Thursday, April 23, 2009
Great Ecosystem Reading
The second in a short series about good books for my life science unit...
Butternut Hollow Pond by Brian J. Heinz is a book that has been out since 2000 (the Barnes and Noble website lists it as out in 2006), but a teammate introduced me to it several years ago. It is the perfect book for looking at a pond ecosystem, food chains, food webs, and the interdependence of living things within one particular ecosystem. It is a wonderful book to read aloud with students, watching their expressions as they get caught up with the predator / prey incidents.
This picture book divides the day at Butternut Hollow Pond into 5 distinctive times throughout the day: daybreak, mid-morning, noon, end of day, and night. The reader learns a lot about what animals are active at different times of the day.
The story line of this nonfiction narrative is sequential and easy to follow, as the predator on one page becomes the prey on the next. For instance, in one section a pickled frog catches a moth. On the next page, the frog is almost eaten by a water snake, but manages to stay still enough for the snake to pass. But right after that, the frog is eaten by a bass. That is followed by the bass being caught by a fisherman. Quite the food chain, indeed!
I think this book has many different entry points. Younger readers will be fascinated by the beautiful nature, and will be rooting for the five ducklings to NOT get eaten by the snapping turtle. Older elementary students will be able to enjoy the story (and I can testify that they will still be rooting for those ducklings!), but will also be able to analyze the life science aspect of this book. They will be able to find simple food chains within this ecosystem, and they will be able to stretch their thinking to discover possible food webs, as well. The conversation about the interdependence of the living things in this pond ecosystem is powerful.
Learning points aside, Butternut Hollow Pond is quite a lovely book! Starting with the title and front cover, all the way through the close-up illustrations of the animals inside, this is a book to be savored time and time again.