Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Cross-Curricular Teaching with Feathers by Melissa Stewart

I wrote this post three ago as I was preparing a lesson for a class I taught entitled Content and Pedagogy for Elementary Science and Social Studies. For years I lamented having to combine two subject areas in one class, feeling neither got the attention it deserved. Since the regulations regarding the preparation of teachers in Virginia finally changed, I can happily say that I now have separate methods classes for science and social studies and that I'm teaching both of them this semester.

The up side to teaching science and social studies together was all the opportunities there were to show how the curriculum can be integrated in a natural way. Since I spend a lot of time integrating children's literature in my courses, I thought that I'd try to begin a series of posts that focuses on these ideas for integration.

Feathers are a unique physical adaptation found only in birds. But what are they? What are they used for? You'll find these answers and much more in this terrific informational book.
written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen

Melissa has a Pinterest board with lots of teaching ideas and resources for using the book in the classroom. You'll also find a Teacher's Guide on her web site, as well as a Readers Theater script, math activity, and more.

On her blog, Celebrate Science, Melissa has a post entitled Behind the Books: Curriculum Connections. In this one you will find a number of ideas connected to this book.

You can pair Melissa's book with this podcast from BirdNote. This just-under two minute segment describes how down feathers serve to keep bird's warm (insulate them) in very cold weather.

This podcast mentions how "People learned years ago how well goose-down insulates and began stuffing comforters, sleeping bags, and clothing with it." This use of feathers as a natural resource provides a connection to economics and another book.
written by Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrated by Laura Seeley

In this story, Agatha explains to a young boy visiting her shop that “everything comes from something”—silk from silkworms, cotton from cotton bolls, wool from sheep, and linen from flax. She tells him:
"Everything comes from something,
 Nothing comes from nothing.
 Just like paper comes from trees,
 And glass comes from sand,
 An answer comes from a question.
 All you have to do is ask."
That evening, a group of naked geese wake her from her sleep and remind her that “everything comes from something,” and that her new feather bed is made from their feathers. (Please note that I am not endorsing the use of down, just highlighting it as a historically accurate use of a natural resource. Please read Can Down Be Ethical or Green to learn about ethical options to down feathers. )

  • Peachtree Publishing has a helpful Teacher's Guide for this book.
  • KidsEconPosters has a page on the book that explores how it can be used to teach economics concepts that include natural resources, goods & services, economic wants, productive resources, capital resources, and human resources.
  • You might want to consider making an "Everything Comes From Something" resource kit so students can see the natural resources used to make everyday items. 
  • You can also try this lesson from Virginia's Ag in the Classroom program entitled Resource Round-Up.

So, what do you think? Are there other connections we can make to this book? If you have ideas or resources to contribute, please share them in the comments.

Jelly Bean Classification

My class this evening focused on the skills of observation and classification. In thinking about classification, we engaged in a series of sorting activities with a variety of materials (buttons, screws (hardware), seashells, etc.) At the end of this, we completed a jelly bean classification activity using a dichotomous key.

In 2003, David Crowther published an article in Science and Children entitled "Harry Potter and the Dichotomous Key" (October issue, p.18-23). In it he described a 5E lesson for teaching about dichotomous keys using Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. This article also included a key for Jelly Belly Jelly Beans.

Over the years that I have conducted this activity, there were always minor "problems" with the key, as jelly bean flavors and names changed over time. Today, I came home after class and updated the key I had been using (based on the original published in the Crowther article). While not fully following the format of a true dichotmous key, it does a pretty good job of helping students classify the jelly beans found in a 40 flavor bag.

Let me know if you find this useful.