Naturally Teaching

An elementary teacher science blog

Science Skills for Students: 10 Picture Books For Encouraging Kid Scientists [ep. 5]

Science Skills for Students: 10 Picture Books for Encouraging Kid Scientists [ep. 5]

Science skills picture books

Teaching science skills with picture books gives your students the opportunity to see them in action. Questioning, observing, persistence, and other science skills are abstract concepts and can be hard for early childhood learners to understand. Picture books also let students see the results of their science skills, showing them why it’s important to have science skills.

In this episode, I share 10 picture books that you can use in your elementary classroom to inspire your kid scientists. Listen in to discover some new titles to share with your students this fall.

Picture books to help develop science skills:

Giveaway Alert: To celebrate the launch of this podcast, I’m giving away three physical copies of some of my favorite picture books along with electronic copies of coordinating picture book companions filled with science and ELA activities. Listen to the episode for details on how to enter!

Episode Highlights

  • [3:11] Picture book benefits
  • [4:49] What Is Science?
  • [6:00] What Do You Do with An Idea?
  • [7:34] Ada Twist, Scientist
  • [8:35] Noteable Notebooks: Scientists and Their Writing
  • [10:52] The Most Magnificent Thing
  • [11:53] Going Places
  • [12:52] Lab Magic
  • [14:14] Crow Not Crow
  • [15:21] Bird Count
  • [16:35] Georgia’s Terrific, Colorific Experiment
  • [18:17] Recap
Science skills can be taught using picture books.
Picture books can illustrate science skills in action, show their results, and give your students an understanding of why science skills are important.

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Teaching science in elementary school is crucial for nurturing young minds. But as educators, finding the time and resources to create engaging lessons can be a challenge. That's where this podcast comes in. Welcome to Naturally Teaching Elementary Science. The show dedicated to supporting elementary teachers in their quest to bring authentic and place-based science experiences to their classroom.


I'm Victoria Zablocki, a certified elementary teacher turned outdoor educator. With over a decade of experience coaching teachers on effective science teaching methods, I'm passionate about making science accessible, understandable, and fun for educators and students alike. Join me as we explore strategies for teaching science in elementary school with practical teaching tips, insightful interviews, and more.


Welcome back to the Naturally Teaching Elementary Science Podcast. My name is Victoria Zablocki, your host, and I want to talk to you today about the beginning of the school year, which I'm sure a lot of you are thinking, “Victoria, come on. It's June. Let's not get into this already.” But, the beginning of the school year is actually a great opportunity to develop science skills in your students.

And by cultivating a classroom environment that values being a scientist, you can help your students take pride in their science skills, and then encourage them to grow into the kid scientists they have the potential to be. And picture books are a great way to introduce different science skills in a fun and engaging way.

So in this episode, I'm going to introduce 10 picture books that encourage the development of science skills in your students. And yes, I'm bringing them to you in the summer and then that gives you the opportunity to read them, and to become familiar with them before the school year begins. So hopefully instead of stressing you out, hopefully I am helping you out. And you can always come back to this again in August.


Before we get growing though, I just wanted to remind you of the picture book giveaway that I'm doing for the launch of this podcast. We have one more week for entries to come in, and for those of you who do enter, remember I'm giving three people a physical copy of Worm Weather by Jean Taft, Miss Maple’s Seeds by Eliza Wheeler, or Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner. I'm also going to send an electronic copy of my coordinating picture book companions that have science and ELA activities already ready to go. To enter this giveaway, you write a review about Naturally Teaching Elementary Science on whichever podcast player you're listening on.

You screenshot that review and then you send it to me on Instagram at naturally.teaching or to my email, and for a bonus entry, you can take a screenshot of your favorite episode, which now we have five, and you share that on Instagram and tag me. And entries will be accepted until this next Sunday, June 23rd, 2024 and winners will be notified shortly thereafter.


All right, so back to the books. Research has shown that when you integrate science and literacy, there are many benefits, including saving teachers time, plus improved attitudes of children towards science, better overall performance in reading and science, and there's so many more.


