Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Horshoe Crabs and Red Knots, Boys and Girls

The prehistoric horseshoe crab is in danger. Yes, the prehistoric horseshoe crab, a creature that has managed to survive since the age of the dinosaurs, is now in jeopardy. The Red Knot populations on the East Coast are also in jeopardy. Why? Because during their annual spring migration, they and many other shorebirds rely on a steady supply of horseshoe crab eggs, available along the coast from Florida to Canada, but particularly along the shores of the vast Chesapeake Bay.

This is yet another teachable moment when news stories converge on a topic that is fascinating for young people (and the rest of us!) and allow us to showcase an excellent nonfiction picture book and meet a whole bunch of science, math, and ELA standards as well. Victoria Crenson's Horseshoe Crabs and Shorebirds: The Story of a Food Web (2003; 2009) is a beautifully written narrative about spring along the Chesapeake Bay, and the interconnectedness of the crab and shorebird life cycles. I have been a strong advocate of this book since its publication, and the teachers whom I teach have consistently seen its teaching potential not just for the science content, but for the powerful imagery, vivid verbs, and beautiful figurative language. Anne Cannon's watercolor illustrations are the icing on the cake.

If you would like to utilize this teachable moment during the spring migration, whether or not you live near the coast, you might find these other resources useful: 
As a follow-up to my post from last week on teaching about the intersection of gender, work, and income inequality, you should know that today's "Upshot" article in The New York Times discusses new research about gender and school performance. It's essentially about  the force multiplier of girlhood in the context of academic success and the "boy problem," which really means it's about much, much more. There is a great deal to unpack in this article, about the need for male teachers, about changing how we do school, etc. One of my take-aways is the desperate need to provide all children, but particularly boys, with inquiry-oriented, hands-on investigative explorations at the elementary level, where it has seemingly disappeared. Another great reason to infuse more nonfiction into the curriculum.   

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