PRUDENCE THE PART-TIME COW by Jody Jensen Shaffer, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis

PRUDENCE THE PART-TIME COW (Henry Holt & Company, 2017) is heart-warming, charming story about how a misunderstood cow uses thoughtfulness, consideration, and scientific reasoning to find a special place in the heart of the herd.

Prudence is simply not wired like the other cows. Instead of thinking and acting like a regular member of the herd, she’s preoccupied with engineering projects designed to improve the lives others. Ultimately, her inventions unintentionally create havoc on the farm, leaving her isolated and friendless. Motivated by the desire for acceptance, Prudence draws upon COW POWER inspiration to develop inventions benefiting everyone.  In the end, Prudence finds friendship by caring for others and being true to herself.

STEM enthusiasts will enjoy the lessons included in the Prudence the Part-Time Cow Discussion & Activity Guide. Using Prudence’s projects as inspiration, students analyze her inventions through the use of the Scientific Method. Students are asked to first observe how each project potentially benefits members of the herd. Next, they define the problem that is met by the project. From there, young students learn how to formulate a hypothesis, then describe and analyze the experimentation process. Finally, students are instructed to articulate a conclusion for the overall experimental process. Pretty advanced thinking for the PK-3 crowd, wouldn’t you say?

Try, Try Again - The Scientific Method

Click on image to access Science at - PowerPoint presentations for all ages!Famed author Clarence Day once said, “Information’s pretty thin stuff unless it’s mixed with experience.” I think Clarence would have been pleased with the experiential hoopla happening in my prior classroom.

My classroom’s science shelf was lined with informative botany, zoology, anatomy, chemistry, taxonomy, biology, and simple machine packets, thick with the promise of splendor for all of us to consider! I have to say that not all, but plenty of our experiments were busts. And, like real scientists do, when that happened, we pulled back, asked questions, considered our data, and try, tried again until we got it right. Together, we experienced the scientific method on a shoestring!

The key word in Clarence’s quote is “experience.” He didn’t say “testing” or “quizzing.” Instead, he was referring involvement, participation, and understanding. Mr. Day is talking about the need for active learning, the focus that helps to create the best kind of supplemental guide for a math or science related book.

Click on image and buy the book!!!!!The guide created for Patricia Newman’s latest, Plastic Ahoy!: Investigating The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, serves as an effective example of experiencing information. Newman crafted this compelling book as if it were a scientific quest to discover the phenomenon known as gyres - large systems of rotating ocean currents consisting of a heavy concentration of trashed plastic threatening to destroy ocean life. Plastic Ahoy!: Investigating The Great Pacific Garbage Patch allows the reader to join with a team of graduate students and become trash detectives by hypothesizing what the effects of plastic garbage might have on the future of the earth’s oceans.

In the guide, the lesson entitled The Summary of the Scientific Method ( pg. 13) serves as an effective example of leading the reader to discover answers to their own burning questions. Kids can use this step-by-step method to formulate a hypothesis and then generate a plan to prove it. Perhaps, much like my days in the classroom, though some of their experiments might turn out to be busts; they’ll have a grand time scientifically trying them over and over again until they get it right.

I only wish I could be here to join in the fun!

Fueling Some Foldable Fun with Newman's Biofuels

Of late, I have been having a ball creating foldable activities for the guides I'm commissioned to do, adding a little bit of crafty, Simple Saturday-like flair to each. Patricia Newman's Biofuels (Cherry Lake Publishing) provided the perfect fodder for a terrific pocket sorting foldable. Kids love to learn while creating projects like these. Heck, I do, too, for that matter.

Biofuels covers topics such as gasification, non-renewable and renewable energy sources, carbon footprints and many others - heady concepts that kids are completely jazzed about, these days. While working on Patricia's guide, I discovered that I could create four basic categories by which kids could sort through and classify the Pocket foldable classified with four energy-specific pictoral categories terminology and ideas presented in her book.  Those categories are biodiesel, biofuels, fossil fuels, and biomass. (I told you this was heady stuff.)

You can access the guide by clicking HERE to get a sense of how the foldable is created. Basically, I printed key phrases from the text on small cards, each associated with at least one energy source. These phrases are to be classified by slipping each card into the proper pocket labeled with the energy sources presented in the book.