If you want to find out more information about those benefits, and even methods on how to integrate science and literacy, check out my blog post, “Teaching with Books: How to Integrate Science and Literacy for Elementary Classrooms”, on my blog at


So when I was reading these science books, I was looking for books that didn't necessarily focus on a particular science concept. I instead wanted them to be a little bit more abstract so that they could illustrate a science skill that could be applicable for multiple different activity types, different content areas. I didn't want it to specifically be, here's this rock experiment, so as a scientist, you can conduct a rock experiment.

Instead, I wanted illustrations of science skills in action, but not necessarily showing a step by step process for children so that they could see the actual skill in action and also the results that come from using that skill. And, also, it's great if there's humor in there. So, I was looking for books that had some humor or some entertaining ways to introduce these abstract concepts to bring them to more of a concrete skill for students to be able to see at the beginning of the school year.

It makes it more entertaining and it also can show them why. The why, why do I need to have this skill? These books hopefully will answer the why question as well.


So to start us off, I wanted to hit on the book, What is Science? by Rebecca Kai Dotlich. And all of these books I will have in the show notes, so you could go to and that will take you directly to this episode that has all of these books linked there. So, a quick summary about What is Science? It’s a very quick, basic story that introduces science as being the study of many different things. And so, it introduces a variety of topics from rocks, to animals, to plants, and it talks about geology, and it talks about physics… so it's a great introduction to what is even science. So why should your students even care about being a scientist? What does it entail? This would be a good introduction for your early childhood students in particular. The illustrations tend to move towards an early childhood K-1 or 2, but it also has simple language, easy to understand, and it hits on quite a variety of things that are science.


So, book number two is What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada, and this one takes the abstract concept of having an idea, like, what is that? So, for a child, that's very abstract, having an idea, but then what do you do with it? They may have an idea, but how can they make that idea happen? What if somebody thinks that idea is silly? A lot of students choose not to bring forth their ideas because they're afraid of being laughed at. Well, this book hits that right on the head. The main character has an idea, they're afraid they'll be made fun of for that idea, and so eventually that idea grows and grows and the confidence of the character grows with it, and they love the idea and they want to share it with the world.

And once they do, it makes a difference. The idea is never named, they never say what the idea was or what the difference was that it made, but just the fact that they had an idea that they weren't sure about at the beginning, but then as they got more familiar with it and grew with it and loved it, it ended up changing the world.

So for our students, the science takeaway is that science ideas can seem kind of silly or crazy or impossible, but if they go for it, they may just change the world. And this will give your students the opportunity to become more comfortable with the idea of having ideas. And ideas that might differ from someone else and how that could help their experiences and how their experiences can be more authentic and rich. And it can also build their confidence, which is great.


Book number three is Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, and I'm sure many of you have heard of this one before, but the book is about a little girl named Ada Twist, and she's a very curious child that asks a lot of questions, like to the point where the parents are a little bit, you can tell, peeved by it.

She discovers a smell that's terrible, and she ends up following the scientific method to try to figure out what the source of it is. She has to try and try and try again, and she receives some negative feedback from her family, but then she's still curious, still wants to figure it out. They finally realize it's a good thing she's questioning things, help her succeed, and then ends the book with not having quite figured out what's going on with the smell, she's still in the process of trying to figure it out. So, this book gives your students permission to ask questions, and that's the beginning of all scientific investigations. So, you can use this book to encourage your students to ask questions and to get them thinking like a scientist.


Alright, so book number four is Notable Notebooks: Scientists and Their Writing by Jessica Fries Gaither. And for this book, it's a little bit different than some of the other ones, but science notebooking is really a powerful tool, but a lot of students feel like it's not something that they're good at or something that they should take their time on. But what's cool about this book is the author shares the wonders of science notebooking through the successes of famous scientists.

I tried to avoid books about famous scientists in particular, but this one covered a bunch of different famous scientists and it shows examples from their actual notebook, which is really cool stinkin’ cool. So, it's told in rhyme and rhythm, and the storyline is paired with these illustrations that are lovely and whimsical and fun and they make science look like a really good time.

