Children's Literature Recommendations in Place-based education, environmental education,ecology education and science teaching and learning

Children's Literature Recommendations


Outdoor, Environment, Ecology, Natural History

Place-based Education &

Science, Scientific Inquiry, and The Nature of Science


During the weekend of May 19-21, 2006 the Teacher Learning Center of the Teton Science Schools hosted a workshop entitled, "Integrating Children's Literature and Place-based Scientific inquiry." The workshop participants used their expertise to review and recommend children's literature books that intersect three theme areas 1) outdoor, environment, ecology, natural history 2) place-based education 3) scientific inquiry and the nature of science. The workshop participants included:

J. William Hug, Facilitator, Assistant Professor of Science Education, Montana State University

Bonnie Jones- Director, Teacher Learning Center, Teton Science Schools
Janimarie Lester- Intern, Teacher Learning Center, Teton Science Schools
Cara Cummings- Journeys School Student Teacher, Teton Science Schools
Kelly Pollock- Soldier Hollow Charter School, Utah
Natalie Kaplan- Fort Washakie School, Lander, WY
Jeremy Harder- Ophir Elementary, Big Sky, Montana
Judy Montagne- Director, The Learning Center, Jackson, WY
Elise Cheney- Journeys School Teacher, Teton Science Schools, Jackson, WY
Mandy Hullander- Journeys School Teacher, Teton Science Schools, Jackson, WY

Some participants submitted their childen's literature recommendations which are included below.

Recommended Children's Literature

Yolen, J. (1987). Owl moon. New York: Philomel Books.

Owl Moon tells the story of a young girl who goes owling with her father in the forest behind her farmhouse during a full moon. The story describes their walk through the snow toward the forest and then her father making the sound of a great horned owl in an effort call one in. A great horned owl flies to a branch above them and with the help of a flashlight they watch each other for a few moments before the owl flies away. The father and daughter return home pleased with their experience "under a shining owl moon."

This book provides many connections for literacy and science instruction. The book uses rich, comparative language such as: "I could feel the cold, as if someone's icy hand was palm-down on my back." and "The moon was high above us. It seemed to fit exactly over the center of the clearing and the snow below it was whiter than the milk in the cereal bowl." There are great connections to science topics such as moon phases, owl life cycles, owl adaptations, snow science, forests and trees, night explorations, and positive portrayal of families exploring outdoors together. This book could be used for a variety of elementary grade levels.

Porte, A. (1997). Tale of a Tadpole. New York: Orchard Books.

This book is a story of a young girl who owns a tadpole. The story vividly explains the life cycle of tadpole to frog as well as focusing on the importance of close observation. The story also explains the difference between frogs and toads. Pre K-2.

Ray, M.L. (1996). Mud. Voyager Books.

This book is a simple tale of one child's discovery of what happens when snow melts. There are very few words with brilliant illustrations. The book rejoices in the coming of spring and childhood discovery. Pre K-2

Criaghead, S.A. (2004). Bugling Elk and Sleeping Grizzlies:The Who, What, and When of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Helana, Montana: Falcon Press.

This book is a tri-monthly account of wildlife activity. The book uses real photographs and detailed descriptions to explain the changes that occur throughout the year. This book could be used throughout the Rocky Mountain Region. Pre K-8

Schwartz, D.M. (1999). If you hopped like a frog. New York:Scholastic Press.

This book is a creative way to help children understand the different adaptions animals have and how they use them. This book lets the reader see what would happen to them if they "had eagle eyes." At the back of the book, there are facts about all the animals mentioned in the book. Pre K-5

Wilson, K. (2003). A Frog in the Bog. New York: Margaret K. Mc Elderry Books.

This is a fun counting book for young children. The book uses predictable, rhyming language so students can read along. Pre K-2.

Biographies Grade 3-5

At- Level Readers Selection

Davies. J. (2004). The boy who drew birds. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.

This book tells the story of naturalist James Audubon.   It depicts his life as someone who loved the outdoors. It begins with him observing birds in Pennsylvania and wondering if they would return in the spring.   The disappearance of birds each season was a mystery to the science world.   Audubon helped our understanding of why birds do what they do.   This book also captures the passion that Audubon had for painting birds.

This book emphasizes the science process accurately through the young life of James Audubon.   Children will connect to the young naturalist as he explores the essential scientific processes of exploring, observing, formulating a hypothesis, and generating questions. "John James splashed across the icy creek. He scrambled up the bank and approached the limestone cave, wondering what he would find today.   Just the empty nest of a pewee bird, as he had found the last five days? Or would there be-" and "he formed a plan".   These examples help students better understand science as a process and the nature of it is unique and dynamic. This book could be used to describe the characteristics of a great scientist. It would be a wonderful read-a-loud. For the pictures alone are beautifully water colored and many of the illustrations are true to nature journaling by including sketches and field notes.

Burleigh.R. (2003). Into the woods. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

This book explores the struggle that Audubon faced about wanting to follow his own dreams to be a naturalist and what his father had set out for him to do.   The book uses direct quotations from Audubon's journals which gives it a credible and more accurate description of his life.   It also includes accurate drawings that Audubon created in his field journals.

The book uses a poetic approach which may be challenging for some young readers.   This book may want to be used first as a read-a-loud then used for a resources as a biography.   Because of the accurate sketches and art work taken from Audubon's journal, it may be a good source for developing an art lesson on field journaling.   A great book to assist with this would be Keeping a Nature Journal by Claire Leslie. (2000). Pownel, VT: Schoolhouse Road. One technical adversary young students may face is the font used in Audubon's journal.   It may be challenging for them to read which may require you to retype quotes and present them in a more readable fashion.

A Sense of Place in the Colorado Front Range Bibliography

Berg, J. K. (2005). The Otter Spirit : A Natural History Story. Pullman, WA:Ullysian Publications.

Bunting, E. (1996). Secret Place. New York, NY:Clarion Books. 

Collard, S. B. (2005). The Prairie Builders. Boston, MA:Houghton Mifflin

Cooper, A.   (2000). In the City. Denver, CO:Denver Museum of Natural History.

Dyanne DiSalvo-Ryan, D. (1994). City Green. New York, NY: Morrow Junior Books.

Gaff, Jackie. (2001) I Wonder Why Mountain Have Snow on Top and Other Questions About Mountains .   Boston, MA: Kingfisher Publications.

Plumb, Sally. A Pika's Tail. (1994). Moose, WY: Grand Teton Natural History Association.

St. Antoine, S. ed. (2001). Stories From Where We Live. The great North American Prairie. Minneapolis, Minn.: Milkweed Editions.

Robson, G. D. (2005). Who Pooped in the Park?   Helena, MT: Far Country Press.


Light and Heat, Grades 3-5

Emergent Reader Selection

Royston, A. (2001). My world of science: light and dark .   Chicago: Heinemann Library.

The book starts with the basic knowledge that sunlight allows us to see things. Other topics include darkness and different sources of light: fire, candles, fireworks, and electricity. The ideas are extended to explain shadows, reflections, and other observations. Students' vocabulary will be stretched with the careful introduction of many new words. Many of the concepts addressed in this book also will be new to students, but these are concepts often included in primary curriculum outlines. The conceptual level, format, and presentation make this book an excellent classroom supplement for students at an emerging 4 th grade reading level.   (Downloaded from NSTA: recommends. May 2006)

This would be a great book for emerging readers in your class or used as a jump off to begin the unit on light.   It seems to give the basic concepts that would initially be used for the beginning of the unit and also used for building comprehension of initial terms and building confidence for a re-read for emerging readers.

At-Level Reader Selections

Erickson, J & Willard, C. (2005). Color analyzers: investigating light and color . Berkeley,CA: GEMS/Lawrence Hall Of Science.

Students are guided through an exploration that starts with an investigation to discover the components of white light. Children build an understanding of color transmission by making secret messages that must be decoded.

Like all GEMS materials, this book relies on inquiry throughout. Even the cover of the guide must be decoded in Activity 2 to reveal a secret word. Four hands-on activity sections work to debunk the misconceptions children often have about light and color. The book's developmental approach aligns well with the National Science Education Standards and the Benchmarks for Science Literacy. (Downloaded from NSTA: recommends. May 2006)

Walker. S. (2005). Early bird energy series:heat. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications Co.

This volume introduces young readers to the concept of heat energy, how it is measured (by temperature), what causes it (the movement of molecules), and how it affects matter (causing it to expand or contract or causing a change of state). The difference between heat and temperature is clearly explained. (Downloaded from NSTA: recommends. May 2006.)

This book would benefit as a mid-unit introductory to heat.   After studying light and its properties children could then move into basic concepts of heat and heat transfer.   From here students could produce a presentation on how heat and temperature are different.   Also students may use this text as a guide to create an experiment that demonstrates the difference between heat and temperature.   I imagine using this book to help introduce and to reinforce new concepts.    This book also offers experiments that may be used to reinforce the concept of heat and temperature.   Be careful to follow through with the experiments with an in depth investigation of the concepts explained.  

