Here at the Accokeek Foundation, we love digging into a good book, particularly if there is something we can learn from it. It's only fitting to share some of our staff and volunteer favorites with you! As a former children’s librarian, I’m delighted to introduce you to our new blog series: AF Library Favorites. We’ll be diving into the books that don our libraries (office and personal), as well as our Visitor Center to give you the dirt on the our favorites. The series is perfect for readers of all ages and professions as we will explore every genre that relates to the mission of the Accokeek Foundation. I’ll be posting new book spotlights monthly, so keep an eye out. If you have any recommendations of your own, I’d love to hear them! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This month, in celebration of our "Tiny Seed, Global Impact" MWEE (Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience) program, I thought we could take a look at the three picture books used during the program about healthy soil and growing seeds: How a Seed Grows by Helene Jordan, Dirt: The Scoop on Soil by Natalie M. Rosinsky, and Dirt by Steve “The Dirtmeister” Tomecek. All of these are great titles for children grades 3-5 to read on their own and for parents and teachers who want to explore these subjects with younger kids. In that case, adults will just need to simplify the books’ text a bit and lean on the illustrations to explore all the concepts introduced.
Wait! What's "Tiny Seed, Global Impact," you ask? Thanks to a lead grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust, our Accokeek Foundation educators created a new program for 1st grade students in Prince George's County. Simply put, the primary goal of the Tiny Seed program is to support local school districts in increasing 1st grade students mastery of educational standards in natural resources, biodiversity, and human impact on the planet. Through the use of MWEEs that are focused on healthy soils and the 5E Instructional Learning Model of Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate, the Accokeek Foundation provides a program with a hands-on, student-centered instructional and inquiry-based learning experience. We debuted this program in 2021, and we are very excited to continue building the program to support more local regionally!
Okay, let's hit the books.
How a Seed Grows takes a look at different kinds of seeds and how they turn into plants. After an explanation that all plants come from seeds, the book is a step by step experiment. Children get to see every step of germination by planting individual seeds in eggshells and taking one or two out every day to see how the seed has changed. It makes a great guide for an experiment to do at home or as a classroom project! This one is on the younger end; a parent or teacher could easily use this in a Kindergarten classroom with very little modification.
Dirt: The Scoop on Soil is probably the most accessible across age groups. The language is very simple but goes into detail about what soil is made of and why healthy soil is vital for every living thing. It also includes experiments and discussion topics, as well as a glossary, index, and recommendations for further reading. The basic text at the top of each page is great for younger kids, and there are also bonus fun facts to inspire older kids to explore further. In addition to being a great resource about soil for a variety of ages, I’d recommend this book as a way to teach children about how to find information in a book: how to use the table of contents, what an index and glossary are, etc.
Dirt is definitely for the older end of the K-5 range. While the illustrations are certainly engaging, this book goes into more detail about how soil is formed, its layers, how animals and microbes help enrich soil, etc. There is one experiment at the end of the book on how to make your own soil ecosystem and grow grass seeds, but the thrust of this book is less about individual discovery and more about getting the information across in a way that’s accessible for older children.
All in all, these books provide an excellent introduction to the importance of healthy soil and plants for children. Check them out from your local library branch or get a copy to own. If you do purchase a copy, consider supporting the Accokeek Foundation on Amazon Smile.