Sunday, November 8, 2020

Thanksgiving Storybook STEM

Basing STEM off of favorite read-alouds is my new obsession; it is the perfect way to integrate reading with science, technology, engineering, and math. In my post about Halloween Storybook STEM, I took four of my favorite Halloween read-alouds and created STEM challenges to go with them. Now I've done the same thing with Thanksgiving stories.

Thanksgiving Storybook STEM | Apples to Applique

Finding quality Thanksgiving stories is not the easiest task; for some reason, there are tons of picture books about Halloween, and billions (more or less) about Christmas, but Thanksgiving? It tends to get skipped over. 

Thanksgiving itself brings up the issue of the importance of being culturally and historically sensitive, so I do not want any books focusing on "the first Thanksgiving" or relations between pilgrims and indigenous peoples. Most of these are not historically accurate, or they make light of the tragedies endured by indigenous peoples. This criteria in itself eliminates the majority of Thanksgiving books written for children.

Adding to the problem is the fact that I am a self-professed children's book snob; I don't love character books to read aloud to my kids. I'm not going to read "[Inset favorite book character here]'s Thanksgiving" as a read aloud; those types of books, in my opinion, are the equivalent of movie sequels: the quality is lacking and they are usually just a money-grab.

In spite of this strict criteria, I have managed to find some true gems of books. 

Thanksgiving Storybook STEM | Apples to Applique

Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet is decently well-known. It focuses on the history of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is one of our country's most beloved Thanksgiving traditions. After reading the book, students create their own parade float or balloon based on a character from a book or movie, or on an animal. For extra fun, you can put on your own parade for parents or other classes before having your class Thanksgiving meal. (This year, thanks to Covid, you could create a virtual parade, with pictures of each child's creation put into a slideshow or video).

Thanksgiving Storybook STEM | Apples to Applique

Thanksgiving in the Woods by Phyllis Alsdurf is such a sweet story. I love that this story focuses on a community that gathers each year to create their own unique tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving in the woods. Having students work together to build forts is a perfect follow-up to this story. To make it even more fitting, you could have them create forts using only items they find in nature--or, better yet, if you live in an area where it is not too cold, have them build forts outside!

Thanksgiving Storybook STEM | Apples to Applique

Not This Turkey! by Jessica Steinberg is a book that I am surprised is not more popular. I had to do some digging to find this one, and I wasn't even able to find a complete read-aloud on YouTube. I went ahead and ordered it and was completely delighted--and so were my students! The story is told from the perspective of an immigrant family who is celebrating their first Thanksgiving in America. It is funny, involving a turkey chase down the street, and heartwarming, as the family figures out how to celebrate this American holiday while keeping their own traditions and culture alive. I highly recommend it! 

The STEM activity that accompanies this story challenges students to come up with a way to transport a turkey--just right for integrating pulleys, wheels and axles, etc.

Thanksgiving Storybook STEM | Apples to Applique

Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende Devlin is an older book, first published in the early 1970s, but it is delightful and timeless. I can't believe I never got to experience this book as a child! The values imparted in this story include giving to those in need and not judging people by their appearance. The story also involves a family recipe hidden away behind a brick in the fireplace, which leads into the STEM project of creating a secret compartment. What kid doesn't love the idea of a hidden compartment?

I hope your students love these Thanksgiving books, and that the accompanying STEM activities help the stories come alive for them.

You can find Thanksgiving Storybook STEM here in my store or here in my TPT shop.

Keep teaching with heart and passion!

Planting Lifelong Foundations in Early Childhood | Apples to Applique

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