Monday, October 30, 2017

Promoting critical thinking

How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing myths of science denial by Darryl Cunningham though published in 2013 is right on target in this day of ‘fake news’.

Looking at the science and controversies behind such topics as climate change, fracking, evolution, chiropractic and homeopathic care, vaccinations causing autism and the conspiracy story that astronauts did not land on the moon, Cunningham looks to give us some insight into the veracity of all claims.

Let’s take the chapter on climate change, a topic that is often explored in classrooms.  Presented are common arguments that the Earth’s climate is becoming warmer and as well as those that refute this claim.

Cunningham explains that to really understand climate change we need to see the big picture, we need to see what is happening on a global level, and not base our opinions on local events such as extremely hot summers or extremely cold winters.  In addition to looking at patterns on a global level we need to look at the Earth’s historical data, as well to see these patterns over very long periods of time.

Overall, there is an immense amount of data to breakdown and analyze but the science does back up the theory that the Earth’s climate is indeed changing. He presents the following facts:

*global sea levels have risen about 17 cm in the past century, a rate of increase that has doubled in the past decade.
*there has been a consistent global surface temperature rise since the 1880s and most of this warming has occurred since the 1970s with two of the warmest years happening in the past 12 years.
*all this has taken place even though the 2000s have experienced a solar output decline.
                                                                                                                         --from page 139
He presents additional information about shrinking ice sheets from highly credible sources with measurable points for comparison over time.  He explains how Earth’s atmosphere traps greenhouse gases and that there is a correlation between human activity since the industrial revolution and increases in global temperatures.

Next, he addresses the points of contention that arise in discussions about climate change like, “Isn’t it true that a growing number of eminent scientists now believe climate change to be wrong?” But statistical analysis of the opinions of climate experts showed that only 2.5 percent of the world’s top 200 climate scientists are skeptical of human-made climate change.

Cunningham explains that many of the conspiracy theories come from interest groups, such as the fossil fuel industry who have a vested interest in preserving the status quo.

Now all of this sounds like pretty heavy going, doesn’t it? But the book is done in fairly short chapters in graphic novel-style. The tone is conversational as our narrator is depicted in each section and leads us through the controversies and evidence. I think it’s taken me longer to write up the section above describing the chapter about climate change than it did for me to read about it.

This book will be a terrific addition to classrooms to promote discussions about climate change and any topic which might fall into either category of ‘news’ or ‘fake news’.  It will with encourage critical thinking for those at the secondary levels.  Each section is credited with the sources that the author consulted to write this book.

I recommend this for grades 9 or 10 and up for anyone interested in this timely topic.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Setting the tone: Mistakes = Possibilities

I think it’s really easy for people to get caught up chasing the right answer, achieving set goals, or sticking to a game plan. There’s the fear of being judged and found lacking in intelligence, ability or motivation. In other words, feeling stupid and frustrated sucks especially when you know you can do better.

But there’s a lot of potential for a mistake to result in something unexpected and good and possibly be even better than your initial attempt.

Take the artist in The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken, for example.

She starts drawing the face of a girl but the second eye is a little too large so to fix that mistake she enlarges the first eye and now both eyes are slightly too big. The illustrated girl spookily looks like a character from Coraline . (Great book for Halloween. Just saying.) However, this is short lived as a pair of glasses sets the picture back on track.

But the mistakes keep on happening. A super long neck and one extra-extended arm gives the girl a freakish look.  But the creative illustrator uses these slip-ups as an opportunity for embellishing the clothes of her creation. A lacy collar perfectly accentuates the elongated neck and patches on the elbows reduces the distraction of too long arms

And so on.


The last few spreads of the book show us a fantastical scenario of the girl racing toward an amazing tree crawling with children who she will fit in with perfectly. Not a single mistake is apparent. Perfection!

This book has an encouraging message that all of us can embrace.

I would recommend this for elementary and middle school grades.

Also, check out Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Importance of Identity

I’ve been pretty wrapped up the last several weeks doing lots of instructional workshops around interdisciplinary teaching. The student teachers are grouped with students from various disciplinary backgrounds. One of the ways I help with this particular course is to speak to conceptual thinking and connect it to resources found in Doucette Library’s collection.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan is a crucial part of this workshop as I use it as an example of a provocation, a resource that can be used as a hook for engaging student interest. I come back to it, throughout the workshop, as this book epitomizes conceptual thinking. There are so many concepts to be found in this book such as identity, power, conflict, relationships, interdependence, communication, change, movement of people (immigration) and many more.

If you’re keen to learn more about this please visit the library guide that has been develop to support the workshop.

One of the concepts that often came up in the workshop during the discussion period is identity. Identity is one of those concepts that overarches the social studies curriculum from Kindergarten to grade 12. Connecting identity to English language arts, I think, is fairly easy. There are notions of identity found in both science and math, too, which, depending on how the concept is further developed, may be brought in to a unit. Not all content areas needed to be integrated in the units.

Today’s recommendations all touch on the concept of identity. These are just a few of my go-to fiction books when it comes to identity for all ages.

Grades K to 3: Elementary

Hello My Name is Octicorn by Kevin Diller and Justin Lowe 

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi 

Red: a Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall 

Ten Birds by Cybele Young 

Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie 

Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman 

Grades 4-8: Middle school

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle 

George by Alex Gino 

In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall III 

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt

One Half From the East by Nadia Hashimi 

Grades 9-12 (Books I wish I had more opportunities to recommend.)

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Aristole and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz 

Ms Marvel by G, Willow Wilson

Nation by Terry Pratchett 

Scythe by Neal Shusterman 

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld 

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