There was a TED talk recently about vultures. I think educators might be interested in seeing it for their own background research. It’s only a little over six minutes long. You’ll want to look it over first before deciding whether it is appropriate for your elementary school students. The humor at the beginning would probably raise more sidetracking questions than it would actual vulture inquiry. So take a look and perhaps start two minutes twenty seconds in (2:20). Because the rest of it is good stuff for older elementary, middle school, and high school. There are quite a few carcasses involved and it is frank in environmental threats to vultures worldwide.
I am excited to share with you a few of the creative educational activities at Liberty Union-Thurston Elementary School in Baltimore, Ohio. These projects were done in relationship to my books in advance of my 2-day visit to their schools. They’ve had some great authors, including Ron Hirschi, who did stream walks with them some years ago. (In DECEMBER, they said. Cold toes but worth it.) It seems they have an ongoing nature and stream study in this school. Hooray! Kids will learn so much from seeing nature and science in action.
Ah, the halls were festooned with beautiful bumblebees and flowers. A shiny paper mirror said “Look here to see the author.” How wonderful for each student to see a young author in themselves. We had some of the first art celebration of He’s a Howler: a howler paper quilt. Beautiful!
Many of the students were studying geography. They had done drawings and short writing pieces about the features of continents to go with my continent books.
One classroom did a hilarious counting riff on One is a Snail, Ten is a Crab. They did counting by eyes.
One class analyzed and classified the information in Bumblebee Queen.
Another class created new versions of the fish chant but with ocean fish. They created fish cutouts, wrote reports about features and behavior. Then they drew a fanciful sea/town scene where the fish swam. It was nonfiction with a visual fiction twist, in the spirit of Trout, Trout, Trout. Hooray!
One of my favorites was the bird poetry written by the fourth graders. Using Vulture View as a model, the teacher had created a form with key words and phrases from Vulture View. Students each drew a bird species and filled in what that bird would or would not eat and how it would move. Brilliant.
A highlight of my visit was two small sessions with young authors and illustrators. I will never forget my discussions with them! I hope that Reading Rainbow Book entry goes well.
This is a fine school with energetic educators and students that are excited to learn. The students were well prepared for my visit and worked well together in the assembly setting. The faculty welcomed me. Students and staff have much to be proud of; together they have made an environment for learning. As an author, it was a pleasure to visit.
Thank you, librarian Ms. Brown, for bringing me in to share this joyful place with you.
I’d just been to Seven Hills-Lotspeich. How could another school day be just as fun? Well, if you’re at the other Seven Hills Campus—Doherty. It can! This Cincinnatti school just percolates with life. If I were going to be a teacher, I’d want to work in one of the Seven Hills Schools.
Why? Because excellent schools need faculty that care for one another, that lunch together, that chat and exchange ideas. This school has it on both campuses. Education can be joyous when staff share that passion for helping students. But left alone in classrooms, teachers can grow isolated, like stay-at-home moms who love their kids but need some grownup time now and then. Staff development makes it sound all technical. That is helpful. But the core of the best schools I have seen is a caring staff community: community that nurtures creative teachers and does not squash them. You could see it at work, hear it at work during my lunch with some of the Doherty teachers.
Seven Hills also has another community that uplifts the place. The parents. Wow. They pitch in for all kinds of things. At the whirling center of joy is librarian Linda Wolfe who I had the pleasure of spending the day with.
She is a dynamo who knows children’s literature inside out. She created wonderful activities to go with my books. Just look at what they did with Vulture View. She found some kind of scratch paper that is black with silver underneath. The students cut out vultures and scratched through to make the beautiful silvering of the feathers.
She describes how she introduces Trout Are Made of Trees to her students. To celebrate the book, she used a scale/math/art activity. She gave kids large photos of the aquatic insects. Then the children had to draw them, as accurately as possible, on the tiny pieces of paper. It’s a good thinking project. You can just imagine how many neurons fire when trying to duplicate but shrink an image.
In the halls were more art projects to celebrate If You Should Hear a Honey Guide; Dig, Wait, Listen; and other books. Penguins for Antarctica. Maps of South America. There was art of many kinds.
Among my favorites was an organizational project done by Mr. Schmidt’s class. They took my books and graphed them in various ways to show the content and relationships in the books. It’s a good way to prepare for writing books of their own.
I saw and experienced all of this in one short school day at Seven Hills Doherty. Just imagine what a student could learn in a school year of being with these hard working, creative educators.
Thanks to super science teacher Bobette Owen (on the right in the photo), I visited Miller Ridge Elementary on Feb 12, 2009. The students were great! I love that they have so much science in this school. Just look at how Ms. Owen combined science with writing and poetry. In honor of my book Vulture View (illustrated by Steve Jenkins and published by Henry Holt) her students wrote vulture list poems!
Interested in vultures? Buzzard Day in Hinckley, Ohio is coming up on March 15, 2009.
Vulture View, my long-awaited book with Steve Jenkins, has just been released by Holt. Yippee! Look for a review of it in the October 15th issue of Booklist.
For those of you that want to learn more about vultures, here are some good links.
I have had plenty of interactions with turkey vultures. When I was in high school I worked at Pete Conroy’s raptor rehabilitation center at Furman University in Greenville, SC. We took care of a young, rather clueless turkey vulture. I learned then just how shy and retiring these birds are in comparison with hawks and owls. I also learned how to gather roadkill. Yes, whenever I saw a dead opossum, I would pull my little blue King Cab to the side of the road and go pick up the carcass. This involved grabbing its long pinkish tail and swinging the thing into the back of the cab. This was dinner for the turkey vulture. When you are taking care of animals, you do whatever is necessary. Actually, it’s not a messy job, at all, thanks to that sturdy opossum tail.
Jeff and I have also seen turkey vultures migrating through Panama. I will try to post some photos of those turkey vulture kettles another day. We saw them swirling by the hundreds and thousands.
Now when I see turkey vultures I think of the words of the book. I think of the lovely illustrations by Steve Jenkins. Wait until you see the vulture faces! Why, they are positively attractive! It is amazing what art and some cut paper can do.
Vulture View, a Theodor Geisel Honor Book, American Library Association. I am so excited about this book! It explores the life of vultures, surely some of the most underappreciated cleaners in the world. It also teaches kids about warm air rising and cooling air sinking. Continue reading “Vulture View”