Environmental books, Parent tips, Picture books that address current issues, Teacher tips and resources

The importance of nature play. 

There is a lot of new research coming out on the importance of play and the importance of play outside.

As a teacher I have always observed children learning best when they are in a relaxed and informal environment. In saying this, there is always a place for teaching and mentoring but there is also a place for exploration, making mistakes and collaboration.


I love being outside – it just makes me happier. I love being in natural areas where there is less human activity and more time to sit back and admire what is around us. So when I became a librarian I couldn’t think of a better way to get children outside than through books!

Research shows that playing outside increases happiness, problem solving and motivation. When children play outside they use more imagination as there are less boundaries, they can problem solve and they can learn about the world they live in through their 5 senses.


Now, you often think of books as an inside activity – which they can be (and often are) and this is fine BUT what if we can take ideas from these books and use them to inspire some outdoor play?

Here are some books which might inspire you to take a trip outside!

 

Go on an adventure

We are going on a bear hunt

This is a classic book that we all know and love. It is so much fun to read and sing to and is a favourite of ours.

After you read this book, with your child you can…..

  • Go on your own bear hunt! Find some swishy grass, splashy water and sloshy mud – lots of fun!
  • Can you go on a native Australian animal hunt? Which animals live in your area?
  • Pack a bag and go on a short hike. Think of the different things you need to cope with storms, rain, wind and sunshine!

Worm explorers

The worm who knew karate by Terry Denton and Jill Lever

The worm who knew karate By Jill Lever and Terry Denton is a hilarious book about a worm who decides to become a braver and stronger worm through the art of karate! Which made me think….how can we help our children to build their confidence? And what do those worms in my worm farm really get up to? Maybe it’s a secret dojo I have never been aware of….

After you read this book, with your child you can…..

  • go and dig up some dirt – find some earth worms!
  • Go and buy a worm farm or explore your local community garden worm farm.
  • Feed the worms – what do they like best?

Create a garden

The curious Garden by Peter Brown

One boy’s quest for a greener world, one garden at a time.

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown is a book based on fact. The Highline is an abandoned railway line that people began to take back over and return it back to nature and open spaces for people to enjoy.

It is a poignant book as many cities, suburbs and towns are starting to explore how they can become greener, literally.

After you read this book, with your child you can…..

  • Keep a seed diary – plant a seed and watch it grow! (use quick growing seeds like herbs, beans or sunflowers)
  • Look at a local park or your own backyard and redesign it so there is more growing and more green.
  • Make an inventory of the nature in your area. Discuss biodiversity of plants and animals.

Explore insects

Mechanics by Lance Baldachin

Mechanica: A beginner’s field guide by Lance Baldachin is a picture book for those who love the earth but wonder what is to become of it if we keep treating it the way we do.

It is circa 2250 and the earth is devoid of any natural life due to human destruction and consumption. However, mechanical creatures have been made to replace what was lost – though these are not always as kind as they look!

After you read this book, with your child you can…..

  • Find some insects and sketch them. Look at how they move their arms and legs. Try to recreate an insect out of natural material.
  • Create an insect house for your local insects. Many insects are lacking in city gardens as there are not enough small holes for them to live in.
  • Look for signs of life cycles of insects  – these can be hard to find but it will make your child look in the small places that we often overlook.

Explore new places

Bogtrotter by Margaret Wild

The Bogtrotter is a delightful creature that lives in the bog – a gloomy, marshy, mushy bog! Bogtotter, written by Margaret Wild is a book that focuses on belonging, trying new things, playing outdoors, loneliness and discovery.

The illustrations by Judith Rossell are marvellous, really bringing to life the Bogtrotter and his feelings.

The reader steps through into the life of the Bogtrotter, watching him start off doing the same thing every day, not knowing how to make a change. It is through talking to other animals around him and picking a flower that he sees that there is more to his bog.

After you read this book, with your child you can…..

  • Go to a new park, a new national park or any outdoor space.
  • Walk a path you walk everyday but do it slowly and try to notice the small things as you go along. Talk to people, say hello and notice what is happening.
  • Take something outside that you normally do inside – does it make a difference?

 

Imagination

Incredibilia by Libby Hathorn

I loved reading Incredibilia by Libby Hathorn and illustrated by Gaye Chapman to my children, the pictures really transport you to an imaginative world full of crazy creatures, whispy clouds and natural beauty. We loved looking at each page and imagining what Georgie was thinking about, what she was playing and how the others could play to.

