Literature Connections to
Schoolyard Ecology

Teacher's Guides > Schoolyard Ecology

Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti
Antics!

Charlotte’s Web
City Green
The City Under the Back Steps
The Earth is Painted Green
The Empty Lot

Fly Away, Fly Away Over the Sea
Grandmother Spider Brings the Sun: A Cherokee Story
Like Jake and Me

The Magic of Spider Woman

The Magic School Bus Gets Ants in its Pants: A Book About Ants
Night Visitors
Only Fiona

The Spider, the Cave and the Pottery Bowl

Two Bad Ants

Why Spiders Spin: A Story of Arachne


Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti
by Gerald McDermott
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York. 1972
Grades: K–4
Anansi, a folk hero to the Ashanti people of Ghana, Africa, is a wise and loveable trickster. In this story he wanders far from home, gets lost, and falls into trouble. His six sons all play a part in his rescue and Anansi is unsure which one to reward. Because of his inability to decide, Anansi is responsible for placing the moon in the sky.

Antics!
by Cathi Hepworth
G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York. 1992
Grades: All ages
For a totally humorous and very humanized view of ants, this is a great book. It is an alphabetical anthology of funny "ant" words. Each page has a large, richly detailed illustration of the word. For example, "A" is for Antique and the illustration shows a very old ant sitting in a rocker on a porch while knitting and listening to a gramophone. Many pages contain several funnies—the initial pun with the "ant" word plus more in the illustration.

Charlotte’s Web
by E.B. White; illustrated by Garth Williams
Harper & Row, New York. 1952
Grades: 4–7
This classic story tells of the friendship between a wise gray spider named Charlotte and a pig named Wilbur. Although most of the story centers around the anthropomorphised animals, Charlotte offers many cogent observations on web spinning and egg sacs, the natural cycle of life-death-reproduction, and the lasting value of friendship.

City Green
by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan
Morrow Junior Books, New York. 1994
Grades: K–5
While planting some flowers, Marcy, an African American girl, and her good friend Miss Rosa have an idea to plant more in the vacant lot next to their apartment building. They gather signatures on a petition showing neighborhood interest in the project and obtain a lease from the city. As Marcy and Miss Rosa begin cleaning up the lot, many neighbors pitch in to help and soon the lot is transformed into a community garden filled with flowers and vegetables.

The City Under the Back Steps
by Evelyn Sibley Lampman; illustrated by Honoré Valintcourt
Doubleday, Garden City, New York. 1960
Grades: 4–7
While Craig and his cousin Jill are sitting on the back steps watching ants scurry into a hole, something magical happens and they shrink down to ant size and are escorted into the ants’ chambers. They become pets of the queen and help out in the ant colony. Through the story, the reader learns quite a bit about ants and their society.

The Earth is Painted Green: A Garden of Poems About Our Planet
edited by Barbara Brenner; illustrated by S.D. Schindler
Scholastic, New York. 1994
Grades: All ages
The poems of such notable authors as Margaret Wise Brown, Myra Cohn Livingston, Carl Sandburg, and Shel Silverstein are assembled into this collection which celebrates our green planet. Rich watercolor illustrations complete the image the poems conjure.

The Empty Lot
by Dale H. Fife; illustrated by Jim Arnosky
Sierra Club Books/Little, Brown, Boston. 1991
Grades: 2–4
What good is a vacant lot? City-dweller Harry Hale owns one, and when he looks it over before selling it, he is amazed to find that the lot is far from empty. It’s pulsing with life: birds and their nests; ants, beetles, fungi, and molds in the soil; and frogs and dragonflies near the stream. He is so impressed by the utilization of the different habitat areas that he changes his "for sale" sign to read "occupied lot—every square inch in use." A nice connection to the often hidden life students are likely to find in the schoolyard.

Fly Away, Fly Away Over the Sea: and Other Poems for Children
by Christina Rossetti; selected and illustrated by Bernadette Watts
North-South Books, New York. 1991
Grades: All ages
A collection of classic poems including "Hurt No Living Thing" which features many different insects. The poems provide a nice example of writing inspired by observations of the natural world.

Grandmother Spider Brings the Sun: A Cherokee Story
by Geri Keams; illustrated by James Bernardin
Northland, Flagstaff, Arizona. 1995
Grades: All ages
This Cherokee story tells how light was brought to the dark side of the world. Sneaky Coyote convinces the other animals that they should steal a piece of the sun, and shy Possum and cocky Buzzard make attempts with hilarious results. But it is the most unlikely individual—tiny, wise old Grandmother Spider—who has the best idea of all.

