Monthly Archives: November 2011

Review: The Box Boy by Mal Webster

The Box Boy is the whole package as a picture book…literally. Author/illustrator Mal Webster has cleverly designed his book to resemble the cardboard boxes of his subject. The back of the book  has ripped packing tape and cardboard corrugations, while the end papers contain address labels and packaging symbols. An interesting exercise for a child to work out how a book is like a box…

The Box Boy loves to collect things, especially boxes. He’s a true recycler and a model for sustainability as he builds structures out of cardboard boxes which are simply too good to throw away. He becomes famous after he conststructs a model of the Eiffel Tower but soon tires of fame and returns home to come up with new ideas.

Webster admits that the box boy is really a younger version of himself. A teacher/author/illustrator and graphic designer, Webster created The Box Collecting Boy for his Master’s degree in Visual Arts and Design at Latrobe Uni. Prior to publication, his work was on display so if you’d like to see a picture of his real Eiffel tower, you can do so here. The Box Boy is published as a Helen Chamberlin book by Windy Hollow Books. Formerly at Lothian, Chamberlin is a multi- award winning doyen of Australian childrens publishing.

I see this book as leading to all sorts of exciting activities centred around materials testing and construction. Measuring (maths) and art can also be incorporated. Cardboard is used widely for a variety of purposes because it’s lightweight, strong, cheap…Students could come up with lists of where and why cardboard is used.

You can find some information on the properties of cardboard here, or through any simple google search. The Box Boy isn’t the only one who would like to live in a cardboard box. There is a lot of research into using it as a sustainable building material and again, a simple search on the net will lead you to lots of articles and pictures. Try here as a starting point.

Cardboard is also used as a furniture material. I found some great pictures here but I’m sure children will enjoy collecting their own pictures.

Students could come up with their own experiments, to develop science inquiry skills, such as insulating properties of cardboard or biodegradability. They could look at why corrugated cardboard is stronger than plain cardboard.

Overall, I loved the simplicity of this book, with it’s cheeky little boy and his fantastic creations. There’s also a nice little message about fame not being all it’s cracked up to be and that life should be about creating things that are worthwhile.

National Curriculum applications: ( from /www.australiancurriculum.edu.au)

Chemical sciences (Foundation)

Objects are made of materials that have observable properties.

  • sorting and grouping materials on the basis of observable properties such as colour, texture and flexibility
  • thinking about how the materials used in buildings and shelters are suited to the local environment

Chemical sciences (Year 1)

Everydaymaterials can be physically changed in a variety of ways

Chemical sciences (Year 2)

Different materials can be combined, including by mixing, for a particular purpose

  • exploring the local environment to observe a variety of materials, and describing ways in which materials are usedr
  • suggesting why different parts of everyday objects such as toys and clothes are made from different materials
  • identifying materials such as paper that can be changed and remade or recycled into new products

Chemical sciences (Year 4)

Natural and processed materials have a range of physical properties; These properties can influence their use

  • describing a range of common materials, such as metals or plastics, and their uses
  • investigating a particular property across a range of materials
  • selecting materials for uses based on their properties
  • considering how the properties of materials affect the management of waste or can lead to pollution

Science Inquiry Skills (all levels)

  • Questioning and Predicting
  • Planning and Conducting
  • Pocessing and Analysing
  • Communicating

Author: Mal Webster

Illustrator: Mal Webster

Windy Hollow Books, 2011

ISBN 9781921136504

2 Comments

Filed under Foundation, Level 1, Level 4, Science Inquiry Skills

Review: Crocodile River by Diana Lawrenson and Danny Snell

Life’s tough for a saltwater crocodile, in the early days at least. As a hatchling, Cranky the salty has to watch out for hungry turtles and sea eagles while herself snapping up insects and tadpoles.  As she grows, her diet successively changes from little fish and prawns, to larger fish, frogs and fruit bats. Bigger still, she waits for wild piglets but has to escape from an even larger crocodile.

Lawrenson has carefully woven much information about saltwater crocodiles into her tale of Cranky’s search for a place of her own. We are shown that crocodiles are part of the natural order of things, rather than something to be feared.  As a youngster, she is just as vulnerable to human predation as we are to her when she is bigger and stronger. The end papers of the book contain fact about the crocodile’s  life cycle, habitat and adaptations. My only gripe with this book as a science teacher is the tendency to attribute words and thoughts to Cranky, who really wouldn’t be using language. I’d be interested in hearing the views of others on this.

The predator/prey relationship here is really strong and it would work well as an introduction to food webs. In terms of life cycles, we see Cranky progress from one of many eggs, through the vulnerable hatchling stage till she is finally an adult. It could be used in the early years as an introduction, or in later years as a practical exercise in food chain/web mapping. Cranky goes full cycle, from being prey to predator. It’s great to have Australian texts to work with rather than outdated or overseas texts. Crocodile River is equally applicable to any discussion on habitat or adatations.

Teacher’s notes can be accessed through either Lawrenson’s website or via the publisher, Working Title Press.

Notable Book, Children’s Book Council of Australia
Whitley Award, Royal Zoological Society of NSW

Biological sciences (Foundation)

Living things have basic needs, including food and water

  • recognising the needs of living things in a range of situations such as pets at home, plants in the garden or plants and animals in bushland

Biological sciences (Year 1)

Living things have a variety of external features

  • recognising common features of animals such as head, legs and wings
  • describing the use of animal body parts for particular purposes such as moving and feeding

Living things live in different places where their needs are met

  • exploring different habitats in the local environment such as the beach, bush and backyard
  • recognising that different living things live in different places such as land and water

Biological sciences (Year 2)

Living things grow, change and have offspring similar to themselves

  • representing personal growth and changes from birth
  • recognising that living things have predictable characteristics at different stages of development
  • exploring different characteristics of life stages in animals such as egg, caterpillar and butterfly
  • observing that all animals have offspring, usually with two parents

Biological sciences (Year 4)

Living things have life cycles

  • making and recording observations of living things as they develop through their life cycles
  • describing the stages of life cycles of different living things such as insects, birds, frogs and flowering plants

Living things, including plants and animals, depend on each other and the environment to survive.

  • investigating the roles of living things in a habitat, for instance producers, consumers or decomposers
  • observing and describing predator-prey relationships
  • predicting the effects when living things in feeding relationships are removed or die out in an area
  • recognising that interactions between living things may be competitive or mutually beneficial.

Biological sciences (Year 5)

Living things have structural features and adaptations that help them to survive in their environment. 

  • describing and listing adaptations of living things suited for the Australian environment
  • exploring general adaptations for particular environments such as water conservation in deserts
  • explaining how particular adaptations help survival such as nocturnal behaviour, silvery coloured leaves of dune plants
  • comparing types of adaptations such as behavioural and structural

Author: Diana Lawrenson

Illustrator: Danny Snell

Working Title Press, 209

ISBN 9781876288921

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Filed under Biological Sciences Sub-strand, Foundation, Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, Level 4, Level 5

Review: There Was An Old Sailor by Claire Saxby and Cassandra Allen

‘There was an old sailor

Who swallowed a krill

I don’t know why he swallowed the krill’

It’ll make him ill…?

So begins one of my favourite picture books of the past few years.  ‘There Was An Old Sailor,’ written by Claire Saxby and illustrated by Cassandra Allen is a fun new look at an old children’s classic. Modelled on the rythms and patterns of ‘there was an old woman who swallowed a fly,’ it looks at an old sailor, who successively swallows larger and larger ocean creatures until…well I won’t spoil the punch-line. You’ll have to read it yourself but it certainly appeals to kids. This is a great read-aloud book and the repetition that young children will love joining in. Getting rhymes to work in stories is something that seems easy but is in fact quite difficult and Saxby has done a great job.

Allen’s illustrations are also really appealling, with a great range of exprssions on the sailor’s face as he contemplates eating a seal, a shark and a whale… of course, a sailor couldn’t really swallow a whale but these illustrating make it all seem quite feasible.

The last pages of the book contain some fishy facts about ocean creatures.

Saxby’s book won the SCBWI 2011 Crystal Kite award. This award is voted on by other authors and illustrators, so it’s a great verification of her work by her peers. The book was also short-listed for the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards 2010, Young Children Category.

Walker books have provided a set of classroom ideas which you can access here. There are some great ideas to use in the classroom, as well as a quiz which you can print out which students can answer from  the fishy facts at the back of the book. Making puppets, making rhymes, looking at the art-work…lots of links between literacy, science and art. Walker have also provided a colouring sheet for younger children…or perhaps older ones too!

