One of the dominant themes of the NGSS for elementary school is the life cycle of plants and animals. Watch this video showing one of the oldest mothers in the world. At over 63+ years old, Wisdom the Midway Albatross has hatched a new chick on February 4, 2016.
Life Cycle and Ecosystem Activities
Winged Ambassadors is a website that offers free classroom activity packet courtesy of NOAA, Oikonos, and other partners
One of the fun things about publishing a story about a wild creature is that the story is ongoing. Our book, WISDOM, THE MIDWAY ALBATROSS, features the oldest known wild bird in the world. Banded on December 10, 1956, she is over 65 years old and on February 4, 2016, she hatched a new chick. As I write this in summer, 2016, she is likely flying over the North Atlantic looking for a nice squid to eat. We’ll all hold our breath in early December to see if she returns to Midway again.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service continues to post many great photos and videos of the continuing story of the oldest known wild bird in the world. All FWS photos and videos are public domain and you may use them as you wish.
The Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial refuge officials report that Wisdom is back! She is the oldest known wild bird in the world. First banded in 1956, when they put her age at 5 years old minimum, she is now over 64 years old.
This beautiful old lady was sighted on November 19. After mating, she’s gone out again to forage and eat, but should be back soon to lay an egg. Officials think this will be at least her 37th egg/hatchling. If Wisdom hadn’t returned, it wouldn’t have been a surprise because often Laysan albatrosses take a year off here and there. Wisdom hasn’t take a break since at least 2007.
In a recent blog post on the USFWS Pacific Region Tumbler, the Deputy Refuge Manager says:
“Wisdom left soon after mating but we expect her back any day now to lay her egg,” noted Deputy Refuge Manager, Bret Wolfe. “It is very humbling to think that she has been visiting Midway for at least 64 years. Navy sailors and their families likely walked by her not knowing she could possibly be rearing a chick over 50 years later. She represents a connection to Midway’s past as well as embodying our hope for the future.”
Read more of Wisdom’s story: The Oldest Bird in the World at 64+ Years Old
If I had a better knowledge of my nonfiction children’s history then I might be able to tell you the exact moment that biographies of individual animals took off. Technically we’ve seen them for years, in books like the Newbery Honor winning Rascal (which is considered nonfiction in spite of some creative liberties) from 1963. The picture book animal biography feels comparatively new to me. I think they may have existed in spurts here and there but in the last ten years there’s been a veritable explosion of them on the scene. This is a very good thing. When done well a good animal bio can provide insight into an otherwise unapproachable species, foster concern beyond our own human lives, and give a glimpse into the wider natural world. True to life incredible journeys of wild animals are difficult to tell, though. If the animal is truly wild then how do you extrapolate its life without relying on fantasy and conjecture? Wisdom: The Midway Albatross offers at least one solution to that question. Add history to facts to the glorious innovation of banding wild animals and you have yourself a bird bio that’s easy to distinguish from the flock.
Bird is right: animal biographies are capturing the imagination of folks more than ever before. When The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate won the 2013 Newbery, the most prestigious award in children’s literature, it highlighted the interest in animal biographies. She followed the fictionalized version of Ivan’s life with a nonfiction version, Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla. Applegate had originally wanted to write the nonfiction story, but took the leap into fiction. And we’re glad she finally managed both.
Mims House has two animal biographies available, and a third coming out in Fall, 2016.
Nefertiti, the Spidernaut, which will be released in Fall, 2016, tells the story of a Johnson jumping spider who goes to space. Sent to the International Space Station, she was the focus of an experiment testing how jumping spiders adapt to weightlessness. Can they still jump to catch their prey? Or will they float helplessly in the microgravity environment? Join our newsletter to get advance notice when it’s available.
The Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge does an annual count of its bird population, and this year brings a welcome surprise. Last year’s count was about 400,000 Laysan albatrosses, and that shot up this year to about 700,000. Midway Atoll is now the largest colony of Laysan albatrosses in the world. Read the FWS press release.
