for more details.

    Science Curriculum: Scope, Sequence and Benchmarks

    If you are unsure of the best way to progress through science concepts, what is age or grade-level appropriate you'll find the Atlas of Science Literacy and A Framework for K-12 Science Education  useful.

    The Atlas of Science Literacy is a two volume set of concept maps that you can trace through various grade levels. You can see a sample of what I mean here.

    A Framework for K-12 Science Education is basically the mother of the Next Generation Science Standards. It is written in a narrative form (rather than difficult to read standards form) and allows you to understand what to teach and when students should have mastered it. You can download a free version of the book here.

    National Science Teacher's Association Books

    The National Science Teacher's Association (NSTA) has tons of great titles when it comes to science curriculum. I've used many, but by far my favorites are the Picture Perfect Science and STEM series, the Stop Faking It series, Everyday Science Mysteries series, and The Truth About Science: A Curriculum for Developing Young Scientists.

    NSTA press books can be purchased directly from NSTA (at a discount for members) and are also available on Amazon.

    The Picture-Perfect Science books pair inquiry based science activities with wonderful picture books. You can find a sample of a Picture Perfect lesson here.

    Books in the Stop Faking It: Finally Understanding Science So You Can Teach It series give you a chance to brush up on your science knowledge in a fun and often humorous way to help you with your teaching practice.

    Everyday Science Mysteries are great stories that lead into a quick science investigation or inquiry of everyday phenomena. These are wonderful to get student's creative juices flowing, and are also perfect for after-school science clubs or electives.

    The Truth About Science: A Curriculum for Developing Young Scientists is a step by step curriculum to preparing students to develop their own science investigations. These lessons really set the stage for future work in the High School lab, or preparation for the science fair.

    Science Picture Books to Read with Your Students

    I've used a lot of picture books throughout the years to teach and help illustrate science concepts. Here are just a few of my favorites.

    What is a Scientist? by Barbara Lehn and Scientists Ask Questions by Ginger Garrett are both excellent introductions to how we complete the scientific process. I particularly like that they show kids doing the investigating!

    The Science Play series by Vicki Cobb illustrate science concepts in a really fun and digestible way for kids. There are several on topics you'll cover in early childhood and elementary education.

    With an enormous list of titles and with concepts that are leveled for difficulty, the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out-Science series can be used throughout elementary school. They are perfect for reading before or after a hands-on investigation. You can find lesson and activity ideas to accompany, the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out book, "Gravity is a Mystery" here.

    If you're looking for books to help you with your Preschool Science Curriculum, check out my top 5 here.

    best science curriculum resource books

    Confidently Include More STEM in Your Homeschool

    You know what I enjoy almost as much as teaching kids science? Teaching and empowering others to teach kids science! The STEM disciplines are important and relevant. Unfortunately, a lot of people do not believe they have the skills to teach science, technology, engineering or math. I don't believe this is true. I think there is something for everyone in the STEM disciplines and even if you weren't the strongest student in one of these subjects that does not mean you cannot inspire kids to love and excel.

    If you are someone who would love to become more confident as a STEM teacher, especially if you are a homeschooler, I have an exciting resource and opportunity for you! The 2019 Homeschool STEM Conference - Online is coming up in March. I'm thrilled to be speaking in three of the 30+ sessions participants will have lifetime access to. In this blog post I'll give you the scoop on what I'll be talking about as well as other details about this extremely affordable resource for homeschoolers and others who want to improve their STEM teaching skills.

    Homeschool STEM Conference Online

    This post includes affiliate links meaning that I receive a small commission from purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you. Please see disclosures for more information.

    STEM Resources

    During the conference I'll be giving three talks. Below are the descriptions of each as well as some specifics about what you'll come away with. You'll also find more information and how to register here.

    Best Resources for Developing Your Own Science Curriculum

    Session description:
    Interested in developing your own science curriculum but are unsure where to start? Maybe you are worried about your own science knowledge. Let’s explore some tried and true resources for confidently creating a custom curriculum. Tips on determining which concepts are skill-level appropriate for your learners, how to develop a unit and choosing resources to make your lesson planning stress-free regardless of your own science background! Will include tons of examples and resources.

    Over 20 resources for developing science curriculum, tips and activities, encouragement and a 2-page handout.

    Using Picture Books to Teach Elementary STEM

    Session description:
    STEM does not have to be limited to equations, experiments and gadgets. Engage your children in STEM after a trip to the local library! A step-by-step guide on developing a lesson based on a favorite picture book. We’ll outline the benefits of integrating literacy and STEM as well as share lesson ideas to accompany several recently published award-winning children’s books. Tons of resources for building your library of children’s books and repertoire of STEM lessons.

    Over 35 STEM activity ideas, book list, 20 resources for finding STEM lessons that integrate children's books, and a handout.  

    STEM picture books and activities

    Engaging Hands and Minds with the 5E Inquiry Model

    Session description:
    The best (and possibly the most fun) way to learn science is through inquiry. The 5E Inquiry Model is a method of teaching science that allows learning to be driven by a child’s own wonder, curiosity and interest. Learn the 5 parts of the inquiry model along with many examples and prompts to help you develop your own science inquiry lessons. Will also include great resources that provide easy-to-follow inquiry activities and lessons to try in your homeschooling practice.

    Lesson ideas and planning template handout, over 15 resources, ready-to-use ideas.  

    Homeschool STEM Conference Sessions

    Here are just a few more titles of the 30+ sessions that you'll have lifetime access to.

    • STEAMSDay: How to Devote a Day a Week to Hands-On, Real-Life Learning
    • STEM for Everyone
    • What is STEM & Why is it Important?
    • How to be a Marine Biologist
    • Scratch for Elementary and Middle Schoolers
    • A Hands on Method for Learning Math Facts
    • Hands-on examples of Simple Machines
    • High School Chemistry Can Be Fun
    • Block-Based Programming Basics, Resources, and Insider Secrets
    • STEM Success for Poets & Other Non-Science People
    • Integrating Art into Math & Science
    ...and many, many more!

    Register for the Homeschool STEM Conference

    You can learn more and register for the STEM conference through this link. I hope that you can join us! It's going to be great!

    Have more questions? Feel free to e-mail me:, or connect through social media: