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Earlybird Introduction to Animals


Earlybird Introduction to Animals!

There are two types of things in the world: living and non-living! Everything you can imagine is one or the other. Taxonomy is the science of sorting it all out. At its basic level, taxonomy identifies, names, and classifies all living things in a systematic way.

Every species has a common name, but also a unique two-part scientific name situating it on the tree of life. In the pages ahead you will get a glimpse of the amazing order that is intrinsic to the natural world.

Over the course of 13 weeks, students will be guided into the work of learning about the animal kingdom, journaling their discoveries along the way. This opportunity to research will not only help them to gain knowledge, but also to springboard into the realm of non-fiction, narrative writing.

As with all our materials, included in the front of the journal is the instructional material. Read through this material carefully. Next, flip through the first week of the journal to familiarize yourself with the daily work of your student. Week 1 is an introduction to the science of classification. After that, students will be focusing on one class of animals every two weeks. Scan through Weeks 2 and 3, and you will notice that on the first week, the reading is tied to comprehension and note taking activities, and the second week is an opportunity to write about an animal. This ongoing, consistent opportunity for practicing constructive writing skills will help students gain confidence in their ability to communicate.

While the unit is included in our 2nd Grade Level Collection, it is perfect for both 2nd and 3rd graders, and available for purchase A La Carte.



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Read a Book / Make a Map


When is a family like a map? 

Help your 3rd and 4th grader explore a metaphor.

This is the story of an old Parisian named Armand, who relished his solitary life. Children, he said, were like starlings, and one was better off without them. But the children who lived under the bridge recognized a true friend when they met one. And it did not take Armand very long to realize that he had gotten himself a ready-made family- one that he loved with all his heart, and one for whom he would have to find a better home than the bridge. Trace the steps of Armand and the children through the streets of Paris and discover just how a family if like a map.

After discovering this mystery, create a map to document the journey.



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Happy Birthday Ben?

NOT really…!

Ben’s family birth certificate says that he was born on January 6, 1706, but when the Colonies switched to a different calendar to keep pace with the seasons, his new birthday became January 17!

Founding Father.

One of five men who crafted the Declaration of Independence.

Once, the Postmaster General.

Founded the idea of the public hospital and library.

Organized the first volunteer fire department which led to his concept of fire insurance.

The architect of Poor Richard’s Almanac.

Inventor of the glass armonica, bifocals, swim fins, Franklin Stove, and, of course the lightning rod.

Honorary degrees from Harvard, Yale, University of St. Andrews, University of Oxford, and University of Edinburgh.

Spent 27 years of his life living abroad, crossing the Atlantic 8 times!

Earned his place on the $100 dollar bill.

All this more than 311 years ago!

Celebrate this life well spent one of two ways:

Ever wonder where inventors get their ideas? As it turns out, the great inventor Benjamin Franklin got his best ideas from a mouse named Amos (not really, but make for an adventurous historical fiction)! Consider this from historian David McCullah who read the book as a child:David McCullogh says “I can never be in Old Christ Church without wondering if perhaps some of Amos’s line are still there, back behind the paneling.” Pick up a bundle today. Who knows, you might cultivate a historian!

Early to bed and early to rise… you know the rest (I hope).

Benjamin Franklin was the youngest of seventeen children. He was the inventor whose thirst for knowledge led him to constantly seek to improve the lives of his fellow men. Follow his life as a leader in the American Revolution and ambassador to both Britain and France and learn why the French hailed him as the man who “tore the lightening from the sky and the scepter from tyrants.” Explore this an so much more in the D’Aulaire recounting of the life of Ben Franklin. And over the course of 5 weeks you student will not only be guided through the crafting of an original essay, but will discover just how valuable a life can be.



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Why Ask?

I say, "Dissection."
And they say, "Yuk."
There are many reasonable reasons to object. 
But there are also many reasonable reasons to overcome. 
We should first stop to consider that dissection of a frog, for example, provides a way for our students to experience the complexity of life, the ecology of biological systems, and organs that are similar to our own. Frogs are an important part of the food chain, being consumed on a regular basis by snakes, birds, and even human beings. We teach about it: Hawk eats the snake that ate the frog that ate the grasshopper that ate the grass. And so it goes, day after day in the wild. Still, I always begin dissection reminding students that we are considering something that once lived. This gravity helps to elevate the work at hand but also to exercise empathy. Ultimately dissection is not for the faint of heart. 
In my mind the overarching reason to dissect is to learn to ask a question. Simple questions like, "How does this work?" delightfully lead us to complexities.  
To make the most of dissection, have sketch paper on hand where students can take notes as they work through the process. Here is where the asking begins. Encourage students to jot down questions as they go.
Once the project is complete, they can re-create the details of dissection in their Observation Journal and they can begin looking for answers. This culminating activity will help them to commit the information to memory while simultaneously discovering the WOW inherent to the intricacies of life. 
And if you are simply unable to dissect, use the World Wide Web like Marlo did and conduct a virtual dissection. 
I'll leave you with this from Jonas Salk who developed one of the first successful polio vaccinations: "What people generally think of as the moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question." 
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Making Carolus Linnaeus Proud

“If you do not know the names of things, the knowledge of them is lost too.”
                                                                            -Carolus Linnaeus
This fall we introduced our brand new 8-week unit, Taxonomy of Living Things: The Five Kingdoms, our brand new Research Discovery Guide. Learning about the way scientists organize living things teaches us about, not only nomenclature, but also about anatomy.  Making models alongside research is a super way to commit this information deeper into understanding.
This project began with a challenge to create imaginary insects. The goal was to solidify understanding of the first three hierarchies of taxonomy: Kingdom, Phylum, Class.
To begin, you might explore the following questions:
Q. What is an animal?
A. Animals are multicellular, eukaryotic organisms that can can move spontaneously and independently.
Q. What is an invertebrate?
A.  Invertebrates are animals without a vertebral column.
Q. What is an arthropod?
A. An arthropod is an invertebrate animal having an exoskeleton, a segmented body, and jointed appendages.
Q.  What is an insect?
A. Insects are a class of invertebrates within the arthropod phylum that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body, three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes and one pair of antennae.
Now, using Fimo clay, wire, pipe cleaners, tiny pompoms, T-pins, and whatever other materials you can imagine, create an imaginary insect following the guidelines of biological taxonomy. Be sure to show the stages of metamorphosis. When your model is complete, pin it and create a label identifying the insect through all the taxons (kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species). The first three are given, use your imagination create names for order, family genus and species.
Research is an extraordinarily important skill across all subject areas. Coupling research with hands-on projects will build knowledge through creativity, and this is the kind of knowledge that lasts.
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Discover Research: Elemental Journal


Get to know the elements!

Chemistry is much more than complicated theories and experiments in the lab. Chemistry is the foundation of literally everything we know. But for our children, chemistry is at best a daunting subject, at worst downright boring. Mention the word chemistry and they will run! 

Honestly, chemistry is no more daunting than any other subject to be mastered. And chemistry is certainly NOT boring! Developing an imaginative view of chemistry is the key to unlocking its wonders.

This discovery journal will guide students on a wonderful voyage through the mysteries of the periodic table. Over the course of a year students curiosity will be piqued as they will research and catalog their findings of 42 of the 144 known elements. Elemental Journal is an interesting and broad introduction into the fascinating realm of chemistry.

Purchase now through October 1 for back-to-school and use the code FALL RESEARCH for a 10% discount! 



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Dive into Research and Discover Diversity


There are two types of things in the world: Living and Non-living!

Everything you can imagine is either…


We are pleased to announce a brand new addition to our selection of Research Discovery Guides: Taxonomy of Living Things: The Five Kingdoms.

All living things can be ordered according to their common biology. Classification allows scientists to explore levels of similarity, dissimilarity, and interconnectedness of cells, systems, and structures. The first level of classification is the Kingdoms. There are five: Protista, Monera, Fungi, Plantae, and Animalia. Over the course of 7 weeks, as students explore the diversity of the animal kingdom, they will gather knowledge that will connect to many corners of the field of biology.

During weeks 1 – 3 of this 8-week unit, our scaffolding will guide students independently through reading, gathering information, and thinking activities. Then, during weeks 4 through 8, students will engage in the deeper research of delving into the specifics of each kingdom. They research specific species, making an independent and observational entry as they acquire vital research writing skills.    

Purchase now through October 1 for back-to-school and use the code FALL RESEARCH for a 10% discount! 



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Discover Research and the d’Aulaire’s


Hear the tale of Pocahontas as only she can tell it… Experience the wit and wisdom of Ben Franklin… Sail the seas with Leif… Join the Pony Express with Buffalo Bill, the man in the buckskin suit… Join the adventures of the great mariner Columbus…  Follow George Washington from the little red brick house where he was born to the White House…. and climb upon the shoulders of our beloved Abe Lincoln. And who better to tell the tales than Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire? We are so thankful to our BFFs at BFB—Beautiful Feet Books—for keeping these beautiful pockets of history in print.

Blackbird & Company's brand new History Discovery Guides will inspire your students to engage in meaningful research activities. As students are encouraged to independently investigate, they will gain a greater depth of understanding, and a broader knowledge base of the great men and women who have shaped our history. Use one guide of your choice in the fall and another guide in the spring in conjunction with our year 2, Level  2 or year 1, Level 3 Literature and Writing Discovery Guides and your student will have a seamless transition to the entry level Introduction to Composition: The Essay during middle school to fully prepare them for Level 4 in high school. 

Our History Discovery Guides provide the scaffolding your student needs to successfully craft a biographical essay. Each week, for three weeks, the student will examine rich vocabulary to describe character traits exemplified by the historical figure, respond to comprehension questions designed to help them extract details that matter, and craft one body paragraph that will later become part of the culminating essay. During the fourth week, students will be guided through the process of composing a simple three-sentence-with-a-punch introduction and a simple-three-sentence-with-a-punch conclusion. They will put the components together and, viola, an essay! There is a fifth week creative project, of course, that offers directives to tap into the students imagination.