On December 10, 1956, ornithologist Chandler Robbins banded about 20 Laysan albatrosses on Midway Atoll. Today, one of those is considered the oldest known wild birds in the world. Presumed to be at least five years old, the minimum breeding age, Wisdom is now over 63 years old. She has incredibly survived yet another year in the wild and has returned to Midway Atoll to raise a new chick. The best guess is that Wisdom has a minimum of 35 chicks. But she’s continuously nested since 2008 without a year off, so it may be many more.
Each year in November and December, I worry about Wisdom, the oldest known wild bird in the world. This is the time when Laysan albatrosses return to Midway Island to breed, nest, and raise a new chick. Scientists have thought that these birds will raise a chick for 4-5 years and then take a year off. But Wisdom has laid eggs continuously since 2008 at least, since that’s when scientists started taking notice of her. No vacation time for Wisdom!
When we published WISDOM, THE MIDWAY ALBATROSS, we always hoped the book would find its way to Japan. While the story focuses on how the oldest bird in the world survived the Japanese tsunami, the story is also about that March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. We are excited to report that WISDOM is on the 2014-15 reading list for the Sakura Medal, which is a children’s book award given by the international schools in Japan. They give award to children’s book written in Japanese and in English. We are thrilled that this award will bring Wisdom’s story to the 15,000 students served in these 25 schools. Thank you, Sakura Medal for allowing us to share Wisdom’s story with a Japanese audience.
Read more about Wisdom here.
In honor of Valentine’s Day and of Wisdom, the oldest bird in the world at 63, who just hatched a new chick on Feb 4, 2014 AND her mate (of undetermined age), here’s a 28-second video that shows the mating dance of the Laysan albatross. They bob up and down and trumpet.
Wisdom, the Midway Albatross has been banded since December 10, 1956. Assuming she was 5 years old at the time of banding (minimum age for nesting), she is 63 years old. And she just laid a new egg on November 29, 2013, which is expected to hatch in late January 2014. At the tender age of 63–she’ll be a new mother!
Pete Leary, the wildlife biologist on Midway documented the excitement with photos and a video. Watch the video on the US Fish and Wildlife Service Flickr account.
Notice the red band on Wisdom’s leg, ZZZ333. She has a regular metal band AND this red band, so she’s easy to spot at a distance. Her first band was attached by scientist Chandler S. Robbins. He says, “On December 10, 1956, early in my first visit to Midway, I banded 99 incubating Laysan Albatrosses in teh ‘downtown’ area os Sand Island, Midway. Wisdom (band number 587-51945) is still alive, healthy, and incubating again in December 2011 (Note: And in 2012 and in 2013). While I have grown old and gray and get around only with the use of a cane. Wisdom still looks and acts just the same as on the day I banded her.”
How did this bird survive so long in the wild?
How big is she?
What dangers has she faced in the last 60 years?
This Mims House picture book tells her remarkable and heart-warming story, from her early days to surviving the 2011 Japanese tsunami.
Get Wisdom’s Incredible story here:
Kindle version. Special “Hatching” Price. From now till the new chick hatches only $1.99.
Hurrah! Wisdom has a brand new chick hatched in February. She is named Manaolana, which is Hawaiian for Hope.
And our book, WISDOM, THE MIDWAY ALBATROSS received a *STARRED REVIEW in Publisher’s Weekly
“Harvill (Up, Up. Up! It’s Apple-Picking Time) contributes carefully detailed and naturalistic illustrations, portraying both the beauty and danger of Wisdom’s aquatic environment (discarded plastic and the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami are among the hazards Wisdom manages to escape). . . .Pattison writes crisply and evocatively, and her closing notes provide a wealth of information for readers interested in Wisdom and her fellow albatrosses.”
Tomorrow is National Bird Day! Read about the astounding story of the oldest known wild bird in the world!
Surprised scientists have discovered that some birds live longer than they had thought. Scientists had been observing albatrosses for a long time. These seabirds spend much of the year at sea, just soaring over the oceans in search of food. They only come back to land to breed, lay eggs and raise chicks.
For example, in 1975 Harvey I. Fisher (Fisher, Harvey I., Pacific Science (1975), Vol 29, NO. 3, p. 279-3000) reported that after a 13-year study of 27,667 banded Laysan Albatrosses on Midway Island, they had a life expectancy of 16-18 years. The study reported the mortality (the percentage of birds that died) at each stage of their life. For example, during egg incubation, there could be up to 25% loss in some seasons.
