To Zoo or Not to Zoo...Ethical Animal Experiences

Visits to zoos, circuses, aquariums, farms and animal theme parks are classic summer day trips and school-year field trips that allow children to interact with and learn about animals.  However, most of these experiences come at the expense of a free and natural life for the animals involved.  Lately I've been contemplating how we can give children opportunities to experience animals first-hand while respecting the lives of the animals.
It's always a good idea to start with some background reading.
 What's New? The Zoo!: A Zippy History of Zoos by Kathleen Krull is a fun historical summary of zoos written for kids.  The book highlights zoos throughout history including some designed for animal protection and others assembled purely for the private amusement of wealthy people without regard for animal needs or feelings.  Krull's zoo timeline helps readers consider the intentions behind past and present animal enclosures and can help begin a conversation about the probable goals of the zoos and other animal experiences in your town.

After considering the value of zoos, we are still left with the question: where can we ethically interact with animals? One Green Planet has several suggestions that fall into two major categories.

1. Sanctuaries, Rescues, and Rehabilitation Centers
These centers distinguish themselves from traditional zoos and theme parks by devoting themselves entirely to rescuing, protecting, healing, and when possible, releasing animals back to their natural habitats.  Centers exist for the protection of various wild and domestic animals, and they often offer tours, children's programs, and volunteering opportunities.  You can easily locate facilities like these in your area using a search engine.

2. Natural Habitats
Other options for animal experiences exist all around us.  Visit the beach to see ocean animals up close.  Head to a river, pond, or other nearby waterway to watch fresh-water animals and other critters that make use of the water source.  Grab your binoculars and visit a bird observatory or even just spend some time watching the animals in your own backyard.  Hike through a forest, drive across a desert, or stomp/splash/sneak through nearby areas with limited human settlement to see animals in their real homes.

3. Virtual Visits
Most families and schools have an easy third option thanks to high-quality video and the Internet.  If you want to experience animals that are difficult to locate in your area, watch a documentary about them or find a live-stream of animals in far-away places.  The Audubon Society has prepared a list of high-quality wildlife web cams.  National Geographic has a database of videos collected through their CritterCam and WildCam programs which allow viewers to see animals in their wild homes.

What are your favorite ways to learn about animals while respecting their rights?


International Women's Day

March is Women's History Month, and March 8 is International Women's Day, a day to commemorate the ongoing struggle for women's rights.  Learning about inspiring women and girls is a great way to participate in this day, and there are some amazing books available to help you.

Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History . . . and Our Future! is a super cool books that highlights the bravery and contributions of 25 American women as well as the unknown ladies whose accomplishments were never recorded.  The book concludes with a list of 26 ways the reader can be rad.  After reading, visit the Rad Women website, where you can learn more about great heroines and print a set of posters to go with the book.

Author, Laurie Halse Anderson, has written books perfect for celebrating International Women's Day.

Independent Dames: What You Never Knew About the Women and Girls of the American Revolution tells the stories of women and girls who contributed to our victory in the American Revolution, and Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving explains how Sarah Hale led the campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.

The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps, Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa, Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan: Two Stories of Bravery, Nasreen's Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, and The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq are all written by Jeanette Winter.  Each book tells the story of a trailblazing woman or girl who changed the world through her own hard work and determination.

Once you've read about some amazing heroines, students can react and reflect about the stories.  Visit Make Beliefs Comix to find some printable writing prompts that ask students to imagine a conversation they could have with a favorite woman from history or plan discussion points about advancing the rights of women.

You can also head to Alpha Mom to find a printable that encourages students to illustrate and describe a woman they admire.


Mapping Panem

Did you know that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has an entire webpage devoted to mapping the districts in The Hunger Games Series?  This page, which uses BLS data to help users determine where in North America each of the fictional districts must be located, is part of the BLS Career Outlook series.

The article explains, "To use data to find the districts of Panem, you’ll need to look for areas with the highest location quotients for the industries and occupations associated with each district."

This is a fantastic activity that challenges students to use math and social studies skills to analyze real data about the United States to draw conclusions about a very popular book and movie series.

This is a far more scientific approach than my attempt, a few years back, to map the Hunger Games arena.