During the editing process, Patricia and I discovered something pretty remarkable - a number of the phrases printed on the little cards could be cross-referenced with two or more biofuel categories! For instance, the phrase "Carbon is a key ingredent in production" can be slipped into the fossil fuel and the biomass pockets. Or, both biodiesel and biofuels cut back on the need for non-renewable energy sources. This discovery makes me happy to think of the budding engineers and scientists deep in discussion as to what pocket the cards should be placed. Neat thought, isn't it?

In closing, I give Patricia's Biofuels a hearty thumbs up with an extra generous dose of biofuel made from algae oil on top! Yum.

Hummingbird Love

Ready to celebrate National Hummingbird Day with me? September 1st will be here before you know it!!! To kick things off right let's give my pal Jeanette Larson a bit of a shout out by checking out her seriously wonderful book, Hummingbirds: Facts and Folklore from the Americas. Talk about beautiful. Wowzers.

So let's party down by making two Simple Saturday crafts, want to? The first is a repeat of a previous Simple Saturday post in which we made a hummingird feeder out of a baby food jar, a long wire, water, and sugar. Go ahead and click HERE for all of the sugary sweet details.

And, to make a hummingbird party mask, gather up markers, glitters, scissors, feathers, glue, and a popsicle stick or a wooden dowel for a handle. I made a .pdf with a mask template on it for you to download by clicking HERE. (Actually, there are two templates on the .pdf - one for you and one for a pal. Birds of a feather flock together, right?) Print the template on card stock. Simply cut the mask portion out and create away!

Man, I am all a-goggle for the hummingbird. You will be too after you watch this PBS video. Good gosh. Did you know that hummingbirds can even fly upside down? Click HERE and watch for yourself.

It's no wonder hummingbirds have their our national day of celebration. Let's get making those masks and party down!

Guiding You to Pattison's Prairie Storms

These are winners. Some of the best!!!!!

I'm not only talking about the guides I made for Darcy. Oh, no, no, NO! I'm talking about the month-by-month lively, visual and textual descriptions of life on the prairie you can find in the book itself...and I ain't a-kidding you. Together, Darcy and illustrator Kathleen Reitz have created a treasure that will last the academic test of time, my friends. This book is incredible...for real. It is one that, if I were in a classroom today, kiddos would be working it. And I do mean work. Here's why...

The guides that I made for Prairie Storms are deliciously lavished with a study of mathematics, the passage of time, seasonal study, flora and fauna taxonomy, the food web, weather patterns, a weather map, biomes, and - like the cherry atop a blob of whipped cream - a science experiment specifically created in Simple Saturday-like structure to compliment the specific weather pattern depicted in each sensational month.

Yep. That's right. I'm talking twelve of those suckers. Twelve super fun, inexpensive, biome-specific scientific experiments. And...guess what...after you buy the book, Darcy's giving the guides away. Yep. Free for the taking!!!!!

Click HERE for more info about Darcy, the monthly guides, and all the other stuff my little buddy's involved with. And, when you do contact her, tell her Simple Saturday sent ya. She'll get a kick out of that!

Simple Saturday: Rainmaking

Making rain couldn't be simpler. Watch this...or even better... join me, okay?

Pictured are the supplies needed -- the tea kettle filled with water, a metal spoon, and some ice cubes. (Ignore my homemade mosaic utensil holder in the background. I'll show you how to make one of those another time.)

Turn the heat on high and let that tea kettle get so hot that steam whistles shrill out of it. (Making rain is noisy business, let me tell you.)

Balance a few ice cubes in the metal spoon.

Be careful with this next step, pal.

Hold the spoon ice cube over the kettle's screaming steam.

Rain!!! I know, I know...I didn't promise you a monsoon, but it is rain.Look! In no time at all, water droplets condense on the bottom of the spoon! Rain! We made rain!!! 

You know, my Simple Saturday friend, you might enjoy doing a bit or research regarding this weather-related phenomenon. This is the short and sweet version of what I know about the creation of real rain.

It's crazy cold way up high in the atmosphere...big time the ice cubes. Rain clouds form way up there, too.  When warm air and water vapor (the screaming steam) from the Earth rises and hits the cool air way up high in the dark and cloudy sky water droplets form and...pow...RAIN!

Don't take my word for this. Find out for yourself. Ask your weatherman. Read some books or good webpages. See if I'm right and then come back and tell me what you found out. 

Happy puddle-jumping!