For information on the AG Bag Program and Borrow Bag Program, click here.
2) Agriculture games and resources for students and teachers- frequently adds new games... myamericanfarm.org
3)The national Ag in the Classroom website — go to Teacher Center; also google ag in the classroom and you will get websites in a number of agricultural states with resources... agclassroom.org
4) Books, lesson plans, magazines, stickers- go to Resource Orders... agfoundation.org
5) Website for the magazine with events happening statewide... ediblejersey.com
September 8, 2017
September is Honey Month! Here are two great books about bees and honey
- These Bees Count! By Alison Formento- a counting book with lots of information about honeybees
- The Beeman by Laurie Krebs- an American Farm Bureau Agriculture Foundation Book of the Year, Grandpa is a beeman, and his grandson takes the reader on a trip through all the steps and equipment used in working with bees.
Honey Cinnamon Apple Dip from https://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Food/Stir-It-Up/2014/0122/Honey-cinnamon-apple-dip
Honey Cinnamon Apple Dip
1/4 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon honey (or more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (or more to taste)
Stir together sour cream and yogurt in a bowl. Add honey and cinnamon and combine. Serve with sliced apples.
With leaves starting to fall, make a collection and use them in an art project.
Use your pile of leaves to do categorizing with your child.
Make a leaf mobile. http://www.shirleys-preschool-activities.com/leaf-craft.html
March 21, 2017
A peek back to March 27, 2015
The Sap is Flowing!
It’s maple syrup season. Did you know it takes 40 spoonfuls of sap to make one spoonful of syrup?
Maple syrup comes in four grades or flavors. Extra light is the first tapping of the season and is very sweet. Light syrup has a stronger flavor, from sap collected after the first tapping. Medium syrup is the color of weak tea and is collected even later and is stronger tasting than light. Amber syrup is dark. It is made from the last of the sap collected before the leaves bud.
Some books to check out that tells about tapping trees and making syrup are:
• Sugaring Time by Kathryn Lasky
• At Grandpa’s Sugarbush by Margaret Carney
• Sugar on Snow by Nan Parson Rossiter
• Sugaring by Jessie Haas
• Sugar Snow by Laura Ingalls Wilder
• Sugar White Snow and Evergreens- A Winter Wonderland of Color by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky
And something new-
AG Book of the Month: Before We Eat- From Farm to Table by Pat Brisson and illustrated by Mary Azarian
This simple book with woodblock illustrations points out all of the workers who are responsible for the food on your table: those taking care of fields, animals, packing and transporting produce, and selling it to you. Brisson is a New Jersey author, former elementary school teacher and librarian. Azarian is famous for her woodcut illustrations, including Caldecott winning illustrations for Snowflake Bentley, and creates in VT.
Reuse, reduce, recycle:
Start collecting your old Kcups and use them as seed starters.
1. Take the top off the used cups and dump out the grounds. Use the grounds in your garden.
2. Rinse out the cups. Use a permanent marker to write on the outside of the cup the kind of seed you are planting in each.
3. Fill with soil [add some of the grounds to the soil.]
4. Add a few seeds to the top of the soil and press down and cover with soil.
5. Take a tray and place some small stones or gravel on the top to set the cups on, keeping them from sitting in water.
6. Add a little water to the cups. Cover the tray in plastic wrap for a little ‘greenhouse’ and place in the sun.
7. Mist them a little every day.
February 16, 2017
Although the time for tapping trees varies, January and February are good starting points. A good book to use with children at this time of year is From Maple Tree to Syrup by Melanie Mitchell. It is part of the Start to Finish series of books, showing the steps in a process with photographs.
Hi Ho, Avocado
Grow your own avocado plant from an avocado pit. Avoid hammering in toothpicks so it sits on top of the water. Amazon.com offers the Avodeedo, which floats on top of the water, allowing just enough of the pit to sit in the water to germinate.
There’s still the potential for a lot of snow this winter. Brighten up your snowbanks with color. Use spray bottles you can get in dollar stores, or recycle dish detergent bottles. Fill with food coloring and water. Take out to your yard or snowbank and spritz away. Color your snowpeople- give them rosy cheeks!
January 19, 2017
Sleep Tight Farm by Eugenie Doyle, our AG Book of the Month for November, has just been awarded Book of the Year by the American Farm Bureau’s Foundation for Agriculture. The Foundation has awarded this Honor for ten years.
Criteria includes:Books are also judged on whether or not it has an interesting story that will engage students and if it has the potential to be used in a classroom setting with curriculum. Books do not need to be published in the current year in order to be considered. Any publication date is fine.
- Have 100% accurate information about agriculture with modern agricultural practices being a priority
- Have a positive portrayal of agriculture and producers
- Contain no depictions of anthropomorphic animals (animals that talk or act like humans)
- Should not convey any stereotypical depictions of rural life (ex: overalls and a pitch fork)
- Portray no unsafe situations in pictures, graphics or text
- Have topic which is of interest in agriculture and society – Past years’ topics include: bees, apples, sheep, tree farms, farm to fork, how plants grow, school gardens, and soybeans. All agricultural topics are open to review.
- The Learning Center uses former Book of the Year winners: Seed, Soil, Sun, by Cris Peterson; How Did That Get in my Lunchbox, by Chris Butterworth; The Beeman, by Laurie Krebs; The Apple Orchard Riddle, by Margaret McNamara; and First Peas to the Table, by Susan Grigsby.
With children home for snow days, make this play dough from cranberries. It has a great smell!
– 1/2 Cup Salt
– 1 Cups of Flour
– 1 Tablespoon of Cream of Tartar
– 1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
– 1/4 Cup Pureed Cranberries
– 1 Cup Just Boiled Water
Mix all the dry ingredients together and then add the pureed cranberries in the bowl. Once that is done add the just boiled water and mix until it is of playdough consistency.
Salt Painting Ice Sculptures
Kids will explore salt’s effect on ice in this colorful, cool craft!
Check it out here: http://www.kiwicrate.com/projects/Salt-Painting-Ice-Sculptures/630
January 4, 2017
New Ideas for the New Year
January AG Book of the Month: Energy Island: How One Community Harnessed the Wind and Changed Their World by Allan Drummond
This book covers renewable and non-renewable energy and the true story of how the Danish island of Samsø became energy self-sufficient. Lots of bright illustrations are attractive to children and sidebars with additional information contribute to greater understanding. An IRA Teachers’ Choice
Cold weather is soup weather. Take advantage of the next months of winter by making soup with kids and incorporate a lot of veggies. Below is a link to kid friendly soup recipes using a slow cooker. Assemble everything after breakfast, send the kids out to play, and have soup ready for dinner. Check out Rah! Rah! Radishes: A Vegetable Chant.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside
“Imagine it’s a cold day in winter; snow covers the ground and a bitter wind is blowing. You’re outside in bare feet, searching for food to give you the energy to make it through the below-zero night ahead. No well-stocked kitchen or warm bed beckons; all you have is a down jacket to ward off the cold. Welcome to the world of a bird in winter in much of the United States!”
This is the introduction to ‘The Winter Bird-Friendly Schoolyard’ article on the Kidsgardening website. If you have a school garden, you might want to incorporate some of these ideas.
The same website contains a lesson plan for grades 3-8 on winter bird observation. Students will observe bird feeding sites to learn more about their habits and habitats and discuss the challenges of the winter season for animals and related adaptations. https://www.kidsgardening.org/lesson-plans-winter-bird-observation/
Scholastic has redesigned its website, scholastic.com, and has lesson plans on penguins and hibernation. https://beta.scholastic.com/teachers/lessons-and-ideas/
December 5, 2016
Get in the Holiday Spirit
December AG Book of the Month: Christmas Farm, by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Barry Root
Wilma decides to plant Christmas trees, 62 dozen of them, with the help of five year old neighbor Parker. Each year, some trees are lost. “Before winter’s end, some of the trees were lost to mice that ate their stems and roots. But seven hundred and nineteen remained.”
In telling the story of the farm, the author shows the steps necessary to produce a full grown tree, as well as all the natural elements that destroy trees. As the trees grow, so does Parker. When the trees are sold, Wilma and Parker look forward to another cycle of growing trees. The relationship between Wilma and Parker is worth pointing out, as well as Wilma’s decision as a gardener to take on trees after growing other things in her garden. It will only work if she has Parker’s help.
You can use the math in the book with children, as each year some trees are lost. How many were lost? How many survived? How many in total of the original 62 dozen? How many dozen is that? How many trees were ordered at the end of the book?
The illustrations have a Grandma/Will Moses look, cozy and old fashioned, beautifully rendered. There is an author’s note at the end of the book. I always love to see the author’s reasons for writing a book.
“This lovely tale celebrates inter-generational friendship and determination, growth and nature, and the joy of the holiday season.” School Library Journal
25 Days of Christmas Book Inspired Ornaments
Includes winter books and others such as Harry Potter
Learn how to make these cool tree decorations.
Filling Bar Graphs With Holiday Food Favorites
Judy Meagher’s class gets into the holiday spirit by creating bar graphs of favorite holiday foods. Here’s how: “Send students home with enough small white paper plates to equal the number of people in their families. Have them ask family members to draw their favorite holiday foods on the plates,” says Meagher, who teaches in Bozeman, Montana. “When the plates are returned, sort them by food type, then create a bar graph on the wall with the actual plates and discuss the results.” Let students share the results with their families by compiling the findings into a top ten list that ranks the foods in order of popularity. If you don’t want to involve families, you can modify this activity by having each student identify and draw their favorite foods in different categories — ethnic specialties, desserts, appetizers, and main dishes — and then graphing them.
Adapted from Instructor magazine and postings to Scholastic.com/teachers.
Book Terminology Bingo Game
Looking for something to do during the Christmas party that won’t rev up the class? Download this bingo game.
Personal Thank Yous
Take a photo of your class such as this:
and use it as your thank you card for the rest of the school year.
November 21, 2016
It’s All About the Leaves!
With a fairly mild fall, there are still a lot of leaves on the ground. Here are some books to celebrate autumn leaves.
Leaf Jumpers by Carole Gerber, illustrated by Leslie Evans
Beautiful illustrations and minimum text highlight different kinds of trees’ leaves: sycamore, ginkgo, white oak, basswood, willow, birch, red maple & sugar maple. The last page of the book has an explanation of the leaves turning colors. The illustrations of the different leaves are big enough to call attention to the differences.
We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger, illustrated by Miki Sakamoto
This story of the ‘Going on a Bear Hunt’ model has three friends going on a hunt for colorful leaves. The author has colored key vocabulary in the text such as red oak. Several different trees are visited.
Look What I Did With a Leaf! By Morteza E. Sohi
In this book of simple art pieces to make with leaves, Sohi references size, shape, color, and contrast. There are art notes on the pages, addressing artists’ behaviors with the children. There is a field guide of leaves in the last pages of the book.
Appreciate Your Guests
Make place cards for everyone who is attending your dinner. Then ask your children to think of one reason he/she is thankful for each person and write it on the back. Guests can read them at dinner.
Time Machine to Plimoth
Scholastic has a wealth of information about Thanksgiving on its website. Visit http://www.scholastic.com/scholastic_thanksgiving/webcast.htm for Plimoth Plantation virtual field trips. Short [15-20 min.] videos take you on board the Mayflower, on a tour of Plimoth and to the Wampanoags. In addition, there are links to a slide show and more videos.
November 1, 2016
Fall into Winter
Agriculture Book of the Month: Sleep Tight Farm- A Farm Prepares for Winter, by Eugenie Doyle, illustrated by Becca Stadtlander- chosen as a Junior Library Guild selection
“The December days shorten and darken. We are busy putting the farm to bed.” This book highlights part of farming that most people don’t think about. Barn, fields, chickens, bees, equipment, farmstand, farmhouse- all need to be made ready for the coming winter.
The author lives on a farm in Vermont, an organic berry, vegetable and hay farm. Her book mirrors her experiences. The beautiful realistic illustrations of Becca Stadtlander are a perfect addition to the text.
Visit https://www.tes.com/lessons/gnQhKELTX4eZjA/fall-poems for fall poems. This one is sung to “Are you sleeping?”