Still. D. (2004). Amazing science: energy: heat, light, and fuel. Minneapolis, MN: Picture Window Books.

Energy: Heat, Light, and Fuel introduces children to the ways that energy changes forms, such as when food is used for movement. The text includes questions, examples, and explanations. Illustrations reinforce a good foundation of content. The main text of the book is written and illustrated for lower elementary children, with large type and fanciful, computer-generated illustrations. (Downloaded from NSTA: recommends. May 2006.)

I see this book being used as helpful for understanding the transfer of energy from light to heat also used as a great way to introduce real life examples of these concepts.   The level of the book seems to cross from emergent readers to on level readers and has the opportunity for above level readers to find resources to further study light and heat on the web.   This would serve as a great book for students who are researching light and heat and allows them to gain basic concept understandings and push further using the suggested resources.


Complete Workshop Bibliography

The participants compiled the following list of children's literature books during the workshop.

Aardema, V., & Vidal (Ill.), B. (1981). Bringing the rain to kapiti plain: A Nandi tale. New York, NY: Dial Books for Young Readers.
Allen, J., & Humphries, T. (2000). Are you a butterfly? Boston, MA: Kingfisher.
Allen, J., & Humphries, T. (2000). Are you a ladybug? New York, NY.: Kingfisher.
Appelhof, M., & Fenton (Ill.), M. F. (1982). Worms eat my garbage. Kalamazoo, MI: Flower Press.
Arnosky, J. (1992). Crinkleroot's Guide to Knowing the Trees. New York: Bradbury Press.
Ashenbrenner, G. (1988). Jack, the Seal and the Sea (J. Fink, Trans.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Silver Burdett Press.
Baylor, B. (1974). Everybody Needs a Rock. New York: Macmillian Publishing Company.
Baylor, B. (1975). The Desert is Theirs. New York: Macmillian Publishing.
Bial, R. (2000). A handful of dirt. New York: Walker and Company.
Bliss, C. D. (1992). Matthew's meadow. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company.
Brandenberg, A. (1993). My visit to the aquarium. New York: Harper Collins.
Brett, J. (1989). The mitten: A Ukrainian folktale. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam's Sons.
Bruchac, J., & Locker, T. (1996). Between Earth & Sky: Legends of Native American Sacred Places. San Diego, CA: Voyager Books.
Bunting, E. (1993). Someday a Tree. New York, NY: Clarion Books.
Bunting, E. (1996). Secret place. New York: Clarion Books.
Burleigh, R., & Minor (Ill.), W. (2003). Into the woods: John James Audubon lives his dream. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Buscaglia, L. (1982). The fall of freddie the leaf. Thorofare, NJ.: Slack Incorporated.
Butzow, C. M., & Butzow, J. W. (1989). Science through children's literature: An integrated approach (through children's literature). Englewood, CO: Teacher Ideas Press.
Butzow, C. M., & Butzow, J. W. (1999). Exploring the environment through children's literature. Englewood, CO: Teacher Ideas Press.
Cherry, L. (1990). The great kapok tree. New York: Gulliver Green/Harcourt Brace and Company.
Cherry, L. (1992). A river ran wild. New York, NY: Harcourt Brace & Company.
Cherry, L. (2003). How groundhog's garden grew. New York, NY: The Blue Sky Press/Scholastic Inc.
Cherry, L. P., Mark J. (1998). The shaman's apprentice. San Diego: Harcourt Brace and Company.
Cohlene, T. (1990). Turquoise boy: A Navajo legend. Vero Beach, FL.: Watermill Press.
Cole, J. (1986). The magic school bus: at the waterworks. New York: Scholastic Inc.
Cole, J. (1987). The magic school bus: Inside the earth. New York: Scholastic, Inc.
Cooney, B. (1982). Miss Rumphius. New York, NY: The Viking Press.
Cooper, A. (2000). In the city. Boulder: Denver Museum of Natural History Press.
Davies, J., & Sweet (Ill.), M. (2004). The boy who drew birds: A story of John James Audubon. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.
dePaola, T. (1988). The legend of the Indian paintbrush. New York, NY: The Putnum and Grosset Group.
DeYonge, S., & Grosshauser (Ill.), P. (2000). Spring Waters: Gathering Places. Bozeman, MT: The Watercourse.