Then there's also actual pictures of the real notebooks of Galileo Galilei, Charles Darwin, Jane Goodwin, Ellen Ochoa, Beatrix Potter, Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, and so many others. It's super cool, and then they also cover a bunch of different topics on how those different scientists use their notebooks, such as using it for mathematical equations, diagramming, illustrating, note taking, surveying, designs, data analysis, and so many different other ways of using a notebook.

So, for this book, the science takeaway would be that notebooking is such an important skill and scientists use it for their discoveries, and your kids scientists should use them, too. So, with science notebooking being such an invaluable tool for learning about science, if you can show them that there's many different ways that they can use a notebook and so many different ways that famous scientists have used them in the past, it can inspire them to take their notebooking more seriously.

And use it as the tool that it actually is. And if for some reason you don't feel super comfortable with notebooking, go back to episode 1 and listen to “10 Science Activities for Elementary Students That Aren't Experiments” because I hit a little bit on notebooking there. It's a very important tool and it can help your students feel more comfortable and be able to digest what they're learning.


Book number five is The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires, and for this one, it's about a girl who has an idea. She makes the plan, she builds that plan, but then is disappointed. She makes multiple models, is disappointed by every single one of them, gets so mad that she throws a fit, breaks stuff, and she gets so frustrated… but then she takes a walk, and then she calms down, and then she realizes that each of the models that she made has a little bit of something that could actually make the model that she really truly wants.

And so not only does this teach your students that with science, you need to try again and again, to be able to get to the result that you want, but it also teaches them that when you're frustrated, sometimes you just need to take a walk and then it'll help you calm down and think clearer. Not only are we trying to reach their kid scientist, we're also trying to reach the kid inside to help them have social emotional skills as well.


Alright, so book number six is called Going Places by Peter Reynolds and Paul Reynolds. And for this one, a little boy gets super pumped up for a blueprint he gets for a go cart that he's going to race in the big race. But then he notices his neighbor has the same blueprint, but she's inspired by the birds that are flying in the sky and she doesn't want to follow the blueprint. She wants to do her own thing.

So, the boy is kind of nervous about it, but then ends up going along with it. And what they do is they come up with something completely different than any of the other students, and they end up winning the race. So, for this book, it can teach collaboration. In science, it's important to collaborate with other scientists and like-minded individuals.

That's when our science can really flourish. So, this gives your students an example on how collaboration can lead to something new and exciting, and hopefully that can show them that it's beneficial to work with someone else on their science projects in class.


Alright, so book number seven is Lab Magic by Kelly Starling Lyons, and this one is actually an easy reader. So I didn't necessarily pick a bunch of easy readers, but this one is nice because Ty and his brother, Corey, they like to go to a science museum to be scientists. So they try a bunch of different things, like making boats sail on water, digging for fossils, observing butterflies, but then Ty notices a science lab and him and his brother want to go in, but he's too young. He's not able to go in and work with the experiments that they have going on.

So when they come home, him and his brother end up making a lab in their own home. And then they do a variety of kid-friendly experiments at home and are happy little scientists. Plus, it has the benefit of having children of minority as the main characters of the book, which we don't see a ton of, which is nice to have some variety for our students to all be able to see themselves as scientists.

So our science takeaway from this one is that science can happen in a variety of ways and in a variety of locations. So, at school, even if you don't have a lab, you can do science outside; you can do science in the classroom; you can do science in the gym; they can do science at home; this gives them permission to do science anywhere. It doesn't have to just happen in a lab, right? It can be done in a variety of ways, wherever a person may be.


Book number eight is Crow Not Crow by Jane Yolen, and this book is about a boy and his father who go out to learn how to bird. And the dad starts with closely observing a crow and its characteristics. So he asks his son about the characteristics that he notices with the crow, that it's black and it has a black bill.