The obvious science links here are food chains/webs and this little story would be a great way to introduce it as a concept for younger children and even for older children. I’ve used picture books in secondary classes as a way to get kids engaged. You could make a food web, linking students with string or model one in 3D with artwork. It also relates to habitat and the types of creatures which inhabit an ocean environment, their adaptations and they way in which their needs are met. On a simpler level, it can be used to look at children’s needs, what they need to eat and their own requirements.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the story behind the story, you can read some of the posts on it’s blog tour at great review sites such as kid’s book review.

National Curriculum applications:

Biological sciences (Foundation)

Living things have basic needs, including food and water

  • recognising the needs of living things in a range of situations such as pets at home, plants in the garden or plants and animals in bushland
  • identifying the needs of humans such as warmth, food and water, using students’ own experiences

Biological sciences (Year 1)

Living things have a variety of external features

  • recognising common features of animals such as head, legs and wings
  • describing the use of animal body parts for particular purposes such as moving and feeding

Living things live in different places where their needs are met

  • exploring different habitats in the local environment such as the beach, bush and backyard
  • recognising that different living things live in different places such as land and water

Biological sciences (Year 4)

Living things, including plants and animals, depend on each other and the environment to survive.

  • investigating the roles of living things in a habitat, for instance producers, consumers or decomposers
  • observing and describing predator-prey relationships
  • predicting the effects when living things in feeding relationships are removed or die out in an area
  • recognising that interactions between living things may be competitive or mutually beneficial.

Author: Claire Saxby

Illustrator: Cassandra Allen

Walker Books, 2010

ISBN 978192150515

4 Comments

Filed under Biological Sciences Sub-strand, Foundation, Level 1, Level 4

Review: Three Little Pigs (Traditional)

This isn’t strictly a review a such…It’s some thoughts about using a traditional text in the primary science classroom.

Earlier this year I asked a group of primary school teachers what books they used to introduce science ideas in the classroom and a couple of teachers said that they had used ‘The Three Little Pigs.’  Later, passing a charity shop in Williamstown, I spotted a lovely pop up copy of this classic tale and snapped it up for use in my workshop. I began thinking of all the fun things I could do with the three little pigs…if only I was a primary school teacher!

Three Little Pigs allows teachers to cover properties of materials and materials testing, particularly some of those early ideas in the chemistry strand.  Also, students can make a hypothesis, design, test and evaluate, so it’s perfect for developing science inquiry skills .

Dress up, act it out…link literacy and science.

At Acle St-Edmunds school in the UK, students built houses out of various materials and tested them using a big bad wolf fan. They’ve uploaded photos to show how they tested the strength of their houses.  I found a website dealing with supplementary materials such as posters and design sheets. Closer to home, some instructions for building houses with e-how family. I’m sure you’ll be able to find lots of ideas with only a few minutes trawling on the internet.

Look at different building materials, traditional and new. If you can find an old copy of  Pearson’s Comet Magazine, isuue 1, 2006 contains an article on Earth houses; looking at unusual types of building materials such as straw-bale houses or mud-brick houses.  There are teaching notes here.

National Curriculum applications: ( from /www.australiancurriculum.edu.au)

Chemical sciences (Foundation)

Objects are made of materials that have observable properties.

  • sorting and grouping materials on the basis of observable properties such as colour, texture and flexibility
  • thinking about how the materials used in buildings and shelters are suited to the local environment

Chemical sciences (Year 1)

Everydaymaterials can be physically changed in a variety of ways

Chemical sciences (Year 2)

Different materials can be combined, including by mixing, for a particular purpose

  • exploring the local environment to observe a variety of materials, and describing ways in which materials are used
  • investigating the effects of mixing materials together
  • suggesting why different parts of everyday objects such as toys and clothes are made from different materials
  • identifying materials such as paper that can be changed and remade or recycled into new products

Chemical sciences (Year 4)

Natural and processed materials have a range of physical properties; These properties can influence their use

  • describing a range of common materials, such as metals or plastics, and their uses
  • investigating a particular property across a range of materials
  • selecting materials for uses based on their properties
  • considering how the properties of materials affect the management of waste or can lead to pollution

Science Inquiry Skills (all levels)

  • Questioning and Predicting
  • Planning and Conducting
  • Pocessing and Analysing
  • Communicating

4 Comments

Filed under Foundation, Foundation, Foundation, Level 1, Level 1/2, Level 1/2, Level 2, Level 3/4, Level 4, Level 5/6