Learning Extensions (Adventures!)

Five Books to Teach Earth Day

Anna Starecheski

With Earth Day coming up this month, we wanted to share with you a few great books to add to your classroom library. And of course, as a Storyworks and/or Storyworks Jr. subscriber, remember that you have access to the archives, with many stories perfect for Earth Day!



Luna & Me by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw tells the true story of Julia Butterfly Hill, who also happens to be the subject of the play in the March/April issue of Storyworks Jr.! Julia went to extreme lengths to save a redwood tree named Luna from being cut down by loggers—she actually lived in Luna for more than two years. This picture book version of her story makes a great companion to our play, and is delightful on its own as well.



One Plastic Bag by Miranda Paul is another story of an inspiring woman who did incredible work for the environment. Isatou Ceesay saw a huge problem in her home country of Gambia: plastic bags were everywhere. Isatou figured out a way to recycle the plastic bags and transform her community. This picture book is great as a read-aloud or as independent reading for your more struggling readers.



Wishtree by Katherine Applegate is beloved by many, and for good reason. It's told from the point of view of a wise old oak tree watching over a neighborhood. This story celebrates nature in a way kids can understand and appreciate, all while telegraphing a clear message of acceptance, friendship, and hope. This longer book is ideal for readers in grades 3-6.



Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years by Stacy McAnulty is a delightful, educational picture book that's ideal for struggling readers. It's just what it sounds like: The history of the Earth, told from the point of view of Earth. It's packed with fun facts and is sure to enthrall your science-minded kids!



Who Was Rachel Carson? by Sarah Fabiny tells the story of an incredible environmental activist who warned the world about the dangers of DDT and pesticides. We know that the "Who Was" series is a staple of classrooms everywhere because of their kid-friendly approach to biographies, and this one is exceptional!



Learning Extensions for World Water Day

Allison Friedman
Storyworks’s March/April Paired Texts feature tells the inspiring story of how a new well changed life for one 13-year-old girl and her community in rural Mozambique. It’s the perfect article to share with your students in preparation for World Water Day, on March 22, which raises awareness about the importance of access to clean water. And to help them delve even deeper into water problems and solutions around the world, here are four fascinating learning extensions:
TO WATCH: An animated video about water access around the world
TO DO: Make an infographic
This simple, clear, and captivating animated video from charity:water—the amazing organization featured in our article—will give students an overview of the global water crisis and how people are helping to solve it.
*Note: Parts of the video may be upsetting to some students. Make sure to preview it ahead of time to make sure it’s appropriate for your class.
LEARNING TASK: Have students use the information in the video to create an infographic about worldwide water problems, solutions to those problems, and the effects of the solutions.
TO READ: An fun, approachable nonfiction book
TO DO: Write a short story
Funny, colorful cartoons keep students engaged in this fact-packed book about water’s role in people’s lives, around the world and throughout history.
LEARNING TASK: After they read the book, invite students to write a short story imagining a day in their lives without clean water.
TO EXPLORE:website about how to save water
TO DO: Take a quiz
This kid-friendly Environmental Protection Agency site offers actionable tips on how to use less water—so students can help save the planet, one drop at a time!
LEARNING TASK: Ask students to explore the “Why Save?” and “Simply Ways to Save” tabs on their own. Then partner them up to play the WaterSense quiz game together.
TO WATCH: video about the water cycle
TO DO: Conduct an experiment
Where does drinking water come from? Students will find out in this lively video breakdown of the water cycle.
LEARNING TASK: Watch the video together as a class. Then divide students into small groups and have each group pick one of the “Classrooms Experiments” as a project.

Learn More about Deaf Culture

Anna Starecheski

We love our paired texts from the March/April issue of Storyworks Jr.: "Say Hello to Julio" and "Meet Alice Cogswell." In fact, we love them so much we’re offering them as a free sample for all teachers to use, even if they don’t subscribe to Storyworks Jr.! These articles tell the stories of two young deaf people: Julio Navarro, who is 13 and goes to a school for the deaf in New York, and Alice Cogswell, who lived two hundred years ago and was trapped in a lonely world until one man saw that she could learn. Deafness is often misunderstood, so we wanted to give your students some resources to learn more.