Leaves are falling
Leaves are falling
To the ground
Without a sound
Days are getting shorter
Nights are growing longer
Fall is here
Fall is here
An explanation of Changing Time in the Fall
October 21, 2016
Pumpkin Pie in a Bag
Students can apply math skills by measuring ingredients and learn about pumpkins and agriculture. Pair it with an activity to learn about pumpkin growing cycles, read a fun fall or Halloween book, or create unique Jack o’ Lanterns based on each students’ characteristics and personality (activities coming in future posts, so check back soon).
This activity is appropriate for ages 3 to 12, depending on the accompanying activity and available supervision/assistance.
Find pumpkin facts and more activities in the Illinois Ag in the Classroom pumpkin ag mag.
Ingredients and supplies:
gallon Ziploc freezer bag
2 2/3 cups cold milk
2 packages (4 serving size) instant vanilla pudding mix
1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Graham cracker crumbs
25 small cups
1 can whipped topping
Combine the milk and instant pudding in the Ziploc bag.
Remove the air and Ziploc it shut.
Squeeze and kneed with hands until blended for 1 minute.
Add the pumpkin, cinnamon, and ginger.
Remove the air and Ziploc it shut.
Squeeze and kneed with hands until blended for 2 minutes.
Place 1/2 tablespoon of crushed graham crackers in the bottom of small cups. (You can have one group of students crush graham crackers in a Ziploc bag while the other group is mixing the pumpkin pie.)
Cut corner of freezer bag and squeeze pie filling into cups.
Garnish with whipped topping, if desired.
Add a spoon and enjoy!
October 5, 2016
Fresh Pickings for Fall
AG Book of the Month: Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell, illustrations by Lizzy Rockwell
The unofficial fruit and vegetable of autumn are covered in this simple paperback for children 3-8 years old. A family travels to a farm and gathers apples and picks pumpkins. The pumpkin is carved for Halloween. Simple text and pictures are effective in storytelling.
Five Little Pumpkins
Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.
The first one said, “Oh, my it’s getting late”
The second one said, “There are witches in the air.”
The third one said, “But we don’t care.”
The fourth one said, “Let’s run, let’s run!”
The fifth one said, “Isn’t Halloween fun?”
Then Woooooo went the wind
And OUT went the lights.
And five little pumpkins rolled out of sight.
Pumpkin Related Activities
A felt board activity: http://www.dltk-teach.com/minibooks/halloween/felt.htm
This clip shows the traditional “sitting on a gate”:
This clip has pumpkins smiling, pouting, etc.
September 19, 2016
Happy Birthday, Johnny!
September 26th is Johnny Appleseed’s birthday. Celebrate by making or buying an apple pie. Applesauce is ridiculously easy to make and you can find many recipes on the internet. The kind of apples used influences the taste, so try making two different batches with different apples and compare tastes.
The following titles are biographies. The authors/illustrators are some of the best. Lindbergh, daughter of author Anne Morrow Lindbergh, has written several children’s books in rhyme. Kellogg is known for his tall tale books. Aliki and Yolen have been popular for many years for their non-fiction and realistic fiction books. Moses, grandson of “Grandma” Moses, has a similar folk style to his illustrations.
Johnny Appleseed by Reeve Lindbergh- poetry
The Story of Johnny Appleseed by Aliki
Johnny Appleseed by Steven Kellogg
Who is Johnny Appleseed? by Joan Holub and Anna DiVito
Johnny Appleseed, The Legend and the Truth by Jane Yolen
Johnny Appleseed, The Story of a Legend by Will Moses
Seed by Seed: The Legend and Legacy of John “Appleseed” Chapman byEsme Raji Codell
September 9, 2016
Happy Birthday, Tomie de Paola!
September features Tomie de Paola’s birthday, Sept. 15th. De Paola is legendary for his long string of books with simple, meaningful stories and wonderful illustrations. Besides his fiction books, he also does non-fiction. The Popcorn Book, The Cloud Book and The Quicksand Book are examples of his nonfiction great for communicating concepts simply.
Read The Popcorn Book to the child/children in your life, and then make popcorn. I can highly recommend the Lekue Microwave Popcorn Popper. It’s available on amazon.com for under $20. It’s silicone, collapsible, with a suction lid, and makes the best popcorn in a short time.
September’s AG Book of the Month is The Apple Orchard Riddle, by Margaret McNamara and G. Brian Karas. McNamara & Karas have brought back Mr. Tiffin and his class, last seen in How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?, a former AG Book of the Month. On a trip to an apple orchard, Mr. Tiffin gives his class a riddle to solve. “Show me a little red house with no windows and no door, but with a star inside.” As the students tour the orchard grounds, they make guesses. The end papers for the hardcover edition has illustrations of different kinds of apples. The last page of the book is Mr. Tiffin’s Apple Orchard Facts.
October 30, 2015
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know…
Julia Rothman has written and illustrated a remarkable pair of books to use as research or to just dip into at random.
Farm Anatomy: The Curious Parts & Pieces of Country Life covers everything remotely associated with life on a farm. With chapters such as ‘Raised in a Barn’, ‘Tools of the Trade’ and ‘Separating the Sheep from the Goats’, this book brims with illustrations, explanations, recipes, step by step sequences and dissections. Parts of a harness, breeds of sheep, how to plow a field and the varieties of squash, they are all there in colorful pages.
Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts & Pieces of the Natural World combines art and science in its visual tour of the natural world. Illustrations of wildflowers, the anatomy of a bee, fog vs mist and intriguing bird behavior are a few of the topics covered in the 217 pages of the book.
Both of these books would be good to have around for children to open at random and look at Rothman’s remarkable illustrations.
October 12, 2015
October’s AG Book: Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller – an Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor, and a Charlotte Zolotow Honor book.
Who says children don’t love vegetables? Sophie certainly does, as her best friend is a yellow squash she has named Bernice. Even though Bernice is supposed to be dinner, Sophie draws a smiling face on her and convinces two very tolerant parents to let her keep the gourd as a playmate. The two have tea parties, somersault down the hill, go to library storytime, and have sleepovers. As the summer wanes, Mom is always exploring new recipes for cooking Bernice before she rots away altogether. “Don’t listen, Bernice!” Sophie cries in terror, shielding her friend. In the fall a blotchy Bernice seems softer and “her somersaults lacked their usual style,” so Sophie plants her in the garden.
