Dawn Publications

Roberta Baird

Aside from the fact that alligators live in her neighborhood just outside of Houston, and that her youngest daughter has a favorite alligator (the stuffed kind), Roberta Baird understands all the right things when it comes to illustrating The Swamp Where Gator Hides.

Roberta understands kids: she was a Montessori teacher for grades one through three, as well as being the mother of four children. . .

New Blog Connects Common Core, Nature, and Books

– by Carol L. Malnor

Editor’s Note: As a long-time teacher, nature educator, and instructional designer for a national education company, Carol has a uniquely helpful perspective on the current demands being made of teachers. We recently asked her to shares a bit of the perspective she brings to her new Common Core blog.

Last week I heard a report that two of our most scarce natural resources are “darkness” and “quiet.” Thinking back to my childhood, I could totally agree. I grew up in a suburb located between Chicago and Gary. Steel mills and oil refineries surrounded our little town. I thought a “clear night” was when we could see the few stars of the Big Dipper. Most nights a combination of smog and light pollution turned the sky a dull gray.

Maybe that’s why I became enthralled with the brightness of the stars in northern Michigan. When I was twenty-something, my husband took me camping at Clear Lake. Not only was the water clear, but the lake also made a “clearing” in the dense forest canopy. One moonless, summer night I took a midnight swim. The stars reflected in the black water of the perfectly calm lake. Floating on my back in the middle of the lake, I couldn’t tell where the lake ended and the sky began. The power of nature flowed through me.

As a teacher, I wanted my students to experience the power of nature; too, and got them out into nature in big and little ways. Some of our most memorable end-of-the year field trips were hiking in the mountains near Big Sur, canoeing the Sacramento River, and whale-watching in the Pacific Ocean. Great moments to be sure!

But even during the regular school day, I tried to get my students outside noticing the subtle change of seasons, listening to migrating Sandhill Cranes high overhead, or just watching clouds.

But there were lots of days when going outside wasn’t an option. That’s when I turned to the power of books, especially picture books, to bring nature into my classroom. The simple text along with vivid illustrations, captured my students’ attention, even the 7th and 8th graders!

The books were such a success that I wanted to share them with teachers. That’s one of the reasons why I created my blog Inside Outside Nature. Each week I featured two or more books along with lessons plans for inside and outside activities. Most of the activity suggestions came from my own personal teaching experience.

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