Educator Resources: Eco-Theme # 5: Energy (with non-fiction PB titles)


Got Energy?

With the spring weather finally warming up here in New Jersey, many of us are buzzing to get back out into nature! Enjoying time outdoors certainly helps us to burn off energy (and makes it easier to social distance when we can all spread out).

My fifth blog post focusing on eco-themes for teachers/educators is a bit late, due to the  upheaval from the coronavirus shutdowns. As many of you know, it takes a tremendous amount of prep time to switch gears from teaching science for elementary students in the classroom/lab to teaching them on Zoom, while still providing engaging hands-on lessons. (See below about EcoRise resources that helped.) My daughters faced a few challenges as remote learners too, so my house has been busy. I’m sure most of you can relate. No complaining here though, as we are safe and healthy and wish the same for everyone out there.

I’ll be posting a series of blogs this week to catch up on my eco-themes. Here, I’ll pair each eco-theme with some of the nonfiction picture books I (usually) use with my students to highlight the material.

The eco-themes are based on the wonderful Sustainable Intelligence curriculum offered by EcoRise, an organization with a school based program aiming to empower youth to tackle real-world challenges in their schools and communities by teaching environmental literacy, social innovation, and hands-on design skills. EcoRise offers engaging, ready-to-use, K-12 curriculum that guides students in building sustainability knowledge.



You can read my original post HERE, where I talk about my experience as a Teacher Ambassador for EcoRise.

The 7 eco-themes in EcoRise’s Sustainable Intelligence curriculum are water, energy, waste, food, air, transportation, and public spaces. All of these are centered around the important concept of sustainability.

EcoRise has been incredibly supportive during the switch to remote teaching/learning and their curricular resources have been easily adaptable. 

Note: If you’re a teacher and would like information about sampling the EcoRise curriculum (or possibly gaining access through a grant in your state), send me a message and I’ll be happy to help you connect 🙂 

This post will focus on Eco-theme # 5: ENERGY

In March, before the shutdown, I spent time focusing on ENERGY in my science classroom. My first grade students were immersed in an extended unit on the Human Body, so learning about ENERGY was a natural fit as we discussed movement and exercise. We explored questions such as, “How do our bodies get energy?” “What other things use energy?” “How can we make energy?” and “Why is it important to save energy?” Extensions led to discussions and research on topics ranging from electricity to fuel. The students used an Energy Stick to learn about open and closed circuits, which nicely highlighted the EcoRise Sustainable Intelligence lessons on energy.


Here are some of the nonfiction books I used to help underscore the eco-theme of ENERGY and spark questions & curiosity:


Energy: Physical Science for Kids (Picture Book Science) 

Written by Andi Diehn and illustrated by Hui Li

Publisher’s Synopsis: Energy: Physical Science for Kids from the Picture Book Science series gets kids excited about science!

Do you have a lot of energy? What else has energy? Just about everything that moves!

When you feel like running, leaping, and singing, people might say you have a lot of energy. And you’re not the only one! Energy is the stuff that makes everything live and move. People, animals, plants―we all need energy to live!

In Energy: Physical Science for Kids, young readers discover different forms of energy, including heat, light, and chemical energy, that keep the world working and moving. In this nonfiction picture book, children are introduced to physical science through detailed illustrations paired with a compelling narrative that uses fun language to convey familiar examples of real-world science connections. By recognizing this basic physics concept and identifying the different ways it is demonstrated in real life, kids develop a fundamental understanding of physical science and are impressed with the idea that science is a constant part of our lives and not limited to classrooms and laboratories. Simple vocabulary, detailed illustrations, easy science experiments, and a glossary all support exciting learning for kids ages 5 to 8. Perfect for beginner readers or as a read aloud nonfiction picture book!

Part of a set of four books in a series called Picture Book Science that tackles different kinds of physical science (waves, forces, energy, and matter), Energy: Physical Science for Kids pairs beautiful illustrations with simple observations and explanations. Quick STEM activities such as transferring energy from your hands to a ball help readers cross the bridge from conceptual to experiential learning and provide a foundation of knowledge that will prove invaluable as kids progress in their science education.