TO READ: A funny and moving graphic memoir about growing up deaf

TO DO: Draw a short comic

El Deafo came out a few years ago and is already a beloved classic. Cece Bell tells the story of how she became deaf at age four, and how she learned to see her deafness as a superpower rather than a disability. Your students, even reluctant readers, will be drawn in by the graphic novel format.

LEARNING TASK: Have students draw a one-page comic putting themselves into a scene from El Deafo. Ask some questions to get them inspired: What would you like to do with Cece? Is there a scene in the book you would have liked to be a part of? 



TO EXPLORE: A list of famous deaf and hard of hearing people

TO DO: A research project

This site has a comprehensive list of all sorts of prominent deaf and hard of hearing people paired with short blurbs about them.

LEARNING TASK: Have each student pick one person from the list and do further research on them. They can compile their findings in a short essay or on a poster.



TO WATCH: A Q&A video

TO DO: A class discussion

This video shows kids meeting a deaf person and asking her questions.

LEARNING TASK: After watching the video, hold a class discussion. Were there any questions that you hadn't thought about before? Are there any that weren't asked that you would want to know the answer to? How does this video help you understand what it's like to be deaf?



Short Nonfiction Leads to Rich SEL

Anna Starecheski

For the September issue of Storyworks Jr., I had the honor of writing about an amazing young girl named Jesselyn Silva. Jesselyn is 11 years old, and she loves to box. I was bowled over and inspired by Jesselyn's passion and dedication, and I hoped Storyworks Jr. readers would be too. But I never could have imagined the lesson one class got after reading her story.



Upstate NY teacher Teresa Weinmann saw that Jesselyn's story could open the door to an important social-emotional learning lesson on the importance of being yourself. And she had the perfect person to help her deliver this lesson: her friend Karen. Karen is a mother, an insurance agent, a singer, and a boxer. Teresa invited her into her classroom, and what followed was an experience her students will never forget.


Karen started by showing some photos of a boxer from behind. She asked the students what they saw, if they could tell if it was a man or a woman. The kids' minds were blown when Karen declared "Well, it's me." She talked about gender stereotypes and was thrilled when she asked the kids what kinds of jobs girls should have. "Any job," one boy said. And what kind of jobs should boys have? "Whatever they want." These kids had the right idea already!

Karen spoke about her journey to finding her passion in boxing and how it makes her feel strong and confident. 

She told the students that they can be anything they want to be, and that it's important to do what you love and be true to yourself. They discussed positive words they could say to themselves when they feel down or defeated by themselves or others. 

The conversation went in many directions, from bullying to being a male ballet dancer to not judging someone by how they look. And then came some fun!



Karen showed the kids her boxing equipment and even taught them some moves! But the learning wasn't over then: Teresa gave the kids paper boxing gloves and had them write positive words to describe themselves on one glove, and on the other glove they wrote phrases that might encourage them when they are faced with a challenge.



A short nonfiction story about an incredible young girl led to a learning experience these kids will never forget. We are always thrilled when teachers take a story from our magazines and turn it into something we never could have imagined. Do you have a story like Teresa's? We want to hear about it