This Holiday season, with so much emphasis on food, take a minute with your class or family to make cards or write a note thanking farmers for their contributions. If you don’t know a local farmer to send them to, mail them to your county’s Board of Agriculture and ask them to distribute them.
Sussex County Board of Agriculture, One Spring Street, Newton, NJ 07860
August 28, 2015
School and Fall Arrive Too Soon…
Fall is just around the corner. Use a rainy day to create bird feeders for the winter. Visit https://www.audubon.org/news/make-bird-feeder-out-recycled-materials?utm_source=engagement&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2015-08-27_email_wingspan at the Audubon Society’s website for easy directions.
What to make for lunch and snacks? Check out the 50 Back to School Lunchbox Ideas at http://www.food.com/slideshow/back-to-school-lunch-box-ideas-111.
Farmers’ Markets have a few more weeks of fresh produce left. Google your county for a list of markets near you. Many sell more than just veggies.
July 8, 2015
Summer Means Farms and Fairs!
This month’s AG book is This is the Farmer by author/illustrator Nancy Tafuri. Perfect for young children, it has a circular story, beginning with the words in the title. With inch high text and large illustrations that swallow up the pages, the story is perfect for a group or one on one. A mouse makes its appearance and can be found in the illustrations throughout the story.
Tafuri was awarded a Caldecott* Honor medal for Have You Seen My Duckling? Other books she has written/illustrated are Spots, Feathers, and Curly Tails; Early Morning in the Barn, and a series of board books.
This is the time of year to visit a country fair. The New Jersey State Fair®/ Sussex County Farm & Horse Show is the largest agricultural fair in the Garden State. You can find information and a schedule at www.njstatefair.org.
Whether you can get to a fair or not, try these fair-centered books! A Fabulous Fair Alphabet by Debra Frasier has illustrations inspired by the lighting of the midway signs. Frasier made use of her fair-going experiences to fill the alphabet with entries like C- for cotton candy, and E-eat everything.
Night at the Fair is by another author/illustrator, Donald Crews. This book captures the special magic of the carnival at night when the sky is black but the lights are bright. There is limited text in this as well, making for a good conversation starter. Crews received two Caldecott* Honor medals for Freight Train and Truck.
The ultimate fair book is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. Wilbur goes to the Fair and becomes famous because of Charlotte’s “Some Pig” weaving. This is a wonderful summer read aloud to younger children, with its messages about friendship and life.
*The Caldecott Medal is awarded annually to the best illustrated children’s book published that year. Honor books are also given medals.
June 16, 2015
I am a huge fan of The Classroom Bookshelf, a blog written by a group of Boston professors. I have found several wonderful books to add to my agricultural library, as well as the just-super-all-around The Day the Crayons Quit. They take a sabbatical during the summer, but have posted the lists below for parents mean enough to make their children read during the summer. There is enough here to make anyone happy.
2015 Summer Readings Lists
Reading Rockets: Get Ready For Summer!
Collaborative Summer Library Program
ALA: Library Summer Reading Programs
ALA: 2015 Notable Children’s Books
The Horn Book – 2015 Summer Reading Recommendations
Lee and Low Books Diverse Summer Reading Book List, K-8
We Need Diverse Books Summer Reading Series
Children’s Choices (International Reading Association)
Teachers’ Choices (International Reading Association)
Children’s Book Council: Building a Home Library
Booklist Top 10 Biographies of 2015
Note: Classroom Bookshelf selections listed-
Brown Girl Dreaming
Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Trees
The Family Romanov
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus
Great Kid Books: Berkeley School Libraries K-5 Summer Reading Suggestions Based on Fountas and Pinnell Levels
Enhancing Summer Reading White Paper
PBS Parents: Fun Summer Science Projects for Kids
Text Sets for Summer Reading: Cambridge, MA
Audio Books for Families
We love audio books for long car rides with the family. Many public libraries now have downloadable audio books that you can listen to on an MP3 player, iPad, or iPod. Check in with your local public library and share the details with parents and students before the year is over. You might want to search for some of the books included in these lists below.
The Audies Awards 2015 (Audio Book Awards)
2015 Notable Children’s Recordings (American Library Association)
2015 Notable Young Adult Recordings (American Library Association)
Resources for Teachers/Parents
Literacy Tips for Parents (Reading Rockets)
Summer Reading Loss (Reading Rockets)
Summer Reading Loss: School Library Journal Interview with Dick Allington
American Library Association Great Websites for Kids
The Cooperative Center for Books for Children Bibliographies
50 Bilingual Spanish/English Integrated Books (CCBC)
International Children’s Digital Library
Free digital PDFs of children’s picture books from around the globe in their original language. There is an iPad app that allows for easy viewing on your iPad.Start With a Book
School Library Journal article on Range, an app that locates free summer meals and libraries as safe havens
June 4, 2015
Summertime is here again!
Only 2+ weeks until summer! What will your children be doing? Check out the June AG Book of the Month – A Nest is Noisy – and reasons for letting your kids play outdoors. June AG Book of the Month: A Nest is Noisy written by Diana Hutts Aston; Illustrated by Sylvia Long, published by Chronicle Books, 2015.
From Amazon.com “From the award-winning creators of An Egg Is Quiet, A Seed Is Sleepy, A Butterfly Is Patient, and A Rock Is Lively comes this gorgeous and informative look at the fascinating world of nests. From tiny bee hummingbird nests to orangutan nests high in the rainforest canopy, an incredible variety of nests are showcased here in all their splendor. Poetic in voice and elegant in design, this carefully researched book introduces children to a captivating array of nest facts and will spark the imaginations of children whether in a classroom reading circle or on a parent’s lap.”
May 11, 2015
Springtime in New Jersey
The Book of the Month for May is And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano.It illustrates how hard it is for children to wait during the endless weeks of brown following planting until your seedlings come up. If you have a garden, or even plant a seed in a cup, this is a good followup.