Donahue, M. (1988). The grandpa tree. Niwot, CO.: Roberts Rinehart.
Dorros, A. (1991). Animal Tracks. New York: Scholastic, Inc.
Dorros, A. (1991). Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean. New York: Harper Collins.
Edwards, R. (1988). Ten tall oak trees. New York: Tambourine Books.
Ehlert, L. (1991). Red leaf, yellow leaf. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers.
Fredericks, A. D., & DiRubbio (Ill.), J. (2001). Under one rock. Nevada City, CA: Dawn Publications.
Freedman, R. L. H. (1999). Science and Writing Connections. White Plains, NY: Dale Seymour Publications.
French, V. (1993). Caterpillar caterpillar. Cambridge, Mass.: Candlewick Press.
George, J., & Souci (Ill.), D. (2002). Frightful's Daughter. New York, NY: Dutton's Children's Books.
George, J. C. Dear rebecca, Winter is here. New York: Harper Collins.
Gerth, M., & Huliska-Beith (Ill.), L. (2003). Five little ladybugs. Los Angeles, CA: Piggy Toes Press.
Gilman, P. (1992). Something from Nothing. New York: Scholastic.
Giono, J. (1954/1985). The man who planted trees. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company.
Goble, P. (1978). The girl who loved wild horses. Scarsdale, NY: Bradbury Press.
Goodall, J. (1994). With love. New York, NY: North - South Books.
Guarino, D., & Kellogg (Ill.), S. (1989). Is your mama a llama? New York, NY: Scholastic Inc.
Hall, D. (1979). Ox-cart man. New York: The Viking Press.
Hammerstrom. (1975). Walk when the moon is full. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press.
Hare, T. (1990). Save our Earth: The Greenhouse Effect. New York: Aladdin Books.
Hartley, D. (1986). Up North in Winter. New York: Penguin Books USA Inc.
Haseley, D. (1988). My father doesn't know about the woods and me.
Heinz, B. J. (2000). Butternut hollow pond. Brookfield, CT.: The Millbrook Press, Inc.
Heller, R. (1985). How to hide a polar bear and other animals. New York: Grosset and Dunlap.
Hickman, P. (2001). Animals eating: How animals chomp, chew, slurp and swallow. Tonawanda, NY.: Kids Can Press, Ltd.
Hiscock, B. (1991). The big tree. New York: Atheneum, Macmillian Publishing Company.
Hooper, M., & Willey (Ill.), B. (2000). River story. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
Igus, Y. (1992). When I Was Little. Orange, NJ.: Just Us Books.
Jeffers, S. (1991). Brother eagle, sister sky. New York: Dial Books.
Jenkins, P. B., & Rockwell (Ill.), L. (1995). A nest full of eggs. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.
Jenkins, S. (1997). What do you do when something wants to eat you? New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Jenkins, S., & Page, R. (2003). What do you do with a tail like this? New York, NY: Scholastic Inc.
Johnson, D. B. (2000). Henry hikes to Fitchburg. Boston,MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Johnson, D. B. (2002). Henry builds a cabin. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Kaner, E. (1999). Animal defenses: How animals protect themselves. Tonawanda, NY.: Kids can press, Ltd.
Killion, B. (1992). The same wind: Harper Collins.
Kitchen, B. (1993). And So They Build. Cambridge, MASS.: Candlewick Press.
Kriesberg, D. A. (1999). A sense of place: Teaching children about the environment with picture books. Englewood, CO: Teacher Ideas Press.
Levenson, G. (1999). Pumpkin circle: The story of a garden. Berkeley, CA: Tricycle Press.
Lionni, L. (1988). Six crows. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.
Locker, T. (1984). Where the river begins. New York: Puffin Pied Piper.
Locker, T. (1995). Sky tree. Washington: Harper Collins Publishers.
Locker, T. (1997). Water dance. New York, NY: Harcourt Brace & Company.
London, J. (1993). The owl who became the moon. New York: Dutton Children's Books.
MacLachlan, P., & Wimmer (Ill.), M. (1994). All the Places to Love: Harper Collins.
Mallet, D. (1997). Inch by inch: The garden song (First Harper Trophy ed.). Hong Kong: Harper Collins Publishers.
Malotki, E. (1996). The magic hummingbird (1st ed.). Sante Fe: Kiva Publishing Inc.
Markert, J. (1992). Water. Mankato, MN: Creative Education, Inc.
