Nature and Science Programs at Wonder Works


Bug Finders at Wonder Works: 10 a.m. to noon, July 27-28
July 27, 2012, 8:05 am
Filed under: Bug Finders

Bug Finders takes place this Friday and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to noon, at Wonder Works.

You can catch live bugs from the garden and touch them if you want. We’ll search for bugs outside during the program, plus dig for bugs inside in large bins of garden soil. I just checked our bins, and we still have lots of Pill Bugs, worms, millipedes, and more waiting for you to find them:

Some of our Pill Bugs have been busy hatching and raising babies, which they carry around on their undersides for the first few days. These baby Pill Bugs are ready to find their own dead plants to eat:

You can also watch large tarantulas and scorpions brought by Sandy from Dave’s Pets-N-Stuff.  Smaller live bugs that will be visiting include grasshoppers, beetles, crickets, and mealworms. (You can hold the mealworms if you want.)

You can also hunt for plastic bugs in the Great Outdoors exhibit and hidden in play dough, make a bug collage, and get ideas for collecting bugs at home. Plus we will have lots of children’s books about bugs for you read, including the ones recommended by Shira Belenke. You can go here to see Shira’s list of recommended books.

Bug Finders activities are included with general admission to Wonder Works ($6 per person for non-members). So, hope to see you there!

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Nature Works programs are back next weekend!
July 20, 2012, 7:48 am
Filed under: Nature Works

After taking this week off, we are going to resume Nature Works programs at Wonder Works, repeating each of the four programs we did earlier this summer! Here’s the new schedule:

  • Bug Finders: July 27-28
  • Rock Hunters: August 3-4
  • Animals with Bones: August 10-11
  • Beachcombers: Aigust 17-18

Each program runs two days, Friday and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to noon both days. Nature Works activities are included with general admission to Wonder Works ($6 per person for non-members).

This is what we plan to do each week:

Bug Finders: July 27-28Catch live bugs from the garden (and touch them if you want) and watch large tarantulas and scorpions brought by Sandy from Dave’s Pets-N-Stuff.  Also, hunt for plastic bugs in the Great Outdoors exhibit and hidden in play dough, make a bug collage, and get ideas for collecting bugs at home.

Rock Hunters: August 3-4.  Touch and collect real rocks and minerals, paint a smooth pebble, and dig rocks from the play-dough quarry using toy trucks and wooden trains.  Every family takes home a collection of small rocks and minerals that they find and label.

Animals with Bones: August 10-11.  Touch and play with real bones, dig plastic skeletons from play dough, hunt for plush animals in the Great Outdoors, and make tracks of local wildlife.  Pet animals with bones brought by Sandy from Dave’s Pets-N-Stuff and see their skeletons, including a snake and turtle.

Beachcombers: August 17-18Hunt for small shells and shark teeth in the sand, make a shell collection and a shell craft, dive into a pretend ocean to catch plastic sea creatures, and touch and talk about preserved shells and sea stars found on ocean beaches.

Hope to see you there!



Recommended: Children’s books about beachcombing and life in the sea
July 11, 2012, 11:28 pm
Filed under: Beachcombers

The Nature Works theme for July 13-14, 2012, will be Beachcombers.  We will have lots of activities related to life at the edge of the sea, including things that wash up on beaches, like shells and shark teeth.  Go here to read more.

We will also have a table with books that fit this week’s theme, including Shira Belenke’s recommendations for children’s books about this topic.  Shira is the former Director of Education at Wonder Works and is currently studying to be a librarian.  She is helping out with Nature Works this summer by making lists of recommended books about the topic of the week.

Each review, below, includes a link to that book’s entry in SWAN, a computer network that many Chicago-area libraries use to share books (including Oak Park Public Library).  If your local library is one of the 80 members of SWAN, you can follow the links below and put a hold on any of Shira’s recommended books.  Go here for more information about SWAN.

Arnosky, J. (2004). Beachcombing: exploring the seashore. New York, NY: Dutton Children’s Books.  Follow this link to SWAN.

Beachcombing is a great guidebook for young beachcombers, whether they are getting ready for their first trip to the beach or their 100th

A day at the beach can be just as educational as fun. In Jim Arnosky’s book Beachcombing, readers will learn how to combine the two for a unique beach experience.  Starting with the basics, how to dress to protect yourself and what to bring, Arnosky goes into detail describing all the amazing animals and objects one may find on a beach; although detailed, the text is always easy to follow.  The illustrations fluctuate between being true to life and a little washed out, creating an informative visual guide.  Beachcombing is a great guidebook for any young beachcomber, whether she is getting ready for her first time or her 100th.  Ages 3 – 7.