Amazon Best Books of the Month for Kids, February 2012: And Then It’s Spring pays homage to the hopefulness and anticipation that accompanies planting the first seeds of spring in the dark soil of winter–waiting, checking, waiting, wondering if the first green shoots will ever come and imagining all the things that could have gone wrong for those little seeds. Then one day spring is suddenly, gloriously, here–replacing the brown with shades of green happiness. Amazon.com
Start a spring windowsill garden with seeds from lemons, apples, grapefruit- anything you have around the kitchen. Put a paper towel in a clear container and wedge the seeds between the container’s side and the paper. Keep the paper moist. Children will see the seed germinate and sprout.
April 14, 2015
Springtime Ideas for Beginning Writers- Quick activities to practice letter formation and simple sentences.
Springtime from A to Z:
On a balmy afternoon, take kids on a walk around your school or neighborhood. Give partners a clipboard and piece of paper to share. Work as a group to spot items that begin with each letter of the alphabet, such as bluebird for B, daffodil for D, and worm for W. Have partners take turns writing down your discoveries, modeling correct spelling and letter formation if necessary. Encourage students to be creative. Perhaps that bee is the Queen (for Q), for example. Discuss which letters are hardest to find. Why do students think so?
Emotion Poems: April is National Poetry Month, so share some of the poetry of jack Prelutsky, Shel Silverstein, Douglas Florian and others. As a class, discuss how good poetry is often about different emotions. Write some of these emotions on a chart, such as happy, surprised, sad, and angry. Invite students to choose one of these emotions and write it at the top of a blank page. Then ask them to illustrate how they feel when they are experiencing that emotion. At the bottom of the page, have kids complete the prompt, “When I feel… I …”
Waterproof Windsock by Valerie Deneen: Just in time for spring, this windsock is made entirely of recycled materials, making this craft project easy, inexpensive and waterproof. Decorate your garden, porch or front lawn with a weather-durable windsock in just a few steps.
Materials: scissors, string, plastic bags, an empty large soda bottle
1. Cut a ring from the middle of the soda bottle- be careful of sharp edges.
2. Cut one inch wide strips out of the plastic bags. If you have colored bags you can use a variety to make your windsock multicolored.
3. Fold each strip in half and thread the folded end through the soda bottle ring. You should have a loop on one side of the ring and the tails on the other.
4. Thread the tails of the plastic strip through the loop and pull gently. Repeat with all of your plastic strips until the soda bottle ring is completely covered.
5. Tightly tie each end of the string around the soda bottle ring and use the loose string to hang your windsock on any hook. Hang securely and enjoy.
April 6, 2015
Spring is here!
AG Book of the Month: A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long
This month’s book is a good introduction to spring planting. Each double spread of pages has a simple sentence- “A seed comes in many sizes.”- and has an additional paragraph of explanation- the smallest and largest seeds and their sizes. The illustrations are large and detailed. Each seed is identified and labeled. The end papers contain illustrations of all the seeds.
This pair also produced An Egg is Quiet, A Butterfly is Patient and A Rock is Lively. For resources visit www.chroniclekids.com.
March 27, 2015
The Sap is Flowing!
It’s maple syrup season. Did you know it takes 40 spoonfuls of sap to make one spoonful of syrup? Maple syrup comes in four grades or flavors. Extra light is the first tapping of the season and is very sweet. Light syrup has a stronger flavor, from sap collected after the first tapping. Medium syrup is the color of weak tea and is collected even later and is stronger tasting than light. Amber syrup is dark. It is made from the last of the sap collected before the leaves bud.
Some books to check out that tells about tapping trees and making syrup are:
• Sugaring Time by Kathryn Lasky
• At Grandpa’s Sugarbush by Margaret Carney
• Sugar on Snow by Nan Parson Rossiter
• Sugaring by Jessie Haas
• Sugar Snow by Laura Ingalls Wilder
• Sugar White Snow and Evergreens- A Winter Wonderland of Color by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky
March 16, 2015
Sweetness before Spring!
It’s the season for tapping maple trees for sap. Consider reading one of the books below:
Sugarbush Spring by Marsha Wilson Chall has wonderfully realistic paintings telling the story of Rosie’s Grandpa’s sugaring at his farm. Although the book is set in modern times, the essential process hasn’t changed for two hundred years.
Sugaring Time by Kathryn Lasky is illustrated with black & white illustrations. This book has a lot of text, better for elementary, but the photos are useful for any age. Newbery Honor Book
At Grandpa’s Sugar Bush by Margaret Carney outlines the sugaring process through the eyes of a grandson helping his grandfather. The book has great paintings for illustrations and not a great deal of text.
Sugar on Snow by Nan Parson Rossiter features a farm family- mother, father and two sons- working at sugaring. It has quite a bit of text.
Sugaring by Jessie Haas is similar to Sugarbush Spring, but with less text. It has the Grandfather/Granddaughter dynamic, with a Vermont setting.
Sugar Snow by Laura Ingalls Wilder is from the My First Little House Books series. It has large illustrations and minimum text where Pa explains about his day at Grandpa’s making syrup.
Sugar White Snow & Evergreens – A Winter Wonderland of Color by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky is the third farm book this New Jersey [“where the snowfalls are measured with a yardstick”] author has written. This one highlights colors a family sees on the way to a farm to see about syrup and have breakfast. [Chernesky lives in Flemington, NJ & does author visits. She has books about agriculture that use color, shapes & numbers. Let us know if you want her contact information.]
January 16, 2015
The Search for Reading Gold!
Looking for good books for your class or your children? Amazon.com has great lists on its website. Enter children’s books in the search bar and the lists below will come up on the left side of the screen.
The Children’s Bookshelf gives you books in an age appropriate list. From baby to age 12, click on the age and find books rated by editors and the public.
Award Winning Children’s Books lists the winning and honor books for the Caldecott, Newbery, Children’ Choice and others. It’s also broken down by age.
Best Books of the Month has a list for kids and teens each month. There are lists broken down by age including teen/young adult, plus an ‘editors’ gift picks for children of all ages’.
Best Children’s Books of 2014 gives that plus editors’ picks by age. You can also access a list for teens and adults.
100 Children’s Books to Read in a Lifetime is a list compiled from votes of members of Goodreads.
For the Birds!
