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Summer Reading at Tisdale Library

I read recently at the Charles Tisdale Library as part of the Summer Reading Program. One challenge of these programs is the wide-range in age of the children who come. Many in this group were two years old, but the range went all the way up to 10- and 11-year-olds. I brought an activity for the older ones to do with the librarian, using Mysterious Patterns. I stayed with the large group of little ones and read a wide range of snail-related books, including Wolfsnail. With about 15 minutes left in my program, I asked the older ones back to talk with the whole group about fractals and other geometric shapes. I appreciate the help of the librarians, Patrick McCarty and Miss Mays.

Sarah Reading at Tisdale-2

Cook Prize Ceremony

cook prize webRecently I was at the Bank Street College of Education to receive a Cook Prize Honor for Mysterious Patterns.

The folks at Bank Street have a video stream of the event on their website.

My portion of the ceremony begins at 57:18.

 

 

Mysterious Patterns Finalist for The Cook Prize

MP cover Such wonderful news came in last week. Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature  was chosen as one of four finalists for The Cook Prize for best STEM picture book.

This prize is given by The Bank Street Center for Children’s Literature. It is unique among prizes for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) books in that the winner is chosen by third and fourth grade students. If you are a teacher or librarian and want your students to participate, please click here to register.

The other finalists this year are Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle by Cheryl Bardoe, illus. by Alan Marks (Charlesbridge), Galápagos George by Jean Craighead George, illus. by Wendell Minor (Harper), and Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis, illus. by Gilbert Ford (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

Cheryl Bardoe, author of Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle, is also a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism’s master’s program. She and I did a fireside together four years ago when I was in Evanston promoting Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Number in Nature. Read about that here.

 

Fractals in Asheville

Home from a great trip to Asheville, North Carolina, where I met friends and talked a lot about fractals. After the book stuff, I went to a family wedding. But first, Asheville … I met up with Joe D’Agnese and Denise Kiernan. Joe wrote Blockhead, a picture book biography of Fibonacci that came out in the same season as Growing Patterns. We enjoyed wonderful food and fellowship.

Malaprops

I signed books at Malaprop’s Bookstore.

hall fletcher
I did a presentation for 4th and 5th graders at Hall Fletcher Elementary School, and made fractals with 5th graders.

group pic
Those of you who follow me on Facebook will know that I also sat for an interview with Greta Johnsen, the co-host of Nerdette, a podcast that is distributed by WBEZ in Chicago. I’ll keep you posted for when that will air.

Like true kindred spirits, Joe and Denise had sunflowers in their garden. I love sunflowers.

flower1ash

flower2ash

International Reading Association 2014

I am finally home after a long road stretch. For the next few posts, I’ll catch you up on where I’ve been. I started with a trip to New Orleans to present a session and sign books at the International Reading Association National Conference.
Jess Sarah IRA

My sister, Jessica, and I presented a session with Dr. Amy Broemmel titled, “Reading and Writing Science Books: Paths to Creating Authentic Informational Texts.” Our session drew on our experience with a bookmaking project earlier this year at Girls Prep Charter School – Bronx, which is where Jessica is the reading specialist.

Amy Broemmel

Here is Amy, who teaches at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville, talking about a list she developed of good mentor texts for specific types of writing.
looking at the girls' books

Jessica brought along some examples of the books published by the students at Girls Prep.

IRA 2014 Session-0376

I began my presentation, as I almost always do, with a reading of Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator. It was the first time my editor, Sarah Zhang, had heard me present. She took these photographs.
Sarah with QAL
I noticed Queen Anne’s Lace growing on the side of the interstate so I stopped to pick some for Sarah. We used it to decorate the table at my signing.
IRA 2014 signing-0387
Our signing was a success.
cousins
I learned through Facebook that my cousin, Meg Sanford, a first grade teacher, was also in town for IRA. So, we met up for dinner along with Jessica and her husband JC, my friend, Julie, and some of Meg’s colleagues. It was a fun way to end the day.

Poindexter Park Comes to Purple Word

Last Saturday, the Poindexter Park After School Club came to the Purple Word to make their own fractal pop-up books, as well as to learn more about the book- and print-making processes.

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The group first learned about fractals after reading Mysterious Patterns.

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The students finally unfold their fractals.

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Even group leaders Mr. Brad and Ms. Keyana had fun making the fractals!

 

After learning what a fractal is and how to make their own, the group moved to the back room of Purple Word to make their own monotype prints.  Suzanne, a staff member at Millsaps College, taught the kids about reductionist prints — that is, prints in which the design is made by taking away ink rather than adding ink.

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Suzanne helps the students spread their ink — a task that is certainly much harder than it looks.
Purple Word Fractal Workshop-1693
Here I am helping a student roll out her ink —  a very big task for small arms!

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Like I mentioned earlier, this form of print-making is a form of reductionism.  The students used Q-tips to remove ink from their plates to be printed on paper.

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The group eagerly watches as Suzanne runs a test print under the roller.

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Keyana, Sarah, Suzanne, and I with the kids after a fun morning.