It seemed to be the definitive study.
And yet, scientists still continued to band birds. Why? Because there was still more to learn. What else could they learn?
BIG IDEA: Sometimes, scientists don’t know what they’ll find. They do the work and then let the data tell them things.
BIRD BANDING: Surprised Scientists Find Banding Data Helpful
How do you know the age of a wild bird? Usually, you can’t.
Banding birds (or Bird ringing, as it’s known in some countries) means that a band or ring of a durable material is places on a bird. Usually it’s a metal band places on a bird’s leg. It needs to be durable, yet lightweight enough that it doesn’t interfere with the bird’s normal life. The Bird Banding Laboratory is a UGSG program that keeps track of all bird banding in the US. (https://www.usgs.gov/centers/pwrc/science/bird-banding-laboratory)
On December 10, 1956, ornithologist Chandler Robbins banded 99 incubating Laysan Albatrosses on Sand Island, Midway Islands. One of those banded birds would later astound the world. The bird banded with number 587-51945 is still alive today, over 62 years later. She is Wisdom, now banded with a special red band, Z333.
The 1975 study said that Laysan albatrosses lived about 16-18 years. And yet, Wisdom is now over 67 years old and still laying eggs and still raising chicks. They assumed that she was at least 5 years old at the time of banding 62 years ago. She could be much older and we would have no way of knowing.
In 2012, Robbins said, “While I have grown old and gray and get around only with the use of a cane, Wisdom still looks and acts just the same as on the day I banded her.”
Wisdom has astonished scientists by living 3.5 times as long as expected. Statistically, if she’s lived over 60 years, there are other Laysan albatrosses who’ve also lived a long time.
What else could scientists learn from her? They are now banding each of her chicks with a special band. Her mate wasn’t banded originally, but has been banded for several years.
Questions for your students – think about what testing/observations methods would help answer these questions:
What else could scientists learn from Wisdom?
Do all Laysan albatrosses live longer than expected? Is a normal lifespan 16-18 years, and Wisdom is just an unusual bird?
If there are short-lived and long-lived albatrosses, how are they different?
Will Wisdom pass her long-life to her children? Will they also live a long time? How long will be before we know the answer to this question?
How long has her “husband” lived? Has she had more than one husband?
Sometimes, previous research, such as the 1975 study of Laysan albatross populations seems to answer all the questions. However, science is about repeating the observations over time. Scientists observe, collect information and data, and then do it again. Only after observations have been repeated many times will they call the results a fact. Scientists will continue to band albatrosses, re-catch some albatrosses and report the data, and do it again.
Banding gives information about how long a bird lives, nesting habits, and migration habits.
FUTURE OF BANDING
With new technology, scientists would like to track the location of birds over time. However, there are technological challenges. A tracking system is known as a GPS or Global Positioning System. The problem is the weight of these systems. Birds weight very little and can only carry certain weights; of course, each species will need a different size GPS unit.
For example, purple martins spend the summer months in the northern hemisphere. But as fall approaches in July to September, they fly south to the summer in the southern hemisphere. In July-August, a group of purple martins collect at a staging area near me in Arkansas. I’d like to know where my “Arkansas flock” travels to in South American. We suspect it’s somewhere in Brazil, but no one knows. A GPS system would answer that question.
While the GPS system is too heavy for purple martins, scientists can add a tracking unit that measures how much sunlight the bird gets. The length of each day tells scientists the latitude where the bird traveled. But without the GPS unit, they can’t pinpoint the longitude. Someday, when miniaturization technology is more advanced, we may be able to track the flight patterns of the purple martins.
We may be able to track Wisdom as she soars out over the vast Pacific ocean. That’s what we hope our students will be able to do for science. Add to our knowledge of our amazing world.
I first heard her story in 2011, because she survived the Japanese tsunami that struck in March that year, killing thousands and destroying a nuclear plant. Even seven years ago, it was an amazing story of survival. That’s when I worked with illustrator Kitty Harvill to write her story.
How Old is the Oldest Wild Bird in the World?
Answer: The oldest wild bird in the world is at least 68 years old.
How to a bird’s age? We don’t know exactly how old Wisdom, the Midway albatross is because no one was there at her birth. However, she was banded on December 10, 1956, or sixty-two years ago. At the time, she was nesting and the minimum age for these birds to breed is 5-6 years old. That means Wisdom is at least 67-68 years old, but may be much older.
Ornithologist Chandler Robbins who banded her said in 2012, “While I have grown old and gray and get around only with the use of a cane, Wisdom still looks and acts just the same as on the day I banded her.” Robbins passed away in March, 2017.
We must quickly qualify this answer: Wisdom is the oldest known wild bird in the world.
Known: If Wisdom is 68 years old, there are likely older birds, but they just didn’t get banded. With over 650,000 Laysan albatrosses nesting on Midway, it’s impossible to band every one.
Wild: There are older birds in captivity. For example, Cookie the Cockatoo lived to be 83 years old.
70 years ago, my father, Private Henry B. Foster, was fighting in the Philippines, when the Allied Forces were overrun by the Japanese Fourteenth Army, resulting in the famous Death March, which sent 78,000 soldiers to the Camp O’Donnell as prisoners of war. Private Foster was on Corregidor, also known as “The Rock,” a tadpole-shaped island which divides the entrance of Manila Bay into the North and South Channels.
As the U.S. forces were cut off from supplies, conditions became difficult and at one point, rations were cut to 1/16 of a normal day’s food. Then, came the surrender on May 6, 1942 and removal to Camp O’Donnell to join those from the Death March. There, the conditions were so harsh, my father told stories of men who decided that no human should live this way; they turned their head to the wall and were dead in a few short days. But Private Foster was a survivor.
Two years later, when the tide of war turned, the POWs were taken by boat to Japan, herded into large cargo holds. (I actually found the name of his boat, and a list of passengers, which included his name.) My father climbed up into the pipes along the ceiling to be above the filthy, overflowing honey pots (latrines) and hopefully avoid some of the inevitable disease and sickness. They were fed boiled eggs, a smell which ever after he despised. For the year they were on Japanese soil, prisoners were on such short rations that everyone was emaciated, surviving on whatever rats or snakes they could capture. Once, they were allowed to visit a nearby river to bath. As he looked into the water, he wondered who that old man with white hair was, only to realize it was his own reflection. He contracted beri-beri and scurvy from vitamin deficiencies, and his gums were so infected that eventually he had to have all his teeth pulled and wore dentures the rest of his life.
Because of my Dad, survival stories have always touched me. Now, 70 years later, a different story of survival in the Pacific has captured my heart. When the Japanese tsunami overran Midway Atoll in March, 2011 the oldest known wild bird in the world—and her new chick—were in danger. Scientists said the scariest thing was that the tsunami struck at midnight when they could hear the water over-running the island, but couldn’t see what was happening. The next day, sunlight revealed 100,000 dead chicks and over 2000 dead adult seabirds. No one knew where Wisdom was. Her chick was a small heap of waterlogged feathers, bedraggled. And alone.
On the tenth day, Wisdom was spotted feeding her chick. She had survived.
Wisdom was first banded in 1956 by Chandler Robbins, a young Navy man. He said,
“On December 10, 1956, early in my first visit to Midway, I banded 99 incubating Laysan Albatrosses in the ‘downtown’ area of Sand Island, Midway. Wisdom (band number 587-51945) is still alive, healthy and incubating again in December, 2011. While I have grown old and gray and get around only with the use of a cane, Wisdom still looks and acts just the same as on the day I banded her.”
Since the first banding, she was caught and re-banded in 1966, 1985, 1993, and 2002. In 2006, she received two new bands: the usual metal one and a bright red band, Z333, which could be seen at a distance. She was also given the name Wisdom by former Refuge Biologist and current Deputy Refuge Manager, John Klavitter. Scientists observed that she laid an egg and hatched a chick in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016. In 2017, her egg didn’t produce a chick, but she hatched another in 2018. At 65+ years old, she is still raising chicks!
That’s the bare bones of this story of survival and many stopped there. But it wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to know more. I wanted details of her story of her survival.
Research took me back to 1951, the year Wisdom was presumably born and back to Midway Atoll and events in the Pacific. I studied other earthquakes and tsunamis: November 4, 1952 a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Kamchatka, Russia and sent a tsunami across the Pacific. Archival photos show the water in the streets on Midway.