Perfect for children who love to ask, “Why?” about the world around them, Energy satisfies curiosity while encouraging continual student-led learning.

Ages 5-8 | Publisher: Nomad Press | March 1, 2018 |ISBN-13: 978-1619306417


Energy Island: How One Community Harnessed the Wind and Changed their World

Written and illustrated by Allan Drummond

Publisher’s Synopsis: Hold onto your hats! It’s windy on the Danish island of Samsø. Meet the environmentally friendly people who now proudly call their home Energy Island.
At a time when most countries are producing ever-increasing amounts of CO2, the rather ordinary citizens of Samsø have accomplished something extraordinary―in just ten years they have reduced their carbon emissions by 140% and become almost completely energy independent. A narrative tale and a science book in one, this inspiring true story proves that with a little hard work and a big idea, anyone can make a huge step toward energy conservation.

NOTE: This book would be great for the AIR eco-theme, too. 🙂

Ages 6-10 | Publisher: Square Fish | March 24, 2015 |ISBN-13: 978-1250056764


Energy3The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind  

Written by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

Publisher’s Synopsis: When fourteen-year-old William Kamkwamba’s Malawi village was hit by a drought, everyone’s crops began to fail. Without enough money for food, let alone school, William spent his days in the library . . . and figured out how to bring electricity to his village. Persevering against the odds, William built a functioning windmill out of junkyard scraps, and thus became the local hero who harnessed the wind.

Lyrically told and gloriously illustrated, this story will inspire many as it shows how – even in the worst of times – a great idea and a lot of hard work can still rock the world.

NOTE: This book would be great for the AIR eco-theme, too. 🙂

Ages 6-8 | Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers | Reprint edition: January 19, 2012 |ISBN-13: 978-0803735118

Energy8Oscar and the Bird: A Book about Electricity (Start with Science)  

Written and illustrated by Geoff Waring

Publisher’s Synopsis: Start with Science books introduce kids to core science concepts through engaging stories, fresh illustrations, and supplemental activities.

When Oscar the kitten finds a tractor in a field and accidentally turns on the windshield wipers, he is full of questions about electricity. Luckily, Bird knows the answers! With the help of his friend, Oscar finds out how electricity is made and stored, which machines need electricity to work, and why we always need to be careful around wires, batteries, plugs, and sockets. Back matter includes an index and supplemental activities.

Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Candlewick | February 22, 2011 |ISBN-13: 978-0763653026


Below is a newer picture book that I haven’t used yet, but it looks like a great fit from  wonderful author/illustrator, Allan Drummond (also mentioned above for the book Energy Island). In fact, Allan Drummond has written/illustrated a variety of picture books aimed at environmental education. He’s definitely worth checking into if you’d like to discuss green cities, clean energy, and more with your students.

Energy4Solar Story: How One Community Lives Alongside the World’s Biggest Solar Plant

Written and illustrated by Allan Drummond

Publisher’s Synopsis: In his signature style, Allan Drummond tells the story of the largest solar plant in the world, the Noor Solar Power Plant in Morocco’s Sahara Desert, in Solar Story–by relating it to the everyday life of a schoolgirl in a small village next to the plant.

As we see on a class field trip, the plant is not only bringing reliable power to the village and far beyond, but is providing jobs, changing lives, and upending the old ways of doing things–starting within the girl’s own family.

Blending detail-filled watercolors, engaging cartoon-style narration, sidebars, and an afterword, the author showcases another community going green in amazing ways.

Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux  | March 17, 2020 |ISBN-13: 978-0807563977


Energy is a great topic to pair with food/nutrition, too, if you’d like to emphasize food as fuel and the energy in the human body. Electricity is another topic that can be expanded upon and there are plenty of picture books available.

If you have any other recommendations, feel free to leave a comment below 🙂Thank you!


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