After you read this book, with your child you can…..

  • Take some ribbons, balls, string and scraps and see what you can do with them outside rather than a specific toy.
  • Create new names for the local insects, trees and flowers in your garden or local park – imagination!
  • Go somewhere or find something that you think is incredibilia!

Being Green

Leaf by Stephen Michael King

Leaf shows the love of nature that children can have when given the chance. It also shows the adult world and how everything needs to be neat, tidy and regimented. A sad story on adults behalf!

In this magical story a little boy  grows his own seedling in his hair and loves it, cares for it and shares many adventures with it. He spends every waking minute finding the best way to care for his seedling.

Unfortunately it’s time for a haircut and the adult world tries to take his small tree away from him. However, his determination and resilience shines through and he continues to care for the tree as he grows older.

This is a beautifully drawn book which not only intrigues the reader but really hits the spot on how we need to take a step back and let the natural world become a part of our daily lives.

After you read this book, with your child you can…..

  • Perform a puppet show outside with leaves as the characters – draw on them and create a story!
  • What can you grow out of different substances? Explore how seeds grow and what they need to grow.
  • How heavy are different trees. Use problem solving to try and work this out.

 

I hope this has inspired you to read some books and play outside! I have many more ideas each week on my blog so please sign up to flickingonthebook.wordpress.com

 

 

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Environmental books, Picture books that address current issues

The worm who knew karate! By Jill Lever and Terry Denton

 

If a worm has no back bone, is it really that tough?

We are often told to aspire to be the early bird…what would a worm aspire to be like?

Is it fair to say that all worms hang out with bad apples?

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There are too many worm analogies floating through my head right now…I’m sure you can come up with some more – would love to hear them!

 

The worm who knew karate By Jill Lever and Terry Denton is a hilarious book about a worm who decides to become a braver and stronger worm through the art of karate! Which made me think….how can we help our children to build their confidence? And what do those worms in my worm farm really get up to? Maybe it’s a secret dojo I have never been aware of….

Confidence building in young children is vital. We need to set them up so that they can make it through life’s ups and downs at any stage. By reading books that have characters who make positive changes in their lives allows children to see what they can do when they are in a difficult situation. I know your child is not a worm

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but this book shows them that they can make changes – they can learn something they are unskilled in, they can change friendship groups, they can be different and they can make themselves the best they can be. Books are a great way to tackle those bigger issues and make conversation around them a lot easier.

BUT HOW CAN WE LINK THIS BOOK TO SUSTAINABILITY?

Get yourself a worm farm! Do you need convincing? Here are ten reasons why you need one today:

  1. Worm farms are relatively cheap and need little maintenance.
  2. All your fruit, vegetable and loose leaf tea scraps can do in there
  3. They provide nutritious fertiliser for your garden through their wee. No more store bought chemicals!
  4. They are pets that do not need walking. Your children can easily look after them. There will be no arguments!
  5. You only have to outlay money on your first purchase – worms do their own thing after that!
  6. We have had ours for 5 years and haven’t had to do anything to it so I would say they last for a long time.
  7. They do not smell – great lid design and ventilation.
  8. Easy to use tap to get rid of the worm wee and easily removed lid to feed your worms.
  9. No more stinky bin juice or changing the bin daily.
  10. Your moving one step closer to having a more sustainable household!

 

Literacy lesson ideas:

Think of other sayings like ‘The early bird catches the worm’ Create a story or picture to go with one of these so that the meaning changes.
 – Barking up the wrong tree

 

 

 

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10 little rubber ducks by Eric Carle

Hmmmm….so this really isn’t an environmental book when you pick it up but it made me think a lot about products that we use regularly that will take years and years to break down, and even then the compounds they were made up of will still exist – changing the soil or water they break down in forever.

10 little rubber ducks is a sweet book as many of Eric Carle’s books are. The pictures are vibrant and the words are easy to listen to telling a joyful story of the journey of 10 rubber ducks on their way from a factory to faraway countries.

Children can learn how to count from 1- 10 but also how to count in ordinal numbers. The story explores different sea creatures and the change from morning to night.

But I think it opens parents and teachers up to the problem – what happens when things fall into the sea that don’t belong there?

So what can you do to ignite care for what we consume?

AS YOU READ

  • Look at the diet of sea animals – does plastic fall into this?
  • What might happen to each of the rubber ducks?