Learn More about the Great Halifax Explosion

Allison Friedman
Storyworks’s February nonfiction feature will have your students on the edge of their seats. It tells the riveting story of two World War I ships that collided in Halifax Harbor in 1917, causing one of the most powerful explosions in history—a devastating blast that ripped through the Canadian towns of Halifax and Dartmouth. After reading about this shocking and little-known disaster, your students will no doubt be eager to learn more. Here are some resources to get them started:
TO DO: Hold a small-group discussion
This interactive 3D video of the explosion and its aftermath is a fabulous tool to help students—especially visual learners—fully grasp the logistics of the disaster. They’ll love being able to drag around the frame to get a 360-degree view of the scene.
LEARNING TASK: Divide students into groups of 3 or 4 and ask each group to choose at least 5 details they learned in the video that helped them better understand the Storyworks article. Then have them discuss where in the article each detail would best belong.
TO DO: Write a speech
This 3-minute NPR clip tells the story behind a heartwarming tradition that came about in the wake of the Halifax tragedy: Every December, the province of Nova Scotia sends Boston a large Christmas tree as a thank-you for the city’s speedy and generous support after the explosion.
LEARNING TASK: Invite students to write a speech that Boston’s mayor might give at the city’s annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, explaining the origins of the tree.
TO DO: Write a dialogue
Five survivors' stories are read out loud overtop haunting images of Halifax ruins, helping students imagine what they might have seen, heard, and felt during and after the explosion. (To see a list of all the video clips in the series, click on the menu icon in the top lefthand corner of the video player window.) 
Note: The stories are emotionally intense at parts, so we suggest previewing them first to make sure they are appropriate for your students.
LEARNING TASK: Choose one of the survivors and write an imagined dialogue between that person and Noble Driscoll, in which the two compare and contrast their experiences of the disaster.
TO DO: Write an informational text
Like all the books in National Geographic Kids’ Everything series, this one about World War I is packed with fascinating facts, vivid photos, and colorful maps and infographics—all written and arranged in a kid-friendly, easy-to-understand way.
LEARNING TASK: After students read the book, have them write a short informational text about World War I that could be used as a pairing for the Storyworks article. They should make sure to include details from the book that they believe would best enhance readers’ understanding of the original article.

Science-Based Extensions for Nonfiction

Ann O'Connor

Editor's note: Ann O'Connor, a grade 2-3 teacher from California, told us that she used "The Amazing Penguin Rescue," the nonfiction feature in the December 2017/January 2018 issue of Storyworks Jr., as a jumping-off point for a cool science experiment and a simple research project. Here they are—just in time for Penguin Awareness Day on January 20!


Feather Experiment:

  1. Hand out one feather to each student. You can get the feathers at Michaels or another craft store. 
  2. Students place the feather into water. We did this in a scooping action, just as the penguin would be diving into the water. Students recorded what happened to the feather in their science journal. (It was still dry. It kept its shape.)
  3. With the same movement, student dipped their feather in vegetable oil. Students immediately noticed how heavy their feather became. Students recorded this and other observations in their journals.
  4. Students tried to wash the feather out in water then recorded that it did not remove the oil.
  5. Students washed the feather in water that contained very little dishwashing soap, then recorded their findings. They were most surprised by how light the feather felt when it was clean.



Penguin iPad Activity:

  1. Google "penguins" and choose an image that you can identify as a specific species of penguin. Save the image to your camera roll.
  2. Research facts about that species of penguin and record important facts in your writing journal.
  3. In your journal, create your own paragraph, incorporating facts in your own words.
  4. Open “Book Creator” and choose portrait.
  5. Import your picture and add text. Label your picture and include a title.
  6. I had students export their projects to their Google Drive and share it with me so I could print it. 


Build Knowledge on Refugees

Allison Friedman

Storyworks’s October/November nonfiction article is on a difficult but deeply important topic: the Syrian refugee crisis. It tells the moving story of two young brothers who leave war-torn Aleppo and make a new home in the United States. After reading the article, your students may have questions about the war in Syria, the plight of refugees, and what they can do to help. Here are four resources that you can use to continue the conversation:


Note: Because of the difficulty of the subject matter, we suggest that you preview all of the materials below to make sure you feel comfortable sharing them with your students.


TO READ: A background knowledge-building book

TO DO: Small-group discussion

This slim book introduces elementary-age kids to the Syrian war and refugee crisis in simple, straightforward language. Definitions, facts, statistics, and maps are interwoven with the fictional story of a young refugee boy, which helps bring the information to life.