Carle, E. (1987). A  house for hermit crab. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.  Follow this link to SWAN.

This is a great read-along that fits into a variety of different themes.

Eric Carle has created another classic in A house for hermit crab.  In addition to a sweet story about a hermit crab finding and decorating a new home, Carle includes information about hermit crabs and the other animals the hermit crab encounters, creating a nice balance of imagination and education.  Carle’s illustrations are pleasing to the eye and, combined with the story, make for good inspiration for sprucing up one’s own home.  This is a great read-along that fits into a variety of different themes. Ages 2 and up.

Cole, H. (2003). On the way to the beach. New York, NY: Greenwillow Books.  Follow this link to SWAN.

This book follows a child’s journey from home through several different terrains to the beach. 

Henry Cole’s book On the way to the beach follows a child’s journey from home through several different terrains to the beach.  Along the way, the child, who we never actually see, making this a very inclusive story, takes a moment to stop and observe her surroundings.  With fun fold out pages for each of the different environments, Cole’s true to life illustrations make finding the sights mentioned in the list a fun activity for the reader.  At the end of the book is a key matching up the illustrations to the lists’ sights.  This is a great book to inspire people to take a moment and see what they can see.  Ages 3 and up.

Gall, C. (2005). Dear Fish. New York, NY: Little, Brown.  Follow this link to SWAN.

A young boy learns not all friends make good guests, in Chris Gall’s book Dear Fish.

Peter Alan learns not all friends make good guests in Chris Gall’s book Dear Fish.  After an enjoyable day at the beach, Peter extends an invitation to the fish to come visit him at home.  Each page reveals the entertaining havoc a visit from these friends causes a town.  The well-paced story takes time on each page to focus on fun sound words, making this an entertaining story to read aloud.  Labeled illustrations decorate the front and back of the book, so readers can recognize the different fish featured in the story.  There is also a claim that there are 10 fish puns in the illustrations of the book.  Between the amusing “fish out of water” context, fun to read sound words and puns to find, this is a great choice for a book to share with others.  Ages 3 and up.

Gallup, T. (2007). Shell Crazy. Traverse City, MI: Mackinac Island Press.  Follow this link to SWAN.

Shell Crazy tackles the crazy fun one can have with shells.

Another installment in Tracy Gallup’s Crazy Little series of books, Shell Crazy tackles the crazy fun one can have with shells.  Starting with an image of Michelangelo’s Venus de Milo,Gallup talks about all the fun things one can imagine with shells.  Once again, Gallup utilizes dolls, this time coupled with shells, to help illustrate what her imagination sees.  The mother in the story shares the secret of what can be found in a shell after its previous occupant has moved out.  To uncover this secret for yourself, go to a beach, find a shell, and put it up to your ear.  This is a good choice for imaginative readers.  Ages 3 and up.

Lakin, P. (2004). Beach day! (S. Nash, Illus.). New York, NY: Dial Books for Young Readers.  Follow this link to SWAN.

Four alligators discover getting to the beach can be an all-day adventure.

Four alligators discover getting to the beach can be an all-day adventure in Beach Day!  Readers will find the alligators easy to relate to as they try to find something fun to do on a hot day.  Lakin’s easy and repetitive text creates an enjoyable read-along or read-alone for beginning readers.  Nash’s illustrations nicely complement the fun text with alligators readers will want to play with.  Beach Day is the perfect read for people who like to have fun.  Ages 2 – 6.

Prager, E. (2000). Sand. (N. Woodman, Illus.). Washington, DC : National Geographic Society. Follow this link to SWAN.

This simple, informative book is a great read for any young child who enjoys sand. 

In Ellen Prager’s book Sand, readers discover answers to questions they might not realize they had about sand.  With simple, straightforward text, Prager explains how sand is made, how it is moved, and why it comes in different colors.  Nancy Woodman’s illustrations are a combination of close up photographs, so readers can see what Prager is talking about, and fun cartoon images that complete the picture.  At the end of the book is a fun activity for readers to make their own sand.  This simple, informative book is a great read for any young child who enjoys sand.  Ages 2 – 5.

Rokwell, A. (1987). At the beach. New York, NY: Macmillan.  Follow this link to SWAN.

