Within classrooms of all grade levels, students spend a lot of time reading. Late winter is a great time for youth and adults alike to join a book club, or form small book groups within the classroom to discover new books together! With a plethora of books that explore the wonders of nature, as well as the challenges facing our environment, students of all ages can align their winter reading adventures with learning about the natural world around them.
Water Rocks! has done the research and hard work of putting together integrated reading lists for all grade levels. Using these lists, student book groups can choose from a variety of fiction and non-fiction books that run the gamut of topics from river adventures and wetlands, to soil, pollinators and climate change. Check out the Water Rocks! website to view and print integrated reading lists for:
Read on for both a fiction and a non-fiction selection targeted for each age group to get a sneak peak of the scientifically informed and environmental-focused reading material available to your students!
No matter where you live in the state, you don’t have to travel far to run into one of Iowa’s many rivers. Young children will get a taste of the countless adventures a winding river offers in the book “Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe” by Vera B. Williams. Narrated from a child’s point of view, this tale of one family’s journey down a river might just encourage students in your classroom to get excited about exploring a river in their own backyard!
As a child you may have recited the classic nursery rhyme, “The House that Jack Built,” enjoying the cause and effect chain of events that build on themselves as the rhyme progresses. Similarly, “Here is the Wetland,” by Madeleine Dunphy, utilizes repetitive rhythmic lyrics to explore the mysterious world of wetlands, expounding on the delicate balance of diverse life forms within wetland habitats. The cumulative prose makes this non-fiction book an excellent one for classroom read-alouds!
Chapter books offer older elementary readers more detailed stories of adventures that fuel their imaginations. One of our favorite fictive chapter books for this age group is “On the Banks of Plum Creek,” by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Part of the Little House series, this book is full of stories about the ways in which North American pioneers both worked with, and struggled under, the forces of nature. From stories of flooded creeks to prairie fires, young readers will be fascinated with this adventurous story of life on the Western frontier.
“Cracking Up: A Story about Erosion,” by Jacqui Bailey, is a great introduction to geological and earth science concepts. Using a mix of cool science facts and humorous illustrations, this book presents an introduction to the many forces of erosion in an entertaining and engaging manner.
Middle school youth will devour the quirky and comical mystery novel “Flush,” by Carl Hiaasen. The novel chronicles the saga of a young boy trying to prove that a local casino boat is dumping waste into the ocean and endangering sea life with its severe water pollution infractions. The writing is fast-paced and filled with witty satire to keep young adults engaged from beginning to end.
Students can dig into the science of ocean currents, and the way in which trash items are converted into ocean debris, by reading “Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion” by Loree Griffin Burns. The book reads like a real-life treasure hunt, following oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer and his research team as they track a variety of human-made debris from Legos to sneakers as these items travel the long journey from human consumption to ocean pollution. Unforgettable photographs will captivate students as they discover connections between ecology, oceanography, geography and pollution.
Imagine a world where climate change has become such an exponential danger to humans that nation-states begin mandating carbon rationing. “The Carbon Diaries 2015,” by Saci Lloyd, is a fictional account of one girl’s struggle to live a normal teenage life in a futuristic world where humans are ravaged by natural disasters of epic proportions. This riveting eco-thriller is sure to invoke conversations among students about climate change, environmental responsibility and human adaptability.
Author John McPhee’s book, “The Control of Nature,” consists of three essays that illuminate the great lengths that humans go to in order to both harness, and sometimes get around, the forces of nature. Part I explores the ways in which Americans have fought to re-direct and control the path of the Mississippi River, Part II examines how Icelanders attempt to control volcanic activity and lava flows, and Part III expounds the city of Los Angeles’ constant battle to support their rapidly expanding population through attempts to combat frequent mud and rockslides from the nearby San Gabriel Mountains. The complexities of the enduring battle between humans and nature are detailed in a way that will provoke high school students to think more deeply about the interplay of economics, urban development, human ingenuity and Mother Nature.