LEARNING TASK: After students have read the book, divide them into small groups of 3-4. Have each group choose one of the discussion prompts at the end of the book to talk about amongst themselves. Then come back together as a class and invite each group to share their thoughts.


TO VIEW: Photo slideshows

TO DO: A personal letter

These moving slideshows are the product of a joint project between ABC News and Unicef, in which 50 children living in the world’s largest refugee camp were given digital cameras and invited to document their lives. The resulting photos offer a fascinating glimpse into what it’s like to be a young refugee.

LEARNING TASK: Because the article that accompanies the slideshows is too sophisticated for your students, we suggest viewing the slideshows together as a class rather than letting kids explore on their own. Begin by explaining what a refugee camp is and showing the video that introduces the project. Then click through the slideshows, reading the captions out loud. Afterwards, invite students to write a letter to the young photographers who took the pictures, explaining how the photos made them feel and what they learned from the photos about life in a refugee camp.


TO WATCH: A powerful video

TO DO: A research project and brochure

The behind-the-scenes video for our 2016 article “Escape From War,” which is about a young Syrian refugee girl, focuses on the amazing ways that people are helping refugees around the world. Your students will be inspired to get involved.

LEARNING TASK: After watching the video, have students do independent research to find out what other people and organizations are doing to help Syrian refugees. Then have them make an illustrated brochure for their fellow students, explaining what is being done and how kids their age can help. (Students can either create their brochures on paper, or make digital versions with free online programs like Canva.)


TO EXPLORE: A striking infographic

TO DO: A paragraph-writing activity

This simple yet powerful infographic from the United Nations Refugee Agency will help students visualize the scale of the refugee crisis.

LEARNING TASK: Have students study the infographic carefully, looking up the definitions of words that are unfamiliar to them. Then have them use the information in the infographic to write a paragraph, in their own words, describing the refugee crisis to someone who might not know about it.


I hope these ideas spark further learning and discussion in your classroom about this important topic. And, as always, if you have a great learning extension, we want to hear about it! Get in touch with us anytime.

Volcanic Learning Extensions

Anna Starecheski

We knew that Lauren Tarshis's gripping story "Mountain of Fire," about the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, would be a home-run for Storyworks Jr. readers. The science of volcanoes is fascinating, and their power is breathtaking. Keep your students engaged with the learning extensions below, and as always, let us know if you came up with any great extensions for one of our stories!


TO READ: An in-depth account of the eruption of Mount St. Helens

TO DO: A timeline

This fantastic book by Patricia Lauber goes into great detail telling the story of the eruption of Mount St. Helens, from the warning signs to the slow return of wildlife to the area. This will appeal to science- and history-minded students alike, with its vivid photographs and diagrams.

LEARNING TASK: Have students create a colorful timeline poster of the events leading up to and following the eruption of Mount St. Helens.


TO WATCH: A mesmerizing video of lava

TO DO: A creative writing assignment

This beautful video from National Geographic shows the power and beauty of volcanic lava. You can also feel free to click around and watch other volcano videos, like this one.

LEARNING TASK: After watching the video, have students write creatively about the spectacle of a volcano. They can write a poem, a paragraph, or even make a list of similes and metaphors describing volcanoes or lava.  


TO EXPLORE: A fact-filled infographic

TO DO: A research project

This easy-to-read infographic shares some fun, unexpected facts about volcanoes.

LEARNING TASK: Go over the infographic as a class, discussing which facts students found the most surprising or interesting. Then have students work in pairs or small groups to research volcanoes further, using your school's library, the internet, or any other sources you may have. Each pair or group should come up with at least one new fact about volcanoes that they found surprising. For an extra extension, these facts could be compiled into a binder or on a bulletin board.


TO STUDY: A visual display of various volcanic rocks

TO DO: A hands-on nature exploration

This website has great photographs of all the different types of igneous rocks. In our article we mention pumice, but there are many more fascinating types! 