A mother and child share a fun and relaxing day at the beach.

There are many fun things to do and see at the beach, and Anne and Harlow Rockwell describe them all in their delightful book At the beach.  The story starts with the necessary items to ensure a fun and safe day: sun block, shelter, nourishment and a pail.  The Rockwells’ simple text allows enjoyment as either a read-along or a read-alone.  The uncomplicated illustrations highlight both the specifics mentioned in the story and the general scene.  This is a great read-along to either prepare for or remember an enjoyable day at the beach.  Ages 2 – 4.

Schertle, A. (2004). All you need for a beach. (B. Lavallee, Illus.).  Orlando : Silver Whistle/Harcourt.  Follow this link to SWAN.

Readers discover what it takes to have an exciting day at the beach. 

In Alice Schertles’ rhythmic book All you need for a beach, readers discover what it takes to have an exciting day at the beach.  This well-paced story unfolds with an anticipatory pause at the end of each page, giving the readers time to guess what the next elements needed for a fun time at the beach are.  Barbara Lavallee’s illustrations complete the experience with fun visuals to complement the fun text.  The flow of Schertles’ text makes All you need for a beach an enjoyable read-along.  Ages 2 – 4.

Wallace, N. E. (2007). Shells! Shells! Shells! New York : Marshall Cavendish.  Follow this link to SWAN.

During a trip to the beach, Buddy learns all about the different types of shells that can be found on a beach, including the animals that live in them and how they are made.

Buddy and his mom are back again in Nancy Elizabeth Wallace’s book, Shells! Shells! Shells! During a trip to the beach, Buddy learns all about the different types of shells that can be found on a beach, including the animals that live in them and how they are made.  Wallace’s illustrations are an interesting combination of paper cuttings and photographs. The story is easy to follow; Wallace takes the time to phonetically spell out difficult words that are new to Buddy and the reader.  The back of the book has a page of interesting shell facts on pictures of shells and instructions on how to make a special shell bookmark. The combination of fictional story and facts makes this a fun choice for readers who might not be interested in informative books. Ages 4 and up.



Beachcombers will be July 13-14 at Wonder Works
July 10, 2012, 4:53 pm
Filed under: Beachcombers

The fourth Nature Works program of 2012 will take place on Friday, July 13, and Saturday, July 14 (10 a.m. to noon at Wonder Works).  We call it Beachcombers, and it will be about life at the edge of the sea.  Like each Nature Works program, there will be both real and fantasy nature, some nature you can collect and take home, a nature craft,  and nature books to read and perhaps borrow from your local library.

  • The real sea life will include a Sea Life Museum, with big shells and sea life you can touch and smaller shells you can sort.
  • You can make-and-take a collection of small shells, sifted from a sandbox.
  • You can also collect a couple of fossil shark teeth, which you will have to search for in gravel imported from Florida.
  • The fantasy sea life will include plastic and plush sea animals you can search for in the Great Outdoors exhibit and paper sea life that you can pretend to catch with a fishing pole (with a magnet on the end).
  • The sea life craft will be a collage that you can make with stickers, stamps, and real shells.
  • The sea life books will include both books from local libraries and from Eric’s own collections.  We’ll have lots of children’s books about shells and sea life, plus a few books intended for more serious collectors of all ages.

Go here to see photos of our Beachcombers activities from Friday, July 13.

By the way, Jessie and Eric are making plans to extend Nature Works for a few more weeks this summer.  We will probably repeat the Nature Works themes from June and early July during late July and early August.  If everything works out, we will have Bug Finders on July 20 and 21, Rock Hunters on July 27 and 28, and maybe more.  We’ll post here and on Facebook when plans are complete.



Recommended: Children’s Books about Animals with Bones
July 4, 2012, 7:53 am
Filed under: Animals with Bones

The Nature Works theme for July 6-7, 2012 was Animals with Bones.  We did lots of activities about the kinds of animals that have bones inside their bodies — vertebrates, like mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.  There were real bones to touch and pretend bones to dig out of pretend dirt.  There were real, live animals with bones to watch (and sometimes touch) and pretend animals with bones to search for in the Great Outdoors exhibit.  The live animals included snakes, rats and mice, a lizard, and an aquarium with tadpoles and frogs.  We also dissected owl pellets to see what kinds of bones are inside them (mostly mouse bones) and made tracks like those made by the feet of animals with bones.  Click here to see photos of our Animals with Bones activities.

