Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Agriculture in the Classroom

It's spring and we're all living through a nationwide pandemic when our food security is even more important.

In the midst of this, librarians are working hard to provide books for young children who are struggling through homeschooling and virtual lessons.  Some, like the librarians in Missouri, are holding virtual book fests to present books and authors to school librarians throughout the state. I had the fun of participating in one of their virtual panels.

I'm happy to share the books of my fellow panelists and the resources with all of you.
Check these out!

Pre-order THE FARM THAT FEEDS US at your local indie or an autographed copy at Oblong Books & Music. The release is postponed until July.

Additional resources for your classroom: 

National Ag in the Classroom program:

American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture:

Feeding Minds Press:

Future Farmers of America:

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Earth Day 2020

Happy 50th Earth Day! 

      Today is the day to think of the ways we can contribute to the health of our planet. You can make a difference by helping endangered species. It doesn’t matter where you live or how old you are, every choice we make impacts our environment and the wildlife around us.
     Here are seven ways you can help today and every day:

Learn About Local Endangered Species — It is hard to help creatures we know nothing about. Find out what animals might be having trouble where you live. Pick one and become an expert. Spread the news about it and how we might be able to keep it safe! You might even be able to volunteer in a local nature center or wildlife refuge. 

Throw Micro Trash In The Trash!  — Tiny items of trash, like bottle caps and small pieces of plastic, are harmful to many species of wildlife. It’s hard for an animal to tell the difference between a piece of food and a piece of trash. Sea turtles and California condors are just two endangered species that suffer from tiny bits of litter. You can help by spreading the word and making sure that micro trash finds its way into the trash! 

Conserve Energy!  — Every time we use energy, we add pollution to the environment. You can help by turning off the lights when you leave a room, by carpooling with your friends when you go somewhere and even buying less stuff wrapped in plastic. Every small thing you do can bring big results if we all work together. 

Be Wildlife Friendly — Make your home wildlife friendly by placing decals on your windows to prevent birds from flying into the glass, planting native plants that provide food and shelter for wildlife, and by keeping your home pesticide and herbicide-free. Also, keep cats indoors. Many birds and small animals have killed cats each year. These easy steps make a huge impact in the lives of your local wildlife! 

Take the Plastic-Free Challenge —  Did you know that people produce millions of tons of plastic garbage every year? That includes plastic bags, plastic drinking straws, water bottles, coffee stirrers, and all sorts of packaging that we use only once and then throw out. All of this garbage ends up in our landfills and our waterways. It not only harms wildlife, but it also harms us. You can make a big difference if you swap out your plastic for reusable glass bottles, cloth bags, and recycle the plastic you do use. So the next time you order a beverage in a restaurant, ask for a glass and don’t use a straw.  

Campaign for Wildlife!  — Write a letter to your local newspaper about endangered species. Attend a town board meeting and speak up for wildlife. Create a website to promote conservation. Join an environmental organization. Become a voice for the creatures you care about. 

©Nancy F Castaldo

Pay Attention — Sometimes we just don’t know what’s going on until it is too late. If you start to pay attention to the plight of endangered species and other wildlife you’ll be one step ahead. Once we know what is happening we can take action and together we can make a difference. Become informed and stay informed. And when you are old enough — VOTE! Voting is an important way to make your voice heard. 

We can make a difference if we all work together. Perhaps, then we can even prevent animals from becoming endangered in the first place. 

Earth Day, Every Day! 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

#wildlifefrommywindow In The Time of COVID-19

I love to travel. I'm one of those people that get butterflies of excitement anytime I am near an airport.    I follow #roamtheplanet and #wandertheglobe with unbridled enthusiasm. And I'm fortunate in that my job as a STEM author allows me to travel for research to some amazing places to see some amazing wildlife.

That said, now is not the time for flying. The pandemic has dampened my wings, but not my spirit, because, as much as I love to travel,  I also know that I do not have to travel to see wildlife. We can see wildlife every day outside our own window. That's right– no matter where you live.

What do you see outside your window? Is it a pigeon soaking up sunshine rays? Is it a deer munching grass? Is it a lizard climbing a wall?

I'd like to know. Use the hashtag #wildlifefrommywindow. I've set up an Instagram account and hope to post some of your photos. You can also just share a list on Twitter using that hashtag like I did yesterday.

You can read it here.

Let's appreciate the wildlife inhabiting our home each and every day while we are staying safe and healthy.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Time Out - Financial Resources for KIDLIT Creators During COVID-19

As programs are canceled throughout the country and modes of revenue dry up during this pandemic, here is a list of resources for freelance kidlit creators. I'll keep this list going as more resources become available.

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Emergency Fund
Grants up to $1,500 for members in time of hardship.
For more info.

PEN American Writers' Emergency Fund
Small grants are given to professional writers in acute or unexpected financial crises.
Apply here.

New York Foundation for the Arts
Emergency grant opportunities for artists by discipline.
For more info.

Boston Artist Relief Fund
Grants of $500-1000 for artists living in Boston.
Apply here.

Authors League Fund
No-string loans offered for health-related problems.
Apply here. 

Carnegie Fund for Authors
Grants to published authors in need of emergency financial assistance.
For more info. 

COVID-19 Freelance Artist Resources 
From assistance with rent to emergency grants.
For a complete listing. 

Wishing you all well. 

More STEAM Resources In the Time of COVID-19

Here are more STEAM resources for parents, teachers, and kids during this time of isolation. 