AFTER YOU READ

SCIENCE

  • Does plastic breakdown? Try your own experiment by burying food scraps and plastic – see which one breaks down first.

 

  • Do a household census – what things in your house are made of plastic? Categorize the plastic into single use, long term use, recyclable and waste.

 

NUMERACY

  • Whilst playing in the bath or playing with simple toys, put them in order. Count them from one to ten.
  • Roll items or throw items towards a line to see who can fly the furthest. See you came 1st. 2nd, 3rd etc.

PARENT TIP

  • Bath time is a great time to sit and play with your child at the end of the day – try to stay off your phone for this time as lots of fun can be had (I know I went through a phase of always reading my phone at this time)
  • Explore some eco friendly bath toy options – there are some great ones out there!  But also look at kitchen utensils and bowls, pots and containers that could be used in the bath. Children are a lot more creative than what we give them credit for!

 

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The River and the Book by Alison Croggan

The River and The Book by Alison Croggan has been endorsed by Amnesty International as a book that brings to light the issue of hugh multinational companies and the destruction they cause through mining, GM crops and pollution.

 

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A small village starts to notice the impact a big corporation is having on their river which in turn will effect their livelihoods. It’s not until a foreigner arrives, a journalist working on a story to help bring awareness, that the villagers are exposed to the biggest betrayal of all.

This novel for young adults promotes many human rights issues and is a must read for all who care too.

So how can you link this with your older reader?

THINKING

  •  Read the story together or read it at the same time so you can chat about the characters and plot.
  •  Try to work out where the book could be set. Investigate indigenous communities who have been pushed off the land in the last ten years due to large companies. Find a map, find images and most importantly, newspaper articles that link to this destruction.
  •  Discuss: What is the importance of rivers?
  • How are rivers like a blood vessel? How many similarities can you make?

HISTORY

  • Learn about Indigenous Australian settlement. How did they use the rivers in the outback?
  • Look at English settlement of Australia – how did they use the rivers to settle the land?

GEOGRAPHY

  • Sewerage systems are helpful and harmful to our environment. Discuss this paradox by exploring how a sewerage system works in Sydney.Product: Create a system that enables the sewerage system to still be helpful, yet counteracts at least two of the harmful components of a current system.
  • What does the term sustainable mean? How does this relate to the river system?

    Despite Australia experiencing one of the greatest droughts on record, we continue to misuse water in this dry continent. Evaluate reasons as to why we continue to do this.

  • Rivers are the blood vessels of our world. Examine different initiatives set up in Australia that intend to ensure that the water continues to pump through these vital vessels. HOW do these initiatives ensure a brighter future for our river systems?

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Platypus by Sue Whiting and Mark Jackson

Platypus, written by Sue Whiting and illustrated by Mark Jackson  (Walker Books) was shortlisted for the 2016 CBCA book awards, and once you read this book there are no surprises as to why.

This cleverly written picture book writes figuratively and factually, allowing young readers to enjoy learning about the unusual Australian creature called the Platypus.

We delve deep into the life, habitat and intriguing habits of the Platypus, one of Australia’s much loved Monotreme’s.

This book can be treated as both Non-Fiction and picture book as it really allows younger readers to start to learn about facts in a magical way.

We loved reading Platypus and it helped us to learn more about this quiet creature who is difficult to see at the best of times!

So what can you do at home to enlighten your child on Australia?

Sustainability

Take part in a census of animals, plants and insects in your local aquatic environment. Stay for about 15 minutes (at least) and count the different animals, plants and insects that you can see. Project how many of these animals you think you might see in an hour, day or week.  (Links to numeracy)

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What sort of habitat do Platypus need? Can you recreate this habitat in your backyard or as a small scale model?

Think of how humans effect Platypuses and devise a single image which makes people aware of small actions that play a huge role on the life of a platypus.

Find out how to help the Platypus

Get outside! 

Visit the zoo

Visit the Reptile park

Find out how to help them

Find out how to spot Platypuses. Create your own tools or hiding gear so you can spot some platypus in their habitat.

Geography & Science

Where do they live in Australia?

What do they eat? Create a five star restaurant for some platypuses to dine in.

Which animal group do Platypuses belong? Learn about this special group of animals!

Create

Create your own animal as unique as a platypus.

Environmental books

Colours of Australia by Bronwyn Bancroft.

Bronwyn Bancroft’s poetry brings the vibrant colours to life as we sail through shadows,ferns, clouds and raindrops.

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Each page brings another part of Australia to life with shades, hues and patterns.

