Poetry, with its eye-opening images, compressed language, and supple forms, provides pleasing ways to teach children about the natural world. Science teachers and others can use a number of fine collections to enrich their curriculum.
In Hummingbird Nest: A Journal of Poems, the poet Kristine O’Connell George has captured a range of perceptions she and her family experienced the year a hummingbird came calling. On a warm day in February a hummingbird dive-bombed near the poet’s face. That’s when they discovered the tiny bird had built a nest in the ficus tree on the patio of their home in California. For the next eight weeks, the acclaimed children’s poet kept a journal, recording her observations and musings on the mother hummingbird and her growing family. With naturalistic watercolor paintings, Barry Moser delineates the show taking place outside. His illustration for “Nest Check” shows a daughter leaning toward the tree to see “Two promises made–/two eggs newly laid.” In “Just Hatched,” the poem is enclosed in an oval shape, accompanied by Moser’s simple, delicate watercolor showing a cracked egg. Readers will linger upon the next image, an aerial shot looking straight down into the “woven walls” of the nest, with one baby bird lying next to an egg just cracking. In time, flying lessons will lead to fledglings taking off, and a mother’s job well done. Author’s note and hummingbird facts included, as well as suggested books about hummingbirds.
This is a lovely book to hold, to share, and to read aloud.
Sidman, Joyce. Song of the Water Boatman & Other Pond Poems. illus. by Beckie Prange. Houghton Mifflin, 2005. Spend some time with the interesting inhabitants of a pond, from spring’s peepers to the painted turtles that burrow in the mud for the winter. Original, accessible poems are accompanied by facts about the habitat’s animals, insects, and plants. Glossary included. Prange’s amazing woodcuts won the 2006 Caldecott Honor award. For ages 7 to 12.
Paolilli, Paul. Silver Seeds: A Book of Nature Poems. Viking, 2001. Simple enough for young children, these gentle poems begin with daybreak and end with night, with lovely images of sun, fog, and rain along the way.
Ryder, Joanne. Toad by the Road: A Year in the Life of These Amazing Amphibians. Holt, 2007. Ryder’s engaging poems describe the life cycle of toads, from spring’s tadpoles to adult frogs hibernating in the winter. Henry Bergh Children’s Book Award Winner: Poetry Award (2007)
Singer, Marilyn. Footprints on the Roof: Poems about the Earth. illus. by Meilo So. Knopf, 2002. Older children (ages 9-12) will enjoy Singer’s remarkable poems about Earth’s seasons, weather, land forms, and animals. Use this poetry to foster environmental awareness and to complement the science curriculum. In “Burrows,” for instance, note how she ponders life “under the earth/where rabbits hide from foxes/foxes hide from dogs/full-bellied snakes sleep snugly/worms work uncomplaining. … I try to tread softly:/ a quiet giant/ leaving only footprints on the roof.” Also see her other collections, especially How to Cross a Pond: Poems about Water.
- Purposes for Poetry: Ten Ways to Use Poetry in Your Instruction (teachwithpicturebooks.blogspot.com)