LEARNING TASK: If appropriate for where your school is located, have students explore outside and look for rocks they think might be volcanic. Your students might be surprised to be able to find examples right in their backyard, so to speak. For more urban environments, remember that granite is an igneous rock!


We hope these extensions inspire your students, and if you tried any of them out, let us know by emailing us or tweeting with the hashtag #StoryworksJr!

Delightful Dog-themed Learning Extensions

Allison Friedman

We can only imagine how dog-obsessed your students have been since reading Storyworks’s September paired texts, “The Amazing History of Dogs.” These two fascinating articles go back 35,000 years to explain where dogs came from and how they became our best friends. To further feed your students’ canine curiosity, here are four learning extension ideas:

TO READ: A nonfiction book about dog communication

TO DO: Make an illustrated doggie dictionary

As our paired texts explain, dogs understand us better than pretty much any other creature. This fun, photo-packed National Geographic helps us understand them in return, translating all their woofs and wags into human speak.

LEARNING TASK: Have students choose ten dog gestures or behaviors from the book and make their own dog dictionary. They should draw out each gesture or behavior, then explain what it means.

TO WATCH: A video about military working dogs

TO DO: Make a poster

A perennial Storyworks favorite, this nonfiction video explores the fascinating world of elite soldier dogs. Students will learn all about the history of dogs in warfare, the rigorous training process military dogs go through today, and the remarkable life-saving feats they perform.

LEARNING TASK: Invite students to make a poster to recruit new dogs to the military. Their posters should include information about what makes dogs such valuable soldiers.

TO READ: A narrative-nonfiction book about a famous pup

TO DO: Write a narrative-nonfiction story

If you’re a longtime Storyworks subscriber, you’ll know that we LOVE author Roland Smith. (In fact, we’re featuring his story “The Space Rock” in our upcoming December/January issue!) This fascinating narrative-nonfiction book tells the story of Lewis and Clark’s famous journey from the point of view of one of their key companions: their Newfoundland dog, Seaman.

LEARNING TASK: Ask students to research another famous dog from history, then write a short story from that dog’s perspective, using Smith’s book as a model.

TO WATCH: A video about dog intelligence

TO DO: Write a paragraph

This comprehensive-yet-accessible video delves deep into the subject of doggie genius, tapping scientists and dog experts to reveal just how smart our canine companions really are.

LEARNING TASK: Have students choose a section from the video that they found especially interesting. Then have them use the information from that section to write an additional paragraph for the Storyworks feature. They should explain where in the Storyworks articles they think their new paragraph belongs.

We hope these extensions keep the learning going in your classroom! As always, if you found a winning learning extension connected to one of our articles, we want to hear about it! Email us at storyworksideabook@scholastic.com.

Help Your Students Celebrate Their Differences

Anna Starecheski

Hi, teachers! We're thrilled to share with you a fantastic social-emotional learning opportunity available to all 4th grade students in the U.S. A wonderful organization called Don't Hide it, Flaunt It! (DHIFI) has teamed up with Scholastic for its National Kids Flaunt Essay Contest. DHIFI encourages kids and adults alike to celebrate—to flaunt!—what makes them different and awesome. Meg Zucker, who runs DHIFI, is a dear friend to us here at Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. We've featured her sons, Ethan and Charlie, in both Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. Meg, Ethan, and Charlie all have a condition called ectrodactyly, and they are missing most of their fingers and toes. And yet all of them have full lives, with lots of friends and lots of passions.

Our readers have responded to our articles about Ethan and Charlie in a big way! We heard from many teachers and students that these articles helped to build empathy and encouraged students to be proud of what makes them different, whether it's a visible difference like the Zuckers', an invisible difference like having a food allergy, or even a positive difference, like being a twin.

You'll find all the details about the contest here, including the essays from last year's winners. Be sure to show your students the fantastic video introducing the contest, too. The deadline to enter is November 3. We hope your students will be inspired to enter. Good luck to your students!