Wow! Ocean! and Coral Reefs
- Mural Making. Jason Chin and Robert Neubecker both achieve the effect of making the viewer feel as if he/she were underwater, face to face with remarkable ocean creatures and plants. Dedicate one of your classroom walls (or the wall in hallway outside your room) to the creation of an underwater mural. Discuss the research processes used by the artists to create accurate representations of the undersea world. Ask students to identify ocean animals and plants that they would like to include in the mural. Assist students to obtain photographs (or even better, take a field trip to a local aquarium) to use as models for their artwork. With older students, you can decide whether you will scale the images to represent real size differences.
- Media Exploration. The two author-artists of these books use very different artistic styles and media to wonderful effect in these titles. Gather together a collection of picture books with undersea settings that feature the use of different artistic media and styles, such as Fish Wish by Bob Barner, Life in a Coral Reef by Wendy Pfeffer and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, Sea Horse: The Shyest Fish in the Sea by Chris Butterworth and illustrated by John Lawrence, and I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry. Discuss the aesthetic responses inspired by different styles and media. Collaborate with your art teacher to offer your students the opportunity to make their own undersea scenes. Students can sketch their work with pencil and then reproduce their sketch multiple times, using different media. Matte and/or frame their works of art and hang them in hallways for all to enjoy.
- How do we see under the sea? Ask you students to consider how we know what the undersea world looks like. Engage your students in research into the different technologies that humans have used to explore the undersea world. Invite small groups of students to learn more about specific tools and methods and to present their findings to their classmates.
- Undersea Explorers. In addition to researching ocean exploration technologies, you may also want to introduce students to famous ocean explorers. Gather together a collection of biographies about marine scientist such as Sylvia Earle, Jacques Cousteau, and Robert Ballard. Compare their life stories and accomplishments. When did their passionate interest in the ocean first surface? How did they achieve their goal of ocean exploration? What were / are their research processes and interests? If possible, make contact with an ocean scientist, either through an in class visit or with a Skype interview. Students should prepare for the interview by developing lists of possible questions.
- Ocean Regions. Coral Reefs presents information and images of reefs in the Caribbean sea, while Wow! Ocean!, Neubecker explores a range of ocean environments. Introduce the geography of the ocean and divide students into small groups to learn more about the characteristics of the ocean at different depths and in different regions of the world. Steve Jenkins’ Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea will be a helpful resource (and has equal visual appeal to the two texts featured this week). Students can prepare presentations of their learning to share with classmates and family members.
- Fantastical Nonfiction. Both of these titles defy exact genre classification. They contain a great deal of nonfiction information, yet include elements of fantasy. Discuss which aspects of the text are nonfiction and which are fantasy; you might want to throw Joanna Cole’s Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor into the mix as well. Talk about the author’s responsibility to represent any nonfiction information accurately – review the back matter of Coral Reefs and examine the labeling of ocean creatures in Wow! Ocean. To further expand the discussion of this blended genre with older students, you could also examine the Guardians of Ga’hoole series by Kathryn Lasky. Invite students to try their own hand at writing a text that melds elements of nonfiction and fantasy.
- Relationships in Nature. The text of Coral Reefs invites consideration of the interrelationships among species and between species and their habitats. Discuss the examples of symbiotic relationships, and the concept of a food chain and food web as they are presented in the text. The wonderful book, Trout are Made of Trees by April Pulley Sayre can help to extend this discussion.
- Coral Reef Endangerment. Do some further online research to see when scientists first became aware of changes occurring in coral reefs. Gather together a collection of informational texts featuring the coral reef; be sure to include books that were written ten or more years ago (see the Further Resources section below for some suggestions). Read the books aloud to the students or give small groups titles to read together. Use post it notes or a large chart to compare the information presented in the books. Which books, like Jason Chin’s Coral Reefs, discuss the effects of climate change on the health of coral reefs? Ask your students to draw on the information they learn about coral reef bleaching to write about coral reefs as if they are writing 10-20 years from now. Will coral reefs fail to thrive or will people take action to save the reefs?
- This biography for older readers presents the accomplishments of Robert Ballard, the Woods Hole Oceanographic scientist who found the wreck of the Titanic and pioneered undersea exploration equipment.
- Following a trip to an aquarium a boy imagines himself a fish swimming in a coral reef; this picture book, which also blends fantasy and nonfiction incorporates is illustrated in mixed media collage.
- This picture book biography presents the life and passion of the famous oceanographer who invented the aqualung.
- This text for intermediate readers follows a marine biologist and her work studying fish in the coral reef. Includes information about the impact of global warming.
- Explains the reproduction of coral by describing a spawning in the Great Barrier Reef.
- Written by marine biologist Sylvia Earle, this title in the Jump into Science series introduces readers to the life cycles of the coral reef.
- The marine biologist and conservationist describes her adventures, motivations, and research in this autobiographical title.
- With oversized photographs and brief text, the famous marine biologist, introduces readers to twelve fish who inhabit the coral reefs.
- This informative survey text presents information about sea life in coral reefs around the world; includes a discussion of the threats facing coral reef habitats.
- With his distinctive paper collage illustrations, the author explores the regions that comprise the depths of the ocean.
- In this fantasy series Kathryn Lasky draws on factual information about the characteristics and behaviors of owls.
- An exploration of ocean life at three different depths off the coast of California.
- This title in the Let’s Read and Find Out series introduces young readers to the habitat of the coral reef. Steve Jenkins distinctive paper collage illustrations enhance this informative title.
- This intriguing picture book explores the life cycle or a trout and the interrelationships of a brook ecosystem.
- A giant squid compares his size to various other ocean creatures, but has to curtail his bragging when he is swallowed by a giant whale; this picture book incorporates cartoon style illustrations.
- Part of the wonderful Scientists in the Field series, this title features scientists’ and community members’ multifaceted efforts to save endangered seahorses in a coral reef off of the Philippines.
- Describes the life cycle and behaviors of seahorses living in a coral reef of the Philippines.
About Erika Thulin Dawes
Erika is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former classroom teacher, reading specialist, and literacy supervisor, she now teaches courses in children’s literature, early literacy, and literacy methods. Erika is the co-author of Learning to Write with Purpose, Teaching with Text Sets, and Teaching to Complexity.
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