August 9

Amazing Animal Bridges

Is the deer crossing the path or is the path crossing the forest?

Roadways fragment or isolate animal populations. They create barriers for animals to access food or mates, migrate, or reach nesting areas. The flow of energy through the ecosystem is altered. Many animals are also killed crossing roads every year. “Surveys conducted by the Humane Society and the Animal Protection Institute estimate that one million animals per day die on the road in the United States.” Read more here.

As a result of these concerns, engineers and scientists have collaborated to design and build innovative bridges and underpasses to help wildlife move safely across highways. Scientists ask questions and construct explanations based on evidence, while engineers define problems and design solutions.

Go here to view full screen.

Go here to watch full screen.

Add these informative books to your study of animal bridges.

Crossings: Extraordinary Structures for Extraordinary Animals ...

Make Way for Animals!: A World of Wildlife Crossings (Hardback or Cased Book) - Picture 1 of 1

Designing and building bridges is a common classroom STEM activity. The most meaningful engineering challenges are those that solve a real-world problem. Ask your students to research the wildlife that are threatened by crossing roads in the area in which you live, and then challenge them to design a bridge that would help that specific animal cross the highway safely.

Learn bridge building terminology here.

Add these books to your library to extend your children’s knowledge about the history of bridges and various bridge designs. Here to There and Me to You is an engaging book for you to introduce bridges to your students or children. Examples of architectural designs and real-life bridges are included. Use Google maps to locate these bridges. The overarching message is that bridges bring people together. Discuss real problems that the construction of a bridge has resolved.

Perfect Picture Book Friday: A BOOK OF BRIDGES – FROM HERE TO THERE ...

Would the Brooklyn Bridge be completed when the chief engineer was bedridden? His wife, Emily Roebling, supervised the completion of the bridge during a time in history when women were not engineers.

History Book Fest to introduce Children’s Literature Panel Sept. 28 ...

In 1883, people wondered just how much weight the new mile-long Brooklyn Bridge could hold. Would the elephants in the P. T. Barnum Circus cross the bridge safely? Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing is another beautifully illustrated book that integrates social studies concepts (history and geography) with engineering, science, and math concepts.

Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing (Hardcover - Used) 061844887X 9780618448876

Building the Golden Gate Bridge, “the impossible bridge”, was a dangerous undertaking and at its completion was considered an architectural wonder. Pop’s Bridge is told from the point of view of one of the high climbing ironworker’s sons and his friend.

Pop's Bridge (Hardcover)

Use this informational book to introduce the variety of bridge designs. Which types of bridges are in your city or community?

Hardcover Cross a Bridge Book

Click here to view full screen.

Go here for a simple bridge building challenge.

Go here for an impressive activity that tests the strength of solid shapes.

When I was in the classroom, I created units that were cross-curricular or multi-disciplinary, so that learning was connected and had greater meaning. The study of bridges is an ideal topic to incorporate multiple subject areas.

February 27

Brown Thrasher

Every state has a state bird. Can you name yours? Click here to view full screen.

The brown thrasher became the official Georgia state bird in 1970 but it was first suggested in the 1930s. They regularly visit my suet feeder. This large songbird is mainly a ground feeder which means they forage and “thrash” through the mulch in my yard for insects. They will build their nests on the ground or low to the ground in bushes.  Click here to read more.

Click here to watch the following video full screen.

February 15

Volcanoes – Guatemala

My husband and I traveled to Guatemala for a family wedding. As we approached Antigua, about an hour drive from Guatemala City, the volcanoes provided a striking backdrop to the former capital. Agua (water), Fuego (fire), and Acatenango (two headed) are the three volcanoes that tower around the colonial city, but Guatemala is home to 37 volcanoes in all.

Fuego, one of Central America’s most active volcanoes, explodes several times an hour (strombolian activity). The last major eruption was in June 2018.

Contrary to what you might think, an active volcano benefits the land around it. Guatemala is one of the largest producers of fruits and vegetables in Central America because the mineral deposits from volcanic eruptions enrich the soil. Click here to watch the following Study Jam about volcanoes.

Click here to view full screen.