We also had a table with books about animals with bones, including Shira Belenke’s recommendations for children’s books about bones, skeletons, and the kinds of animals that have them.  Shira is the former Director of Education at Wonder Works and is currently studying to be a librarian.  She is helping out with Nature Works this summer by making lists of recommended books about the topic of the week.

Each review, below, includes a link to that book’s entry in SWAN, a computer network that many Chicago-area libraries use to share books (including Oak Park Public Library).  If your local library is one of the 80 members of SWAN, you can follow the links below and put a hold on any of Shira’s recommended books.  Go here for more information about SWAN.

Presnall, J.J. (1995). Animal Skeletons. (K. Kest, Illus.). New York, NY: Franklin Watts.  Follow this link to SWAN.

There are a few childhood songs dedicated to bones.  In Judith Janda Presnall, readers learn about the similarities and differences between different animal’s bones. 

There are a few childhood songs dedicated to bones.  In Judith Janda Presnall, readers learn about the similarities and differences between different animal’s bones.  Divided into 8 chapters, the book starts by explaining skeletons in general.  Later chapters discuss the unique skeletons of specific groups of animals.  Kristin Kest’s true to life illustrations support Presnall’s text, giving visual examples of the textual material.  Questions and activities pertaining to the subject discussed are scattered throughout the book.  The answers to these questions along with a glossary and a list of further reading are located at the end of the book.  This book is too old for many of the museum’s patrons, but it is a great resource for parents who have very inquisitive children.  Ages 8 and up.

Davies, N. (2007). White Owl, Barn Owl. ( M. Foreman, Illus.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press.  Follow this link to SWAN.

Nicola Davies created a clever book that combines a fictional story with actual information.  When a young girl discovers her grandfather building a wooden box, she starts on a course leading to seeing her first owl up close. 

Nicola Davies created a clever book that combines a fictional story with actual information.  When a young girl discovers her grandfather building a wooden box, she starts on a course leading to seeing her first owl up close.  The fictional story is contained to the sides of the pages.  Michael Foreman’s beautiful illustrations seamlessly incorporate owl related facts.  The back of the book contains additional information about nest boxes and an index for easy reference. This well paced story works as both a read-along for younger kids and a read alone for older children.  Ages 4 and up.

Sill, C. (2008). About Rodents: A guide for children. (J. Sill, Illus.). Atlanta, GA: Peachtree.  Follow this link to SWAN.

According to Cathryn Sill’s book, About Rodents, rodents account for roughly 40 percent of the world’s animals, from the common house mouse to the exotic capybara.

According to Cathryn Sill’s book, About Rodents, rodents account for roughly 40 percent of the world’s animals.  John Sill’s true to life illustrations complement the text and gives readers an up-close look at rodents.  Some of these are rodents one might find in a house, such as a mouse, while others readers may be less familiar with, such as the capybara.  Sill’s simple text describes various rodent characteristics.  At the back of the book are paragraphs that are more complex, expanding on the information touched upon on each page.  The book also contains a small glossary, bibliography, and list of websites for further reading.  The short simple sentences make this a great informational book for early readers.  Ages 3 and up.

Hess, N. (2004). Whose Feet?. (J. Kanzler, Illus.). New York, NY: Random House.  Follow this link to SWAN.

Before learning how to identify animal tracks, children need to learn about the different shapes and abilities of feet.  Nina Hess focuses on seven different animal feet and their specialized functions.

Before learning how to identify animal tracks, children need to learn about the different shapes and abilities of feet.  Nina Hess focuses on seven different animal feet and their specialized functions in the book, Whose Feet.  John Kanzler’s illustrations nicely complement the text by first focusing on the feet and then panning out to show the entire animal.  Kanzler’s illustrations coupled with Hess’s riddles gives readers a chance to figure out for themselves “whose feet”. This book is a great read for children interested in animals, riddles, or both.  The simple language and short sentences make it a good choice as a read-along or a beginning read-alone.  Ages 2 – 6

Barry, F. (2008). Little Green Frogs. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press.  Follow this link to SWAN.

This simple little rhyme about the birth and maturation of frogs is made exciting with an exciting, non-traditional book construction.