Like Jake and Me
by Mavis Jukes; illustrated by Lloyd Bloom
Knopf, New York. 1984
Grades: 2–5
A delightful and heartwarming story about a young boy, Alex, and his stepfather Jake. Alex feels he does not have much in common with Jake and tries desperately to find some way to bridge the gap. In a humorous and surprising way, a hairy wolf spider brings the two of them together. Through the story the reader can learn a great deal about wolf spiders. Also available as a videotape.

The Magic of Spider Woman
by Lois Duncan; illustrated by Shonto Begay
Scholastic, New York. 1996
Grades: K–4
In this Navajo tale, Wandering Girl, a strong-willed shepherd girl, is taught how to weave blankets by Spider Woman and is given the new name Weaving Woman. Spider Woman warns her never to do too much of anything; to respect boundaries and to keep her life in balance. When Weaving Woman forgets the warning and devotes all of her time to a beautiful blanket, something terrible happens. In the end, Weaving Woman learns the value of living a balanced life and teaches her people how to weave.

The Magic School Bus Gets Ants in its Pants: A Book About Ants
TV tie-in book adaptation by Linda Ward Beech and illustrated by John Speirs; based on The Magic School Bus book series written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen
Scholastic, New York. 1996
Grades: 1–5
As the class project for the science fair, Ms. Frizzle’s class makes a movie about ants. In the style that has made the Magic School Bus so popular, the class really "gets into" their project—they shrink and are taken into an ant hill. The book clearly explains the different jobs ants perform, ant communication, food sharing, tunnel structure, and life stages. With Ms. Frizzle’s help, the class realizes that the ants work together cooperatively, and that every ant’s job is important for the survival of all. As in other Magic School Bus books, there is a page of facts in the back of the book, plus an ant hill project for parents and children.

Night Visitors
by Ed Young
Philomel Books, New York. 1995
Grades: 1–6
When ants invade his family’s rice storehouse, young Ho Kuan, who has great respect for all forms of life, must find a way to seal the storehouse to keep the ants out before his father kills them all. Through the strong visions he experiences in a dream—during which he becomes part of an ant colony—he finds the solution. This book, which is the retelling of a Chinese folktale, makes a particularly apt connection to the optional experiments on ant deterrents.

Only Fiona
by Beverly Keller
Harper & Row, New York. 1988
Grades: 4–6
Ten-year-old Fiona Foster is the "new kid" in town and feels alone and without friends. But within six months her efforts to protect all living things—from beetles to hamsters—bring her respect and new friends. In the first few chapters, Fiona manages to stop her parents from spraying ants that have invaded their kitchen. Fiona follows the line of ants to their ant hill and leaves several piles of different foods there to encourage the ants to stay away from the house. It works, and Fiona and some new friends gain new respect for ants.

The Spider, the Cave and the Pottery Bowl
by Eleanor Clymer; illustrated by Ingrid Fetz
Atheneum, New York. 1972
Grades: 3–6
Kate and Johnny are sent to the mesa to spend the summer with their ailing grandmother. One evening grandmother tells stories—one about how the people came to the mesa, one about why ants have thin waists, and one about Grandmother Spider. The next day, on the far side of the mesa, the children discover Grandmother Spider’s secret house behind which is a hidden supply of fine clay in a small cave. They take some clay to their grandmother who then teaches them how to make pots as beautiful as those made by their ancestors. When Kate discovers Grandmother Spider’s home by a spring, she thinks "How clever she was to make her web by the spring where the flies would come" demonstrating the relation of an animal’s chosen habitat to environmental factors.

Two Bad Ants
by Chris Van Allsburg
Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. 1988
Grades: Preschool–4
A colony of ants follows in a line behind a scout ant who leads them to get beautiful sparkling crystals (sugar) for their queen. When the colony departs, two curious ants stay behind. After surviving many life-threatening situations, the two ants become convinced they should return to the safety of their colony. Students could answer the question, "How was the scout able to find her way back to the sugar in order to lead the colony to it?"

Why Spiders Spin: A Story of Arachne
retold by Jamie and Scott Simons; illustrated by Deborah Winograd
Silver Press, Engelwood Cliffs, New Jersey. 1991
Grades: 2—5
This is a retelling of the Greek myth about Arachne, a weaver of fine and beautiful cloth. By boasting about the quality of her weaving, she angers the goddess Athena who challenges her to a contest. Seeing that Arachne’s weaving is indeed on a level with her own and angered by the images portrayed in Arachne’s weaving, Athena turns the young lady into a spider—destined to spin forever and weave a lonely web.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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