Children’s Book Festival

I presented recently at the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival at the University of Southern Mississippi.

heather & sarah
Here I am signing a book for my friend and science writer Heather Montgomery.

My friend Julie Owen and I presented a session called Finding Fractals, Making Fractals to a full room.

in the session
Two attendees checking out the Educator’s Guide that Boyds Mills Press developed to go with Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature.

step 1
step 2
step 3
done
listening to fractal stories
A librarian telling me a story about a fractal song.
S&J with samples
Julie and I are holding Fractal Pop-Up Books made by fifth grade students at St. Luke’s Episcopal School in Baton Rouge. Read about that work here.
I posted the instruction sheet for making Fractal Pop-up Books in your library or classroom on my website here.

I appreciate the help we had from Mary Schmidt, my intern. She took photographs, helped participants, and edited photographs.

Girls Prep Public Charter Visit

Last month, I visited Girls Prep Public Charter School in the Bronx, New York, to work with second grade students for a unit on writing nonfiction books. While I was there, I also spent an hour with the fourth grade writing club. With second grade, I worked with the students for three days. I was testing some ideas for a presentation I am slated to give at the International Reading Association annual conference in New Orleans in May.

Girls Prep WS group

The first day, I presented my “Love a Critter? Make a Book” session to all three classes in one big group. It was Read Across America Day so some of the girls and teachers were dressed as characters in books.

jess in background
The reason I chose Girls Prep is that my sister, Jessica Crosby-Pitchamootoo (pictured in the center dressed as the tree in Chicka Chicka Boom Boom), works there as a reading specialist. Jessica will join me and Dr. Amy Broemmel, a professor of education at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, to present “Reading and Writing Science Books? Paths to Creating Authentic Informational Texts.”
teacher gp small group
In the second and third days at Girls Prep, I led each class in a mini-lesson and then the girls did some guided practice. On the first day, my topic was “Taking information from research and writing in my own words to suit my purpose,” and the second day, it was “Making a plan for my writing, keeping my purpose in mind.”
lady bug girl
julie
sarah w stu
During the mini-lesson on planning, I showed the students how I make a book dummy when I am deciding the order of things in my books. I led them in making an instant book.
folding
star
numbering
book
girl writing
The feedback from the second grade writing unit has been good. One teacher said she believes the girls really understand author’s purpose in a much deeper way. One student told her teacher: “This is the most fun I’ve had while learning!” That’s exactly what writing should be. Fun, while learning!
I’ll post photographs of my session with the fourth grade writing club next.

Mysterious Patterns Big Splash at NSTA

Richard and I had a great time at the annual convention of the National Science Teachers Association in Boston. We signed at least 80 books for teachers, professors, and science specialists. Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature got lots of love!

session

On Saturday, I was part of a session called “A Real-Life Page Turner: Award-winning Trade Book Authors Share Their Research Strategies.” As always I began by talking about Wolfsnail. We had about 40 participants who rotated through three tables for 15-minute mini sessions. A group of professors of literacy and science education put the session together.

dr. saul

Dr. Wendy Saul opened the session with a discussion of why books remain important, especially in nonfiction.

mp in session
Here I am talking about the page in Mysterious Patterns where the first explanation of fractals comes.
other groups
A look at the other groups’ tables.
amy broemmel
Here I am conferring with Dr. Amy Broemmel, an early literacy expert at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She was my table partner for this session, and will be a co-presenter with me and Jessica Crosby-Pitchamootoo at the International Reading Association annual conference in New Orleans in May.

In addition to presenting and signing books, I attended a number of great sessions, including:

Asking, Imagining, Arguing: Using Books to Provide Examples of Science Practices in Action (Broemmel, Rearden)

NSTA Press® Session: The Authors’ Picks! Teaching Science Through Trade Books (Royce, Morgan, Ansberry)

Sense-of-Place Writing Templates: Connect Your Students’ Past Experiences with Science AND Literacy! (Clary)

Using Writing to Motivate Students to Learn Science (Caukin)

Connecting Science, Engineering, and Literacy in an Elementary Classroom (Laurier, Denisova)

family
While I was attending sessions, Richard was hanging out with Graeme at MIT. We shared three suppers in a row. It was nice!

Guest Posting at Elizabeth Dulemba’s Blog

Today, I offer tips on finding and working with experts when you are writing nonfiction for children. My post appears on the blog of children’s author/illustrator Elizabeth Dulemba, a friend from SCBWI’s Southern Breeze region. I hope you’ll click here to read the post. You could win a free copy of Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature.

Elizabeth has a new novel out next month called A Bird on Water Street. I read an advance copy and I think she did a masterful job of exploring the environmental impacts of resource mining through the eyes of boy growing up in Appalachia.

Physically, I am in Boston for the annual convention of the National Science Teachers Association. I will present in a session titled, “A Real-Life Page Turner: Award-winning Trade Book Authors Share Their Research Strategies” and then Richard and I will sign copies of Mysterious Patterns. I’ll post pictures when I get back home.