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Welcome to Summer BOOK-TIVITY #5. Education World and share with you fun activities for kids and families -- activities connected to some of the best recent children's books around. Check out Summer BOOK-TIVITIES! for summer projects that will entertain and educate.

Don't miss the other Summer BOOK-TIVITIES:

  • BOOK-TIVITY #1: Photo fun, cooking, sharks, baseball, moving
  • BOOK-TIVITY #2: Family trees, hide-and-seek, museums, information exploration
  • BOOK-TIVITY #3: Lightning, teeth, masks, Mount Rushmore
  • BOOK-TIVITY #4: Crocodiles, "look what came from ...," imagination, do's and don'ts
  • BOOK-TIVITY #5: U.S. states, fossils, snakes, animal carnival
  • BOOK-TIVITY #6: Mount Everest, Mother Goose, the ocean, math

Summer Booktivities Header Graphic



America Book Cover

Kansas is bored, so Kansas and Nebraska join forces to plan the biggest party ever, a states party! Virginia and Idaho hatch a scheme to swap spots so each can see another part of the country. Before the party is over, all the states decide to switch places. In the beginning, every state is happy in its new location. Soon, however, things start to go wrong. Alaska is irritated because Oklahoma's handle keeps jabbing Alaska's left side. Florida, who had switched spots with Minnesota, complains about the cold.

Will the states ever unscramble and return to their proper places? Young geographers can learn the answer to that question in The Scrambled States of America (Henry Holt) by Laurie Keller.

This clever story, starring all 50 states, is chock-full of introductory facts and humor. Young readers can identify their favorite states by color, size, and shape. Learning about geography has never been as easy, as engaging -- or as funny! In the end, everyone (including Kansas) agrees there's no place like home.

Booktivity Header GraphicBOOK-TIVITY: Where Are the States?
Click here for a word search puzzle. In this puzzle, find the names of all 50 states in the United States.



Stone Girl Book Cover

Mary Anning was born in England in 1799. As she was growing up, Mary and her father loved to dig for strange stone shapes buried in the crumbly clay cliffs of Dorset. Mary called them "curiosities," and when her father died, leaving little money for his family, young Mary decided to sell some of her "curiosities" to the well-heeled summer tourists who came to town.

Among Mary's neighbors are the Philpot sisters. Trained as scientists, the sisters recognized Mary's "curiosities" as something else: fossils, the remains of ancient creatures. Annie Philpot shows Mary a huge tooth. "This came from a great sea monster," Annie explains. "If anyone could ever find the rest of the creature, Mary, that would be the greatest treasure of all."

So the determined girl keeps searching. Although she's only 12 years old, Mary makes one of the most important scientific discoveries of her time.

In Stone Girl, Bone Girl: The Story of Mary Anning (Orchard Books), Laurence Anholt tells the true story of one of history's most celebrated fossil finders. It's a story that will engage all young fossil finders, especially girls who might consider fossils to be "boys' stuff."

Booktivity Header GraphicBOOK-TIVITY: Make Fossils at Home
Mix a batch of plaster of Paris (available at any hobby store) and fill a small plastic container with it. Choose an object (a shell, a bone, or even a leaf) and coat the object with petroleum jelly. When the plaster is firm, set the object on the plaster and press gently. (Don't bury the object in the plaster!) When the plaster hardens, remove the object and -- voila! -- you have a fossil!

Booktivity Header GraphicBOOK-TIVITY: Digging for Fossils
Provide each child with a chocolate chip cookie. (Dry cookies are better than moist ones.) Let the children select safe fossil-digging tools. A child's paintbrush is a good tool because both ends can be used when fossil digging; scissors with dull tips make good tools too. Then, ever so carefully, children dig through the earth (the cookie dough) searching for fossils (the chocolate chips). How many complete fossils can they uncover?



Snakes Book Cover

If snakes are a topic of interest to your kids, The Snake Scientist (Houghton Mifflin) is a must-have addition to your at-home library. The work of Dr. Robert Mason is at the heart of The Snake Scientist; in fact, "Snake Scientist" is Mason's nickname!

