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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

STEM Friday

Practically Paradise is hosting STEM Friday today. I’m focusing on Wisdom, The Midway Albatross today. I’ll post photos and more at the bottom of this page throughout the day as they arrive. In the meantime, please check out these STEM-ulating posts and come back often.

Roberta Gibson has a light review of Food Technology (Sci Hi Science & Technology) by Neil Morris today at Wrapped In Foil

Anastasia Suen at Picture Book of the Day writes it’s STEM Friday with Zero the Hero

Diane’s note: how many school librarians have to count down to establish that you want to begin an activity and that students should be in their places and ready to begin? I always go to zero, so was shocked when a student asked what I was saying this week. He thought zero was hysterically funny and that I’d made it up. Fortunately this was a kindergartner, not a fourth grader. I have time to teach him the importance of zero and now, I have a book to do it with. Thanks, Anastasia.

At SimplyScience, Shirley Duke has a guest post by Fred Bortz, author of Meltdown! He tells about his road from physicist to children’s author.

Zoe Toft has a review of  The Story of Inventions, by Anna Claybourne, illustrated by Adam Larkum and designed by Steve Wood, but mentions a couple of other inventions/design books, plus shows her daughter making her own invention.

Jeff Bargar at NC Teacher Stuff has posted a review of Sir Cumference and the Viking’s Map:

Ronna Mandel at Good Reads with Ronna has an interview with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar about his kids’ book,  What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African American Inventors

Wisdom, the Midway Albatross: Surviving the Japanese Tsunami and Other Disasters for Over 60 Years is my STEM title today. I received a request from author Darcy Pattison to consider blogging about Wisdom this week. The one-year anniversary of the Japanese Tsunami that destroyed so many lives, homes, a nuclear plant and more is March 11th. Darcy Pattison and Kitty Harvill have written a new picture book that is very timely for remembering the survivors – even the animal survivors. Darcy hooked me with this information:

The oldest wild bird in the world, documented with continuous banding since 1956, is Wisdom, the Midway Albatross. When the Japanese Tsunami hit on March 11, 2011, her nest and her chick lay in the path of danger. This is her amazing story of survival of manmade and natural disasters for over 60 years.

She has survived manmade disasters: plastic pollution, water pollution, longline fishing, and lead poisoning.

She has survived natural disasters: predators, storms, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis, including the Japanese earthquake.

At over 60 years old, she is still laying eggs and hatching chicks. Among the birds of the world, this albatross, its ecology and life are amazing. It is a story of survival and hope amidst the difficulties of life.

I could not imagine the survival instincts of this Laysan Albatross to survive for over sixty years and still be laying eggs. I admit I was also intrigued by the banding program and had to go check for myself if there really was a bird over 60 years of age. (Yes, it’s true) There are excellent links in the back of the book for curious children (and librarians) to learn more about Bird Banding, Saving the Albatross, Tsunamis, Plastic Pollution, and even a link to Wisdom’s own facebook page. Having read Wisdom, the Midway Albatross, I’ll be able to help students explore animal survival and adaptation better for our next PBL (Project-based Learning).

Wisdom, the Midway Albatross will be a Free Kindle Download on March 9 and 10. For those without a color Kindle, the free desktop Kindle program shows this book beautifully.  The GoodReads Book Giveaway ends on March 11.

Darcy was gracious enough to share her information with us on researching nonfiction for Wisdom.


Research for a non-fiction children’s book is essential. When I first heard the story of Wisdom, the Midway Albatross, I was amazed.Wisdom has been banded since 1956 and at over 60 years old is still laying eggs and raising chicks. She’s the oldest known wild bird in the world. When the Japanese tsunami struck last March 11, she was on Midway Atoll and she and her chick were in danger.


Those are the bare facts. To chronicle her story, though, I did research. First, I talked with Pete Leary, the wildlife biologist at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. He’s taken many photographs of Wisdom, many of which were used as the photo reference by illustrator Kitty Harvill as she did the illustrations for the book. Leary was easy to work with because he was passionate about tellingWisdom’s story to kids, too.

Then, the research turned to the history of the bird. I looked up the dates of each time she was banded; I studied the history of storms, earthquakes and tsunamis in the Pacific for the last 60 years; I studied the health of the ocean, the history of ocean pollution, especially the Pacific Ocean. Slowly, a picture emerged of the life and times of a species, a region, and of one special bird.

This is a story of how man and nature collide. The Naval Station at Midway Atoll decreased the albatross population. The increase in plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean has taken a toll on the seabirds of Midway; many eat so much plastic that their stomachs are full and there’s no room for food, so they starve to death. Longline fishing–the practice of baiting fishing lines miles long–has taken the lives of many seabirds.

Yet, it is also the story of survival and the men and women who care about the small corners of earth left where there is still wonder and amazement about a chick hatching. The albatross population is thriving since the Navy left; longline fishing practices have been modified; and the word is getting out about plastic pollution.

That leaves the natural disasters that albatrosses must face: storms, winds, earthquakes and tsunamis. Wisdom has weathered her share of storms: thunderstorms, tropical storms and hurricanes. She had survived at least one other tsunami on Midway.
(Teachers see the Top 108 Earthquake and Tsunami Sites at

How would she survive the Japanese tsunami on March 11? Read her story to find out. Then, LIKE Wisdom’s facebook page (a site run by the staff on Midway) and follow the hatching of her 2012 chick at

For more on the book, see

Book Details

  • JNF003270 JUVENILE NONFICTION / Animals / Endangered
  • JNF003030JUVENILE NONFICTION / Animals / Birds
  • EPub: ISBN 9780979862182
  • Paperback: ISBN 9780979862175
  • Binding: Softcover
  • Backmatter: Resources for teachers/parents
  • Reading Level: 840L or 3-5 grade reading level
  • DDC: 598.42

Thursday night, our STEM school wrapped up our PBL on Wind, Water, and Weather with a STEM showcase. Pictures and more will be coming. While we enjoyed showcasing the student works, the adults in the room had opportunities for exploring and engaging innovative thinking.

1) someone (Dr. E) accidentally released all the helium balloons to soar 30 feet up to the vaulted ceiling. It took five people and a wonderful roofing maintenance man to figure a way to get these down without a ladder. Hint it involved twisting a rod with tape on the end around the ribbon to wind it down.

2) the rainstorm caused a huge leak in the library ceiling right over the 700’s section and our Flying Cage project. With the rain streaming down the umbrellas of the Flying Cage inside the library, several parents realized something was just too realistic about the display. We were able to relocate our precious books and brainstormed several ways to prevent further weather damage as the ceiling tiles swelled and collapsed down the wall.

Gail Gauthier of Original Content: Original Content Relating to Children’s Books and Writing at writes “STEM people may be interested in this talk on “narrative
science.” It deals with adult writing, but I’ve been thinking of some of
the nonfiction picture books I’ve been seeing recently as creative nonfiction.”

Gail Gauthier
Original Content: Original Content Relating to Children’s Books and Writing


  1. Thanks for hosting this week! Wisdom sounds like a very interesting book.

  2. Oh my! Your Wind, Water and Weather night does sound a bit too realistic. I hope things are better today.

    A bird with its own Facebook page? Amazing. I admit I was interested in the banding program, too.

    Thanks for hosting STEM Friday this week.