May 13, 2014

Be a Park Scientist This Summer!

By Mary Kay Carson 
Click for more about the book!

School is winding down and summer vacation is just around the corner! Many of us will pack up the car and take to the road, stopping at sites both new and familiar. Touring our national parks in the family car is akin to a rite of passage. Did you go from the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone as a kid? While I'm all grown up, national parks are still my favorite vacation destinations. In fact, my love of national parks inspired my latest book. Park Scientists: Gila Monsters, Geysers, and Grizzly Bears in America's Own Backyard has just been released! The book follows scientists working on six different projects in national parks—collaring grizzlies and studying geysers in Yellowstone, counting cacti and tracking Gila monsters in Saguaro, and studying salamanders and synchronous fireflies in Great Smoky Mountains. 

The book involved lots of fantastic travel for myself and the photographer (my husband) Tom Uhlman. He also took lots of video, which he made into the fantastic book trailer above.  

Download the Guide!
Park Scientists is a book in Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Scientists in the Field series so has its own custom Discussion and Activity Guide written by curriculum consultant Ed Spicer and retired librarian Lynn Rutan. It includes Common Core connections and is free for download. There are lots of great activities in the Guide, as well as links to find out more. Here are a couple of my favorite activities from it, ones that can be used with a local park, too. Here's hoping your summer is filled with adventure and discovery!

Pre-Reading Activity
Visit a local park. Take an inventory of the natural resources within it. Why was this particular piece of property chosen to house a park? Now visit a vacant lot or an area of land without (or with very few) manmade structures. If we were in charge of granting park status, would we select this lot as one to which we would grant it? Think about any cherished outdoor spot. Is it within a park? What is it about these spaces, particularly the ones that are not within not within a park, how would you feel about it being designated a park? Is there a difference between personal favorite spots and public spaces? Do they overlap? Why are some spaces parks and some not parks?
Applying and Extending Our Knowledge
As you read through this book, create a picture glossary, of the animals (and, if you’re feeling ambitious, plants too) that are mentioned or shown.
• All national parks change. Naturally occurring erosion, fires, earthquakes, etc., bring physical changes to the park. Search for images of Yellowstone in the 1870s and in regular increments of time up to today. Try to find images documenting the exact same location. Write a narrative describing the changes over time to the area.
• Indicate which ones are found in all three parks, two parks, or exclusively in one park. Include scientific name, common name, range, description, habitat, diet, and any noteworthy facts (about behavior or endangered status, etc.). Group by families and then alphabetically by scientific name.
• Assign groups of students to catalog the animals in various national parks until the class has completed a survey of all fifty-eight national parks. In looking at the collated list of national park animals, which animals are most commonly found? What do we notice about animals that are endangered or threatened?
Common Core Connections
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.7.1 Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.7.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.7.7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions for further research and investigation.

1 comment:

  1. Love the activity and the CC connections! This is a great book for teachers, but really anyone can enjoy it.