I studied storms: tropical storms and hurricanes that struck Midway Atoll: Hurricane Dot in 1958, Hurricane Iwa in 1982, Tropical Depression Raymond in 1983, Hurricane Iniki in 1992, Tropical Depression Orlene in 1992, Tropical Depression Eugene in 1993.
I studied ecological problems that seabirds faced during the last half of the 20th century: As early as the 1960s came worrisome reports of seabirds eating plastic floating in the ocean. Since then, the problem has only become worse, and many chicks die because their stomachs are so full of plastic, no food will fit and they starve to death. For over 50 years, the alarm has been sounded–and ignored. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, predicted in scientific literature as early as 1988, has only grown with the addition of the debris from the Japanese tsunami, which is estimated to be the size of California.
I studied how fishing practices have affected the seabird population: Longline fishing is the practice of baiting lines that are several miles line and may contain up to 2500 hooks. When a seabird swoops to eat the bait and is caught on a hook, nothing can reach them fast enough to save them. In 1991, estimates said up to 100,000 albatrosses were caught on such lines; they were considered an acceptable by-catch. Today, even with required modifications, it is still a problem.
Add to these man-made and natural disasters the ever-present danger of predators. Sharks are often waiting in squid-rich waters when albatrosses land on the sea to eat and the albatross becomes prey instead of predator. And add to that the incredible distances albatrosses fly: In Wisdom’s 60+ years, it is estimated she has flown about 50,000 miles each year, for a total of about 2 to 3 million miles in her lifetime.
This is one of the incredible survival stories!
Years after my father was released from the POW camp and returned to the U.S., I visited Auschwitz in Poland and stood talking with a Polish man about the differences in the German and Japanese POW camps. Finally, the Polish man said, “Let’s talk of better days.”
“You don’t understand,” I said. “My Dad came home from the war, from three years as a POW. He married and had eight children. In spite of everything, he had a full and happy life. He survived.”
I am the product of a story of survival. In spite of everything, my Father survived. When I look at Wisdom and her chick, I see my father and his eight chicks.
And here’s something I never realized before: I have to tell every survival story I can.
Summer reading! It’s time for beaches, mountains, grandmas, and, yes, reading! Whatever fun you’ve got cooked up for the kids this summer, you’ll want to have along some great books. Books on tape will keep them quiet and occupied during those long car rides, entertaining them with stories, keeping their minds occupied, and their hands away from their neighbor.
We’ve got a summer reading guide for you! It includes audiobooks stories of amazing animals and novels that will keep your teens fascinated. Let’s start with audiobooks.
Listen to the audiobooks!
Josiah Bildner is an amazing audiobook narrator who took on the task of narrating the aliens Inc. series. These books are our great for third graders to read; however, they are great audiobooks for anywhere from four years old to 10 years old.
Or, if you prefer adding the books to your ebook reader–it’s a slam dunk to hand a kid a reader and watch them be engrossed for hours–try this box set! Buy the three-book set now at a discounted price of only $4.99.
Our animal biography series is unique because each book features an individual animal and its life. Bird, spider, mammal–these animals are fascinating for the elementary crowd. CLICK EACH COVER FOR MORE INFORMATION.
We are excited to be teaming up with Triangle Media to create read-along versions of selected picture books. These ebooks are ePub3 standards, for which Overdrive has recently added the capability.
The books are the regular ebooks, but they are enhanced by added audio that is synced to the text. When a word is read, the word is highlighted. The technology to create this type of ebook has been around a while, but not all ebook readers were capable of correctly rendering the ebook. Until now. Overdrive now makes this available across its network. The enhanced ebooks are on sale at a 25% discount till January 31.
Read the Samples Read Along Picture Books – 25% Discount Ends on January 31
The enhanced ebooks are currently available from Overdrive who has provided samples.
Please click on the book cover below to read the sample:
Darcy Pattison recently did a school visit where 200 students purchased a book!
For some kids, it was a significant day because they had few books at home.
This one thing, buying a book of his/her own, was a BIG thing.
Owning a book!
What an amazing thing for a young reader, right?
Emotionally, we love it when we see kids hugging a book because it’s theirs.