As you read Colours of Australia, a calmness sweeps over the readers, immersing them in the Australian landscape.

We loved reading this story, looking at the different shades of colour and wondering about the beauty of Australia.

This is an excellent resource for anyone who wishes to link picture books to nature through Indigenous art techniques.

So how does this link to sustainability?

PLAY OUTSIDE!!

This book encourages us to go outside – everyone! There is so much research pointing us in the direction of outside play. We need to get more in touch with the land, the plants and the animals that are part of our world. Nature is important in so many different ways. See my blog post on nature play.

CREATE

Compare pictures of some wonderful Australian locations and create them in your own way using colours and shades like Bronwyn Bancroft has.

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Go to your local paint shop and grab some paint cards. You can find so many different shades of every colour and this can help children to discern between the different shades and how they wish to use them.

Look a local river, a river in the daintree, a river in a farming area and a river in flood through the desert. Notice the different colours of the river at different times and different locations.

Learn about Bronwyn Bancroft and her amazing artworks.

 

LITERACY

This book contains fantastic vocabulary to start drawing on the importance of synonyms in creative writing. Create your own synonym wall for each drawing in this book.

Touch and feel words – which words in this story make us ‘feel’ the word? Discuss and find more of these.

How do colours make you feel? What if you had synaesthesia. How would this effect how you ‘see’ colours?

 

Happy reading!
Parent tips

When should we send children to school?

This is a question that I am asked very often!

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The main people who ask this are parents of children who are born between Jan – June – they are either going to be the youngest in their grade: Still four when they begin the school year or will be the eldest, possibly turning six before they begin school.

So, as  a parent, what do you need to consider for your child?

  • If your child goes to preschool or daycare ask what they think. They see your child in a different way to a parent so trust their opinion.

 

  • Consider if your child is ready emotionally. Do they cry easily? Do they anger easily? How do they solve problems? Although your child will learn these skills as they grow up, in order for them to be happy socially, they need to be able to get along with other children as much as possible. They need to be able to talk to other adults and deal with small problems without breaking down. Keep in mind that some children will always be sensitive – have a look at this article about overexcitabilities to see if your child fits into this category: http://sengifted.org/archives/articles/overexcitability-and-the-gifted

 

  • There is some new research that is shows there can be harm in sending your child to school early rather than sending them late. BUT in saying that some children will be ready early as perhaps they have an older sibling or perhaps they are socially ready, eager and ready to learn. Check your child is ready – don’t send them because you want them to go or their friends are going. Send them because they are ready. 

 

  • Don’t think that sending them early is going to mean they will be able to read within a month. Kindergarten is now a time and a space for children to learn through play. Lessons are not as formal as they used to be and children are encouraged to move, talk and touch things in order to learn. Children need time to learn and by pushing them to know their alphabet or sight words will just turn them away from their ingrained passion to learn.

 

  • In saying that – read to your child. Encourage them to sound out words but do it in a fun way. No threats! Yes, reading is a very important skill and once we learn to read we can do so many things BUT pushing your child can teach them the incorrect skills which can do a lot more harm than good.

I once taught a kindergarten girl who was an excellent reader but had no comprehension skills. This was causing a very big issue as she was slowly dropping in her self esteem – she thought she could read and had been praised but now there was something related to reading that she couldn’t do. She had to go back to basics which was very difficult for her. 

 

  • Talk to the school. Ask what they think and allow them to meet your child. They may have open sessions where they can watch your child interact with other children around them and also how they approach different activities.

 

  • Trust yourself. You know your child better than anyone else. Trust that you know what is best for your child. You have raised them to be the best person they can be so far and I am sure you can continue to. Trust that you know what your child can do.

 

  • Keep reading those picture books! Enlighten your child to the world around them. Let them see words, play with vocabulary and have fun looking at pictures.
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Pandamonia by Chris Owen and Chris Nixon

Biodiversity is essential. Feral animals are not – What do you think

Zoo’s are a necessary evil. Discuss. 

Panda’s and Bamboo – what do we need more of? Create a case for this. 

 

No, don’t wake the panda, whatever you do!

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Pandamonia is full of rhythm and rhyme, joyful pictures and funny animal antics. Chris Owen has created a humorous story which asks to be read all the way to the end in a energtic fashion. The illustrations by Chris nixon harmonises with the story, providing bold and striking prints, adding to the party atmosphere.

