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National Simultaneous Storytime: Bowerbird Blues

National Simultaneous Storytime 2024 - Bowerbird Blues
  • Author: Aura Parker

National Simultaneous Storytime is an annual event held by the Australian Library and Information Association and is happening on Wednesday 22 May 2024. It involves children reading the same book simultaneously in libraries, early learning services, schools, and homes across Australia.

This year’s book is Bowerbird Blues by Aura Parker. It’s a beautifully written and illustrated Australian story about a bird collecting blue items from across the land, cities, and under the sea. While Simultaneous Storytime is designed to promote reading and literacy, Bowerbird Blues provides yet another opportunity to embed STEM learning within every teaching practice and is a fantastic book to springboard rich STEM inquiry projects with your children! Register your service or classroom for National Simultaneous Storytime on the Australian Library and Information Association website to receive extra learning resources.

Read on for early learning ideas surrounding this book, based on broad science topics. Many of the explorations can be tailored to suit children across a range of age and developmental levels by simply adapting the questioning techniques used and supporting more complex forms of observation and research. However, some additional suggestions are included for younger and older age ranges.

Embed STEM learning with Bowerbird Blues

🔵 Support the children to spot all the shades of blue in the book, such as cobalt, indigo, icy blue, and sparkling blue.

🔵 Take a trip with the children to a hardware store and collect paint swatches or pantone cards. Encourage them to look at the names of each hue and then make up their own names! 

🔵 Try to recreate these hues with the children using art mediums. Encourage the children to make their own hues and name them. This can start with blue but can be repeated with other colours.

🔵 Compare water colour and tempera/acrylic paints (and other media) to explore vibrancy. The illustrations in this book use water colours, so spark conversations with children about the differences in the blues.

🔵 Explore what happens when white is added to other coloured paints and experiment with different amounts of white paint. Extend this by adding colours to playdough or food dye to water and seeing how much is needed to make lighter shades.

🔵 Explore the perennial question: “Why is the sky/sea blue?” This could extend to explorations of light and wavelengths.

For younger infants: Explore colour during mealtimes by talking to children about the different colours in their meals. Create tasting plates of foods in the same colour families. 

For school-age children: Use programs like MS Paint to make different colour hues. Explore the use of HEX or RGB codes to create different colours digitally. However, it’s not necessary for the children to have this knowledge to explore colours.

🧮 Invite the children to spot different patterns in the book’s illustrations, such as stripes and swirls. They can try to find these patterns in the playground, their homes, or the local park.

🧮 Encourage the children to create their own bowers, just like the bowerbird! They can collect and sort different items such as counters, blocks, and natural materials by their attributes such as by pattern or weight.

🧮 Ask the children to order different items by their attributes, such as lightest to heaviest, or darkest colour to lightest, to extend their mathematical understanding.

🧮 Invite the children to find hidden objects in the book, such as eggs, bread tags, and bottle caps. They can discuss strategies for finding the objects more easily to support their computational thinking. The children can even make their own pictures with hidden objects!

For younger infants: Play peek-a-boo with the children by covering objects, such as soft toys, under a blanket.

For school-age children: Support children to explore data visualisation using charts or graphs, such as how many coloured bottle caps they find in the park. Here’s an example of how an eight-year-old visualised the data she collected using Lego. In addition, you can encourage the children to make their own scavenger hunt lists but instead of naming the items to find, they can describe attributes, such as “something spiky”.

Spending time learning more about bowerbirds can be a long-term project! Listen out for questions that may come from the children as you read this book together. Some questions that might arise about bowerbirds include:

Investigate ethology and ornithology with Bowerbird Blues

🪺 Why are bowers on the ground? Is it the same as a nest?

🪺 Why do bowerbirds collect items? Why blue objects specifically? 

🪺 Why do the two birds at the end of the book look different?

🪺 Where do bowerbirds live? What birds visit our service? (This is perfectly timed to coincide with the national citizen science bird project: The Aussie Bird Count!) 

For younger infants: Explore different types of birds through books, pictures, songs, fingerplays, and observing the outdoor environment. You can explore how they look, the sounds they make, and what their eggs and chicks look like.  

For school-age children: Encourage the children to investigate the concept of nest-building by exploring how other birds build their nests and what materials they use. Extend this exploration by comparing bird nests to other animals’ homes, such as bee hives.

Could this be the start of an inquiry-based STEM project?

As you can see, this picture book can lead to fascinating STEM explorations, which could spark an inquiry-based STEM project led by the children in your service.

An inquiry-based STEM project is designed with a specific objective of finding something out e.g. “Can wattle seeds grow in space?”. This is very different to an open-ended activity like “Exploring gravity.” A project should build upon the interests of children and stem from their questions and observations. It should engage with a topic over several weeks or months so that children can explore hypotheses with ample time for discovery and reflection. You can read more about inquiry-based projects here. We also recommend this summary of an excellent inquiry-project called “Can We Save Humpty Dumpty?” by Glasshouse Early Education Centre in QLD.

Developing an inquiry-based STEM project is a key component of certifying your service as a Little Scientists House, the only STEM certification program for early learning services. Becoming a Little Scientists House allows you to showcase to the community that your service is committed to best practice in early inquiry-based STEM education. Learn more here.

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