Introduce your children or class to some good books on birds such as those below:
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
No Two Alike by Keith Baker
Birds, Nests and Eggs by Mel Boring
You can find a good book from the lists on the websites below.
On snow days, or days when the temps outside dip ridiculously low and NO ONE wants to budge outside, think about making bird feeders. You don’t need to have a tree; a deck railing can work as well.
-Toilet Paper rolls or paper towel rolls cut in half
-1 Jar of Peanut butter
-1 small bowl
-A plastic knife
Once you have all of your items together, start by putting the peanut butter in the small bowl. Using the plastic knife, spread the peanut butter onto the paper roll. Be sure to check that the peanut butter isn’t gobbed onto the roll . You want a nice layer of peanut butter smoothed out over the toilet roll.
Finally, spread some birdseed onto the plate. Take the paper roll covered in peanut butter and roll it on the plate attaching the birdseed to the roll.
After that, take your new bird feeder outside, slide it onto a branch, and your tree is now the place to be for hungry birds!
Craft stick bird feeder
• 50 popsicle sticks
• 1 large popsicle stick (tongue depresser)
• 1 bag of bird seed
• 1 tub of outdoor paint optional
• 2 long pieces of hemp cord to hang their bird feeder
• 1 Elmer’s X-TREME glue
• 2 glitter glue sticks optional
To make the bird feeder:
• Line up 12 popsicle sticks. Glue 2 sticks across them. Turn it over.
• Do a second row of popsicle sticks going in the opposite direction to strengthen the base (I actually did this at the end because it was a last minute decision, but doing it at the beginning will give it more support as you build).
• Alternate popsicle sticks around the frame once.
• Glue down to the tongue depresser.
• Continue alternating popsicle sticks around the outside until you have 6 rows, gluing each popsicle stick down as you go. Set aside to dry.
• Let the kids paint their bird feeder, and set aside to dry.
• Parents: using a hot glue gun, attach the hemp cord to the underside of the bird feeder.
• Thread the cord underneath the top round of popsicle sticks (as shown above) and again, glue using a hot glue gun.
Egg Carton Bird Feeder
Egg Carton Bird Feeders are a great way to recycle egg cartons while feeding the beautiful birds of the world. With minimal supplies, you can create an eco-friendly way to invite little guests into the yard.
1. Carefully cut off top of egg carton and punch hole in four corners.
2. Cut two pieces of string about a foot long each.
3. Thread string through holes diagonally and tie ends into knots over corners. Use a dab of glue for extra security.
4. Add bird seed and enjoy the birds!
Simple Upcycled Bird Feeder
Here’s what you’ll need:
• a 20 oz empty soda bottle
• 2 wooden spoons (I picked mine up at the thrift store for .25 cents ea) or two dowels
• some string or twine
• an Xacto knife
• bird seed
Wash out and dry your empty soda bottle and remove the label. Mark with a pen where you want the wooden spoon perches to go on your bottle. I placed one set of holes approximately 1 inch higher than the other, on opposite sides of the bottle. Then using the Xacto knife, cut “X’s” in the plastic over the pen marks that are just barely big enough to push the wooden spoons ends through. Insert your spoons, end first, until the “spoon” part butts up against the plastic. This will be the bird’s feeding perch. I then cut a slightly bigger opening above where the perch was (using the Xacto knife) to allow a little bit of seed to come out. Now fill your bottle with seed (a funnel comes in very handy for this!) and put the cap on. Turn the bottle upside down and add a hanger by wrapping jute (or whatever you have handy) several times around the body of the bottle, tying in a knot on one side, then take another piece of jute and repeat, tying into a knot on the opposite side of the bottle. Now bring those ends up and tie together at the top. Now go find a place to hang where the birdies will find it, use it,…and ideally…where you can also see it. I haven’t seen any visitors to my feeder YET…but I remain hopeful.
More Winter Bird Feeding Tips:
• Keep feeders full when winter is toughest. Bird feeders are most attractive to birds in winter, when natural food supplies are least available. Seeds that are merely a welcome supplement under normal winter conditions may suddenly become vital in the space of one fierce ice storm or blizzard.
• Feeders should be located out of the wind. The east or southeast side of a house or near a row of trees is ideal. It is best to have a perching spot such as a bush or tree for the birds to use to survey the feeding area and provide sufficient cover for safe refuge from predators and shelter from the wind and weather. The feeders should be positioned near cover but in the open to allow birds to watch for danger.
• Oil sunflower is a great overall seed to offer in the winter. It has a high calorie/ounce ratio due to its high fat and protein content and its relatively thin shell.
• Suet is a great food to offer many of the birds that will visit backyards in the winter. Suet is a high energy, pure fat substance which is invaluable in winter when insects are harder to find and birds need many more calories to keep their bodies warm.
• Peanuts are another great food to offer birds in the wintertime. Peanuts have high protein and fat levels and are often an ingredient in suet products.
• Clean off feeders, platforms and perches after each storm so seed is easily accessible.
• Leave fruit and berries on trees, hedges and bushes to provide a natural source of food throughout the winter.
• Add a heated birdbath to your backyard or place a safe heating element in a regular birdbath to provide birds with liquid water.
• Stamp or shovel snow around feeders to provide easier access to spilled seed for ground feeding birds.
• Leave nesting boxes and birdhouses up all year round to provide winter roosting sites.
Three Fantastic Websites for Young Birders:
1) National Geographic Backyard Birding website — An excellent source of information about birds. This website includes a backyard birds quiz, a backyard birds identifier tool, and a backyard birds A-Z directory with information about numerous bird species (including recordings of bird calls!).
2) Project FeederWatch website — Home of Cornell University’s Project FeederWatch, a winter-long survey of birds that visit feeders in North America. At this website, you can sign up to participate in Project FeederWatch. Children as well as adults are encouraged to identify and count birds that visit feeders and submit their data to scientists. All participants receive a bird identification poster, a wall calendar, and a bird feeding resource guide. In addition, the Project FeederWatch website has a Homeschooler’s Guide to Project FeederWatch with wonderful suggestions for teaching kids about birds.
3) NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat website — Home of the National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat program. This website provides extensive information about attracting birds and other wildlife to your backyard and the opportunity to get your backyard certified as an NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat. My kids have been very excited about working towards the goal of creating a certified backyard wildlife habitat and, having just submitted our application, are looking forward to receiving a NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat yard sign.
January 5, 2015
Winter has definitely arrived so it’s a good time to examine the physical world even if it’s from the comfort of inside our warm houses.
Book of the Month: Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, has been around for a while but I think it will be a classic. Illustrations by Mary Azarian, of A Farmer’s Alphabet fame, won the 1999 Caldecott Medal for best illustrated children’s book.
“Of all the forms of water the tiny six-pointed crystals of ice called snow are incomparably the most beautiful and varied.” — Wilson Bentley (1865-1931)
From the time he was a small boy in Vermont, Wilson Bentley saw snowflakes as small miracles. And he determined that one day his camera would capture for others the wonder of the tiny crystal. Bentley’s enthusiasm for photographing snowflakes was often misunderstood in his time, but his patience and determination revealed two important truths: no two snowflakes are alike; and each one is startlingly beautiful. His story is gracefully told and brought to life in lovely woodcuts, giving children insight into a soul who had not only a scientist’s vision and perseverance but a clear passion for the wonders of nature.
From Publishers Weekly
Azarian’s (A Farmer’s Alphabet) handsome woodcuts provide a homespun backdrop to Martin’s (Grandmother Bryant’s Pocket) brief biography of a farmboy born in 1865 on the Vermont snowbelt who never lost his fascination with snowflakes. Wilson A. Bentley spent 50 years pioneering the scientific study of ice crystals, and developed a technique of microphotography that allowed him to capture the hexagonal shapes and prove that no two snowflakes are alike. Martin conveys Bentley’s passion in lyrical language (“snow was as beautiful as butterflies, or apple blossoms”), and punctuates her text with frequent sidebars packed with intriguing tidbits of information (though readers may be confused by the two that explain Bentley’s solution of how to photograph the snowflakes). Hand-tinted with watercolors and firmly anchored in the rural 19th century, Azarian’s woodcuts evoke an era of sleighs and woodstoves, front porches and barn doors, and their bold black lines provide visual contrast to the delicate snowflakes that float airily in the sidebars. A trio of Bentley’s ground-breaking black-and-white photographs of snowflakes, along with a picture and quote from him about his love for his work, is the icing that tops off this attractive volume. Ages 4-8.
• Take children outside when there’s a gentle snowfall and give them a piece of dark paper [black construction paper is the best.] When they capture the snowflakes on the paper, they will be able to see some individual flakes.
• Watch this 4+ minute video of snowflakes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8HYqUjbKeM
• AFTER you have read this aloud, let the children watch it themselves:
• This month go to http://monthbymonth.scholastic.com/create
for some winter craft projects involving penguins, snowmen and snowflakes.
Scholastic also has a parent section on its website. Check there for good articles and ideas, such as the one below.
Scholastic Parents: Raise a Reader
8 Tips for Getting Your Kids to Read Over Winter Break
How to make reading fun while school is out.
By Allison McDonald
on December 24, 2014
Looking for some ways to get your kids to read over winter break? Try these 8 ideas:
1. Give books as gifts for Christmas or Hanukkah. Novelty isn’t just a motivator for children — all of us like the shiny new thing we just unwrapped. It’s human nature, so why not use it to promote reading.
2. Tame the nagging dragon. I am a bossy mom. I am. I have to tame my natural desire to nag my kids a lot. When we nag — even if we are nagging about something fun — we suck the fun out of it. Don’t suck the fun out of reading by always suggesting your kids go read.
3. Don’t oversell books. “This is the BEST book ever!” Is it? Really? If we oversell the book we might end up falling flat. Instead approach books as mysteries. “I heard this was really good, but I want to know what you think!”
4. Start a great book NOW. My 8-year-old and I are reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and tonight he suggested we go to bed early every night so we can get 20 extra minutes of reading in because he wants to be able to watch the film (gotta read the book first!) during winter break. He’s 8 and he’s suggesting we go to bed EARLY to read. I wish I could say that is because I am such a great mom, but it has more to do with J.K. Rowling being such a great author.
5. Have a book exchange. For younger kids you could call it a playdate, but older ones might prefer to have it deemed a party. The activities are the same. Everyone bring a book to trade. This is a great way to re-gift any books that were gifted to your kids that they already own or have no interest in reading.
6. Make time to do nothing. Think about why you read at the beach or on vacation or on a plane. Because there is nothing else to do. I adore reading but life gets busy and sometimes I need it to slow All. The. Way. Down. before I remember to snuggle up with a book. Why do we expect any different from our kids? Start planning do-nothing-days and let their boredom push them to the bookcase.
7. Pack books for the planes, trains, and automobiles you will be riding in if you travel over the break. Whether you pack a bunch of heavy books or fill up your eReader have them ready and they will get read.
8. Slow down and let your kids see you reading. Not only will it be good for you to slow down in general but kids who see their parents read for pleasure are much more likely to read for pleasure themselves.
December 15, 2014
Winter is coming!
Winter officially begins on December 21st, but northwest New Jersey has already received its first snowfall of the year. When it’s snowing outside, and you are snug inside, pick up a good book about winter. Check the list below and be prepared.
Fiction books about winter:
It’s Snowing, It’s Snowing! By Jack Prelutsky- poems
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Time to Sleep by Denise Flemming
Frederick by Leo Lionni
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
The Jacket I Wear in the Snow by Shirley Nietzel
Every Autumn Comes the Bear by Jim Arnosky
The Mitten by Jan Brett
Snowballs by Lois Ehlert
Stranger in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy by Carl R. Sams , Jean Stoick
There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow by Louise Colandro
Non-fiction books about winter:
Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs
The Secret Life of a Snowflake: An Up-Close Look at the Art and Science of Snowflakes by Kenneth Libbrecht
When Winter Comes Written by Nancy Van Laan
Winter by Steven Schnurr
For a more complete list with links to amazon.com, go to: Winter Books
November 13, 2014
AG Book of the Month: Cranberry Thanksgiving by Harry & Wende Devlin
This is an oldie but a goodie. Check your local library for a copy. Its part of a series about a little girl being raised by her grandmother and whose friend is an old sea captain. Each of the books in the series contains a cranberry recipe. This one has a cranberry bread recipe that is a good introduction of cranberries for children. It contains orange juice and has a sweet/tart taste.