  1. Palm Oil Audit – Is your household making orangutan-friendly choices at the grocery store? Find out with this eye-opening activity.
  2. Happy Rhinos – Build a rhino-safe enclosure and connect kids to endangered species using design thinking and language arts.  
  3. Ocean Clean-Up Design Challenge – Create a device that will clean up our oceans.
  4. Aging Plastic Experiment – Does plastic every go away? Try this experiment to find out. 
  5. A Language of Your Own - Elephants use many different sounds to communicate emotion. Challenge kids to use sounds and movements to convey emotions (fear, greeting, sadness, excitement, warning, surprise, etc.) without using words. Guess what emotion they are trying to convey.
And for more --check out Patricia Newman’s LitLinks blog series that highlights the connection between STEM and language arts using children’s books:

Patricia and I contribute to another great resource  - STEM Tuesday, where you'll find middle-grade STEM monthly book lists and activities for home and classroom. 


Here's a great video from picture book author Randi Miller Sonenshine to pair with THE NEST THAT WREN BUILT:

And a STEAM activity too!



Be well, readers! 

Monday, March 16, 2020

STEAM Resources in the Time of COVID-19

Here is a list of resources for parents, teachers, and kids to use during (and after) this period of isolation. Let's explore the world from the comfort and safety of our own homes!

If you enjoyed reading about the recovery of wolves in BACK FROM THE BRINK: SAVING ANIMALS FROM EXTINCTION check these out:

The Wolf Conservation Center is offering FREE distance learning programs to schools across the US.  Sessions can be taught via SKYPE, Zoom, Google hangout and more!

While you are on the Wolf Conservation site - check out the 8 webcams! Here is one of my favorites. Can you howl like a wolf?

Here is a short reader's guide for BACK FROM THE BRINK.


Here is an engineering design activity from STEAM author Kirsten Williams Larson based on her book, WOOD, WIRE, WINGS.


Take a tour - VIRTUALLY - at these great institutions!

Smithsonian National Museum of History   My favorite spot is the Ocean Hall on the first floor. Check it out.

Here are a couple of great books to read for your journey:

Check out SCIENCE SNACKS at the Exploratorium! There are so many to choose from.
I like -- BEE HUMMER.

Read this new picture book with your activity:


Saturday, March 7, 2020

Women's History Month - Reaching for the Stars

When I wrote Leap Into Space, I included many female scientists and astronauts -- Sally Ride, Maria Mitchell, Nahide Craig, Heidi Jo Newberg, and Annie Jump Cannon.  The truth is that women have been involved in exploring the universe for centuries.  Here are some books to add to your bookshelf that celebrates women who have reached for the stars! 


Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Women's History Month - Temple Grandin

Let's celebrate a woman who has impacted all of our lives -- Temple Grandin.

Mary Temple Grandin is a professor of animal science and consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior. Dr. Grandin didn't speak until she was three and a half years old. Diagnosed with autism, she faced challenges growing up. Her life and the impact she has made in livestock practices are explored in these kidlit titles.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Women's History Month - Beneath the Waves

Women have been exploring life beneath ocean waves for centuries. These books examine those women and their discoveries. Choose a few to read to your budding oceanographers this spring.


Monday, March 2, 2020

Women's History Month - Ada Lovelace!

It's about time Ada got a little love. After all, Ada Lovelace is a major figure in the history of computers. AND she became part of this history before computers even existed.

I had a blast writing my own ADA LOVELACE book, published by DK Lifestories in 2019. Here are the others. Take a look at them all and compare and contrast how each author tackled the story of this amazing woman.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Women's History Month - Gene Stratton-Porter, Loree Griffen-Burns, and Moths

It's Women's History Month! Hurrah, an entire month to celebrate the accomplishments of women!

I'd like to start with a look at an author who was extremely popular in her day, so much so that she wrote five bestselling books, selling more than other authors of her time. Nine of her novels were made into movies.

Geneva (Gene) Stratton-Porter was also an influential naturalist and conservationist who fought to preserve the Limberlost of Indiana.  After the Swamp Act was passed in 1850 government-owned wetlands that were "worthless" in the eyes of the government were granted to anyone who drained them. These natural areas were given to settlers who logged, farmed and drilled the land. Stratton-Porter wrote and photographed these lands before they were "shorn, branded, and tamed."

You might know her best from her book, Girl of the Limberlost. It's already celebrated its 100th anniversary (2009) and was made into a movie. It's the story of a young girl named Elnora who collects moths in the marsh Stratton-Porter worked to preserve.

Stratton-Porter then worked on the perfect companion book - a photography book that captured the moths she had written about in the place she loved. It became Moths of the Limberlost

Dig around the shelves of your local library this spring for these two wonderful books.

A portion of Stratton-Porter's Loblolly Marsh is preserved today in Indiana. When a 24-hour biodiversity survey was carried out on the site volunteers recorded 545 species: two bees, 55 birds, 29 dragonflies and damselflies, 24 moths and butterflies, one fish, 25 fungi, 15 reptiles and amphibians, two insects, five mammals, 376 plants and 11 sciomyzid flies. Although those numbers seem respectable, the quantities of Stratton-Porter's beloved moths and butterflies were much lower than she had experienced. This species decline has, sadly, been felt all over America.

This leads me to another author and another book celebrating moths. Loree Griffen-Burns has written a book Stratton-Porter would surely have loved. You're Invited to a Moth Ball releases in April! The book is beautifully illustrated with photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz.

This spring pull out a copy of Girl of the Limberlost (or watch the movie) with your young readers, hold your own nighttime celebration with Loree Griffen-Burns' You're Invited to a Moth Ball and spend an evening celebrating these fabulous women and the moths they love! Perhaps it will inspire you to help in their preservation too.


Agriculture in the Classroom

It's spring and we're all living through a nationwide pandemic when our food security is even more important. In the midst of th...