But is there any educational value in owning books?
In a 20-year study of 27 countries, researchers at the University of Nevada said the most important predictor of education achievement comes down to one thing: owning books.
Are there books in the home?
This one factor—books in the home—was more important than the literacy level of the parents.
That’s from a 20 year study over 27 countries!
Mariah Evans, University of Nevada, Reno associate professor of sociology and resource economics, said that as few as 20 books in a home made a significant impact, and the more books the stronger the effect. If you increase the number of books to 500 – Wow! – the effect is huge! In the United States, that one thing can increase a child’s education level by 2.4 years.
2x as important as Father’s education level
Books in the home was twice as important as a father’s education level. Even an illiterate father can help a child by providing books in the home.
How to get books into a student’s home?
Since books in the home is such an important goal, how can we do that?
Well, you already do it in many ways: book fairs, book clubs, library check-out and more.
Mims House makes it easy, too. We offer volume discounts on any of our books for quantities as low as 10 books or as high as a couple thousand. We make the price simple enough that you can put a book in the hands of every student.
The story of the oldest known wild bird in the world—Wisdom, the Midway Albatross—would make a great book for the popular ONE BOOK type program, which asks everyone in the school to read the same book. She’s over 65 years old and on February 4, 2017, she hatched a new chick! The story details how she survived the Japanese tsunami.
Or, if you need an early chapter book, consider the hilarious Kell, the Alien.
Publisher’s Weekly says: “Amusing. . . engaging, accessible story.”
“VERDICT: This fun chapter book series is out of this world.” 2/1/15 SLJ review:
For the middle school crowd, enthusiasm is growing for The Blue Planets World series, beginning with Sleepers.
For a full range of possibilities, download our catalog.
Then, send our school liaison person, Sue Foster a note with information on your project/program and we’ll help you find the right book. Yes, we can work with purchase orders. We also have teacher resources for many books.
Tomorrow, September 18, is National Read an eBook Day.
Are you an ebook fan? Some people love to read ebooks when they travel. Others love ebooks because you can increase or decrease the font size to your needs. I know some people who bounce from paper to ebooks with ease. And of course, many people are loyal to print books. I understand all those attitudes! Which probably makes me one of the bouncers.
Does it cost to join in? No.
Your local library likely has ebooks for checkout. This is a great day to look at your library’s website to figure out how to check out an ebook. What system do they use, what info do you need, what ebook readers do they recommend, and so on.
Request from Your Local Library
Most of Mims House books are available on Overdrive. Here are a selection of our books linked to the Overdrive site. From there, you can see if the book is available in your local library. If it isn’t, please request it! Most libraries listen to their patrons and will buy books you ask for.
Take an ebook for a whirl! Of course, we offer ebooks for sale here on the Mims House website in both ePub and Kindle versions. But it you want a no-cost experience, check out your local library.
The Book Power Showcase is described this way: Readers will discover the biographies and histories of those who shaped the world around them. These titles remind readers that they too can inspire and spark change no matter their age!
Several of our picture book animal biographies were selected for the showcase, as well as the story of a British scientist, Michael Faraday. These books are true biographies of an individual animal. They weren’t written to cover a particular species but to help kids connect with the individual circumstances this animal is faced with.
Mims House Books Included in the CBC Book Power Showcase
Wisdom, the Midway Albatross
The March 2011 Japanese tsunami put the oldest bird in the world into jeopardy. Wisdom is a Laysan albatross who lives on Midway Island. Strategic during World War II as a refueling station for airplanes, Midway Island is now Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial. When the tsunami hit Japan, it took thousands of lives and damaged the nuclear plant. However, the tsunami waves spread across the Pacific, too. Scientists on Midway Island knew the tsunami was coming, so they moved to the highest point, the third floor of an old barracks. The tsunami struck about midnight. They said the scariest thing was that they could HEAR the water coming, but couldn’t see it.
The next morning, thousands of birds wee dead. Wisdom’s nest was on relatively high ground, so her chick was safe. But she was missing. Read more about her story here.