Stories of Refugees and Immigration

The best cures I know for misunderstandings between people are conversations and books.  Lately, it seems, we in the United States are engulfed in conflicts between people who are having trouble understanding each other's points of view.  One of the contentious topics is immigration...who should be allowed to visit or live in the United States and under what circumstances.  To help young readers grapple with this question, I am sharing stories about refugees and immigrants who along with their descendants are, after all, the vast majority of our country's population.

Coming to America: The Story of Immigration is one great story that provides an overview of the history of immigration in the United States.  Readers may also be interested in reading historical fiction accounts of the experiences of immigrants.

If you're looking for books on this topic that you can share with the children in your life, there are a few great lists already published by very reputable sources.

School Library Journal - Tales of Child Refugees and Safe Havens

The Horn Book - Refugee Children

Additionally, Teaching Tolerance has an article for educators including many facts about refugees and immigrants.  This detailed guide can provide helpful background information for adults who are hoping to facilitate student conversations about the current, and eternal, topic.

After reading some of these great books, students can reflect on U.S. immigration policy using a fantastic printable prompt from Make Beliefs Comix that asks students to think about what the Statue of Liberty thinks of President Trump's executive order banning immigration from certain countries.

Groundhog Day

Last week, we learned from Punxsutawney Phil that we can expect six more weeks of winter.  Groundhog Day is such an odd tradition, especially given ol' Phil's paltry prediction accuracy.  But, it's a fun holiday that lends itself to lots of lessons about weather, seasons, and traditions.

For years, my favorite Groundhog Day read-aloud has been Punxsutawney Phyllis, partly because Phyllis is my mom's name and partly because it's a really fun story.  I even wrote to author Susanna Leonard Hill to tell her how much I love sharing her book each year, and she let me order a signed copy for my mom.

This year, I have finally discovered another Groundhog Day book I totally loved reading and sharing with my students.

Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox is a fun story that includes the basics of the holiday's traditions woven into a story of unexpected friendship.  If you're looking for a fresh take on a very old topic, definitely add this title to your Groundhog Day reading list.


Scotch Laminator Fun

It's not a secret that teachers get a weird thrill out of laminating.  There is something so satisfying about making some flimsy piece of paper become sturdy and long-lasting by encasing it in plastic.  So, it's no surprise that I was ecstatic about being selected to try out and review the Scotch TL902 Thermal Laminator through House Party.
Last week a package arrived containing TWO new laminators, one for me to use and one to give away at school.  I had so much fun trying out the new machine which has a few improved features over previous models.  The TL902 is very slim and light.  Its cord and parts all fold up neatly into the machine, and the whole thing has a handle to tote it around.  It heats up quickly and laminates well.
I tested out the machine by laminating LEGO task cards for my new LEGO building center cart.  You can get these cool cards to use at school or home from Free Homeschool Deals.  This learning center will be part of my expanded library makerspace this year, and the cards will function as fun learning invitations for my students.

I will share more about my LEGO station and other makerspace excitement as they come together in the next few weeks.  In the meantime, what are you laminating as you get ready for school to start?


Snoopy and The Peanuts Gang Have Arrived

A couple of weeks ago I told you about how Snoopy is the official spokesdog for National Library Card Sign-Up Month 2015.  If your library uses library cards, you have to check out the cooler than cool Snoopy library card artwork that you can request (by emailing LibraryCard@Peanuts.com) for your new cards.  All the stir about Snoopy, the upcoming Peanuts Movie, and a Snoopy t-shirt I just received from my dearest for my birthday all inspired me to deck out our library in Snoopy swag for the new school year.  I'm not sure that I'm completely done, but the library is ready for classes to begin on Monday.  Here are a few peeks into our space.

The Peanuts Gang's love of libraries is made clear through many of Schulz' comics.  Our entrance is decked out with favorite Peanuts library quotes paired with Peanuts character cutouts.  The quotations are typed using Peanuts font, which is available for free.

Above the double doors, I used the Peanuts die-cut letters to introduce myself.

Right inside is a bulletin board outlined in Peanuts border. This is where our rules, objectives, and other important classroom information are posted.

Snoopy labels are keeping us organized at centers and on the shelving cart.

I used characters cards to label our tables and my daily binders.

Snoopy bunting above the circulation desk announces the name of our library.

Still on the shopping list are the Snoopy hat I mentioned before, and this Snoopy flash drive.
Visit the American Library Association website to get more ideas about how to leverage Snoopy to promote your library and its programs.

Are you using Snoopy and friends in your library this year?  What are your ideas?