Each spring, Mason, a zoologist at Oregon State University and the current recipient of the National Science Foundation's Young Investigator Award, travels to the Narcisse Snake Dens, north of Winnipeg, Manitoba. There, one of nature's most phenomenal events occurs:


You hear them before you see them. On a quiet day, as you approach one of the dens ... you can hear a rustling like wind in dry leaves.

It's the sound of thousands of slithering snakes.

When you look over the fence into the shallow limestone pit, at first it seems as if the ground is moving. But it's not the ground -- it's 18,000 red-sided garter snakes!

Author Sy Montgomery writes of Mason as the scientist works to understand the snakes and their habits. Through Montgomery's words and Nic Bishop's dramatic photos, readers grasp what being a scientist really means. Readers follow the Snake Scientist as he and a troop of volunteers weigh, measure, mark, and otherwise study the snakes. They take great care handling the snakes and setting up experiments that have helped scientists answer such questions as How does a female snake choose her mate? What do the snakes eat? How far do they travel from their winter dens? and How long do snakes live? Many more questions remain unanswered; that's why Mason returns each year to the snake dens!

Booktivity Header GraphicBOOK-TIVITY: Paper-Plate Snakes
Provide each child with a paper plate, and instruct children to color designs on both sides of their plates. When the kids finish coloring, cut their plates in a spiral pattern from the outside-in. When you start, cut the spiral thicker (at what will be the tail end) and end with a thinner cut (the head). Kids can paint heads on their snakes before hanging them by thread from the ceiling.



A summer vacation from school shouldn't be a vacation from learning and culture. There are many ways to slip a little culture (and fun) into summer!

Carnival Book Cover

The animals are having a carnival, and the guests are arriving. Here come the majestic lion, the braying mules, the dancing elephant, and the bouncy kangaroos. Even the fossils join in, shaking and rattling. Everyone is invited!

Nearly 150 years ago, the composer Camille Saint-Saens was asked by his pupils to write a musical joke for them. He wrote Carnival of the Animals, a piece people have enjoyed so much that it has become one of Saint-Saens's most famous works. Now Carnival of the Animals is available as a wonderful new picture book! Readers can follow each section of Saint-Saens's classic piece while they listen to the CD. Best of all, the CD is included!

This is a perfect way to introduce youngsters to the world of classical music!

Booktivity Header GraphicBOOK-TIVITY: Orchestra in a Book!
We already mentioned that Carnival of the Animals includes a CD. Just pop the CD into your CD player and reread the book so your children can become more familiar with the story and the music. Then


  • play sections of the music; see if children can identify the animal the music represents.


  • invite children use their bodies to imitate the movements of animals in time to Saint-Saens's music.


  • instruct children draw their own pictures of their favorite parts of Saint-Saens's classic piece.



Crinkleroot's Book Cover

Born in a tree and raised by bees, Crinkleroot is the perfect nature guide. Who else can hear a fox turn in the forest or spot a mole hole in a mountain? In Crinkleroot's Nature Almanac (Simon & Schuster), children will learn to identify different types of wildflowers in springtime, find a beaver dam in the summer, locate owls in the fall, and spot rabbit tracks in winter. Hidden puzzles in the art and simple activities, such as building a birdhouse and creating an autumn leaf book, promise hours of fun, even in your own backyard!

Author Jim Arnosky is a naturalist and the author-illustrator of numerous award-winning nonfiction books for children. He has written 12 other titles in the Crinkleroot series. The Crinkleroot character can now be seen on PBS in the new animated series about the natural world, Backyard Safari. Arnosky won the Eva L. Gordon Award for his outstanding children's science literature and the 1998 Washington Post/Children's Book Guild Award for his overall contribution to nonfiction for children.

Return to Education World's Summer Reading Ideas page.


Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor in Chief
Copyright © 1999, 2002 Education World


Last updated 06/23/2017