Martin Jr., B. (1995). Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? New York, NY: Henry Holt & Company.
Mazer, A. (1991). The salamander room. New York, NY: Dragonfly Books/Alfred A. Knopf.
McCloskey, R. (1948/1976). Blueberries for Sal. New York, NY: The Viking Press.
McClung, R. M. (1977). Peeper, First Voice of Spring. New York: William Morrow and Company.
McKinney, B. S. (1999). Pass the energy please. Nevada City, CA: Dawn Publications.
Merrill, J. (1992). The Girl Who Loved Caterpillars: A Twelfth-Century Tale from Japan. New York: Philomel Books.
Muller, G. (1992). The Garden in the City. New York: Dutton Children's Books.
Muth, J. J. (2002). The three questions: Based on a story by Leo Tolstoy. New York, NY: Scholastic Press.
Naden, C. J., & Blue, R. (1992). John Muir: Saving the wilderness. Brookfield, CT.: The Millbrook Press.
Numeroff, L. (1991). If you give a moose a muffin. U.S.A.: Harper Collins Publishers.
Pearce, F. (1991). The big green book. New York, NY: Kingfisher Books, Grisewood & Dempsey Ltd.
Plumb, S. (1994). A pika's tail. Moose, WY.: Grand Teton Natural History Association.
Pratt-Serafini, K. J. (2000). Salamander rain: A lake and pond journal. Nevada City, CA.: Dawn Publications.
Radlauer, R. S. (1987). Molly goes hiking. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Robertson, K. (1986). Signs Along the River: Learning to Read the Natural Landscape. Boulder, Co: Roberts Rinehart.
Robson, G. D. (2004). Who pooped in the park: Glacier national park. Helena, MT: Farcountry Press.
Rockwell, A. (1998). Our earth. New York, NY: Silver Whistle Harcourt, Inc.
Romanova, N. (1985). Once there was a tree. New York: Puffin Pied Piper.
Ross, M. E., & Moore (Ill.), G. (2001). Lifecycles. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press.
Sabin, F., & Grant (Ill.), L. (1982). Wonders of the Pond: Troll Associates.
Sanders, S. R. (1999). Crawdad creek. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society.
Sanders, S. R., & Hynes (Ill.), R. (1997). Meeting trees. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society.
Selsam, M. E. (1963). Greg's microscope: Harper Collins.
Seuss, D. (1963/1991). Dr. Seuss's ABC: An amazing alphabet book! New York, NY: Random House.
Seuss, D. (1971). The Lorax. New York: Random House.
Sheldon, D. (1990). The whales' song. New York: Dial Books.
Sliverstein, S. (1964). The giving tree. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
Speed, T. (1993). One leaf fell. New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang.
Stevens, J., & Crummel, S. (2003). Jackalope. San Diago, CA: Harcourt, Inc.
Sturges, P., & Laroche (Ill.), G. (2000). Sacred places. New York, NY: G. P. Putnam's Sons.
Stwertka, E. (1991). Rachel Carson. New York: Franklin Watts.
Svedberg, U., & Selberg, I. t. b. (1983). Nicky the nature detective. New York: R & S Books.
Tagholm, S., & Kitchen (Ill.), B. (2000). Animal lives: The rabbit. New York, NY: Kingfisher.
Thompson, C. (1992). The paper bag prince. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Van Allsburg, C. (1990). Just a dream. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Wadsworth, O. A., & Carter (Ill.), D. A. (1992). Over in the meadow: An old counting rhyme. New York, NY: Scholastic Inc.
Wargin, K.-j. (2001). The legend of the lady's slipper. Chelsea: Sleeping Bear Press.
Wiesner, D. (1990). Hurricane. New York: Clarion Books.
Wilson, K., & Rankin, J. (2003). A frog on the bog. New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderrry Books.
Winner, C. (2001). Bison. Minnetonka, MN: Northword.
Worth, B. (2006). I can name 50 trees today. New York, NY: Random House.
Yee, W. H. (2003). Tracks in the snow. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company.
Yolen, J. (1987). Owl moon. New York: Philomel Books.
Yolen, J., & Cooney (Ill.), B. (1992). Letting swift river go. New York, NY: Little Brown and Company.
Yumei, D. E., & Tamarin (Ill.), N. (2005). Little yellow pear tomatoes. Bellevue, WA: Illumination Arts Publishing Company.


Last updated: March 2, 2007

Copyright© 2003-2020 J. William Hug
All Rights Reserved - "No logo, graphic, image, text, or content from this website may be copied
or retransmitted without express prior written permission."