Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Sea Turtle Scientist

by Stephen R. Swinburne
HMH Books for Young Readers (January 7, 2014)

Description from GoodReads:
Dr. Kimberly Stetwart, also known as the Turtle Lady of St. Kitts, is already waiting at midnight when an 800-pound leatherback sea turtle crawls out of the Caribbean surf and onto the sandy beach. The mother turtle has a vital job to do: dig a nest in which she will lay eggs that will hatch into part of the next generation of leatherbacks. With only one in a thousand of the eggs for this critically endangered species resulting in an adult sea turtle, the odds are stacked against her and her offspring. Join the renowned author and photographer Steve Swinburne on a journey through history to learn how sea turtles came to be endangered, and what scientists like Kimberly are doing to save them. For the complete selection of books in this critically acclaimed, award-winning series, visit  

About Scientists in the Field: Where Science Adventure Meets -
The Scientists in the Field series shows people immersed in the unpredictable and dynamic natural world, making science more accessible, relevant, and exciting to young readers. Far from the research laboratory, these books show firsthand adventures in the great outdoors—adventures with a purpose. From climbing into a snake den with thousands of slithering snakes to tracking wolves, swimming with hammerhead sharks, and collecting bugs, readers experience the thrill of discovering the unknown.

The Scientists in the Field series has been deemed consistently excellent, imaginative, engaging, and informative. The series provides a broad range of curricular opportunities that will both teach and entertain children.

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| Discussion Guide for Sea Turtle Scientist

My thoughts on this book:
Lately, I seem to be partial to all things Scientist in the Field and National Geographic.  I have been trying out some activities with first and second graders using a variety of nonfiction titles. 

In Sea Turtle Scientist, Stephen R. Swinburne focuses on the work of Dr. Kimberly Stewart.  As I read about her work, I found myself not wanting to put the book down but instead to stay up late reading.  Additionally, I was struck by how hard it is to really observe and do research on sea turtles given their lifestyle and way of moving 1,000's of miles through the sea.  

For many of the first graders that I have been working with, Sea Turtle Scientist would be a challenge even as a read aloud.  However, the photographs tell their own stories and I found that by reading the text beforehand, I could summarize the text and use the photographs in a way that the students benefitted from the book.

We talked about Dr. Stewart and the type of education she would need to be a sea turtle scientist and also, how fun it would be to work on a beach and wear flip flops. It was a bit hard for students to understand why she would need to check the nests and also examine all of the egg shells.  I would love to bring in some flippers, sand and ping pong balls to help the students really begin to experience how difficult it is for the mother sea turtle to come from the sea to lay her eggs.  

I would highly recommend this book for grades three and up, but it could make a great read aloud for an attentive group of first and second graders. Below, I have included a few Sea Turtle Videos that you may want to use to front-load information for students or to supplement the books you are reading with them. I have also included some of my favorite Sea Turtle books for Kindergarten to Second grade.

All About Sea Turtles Video by Sea World:

Turtle Hatching:

Other Sea Turtle Books for Younger Readers:

Sea Turtles (National Geographic Readers) by Laura Marsh (National Geographic, 2011) - As with all of the super readers by National Geographic, this book does a great job of introducing younger students to sea turtles.

One Tiny Turtle: Read and Wonder by Nicola Davies; Illustrated by Jane Chapman (Candlewick Press, 2005) - I love this story and also the combination of narrative text with fact.

Scholastic Adventures With Books: One Tiny Turtle Classroom Activity Guide.

I'll Follow the Moon by Stephanie Lisa Tara; Illustrated by Lee Edward Fodi (Stephanie Lisa Tara Children's Books, 2012) - This fictional story in verse helps readers connect on a different level to the journey of baby sea turtles must begin when hatching from their nest.

On Kiki's Reef by Carol Malnor, Illustrated by Trina L. Hunner (Dawn Publications, March 1, 2014) - A 2014 release, On Kiki's Reef provides a narrative look at the journey of a sea turtle and the reference to the life cycle of sea turtles.

Don't forget to link up your nonfiction reviews: