Integrating science across the curriculum combines science investigations with content from other subject areas. With so many demands on teachers, the only way to squeeze in adequate science content is through cross-curricular learning. Teachers who use cross-curricular themes stimulate younger learners with functional reading and writing mixed with a sprinkled dose of science and social studies. This form of thematic learning promotes discussion, collaboration, and builds on students’ schema.
Science and Picture Books
One of my most favorite professional books is More Picture Perfect Science Lessons: Using Children’s Books to Guide Inquiry. This book is a publication of National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) featuring the collaborative work between Karen Ansberry and Emily Morgan.
The following excerpt conveys the message of using literature to teach science standards and objectives. “Think about a book you loved as a child. Maybe you remember the zany characters and rhyming text of Dr. Seuss or the clever poems in Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. You may have seen a little of yourself in Where the Wild Things Are, Ramona the Pest or Curious George. Maybe your imagination was stirred by the colorful illustrations in The Very Hungry Caterpillar. But chances are your favorite book as a child was not your third-grade science textbook. The format of picture books offers certain unique advantages over textbooks and chapter books for engaging students in a science lesson. More often than other books, fiction and nonfiction picture books stimulate students on both the emotional and intellectual levels. They are appealing and memorable because children readily connect with the imaginative illustrations, vivid photographs, experiences and adventures of characters, engaging storylines, the fascinating information that supports them in their quest for knowledge, and the warm emotions that surround the reading experience.” From More Picture Perfect Science Lessons
The advantages of cross-curricular learning are exposure to a wide variety of materials and applying meaningful instruction for “real world” experiences. The first step to planning a themed lesson includes an interesting topic which challenges the students’ learning. Most recently, my class began studying the Cherry Blossom Trees in Washington D.C. I introduced my class to the story, Cherry Blossom Friends written by Corkey Hay DeSimone. Next I developed a key concept for my unit. I chose to teach the importance of the Cherry Blossom Trees as a symbol of friendship from Japan to United States. It is expected that students will transfer this concept to their own learning by the end of our theme unit. Within the theme, skills and strategies become the means for carefully planned lessons. Cherry Blossom Friends has two story lines on each page. The kids are exposed to rhyming and repetition through riddles while learning about the animals that thrive in or among the cherry trees in D.C. In addition, kids are exposed to the journey of transporting the 3800 trees to the United States from Japan in 1912 as well as the memorials featured along the Tidal Basin in the National Mall where the trees add a touch of beauty to our Nation’s Capitol. With rich history, incorporating social studies content on Presidents and the memorials, as well as literature discussions, and the life cycle of a cherry tree, my students began diving into blossom bliss. To facilitate the planning, I researched and develop a list of useful resources to assist in our daily learning. Developing a schedule with an expected time frame is key to implementing various topics. With many other demands to my job, I like to stretch out thematic learning over several weeks. At the end of the theme, I find incorporating a celebration to conclude our culminating events with projects helps enrich the experience of my students.
For more information about the Cherry Blossom Friends, I encourage you to visit Corkey Hay DeSimone’s website at http://www.cherryblossomfriends.com/.
To join in on the centennial celebration of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, please visit http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/.
To learn more about the professional publication of More Picture Perfect Science Lessons, link to Picture Perfect Science at http://www.pictureperfectscience.com/www.pictureperfectscience.com/about.
About the Author:
Cheryl Saoud is a second grade teacher from Jacksonville, Florida. She would like to invite you to visit www.primarygraffiti.blogspot.com for additional teaching resources.