This simple little rhyme about the birth and maturation of frogs is made exciting with non-traditional book construction.  Instead of simply turning each page, the reader folds the pages back in different directions creating anticipation of the final product, which corresponds, with the maturation of the frogs.  The actual illustrations have a collage look to them, adding to the uniqueness of the book. The text has a nice repetition and rhyme to it, which makes it a nice choice for a read-along.  This is a great book to share during one-on-one story times.  Ages 2 – 5.

Hawes, J. (2000). Why frogs are wet. (M.A. Fraser, Illus.). New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.  Follow this link to SWAN.

Judy Hawes delves into the exciting world of the frog in her book, Why are frogs wet. Hawes supply’s readers with interesting facts and information about frogs. 

Judy Hawes delves into the exciting world of the frog in her book, Why are frogs wet.  Starting with the evolution of the frog from a purely water dwelling animal to an amphibian, Hawes goes on to supply readers with interesting facts and information about frogs.  Mary Ann Fraser’s true to life illustrations support Hawes’ text, adding visual depth to the book.  Contained at the end of the book is a simple activity with questions, as well as a short list of books for further reading. This is a good choice for children with questions.  Ages 5 and up.

Mayer, M. (1967). A Boy, A Dog and A Frog. New York, NY: Dial Books for Young Readers.  Follow this link to SWAN.

This is a purely illustrated story about the effort a little boy and his dog make to catch a frog who refuses to cooperate with their plans. 

Anyone who has ever tried to catch a frog will be able to relate to this entertaining story created by Mercer Mayer.  The humor is easy to find in this story about the effort a little boy and his dog make to catch a frog who refuses to cooperate with their plans.  The delicate illustrations and the detailed facial expressions on all the characters create a rich story without the support of text. Ages 2 and up.

Mayer M. (1969). Frog, where are you?.  New York, NY: Dial Books for Young Readers.  Follow this link to SWAN.

The little boy and his dog are back, once again looking for the frog in this follow up to, A boy, a dog, and a frog

The little boy and his dog are back, once again looking for the frog in this follow up to, A boy, a dog, and a frog.  Mercer Mayer does not disappoint in producing a rich and deep picture only story.  With new settings and characters, the story is fresh and self-contained, despite being a continuation.  Ages 2 and up.

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Marcellino, F. (1999). I, Crocodile. New York, NY: Harper Collins.  Follow this link to SWAN.

Where lions are kings of the forest, crocodiles are kings of Egypt, at least according to Fred Marcellino’s book, I, Crocodile.  In this story, readers are privy to the internal dialog of a crocodile.

Where lions are kings of the forest, crocodiles are kings of Egypt, at least according to Fred Marcellino’s book, I, Crocodile.  In this story, readers are privy to the internal dialog of a crocodile who went from living an idyllic life in Egypt to an attraction on display for the amusement of Napoleon and all of Paris. The text is simple and easy to follow while the story is full of anticipation and excitement.  The illustrations do a wonderful job of portraying the crocodile’s facial expressions throughout his experiences.  The combination of the well-paced text and the humorous illustrations make this an enjoyable story starting as a read-along and growing into a read-alone.  Ages 3 and up.

Arlon, P. (2008). Mammal: discovery starts with a single word. New York, NY: KD Publishing.  Follow this link to SWAN.

With so many differences and similarities, readers learn what makes an animal a mammal in,  Mammal: Discovery starts with a single word.

We are part of a class of animals with bones, the class Mammalia.  With so many differences and similarities, readers learn what makes an animal a mammal in, Mammal: Discovery starts with a single word.  This book contains a table of contents along with an index for easy reference.  The illustrations are easy to recognize photos of various animals.  What makes this book fun is many of the pages are fold out in different directions, containing either additional information or answers to questions.  The simple text and short sentences makes this a good choice for a beginning reader or a young child with a short attention span.  Ages 3 – 6.

Arnosky, J. (1994). Crinkleroot’s 25 Mammals every child should know. New York, NY : Bradbury Press.  Follow this link to SWAN.

Jim Arnosky’s book helps children start on the difficult task of learning and differentiating the various animals they encounter.

Jim Arnosky’s book helps children start on the difficult task of learning and differentiating the various animals they encounter.  The book begins with a brief explanation of mammals.  After that page, the text becomes limited to the name of the animal or animals featured on the page.  The 25 animal pictures are a stylized representation of their live counterparts.  This is a great choice for adults who enjoy adding to their child’s stories, after reading the word “dog”, ask the child what a dog says.  Since there is minimal text, this is also a nice read for children learning their letters or simple words.  Ages 1 – 3