Wednesday, August 28, 2013

School Garden: Plant in Containers

An old tire, dresser drawer, tin can, or bucket can make a good gardening container
Gardening is a great hands-on learning project with kids.  But many schools have limited gardening space.  One solution is to use containers.  Container gardening is a flexible alternative to the usual garden plot. Small containers and some containers with wheels can be taken in at night. Larger containers can be used for rooftop and parking lot garden spots.  Spread wood chips or sawdust to cover the asphalt and you can transform a hot dusty corner of the playground into a green oasis for your children.
Containers  should hold at least three gallons of soil for large or deep-rooted plants such as tomatoes, squash and melons, and one and one-half gallons of soil for smaller plants like lettuce, onions, and herbs.  When filling the container with soil, leave a one to three inch basin below the lip for watering.  Containers should have drainage holes in the bottom.  And, containers should be made of a material that will not rot or deteriorate before the plants have matured.

Have fun growing plants and reaping the harvest!

Thanks to Children’s Gardens, A Field Guide for Teachers, Parents and Volunteers by Elizabeth Bremner and John Pusey.  Illustrations by Caroline Arnold

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


I'm always amazed at the creative projects students do after reading my books. When I visited Susan B. Anthony School in Sacramento several years ago, I found a whole class wearing these charming hats inspired by my book Wiggle and Waggle.  With magic markers and yellow construction paper you can make your own Wiggle and Waggle hats too!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Writing Process: My Idea Box

So you want to write a children's book!  Ideas for books are everywhere. They come from our own interests and experiences, both as adults and when we were children.  They can be found in all kinds of written material including books, newspapers, magazines, museum and travel brochures--even junk mail!  Here are some good sources of ideas.
  •     Television, radio, movies, the internet.
  •     Children’s questions.
  •     Your observations of children at school and at play.
  •     School curriculum needs.
  •     Parenting needs.
    I’ve learned to keep my “idea antennae” up all the time because I never know when something will trigger an idea that might later develop into a topic for a book.  It might be a conversation with friend, an interaction with a child at a school, or a news item on the radio.  I always keep a pen and paper handy so that I can quickly jot down a few words when the idea is fresh.
    On the shelf above my desk I have my “idea box” in which I toss notes scribbled on bits of paper, articles cut out of the newspaper or torn out of magazines, brochures collected on vacations and anything else that might be relevant to a future book project.  Periodically I go through the box and select a few items to develop into possible books.   I already have enough ideas to last for at least two more lifetimes, and since I’ll never be able to use them all, my challenge is to try to select the best ones.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


If you are a teacher or librarian in the Los Angeles area, here is a terrific opportunity for the kids at your school or library:

Calling all writers in grades 5-8 who have ever had a crazy summer! FOCAL, the friends group of the Children’s Literature Department of LAPL Central Library, is sponsoring their annual writing contest. This year students are reading the book One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia and traveling back in time to the summer of 1968 in Oakland. This exciting, emotional work of historical fiction (winner of the Newbery honor, Coretta Scott King Author Award, Scott O’Dell Historical Fiction Award and the FOCAL award) is the story of three sisters, sent from Brooklyn to spend the summer getting to know their mother in California. The girls have dreams of Disneyland which are immediately replaced by summer camp with the Black Panthers. This is indeed a crazy summer!

The writing contest is an opportunity for students to respond to award winning literature for an authentic reason; winning a contest! Standards will be met! History will come alive! Students will have fun while they learn! And, three lucky winners will have lunch with the author, get an autographed book, and read their essay aloud at our annual awards luncheon. Will you be submitting the best three essays from your class by November 2, 2013?
For all the details, go to and download the guidelines and application,

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

"Wormy Activities" Perfect for Summer Gardening with Kids

For some great ideas of "wormy" activities go to this post at Squish Preschool Ideas.  It includes links to activities for my book Wiggle and Waggle as well as many other suggestions for art projects, games, and more.  This is a terrific resource for summer gardening projects with preschool and primary school age kids.