Click here for a previous lab about volcanoes – always a favorite!

January 19

Bonsai and Cloud Trees

Last fall, I visited the Chicago Botanic Garden with my daughter. Although there were many lovely gardens to peruse, we spent more of our time there strolling through the Japanese Garden. A bonsai display greeted us, and we were intrigued by the skill and artistry demonstrated by these gardeners. The bonsai are so valuable that there is an alarm around each, just like any priceless work of art.

How are bonsai created? What do you wonder? Tie your study of bonsai with geography and history standards.

Click here to view full screen.

Another feature in the garden are the trees whose branches are carefully pruned to appear as clouds. Japanese Cloud Trees (Niwaki) are at their finest when snow sits atop the evergreen branches.

One of my favorite stories to read aloud is The Empty Pot. Set in China, this tale is about demonstrating character even when it costs you! For full screen viewing, click here.

January 12

A Study of Ice

Temperatures have dipped below freezing, and I saw ice for the first time on a recent Greenway walk. Since Atlanta rarely is that cold, I am sharing some photos from friends who live where they consistently see ice and snow.

Use water to teach the states of matter. Ice is the solid form of liquid water, produced by freezing.

Click here to view full screen.

Can you identify the object in this photo captured by my friend Ellen? Watch below to find out!

May be a closeup of outdoors

Click here to view full screen.

Click here for a lab about melting and freezing.

There are many simple investigations that children can perform to investigate how water changes from liquid to solid.

  1. Does water expand when it freezes? Fill a mason jar about halfway with water. Draw a line where the water stops. Place the jar in the freezer and test your hypothesis.
  2. Does hot or cold water freeze faster? Place a small glass of each temperature of water in your freezer. What do you observe? (Results may surprise you!)
  3. Mix salt into a cup of water until it is saturated. Will the water still freeze?
  4. Fill a Styrofoam cup halfway with water. Place it in the freezer. What happens to the cup when the water freezes? Apply what you learn to why potholes form on roadways.
  5. Take ice out of the freezer and place it in a bowl. What happens? How long does it take for the ice to melt? Will it melt faster if you sprinkle salt on the ice?
  6. Color ice cubes with food coloring. Drop one in a glass of vegetable oil. What happens? Click here for more information.
  7. Make slushies or ice pops (popsicles). There are many recipes online.
  8. This is a great opportunity to investigate insulation. Place an ice cube in a can, glass jar, and Styrofoam cup and cover each. What happens? Design your own investigation.
  9. When outside on a cold day, touch various materials and compare the temperature of each. Include metal (car and gutter), wood, concrete, plastic, soil, plant parts, and glass.

Click here for an instafreeze investigation from Steve Spangler.

Tinkergarten has fun ice projects too. Click here and here for ideas from this great organization. The following photo of an ice ornament was taken in Montana and shared by my friend, Susan. How fun it would be to decorate a winter tree with these!

How does an ice spike form? Click here to learn more.

Integrate social study concepts into your study of ice and learn about the Arctic.

Click here for a lab about icebergs. Click here to watch the Safeshare link.

Ice Is Nice! : All about the North and South Poles Hardcover Bonn - Picture 1 of 1

Can bubbles freeze? Click here to learn more. Photo taken by my friend, Ellen.

May be a closeup of nature

Which sports use ice? Click here to view full screen.

Sports are based on physics. Watch the video below to learn more. Click here to view full screen.

November 21


HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I am very grateful for each of my readers! See you next week.

In this season of gratitude, let’s also show our appreciation for trees. Before reading further, think of all the ways that trees provide for people, animals, and the earth. It’s a long list!

Did you think of food (fruit, maple syrup, chocolate, olives, spices, and nuts), shade, shelter and food for animals, Christmas trees, lumber, paper and paper products, rubber, as well as oxygen? Trees also prevent erosion, enrich the soil, and provide beauty. Just imagine a cherry tree blooming in the spring or a maple tree with its crimson fall color.

Click here for full screen.

The following video is one chapter of Be Thankful for Trees. Click here to watch full screen.

Our Tree Named Steve is a humorous story about a family who loved a tree. Click here to watch full screen. Do you have a special tree? My first graders traditionally adopted a tree on our school campus each year. Go here to learn more.

Use this book to teach metaphors and similes to students of all ages. The figurative language describes trees beautifully! Click here to watch full screen. Before watching, discuss with your children or students what images they see in their minds when someone says, “Picture a tree”.

Click here to watch Have You Seen Trees? and follow trees through seasonal changes.

Have You Seen Trees - 0590466917, Joanne Oppenheim, Library Binding

What a fun way to integrate history and create a multidisciplinary approach to the study of trees. The story is told from a tree’s perspective. In the video below, the author previews her book, What Did the Tree See?

Like the character in the story below, plant a tree to demonstrate your gratitude.


Thank you, God, for trees! I can’t imagine a world without them.

 The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.
(Genesis 2:9)

October 10

Caves and Caverns

When I was growing up in Kentucky, my family visited Mammoth Cave and when I was teaching science, I chaperoned field trips to the Dahlonega Gold Mines. Click here for further information and photos of this field trip.

Because my husband and I couldn’t continue our journey to Glacier National Park, we explored some sights near Bozeman, Montana. One of those day trips led us to Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park.

The Lewis and Clark Caverns, Montana’s first state park, became federal property in 1908. Although they never entered the caverns, the park was named after Meriwether Lewis and William Clark whose expedition passed through the area as they explored the western portion of the United States after the Louisiana Purchase. These caverns are unique because they are high in the mountains.

What is the difference between a cave and a cavern?  Caverns consist of a series of caves connected with one passage, while caves tend to consist of only one hollow.

We hiked to the entrance of the caverns. Although the outside temperature was nearly 80 degrees, the temperature remains approximately 48 degrees Fahrenheit inside the caverns.

The cathedral room was spectacular! The most common features were dripstone (soda straws, stalagmites, stalactites, and columns); flowstone (canopies, waterfalls, and cave bacon); and seepstone (cave popcorn and helicities).

I was hoping to see the resident Townsend’s big eared bats, but no luck on this visit.

Click here to view full screen.

Click here for full screen viewing.

We had fun spelunking!

Click here for full screen. Try this experiment:

The following humorous story can be used to teach prediction and persusaion, as well as the danger of making assumptions.

Click here to watch full screen.

Construct a cave inside or outside like the children do in the following story. What materials could you use-boxes, bed sheets…? Young children will enjoy the repetitive language in this imaginative text.

To watch full screen, click here.

Look at what this teacher did to transform her hallway and classroom! Crumbled brown paper makes it appear as though you are inside caverns. Use a cave unit to kick off a study of bats or bears. If you want to integrate art into a cave unit, make cave paintings

Photo credit:

September 29

Continental Divides

The Continental Divide, which runs along the Rocky Mountains, separates watersheds in the contiguous 48 states of America that drain into the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans. The Great Divide stretches from Alaska to the tip of South America and runs through the states of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. Click here for more information from National Geographic.

Click here to watch full screen.

Click here for an additional video about worldwide divides.

September 26


I discovered thistles growing in the fields of Wyoming and Montana. These plants are covered with prickly leaves and stems which protect them from herbivores, but thistles are still valuable to animal life. Pollinators extract nectar from their flowers, and birds eat the seeds and use the down for nests. I’ve always thought thistles were enticing, but ranchers and farmers think of them as troublesome weeds that are difficult to remove because of their prickles and stubborn root system.

Click here to watch full screen.

Thistles are the national symbol of Scotland. They are considered noble flowers. Click here to watch full screen.

September 1


A blimp flew over my neighborhood recently which led me to wondering about the history and construction of dirigibles. Through my research, I realized how rare it is to see one! Add blimps to your study of air and space. What an interesting addition to history units too!

Begin the discussion with your students by presenting two balloons for them to observe, one filled with helium and the other your breath. Why does one balloon float? How does a hot air balloon differ from a blimp? Click here to learn more about hot air balloons. Solar balloons are fun to use during this investigation too. Click here and here for previous labs.

Click here to watch full screen. Click here for the Safeshare link.

Click here to watch full screen. Click here for the Safeshare link.