Two activities to incorporate with the reading of this book and/or making the bread are to test the freshness of cranberries. Fresh cranberries float, and they also bounce.
Ocean Sprays website [ www.oceanspray.com/Who-We-Are/Harvest/Cranberry.aspx ] has wonderful pictures of cranberry harvesting, including a live bog cam.
October 15, 2014
AG Book of the Month: Patient for Pumpkins by Linda L. Kroll
From Amazon.com: Seasonal fruits, vegetables, and other produce from local farms play an important part of a healthy, ethical diet. Encouraging children to eat local food in harmony with the seasons, Patient for Pumpkins tells the story of T.J., a boy who accompanies his father to the farmers’ market and enjoys the changes in fruits and vegetables as the year progresses. Families looking to introduce the concept of seasonal availability of produce to young children will be delighted by this children’s book by Linda L. Knoll, a lifelong resident of Northern California who is a professionally trained artist with a teaching credential.
In Patient for Pumpkins, young T.J. attends the farmers’ market with his father, going to and from the market throughout the seasons, first savoring broccoli and berries, then onions and potatoes, then late summer tomatoes, all the while anticipating the pumpkins and asking when they’ll be ready. His father reminds him of the value of patience and what a wonderful reward it will be once the pumpkins are finally available. Alongside this richly illustrated story are informative sidebars, describing and illustrating the ongoing development of the pumpkin patch back at the farm, highlighting the parts of the pumpkin plant and their various stages of growth in the months leading up to the October harvest.
When autumn arrives and the pumpkins finally make it to the farmers’ market, T.J. selects his favorite to take home. A sidebar goes on to explain how the farmers plow the leftover vines back into the land for the next season’s crops. A checklist of fruits and vegetables commonly available at farmers’ markets is provided at the end of the book to encourage children to sample new produce and develop healthy eating habits.
I particularly like how this book shows on the sidebar the progress of pumpkin from preparing the field to harvest. The illustrations of the produce are large and colorful.
Do pumpkins float? Fill the sink or a bucket with water and find out! Ask children their opinion and what they base it on. Then try it out. Does the size of the pumpkin make a difference?
October 3, 2014
Cooking with children incorporates math and language arts- reading recipes, learning new vocabulary, measuring, working with temperature and time… as well as being a pleasurable bonding experience.
From Edible Jersey Magazine newsletter:
Apple Sandwiches with Granola & Peanut Butter
2 small apples, cored and cut crosswise into ½ inch thick rounds
1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)
3 tablespoons peanut or almond butter
2 tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons granola
If you won’t be eating these tasty treats right away, start by brushing the apple slices with lemon juice to keep them from turning brown. Spread one side of half of the apple slices with peanut or almond butter, then sprinkle with chocolate chips and granola. Top with remaining apple slices, pressing down gently to make the sandwiches. Transfer to napkins or plates and serve.
Summer always seems limitless when it’s July. Sixty plus days marching straight out in front of you- how are you going to fill them up? Much too soon it’s Fair time in Sussex County. As exciting as that can be for kids, the reality is that school is right around the corner.
So now when the end of summer looks no where in sight, it’s a good time to find something that your child can do to enter in the Fair. It’s always much more fun to visit your exhibit! Many of the divisions in the Fair- baking, canning, handcrafts, vegetable show, art & photography shows, flower show, etc. have classes that are specifically for children. Visit www.njstatefair.org and click on ‘exhibitors’ to find child friendly classes.
With so much fresh produce showing up in farmers’ markets, have your child find out where all these plants come from. Use seeds from apples, oranges and other fruits, or garden seeds of the larger variety such as watermelon, corn or peas to show how plants germinate. Line a plastic glass with a napkin or paper towel. Sandwich the seeds between the class and the paper and dampen it. Put in a sunny spot and keep the paper damp. After a few days your child will observe some changes. You can encourage writing by making an observation chart or journal. Just put down the date and have your child write or dictate a sentence or two about what he/she observes. Once your seed starts to put forth a stem, you can do some math by measuring every week.
April Pulley Sayre’s books Rah, Rah, Radishes! A Vegetable Chant, and Go, Go, Grapes! A Fruit Chant have great photographs of a large variety of fruits and vegetables taken at farmers’ markets. The chants- oh, boy, bok choy!- are catchy and fun as well.
September 22, 2014
Fall is Coming!
With the cold nights, the foliage is starting to change color. Have your children collect a variety of colored leaves and put them between layers of newspaper to flatten for several hours. Then put them between two layers of wax paper and iron. The wax paper adheres and the leaf is trapped between. Wait until the wax cools and trim around the leaf.
You can make a hole at the top of each wax leaf and string them to make a mobile on a clothes hanger.
You can overlap the leaves instead of doing them singly.
You can shave crayon around the leaves. When you iron, the crayon melts and spreads.
Into the Forest
The Ad Council has produced a series of commercials for the U.S. Forest Service called Discover the Forest [www.discovertheforest.org] Click on http://www.discovertheforest.org/about/ to view the four commercials that highlight the wonder of the out of doors for children- even our screen obsessed children of today. It gives you a way to locate a forest near you.
Northern NJ has some wonderful walking paths. In the past, I have taken 3rd, 4th and 5th graders to Tillmans Ravine in Stokes State Forest, along with the adjacent Buttermilk Falls. The Ravine has well marked paths, originally created by the Civilian Conservation Corps, established by President Franklin Roosevelt to put men back to work.
Children who are used to concentrating on a screen get to take a 360-degree look at the world around them. Things we might take for granted like moss growing on a rock, or fungi on a tree are eye-opening sights for children. Fun can be had by something as simple as throwing rocks into a stream and listening to the different sounds the different sized rocks make.
You don’t need to be channeling Theodore Roosevelt, the conservation president to introduce your child to the great outdoors. It’s free and a great chance to watch your children discovering their world.
Teachers: There is no admission/parking fee for most state parks.