Honestly, the d'Aulaire books have been part of my personal library since childhood. I read them to my children when they were small enough to nestle on my lap during story time. Later they read them again silently, on their own cozily snuggled in our living room armchair. As a writer and an educator, I am happy to offer this opportunity for your students to not only experience these wonderful stories, but also to glean from their riches and to offer in response their own original insights inspired by our rich history. So challenge your students to raise their voice! Challenge them to write authentically so their ideas will Take Flight



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Observing Pumice


A few years ago Sara brought me a handful of pumice from Mount St. Helens and so I began the lesson with research of the volcano. We moved from there to the chemistry of carbon. When it comes to Observation, the possibilities are limitless. At last, directed the group of Observers to create a close observation drawing in conduction with the research in their Observation Journals—including a close focus section.

This little jar of fodder has proved more valuable than any textbook. This drawing by Marlo began with value—organic shapes of darks and lights. Once she was satisfied with the large shapes, she began to look for texture, began to mimic what she saw with varied lines on the page. Smaller still, she added dark marks to represent the deep bubbled areas on the volcanic stone. Most significantly, Marlo kept going—she kept looking. Perseverance is a skill that can not be be taught from a textbook.


Can anyone learn to draw like Marlo?

Indeed, YES!

Yes, yes you can. You can draw like Marlo, but first you must learn to observe.

Observation is a foundational academic. Learning to "look closely" across all domains of learning will strengthen the student's Creative Critical Thinking skills. For this reason, Observation exercises should be integrated into the weekly routine to transform this crucial skill to a Habit of Being


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Seven Ways to the Wonders of Chemistry

Chemistry is much more than a table
of elements, complicated theories, and experiments in the lab. Chemistry is the
foundation of literally everything we know. But for our children, chemistry is
at best a daunting subject, at worst downright boring. Mention the word
chemistry and they will run! That’s
why this year I chose to introduce my elementary and middle school apprentices
to the subject before it was too late.

Honestly, chemistry is no
more daunting than any other subject to be mastered. And chemistry is certainly
NOT boring! Developing an imaginative view of chemistry is the key to unlocking
its wonders.

Here are some ideas to
get started.

1. Transcend the Textbook
There are all sorts of
wonderful books available to help simplify this expansive subject. Chemistry: Getting a
Big Reaction
, by Simon Basher, is a really good introduction for children.

In his book, The Periodic Kingdom, P.W Atkins transforms the periodic table to a
fictitious kingdom where we can explore the potential of its topography. This
is the perfect, albeit heady, way to move beyond the mundane and journey into
the wonderful territory of chemistry.

2. Go Digital
One of the best resources
available on the web is hosted by The University of Nottingham. Trust me, The Periodic Kingdom of Videos is AMAZING, crazy-haired scientist and all! Your apprentices will want to watch
every single video and once they do, they will never be bored by chemistry

Element videos

3. Demonstrate Virtually
These ChemDemos from James Madison University help kids to visualize chemical concepts. (The Gummy Bear Sacrifice is particularly dramatic.)

4. Experiment
Experiencing the wonders
of chemistry is to experiment. But keep it simple. Focus on the concept of
chemical reactions. Teach the budding chemist to hypothesize.

You can purchase a
chemistry kits all over the Web:
Thames & Kosmos and Carolina both have tons of great resources.

Or purchase a book of
experiment recipes like, Janice Van Cleave's Chemistry for Every Kid: 101
Easy Experiments that Really Work
Janice Van Cleave

5. Play

The Elements Puzzle: 1000 Pieces, by Theodore Gray
The Periodic Table of Elements Magnets, by Smart
Memory Art
Elementeo Chemistry Card Game, by Alchemist Empire,

Periodic Table Playing Cards, by Les Entreprises SynHeme

6. Sing Along

They Might Be Giants – Meet the Elements from They Might Be Giants on Vimeo.

7. Research and Make!
This past week I assigned each of my 22 science
apprentices an element to research. Each would write a three-part paper. The
research paper would begin like all good research papers should, by
communicating the history and basic scientific characteristics of that element.
The paper would move on to discuss the element’s purpose and uses in the wide
world. But I saved the best for last. The third section of the research paper
would move on to a larger discussion of what the element teaches human kind
about human nature. I helped them to begin this consideration by asking, “If
you were an element, what element would you be and why?” The group smiled and
the conversation got lively. Ultimately, this is the challenge that my
apprentices liked best of all because this is the sector of their research
where they were invited to engage imagination. 

I provided each of my apprentices with a frame from
my local craft store—only $1.00 each—and gave them specific instructions to
stain the frame with a color that would best represent or compliment their
element (I, of course provided the watercolor). They were to put periodic table
information on the front of the frame and amazing facts on the back of the
frames. The frames would not only guide them in an oral presentation of their research,
but in the end become a larger than life game for our guild, “Scramble them up
and see how fast you can order them!” 

Here are some wonderful resources to have on hand
during the research:
The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe
, and The Photographic Card Deck of The Elements: With Big Beautiful
Photographs of All 118 Elements in the Periodic Table
, by Theodore Gray, and The Periodic Table: Elements with Style! by Simon Basher.

PS – And just for a little more Periodic Table fun!

– Kim