Nefertiti, the Spidernaut
Another book in our animal biography series is Nefertiti, the Spidernaut: The Jumping Spider Who Learned to Hunt in Space This book chronicles the story of a Johnson jumping spider who traveled to the International Space Station. Why? To participate in a unique experiment. On Earth, most spiders spin a web and passively wait for food to come to it. However, jumping spiders actively hunt for prey. Whey they see supper, they jump to catch it. The question is this: what happens when a spider jumps in space? Will it adapt and successfully hunt? Or will it die of starvation? This book was named a 2017 National Science Teacher’s Association (NSTA) Outstanding Science Trade Book.
Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma
The Book Power Showcase also features a third animal biography, Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma: The True Story of an Orphaned Cub. It was named a 2015 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book. It tells the story of how a cub is orphaned and how he survives. Amazingly, this cub lived in an urban environment with skyscrapers visible on the horizon. When the mother puma takes shortcuts in her hunting by raiding a chicken coop, the farmer sets a trap. This is a poignant, heart-warming story.
Burn: Michael Faraday’s Candle
Solid wax is somehow changed into light and heat. But how?
Travel back in time to December 28, 1848 in London, England to one of the most famous juvenile science Christmas lectures at the Royal Institution. British scientist Michael Faraday (1791-1867) encouraged kids to carefully observe a candle and to try to figure out how it burned.
Since Faraday’s lecture, “The Chemical History of a Candle,” was published in 1861, it’s never been out of print; however, it’s never been published as a children’s picture book – till now. Read Burn: Michael Faraday’s Candle.
Earth Day started in 1970, just as the environmental movements were starting. It has been a day to consider the health of our planet and to encourage conservation, environmental thinking, and to enjoy the beauty of the world.
Each year, around Earth Day, I join with Authors for Earth Day to present a school program. Before I go, I ask teachers and students to consider five different environmental organizations. They look up information on the goals of each organization and vote on their favorite. Then, a portion of my speaking fee is donated to that organization in honor of the school.
During the school visit, I discussed the three nature books listed below. Students were interested and asked piercing questions. Even the kindergartners surprised me! One kindergarten student correctly knew the difference in nocturnal (awake at night) and diurnal (awake during the day). For Abayomi, the Brazilian scientists are still working to create wildlife corridors that will enable them to live in the urban landscape. Students understood that easily and wondered where there were corridors in their own city. Plastic pollution, which endangers seabirds, was a source of surprise. Students were amazed that the most common piece of plastic found in a bird’s stomach was toothbrushes and cigarette lighters.
Watch this video to understand plastic pollution in the Pacific Island – 15 minutes of CNN report on 11/30/16:
If you can’t see this video, click here. Some scenes may be upsetting to young children.
This 2009 BBC video is shorter and just shows the plastics found on Midway Island laid out in categories. More appropriate for younger children.
If you follow my writing, you know that toward the end of January or early February, I start to get anxious for Wisdom. She’s a Laysan Albatross who lives on Midway Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Here’s the great news: She’s back and she’s hatched a new chick!
Oldest – Wisdom has been continuously banded since December 10, 1956. At that time, she was presumed to be at least five years old because these birds start breeding at about five years old. She was sitting on a nest near the Charlie Barracks when banded. Hence, at least five.
Known – If Wisdom is five years old, it’s very likely that there are other Laysan albatrosses who are older. We just didn’t happen to band them. Sometimes, science is based on a bit of luck. We got lucky with Wisdom, but who knows how old her neighbors are?
Wild – There are older birds in captivity. Parrots are especially known for living a long life in captivity. But in the wild, she’s the oldest known wild bird.
She doesn’t hatch a new chick every year. Last year, for whatever reason, her egg didn’t hatch. Perhaps, it was cracked, or perhaps it was just a bad egg. No one knows. Also, Laysan albatrosses are known to take a sabbatical, or a year off now and then. Scientists started really paying attention to Wisdom in 2002, when she was recaptured, ironically by the same ornithologist who had originally captured her, Chandler Robbins. They realized then that she was 51 years old, among the oldest known wild birds. They put a red band on her leg, Z333, so she could be easily identified while in flight. They know that she has continuously nested since 2008. So, if she doesn’t come back next year, she could be lost to the wild, or she could be taking a sabbatical.
Each year, I wait in December to see if she’s returned. Then, I wait in February to see if she’s hatched a new chick.