There is lots of fun to be had with this book as you explore rhyme and readers theatre – a great book for practising expression. You can also compare the words Pandamonium and pandemonium. I’m sure you will come up with some great comparisons of the words!

 

But how does it link to sustainability?

Science

  • Pandas – what are they? Where do they live? What do they look like?
  • Panda’s are endangered animals – Why?
  • Research bamboo and find out how long it takes to grow. Could you grow your own?
  • Many people are now using Bamboo as a type of flooring – is there an issue with this? Is Bamboo flooring better than plastic flooring or wooden flooring? Compare and contrast the different types of flooring you can use and weigh up the costs to the environment.
  • How would you feel if you had to eat all day to survive? Are there any other animals in the world that do this?

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  • What if you could only save one endangered species in the world….which one would you choose? Explain and outline how and why you would do this.

Project – Geography, Science, problem solving. 

  • TASK: You are in charge of saving some wild pandas from extinction but a local company needs the land to expand their farming for local food. Devise a plan so that panda’s can be saved from extinction but the local people can have food and jobs.
Parent tips, Teacher tips and resources

Challenge through interests

Challenging our children.

It is easy to assume that bright children will devour everything that is thrown at them, enjoying any bit of learning, finding it easy and engaging.

This is not always the case.

As parents as educators we need to tap into our children’s interests and learning styles so we can help them to develop their gifts, ignite their passions and stir their imagination.

If we are to tackle problems like climate change, plastic ridden oceans and toxic waterways we need our creative thinkers to be passionate, to be engaged and to want to learn more about the world.

We need to extend our young children, accelerate their learning and enrich any task at hand. Without challenge and enrichment of learning these children can learn to just cruise through schooling and life, not realising the talents that they have.

So what can you do through books?

  1. Find  books that engage your child. There is a book out there for everyone. Talk to your child, talk to the librarian and take the time to read together from as young as possible. Everyone loves reading something.
  2. Whilst reading ask your child some deeper questions. Not only ‘What?’ questions but also ‘how?’ and ‘why?’
  3. Talk about the book after you have read it. Ask more challenging questions such as – how would you change the ending? If you could be one of the characters who would you be? Could you change the ending? What if ……had happened?
  4. Find out more about the author – many authors have great websites and talk about how they came to be authors. Many will talk about persistence and passion.

 

Soon to come….a free e-book on questioning stems!  Watch this blog!

Environmental books

Crusts by Danny Parker

Wow! This book is so much fun and so creative.

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Who would have thought a great story of loss, adventure, creativity and hope would all stem from some crusts of bread!

Crusts by Danny Parker and Matt Ottley is an adventure story which will inspire those of any age to think about how something small and simple can make a big difference if we put our minds to it!

What would you do if you had kept all your crusts from your childhood? Our main character, Jacob comes up with a brilliant idea and saves a neighboring planet from doom.

So how can we link this to sustainability? 

  • Think about what you do at home or at school with your food scraps? Food waste that is placed in a regular bin can take up to three times longer (or more) than scraps placed in a compost bin or worm farm. Compost bins and worm farms are very easy to come by and require minimal maintenance. Perhaps considering buying one or making your own!
  • Conduct a food experiment at home. Test how long food takes to decompose. Place some in the compost bin, some in the worm farm, some in a plastic bag in the outside bin. Although it is a stinky experiment try to do it for about three weeks. See what happens! You will be surprised!!
  •  Perhaps adults don’t waste their crusts but I am sure many of them waste those disposable coffee cups. What can you do with those waxy lined coffee cups? Or better still – could you buy yourself a reusable cup?

Coffee cup ideas:

  • Plant some seeds in them for the garden
  • Cut them down to make mini bird feeders.
  • Turn them upside down to make some mini scare crows (or chicken scarers)

Left overs

  • What can you make with your dinner left overs (before they go into the compost bin) a fun, yet messy activity! Allows for creativity and imagination.

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We made a little hanger for birds and possums. This was the tops of some burnt cupcakes. (Whoops, we were playing outside and forgot the timer)

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  • Visit places in your local area who collect excess objects that can be put to use in other ways. Reverse garbage is great and you can come away with lots of goodies for craft.

Social Justice

Learn about companies that put left over food to good use. 

Think about how you can create less food waste by being creative with leftovers.

Creating

Create your own spaceship out of food scraps – real or imaginary. Draw up the plan to scale and work out how you would stick it all together. Lots of fun!

 

I loved this book and I hope you have fun with it too!