So then, after that, they start looking at other birds and instead of trying to identify, oh that's a cardinal or that's a robin or what have you, they instead decide, is it a crow or is it not a crow based on those observable characteristics. So, they're taking something that they learned about one thing, and then they're trying to group things based on that first item, or that first, in this case, animal.

And so, this gives your students the permission to gain a new skill that could be intimidating. They're gaining that new skill one step at a time and mastering small skills that they can practice to get better. So that gives them the permission to try something new and to get better without having to worry about being perfect.


Book number nine is called Bird Count by Susan Edwards Richman. And this is a book about a girl who goes out for the Christmas Bird Count with her family and keeps track of bird sightings and she helps identify birds by their observable characteristics during the Christmas bird count. So, for this one, your science takeaway is that everybody can be a scientist. Especially with citizen science projects.

The Christmas Bird Count is a citizen science project, which means that the general public can participate in it and it will help the scientists with the data collection that they aren't able to do on their own. If we want to be able to have a larger survey of birds that are around during a certain amount of time, then the more people you have out there identifying, the more data you have as a scientist to be able to explore.

And so citizen science projects provide scientists with a greater area to survey because there are more people out there helping them collect data. So, scientists look like you, and they look like me. Anyone can be a scientist, especially with citizen science projects, and this book illustrates that. Even a young child can be a scientist, and that's what we're trying to do, is encourage our students to be kid scientists.


Book number 10 is Georgia's Terrific, Colorific Experiment by Zoe Persico. And this book is about a little girl who comes from a family of artists, but she wants to be a scientist. And she thinks that art does not play a part in science whatsoever. So, she tries to put together her own experiment, but she lacks inspiration.

She doesn't even know where to start. She thought, ooh, I could do gravity. That's already been done before. So, she begins by playing with some colors, and she ends up creating a colorful reaction that she shares with her artist family. And then she realizes that really art and science are linked. And so now she works with her family on their art and on her science.

And again, this book has the benefit of having a child of minority as the main character so that all of our students can see themselves in a scientific role. So this book is helpful if you work towards STEAM in the classroom; there's science, technology, engineering, art, and math if you're working towards STEAM.

And so this is a very easy bridge to make with that art piece. They're artists, she's part of an art family, and then they can integrate that art and that science together. So, it's a very visual way to show your students how art is connected.

But then also on the abstract side, it shows that science isn't just one subject. It can be a part of everything. And so this book gives permission for science to link into other subjects. And that's a good bridge to the rest of life, right? That's why this one comes in at number 10 is because it's kind of bridging out to everything else and gives permission for your students to see science everywhere.


All right, so in a nutshell, picture books are a fantastic way to introduce science concepts to your students. So, we talked about 10 different books, and again, I will link all the books in the show notes, but as a recap, we talked about What is Science? by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada, Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, Notable Notebooks: Scientists and Their Writing by Jessica Fries-Gaither, The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires, Going Places by Peter Reynolds and Paul Reynolds, Lab Magic by Kelly Starling Lyons, Crow Not Crow by Jane Yolen, Bird Count by Susan Edwards Richmond, and Georgia's Terrific, Colorific Experiment by Zoe Persico.

So thank you for taking time to listen today. I know that you're busy and I truly appreciate the time that you take to tune in. If you have any questions, wonderings, or picture books that you use to teach science skills, get ahold of me on Instagram at naturally.teaching or you can email me at And don't forget, this Sunday is the last opportunity to enter the picture book giveaway.

And if you missed it at the beginning, to celebrate the launch of this podcast, I'm doing a picture book giveaway of either Worm Weather by Jean Taft, Miss Maple’s Seeds by Eliza Wheeler, or Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner.

Along with that, I'm going to send an electronic copy of my coordinating picture book companions that have science and ELA activities already ready to go. Enter this giveaway, write a review about Naturally Teaching Elementary Science on whichever podcast player you're listening on, screenshot your review, and then send it to me on Instagram or email it to me.

And for a bonus entry, take a screenshot of your favorite episode, one of the first five, and share it on Instagram and tag me. Those entries will be accepted until June 23rd, 2024, and then the winners will be notified shortly thereafter.

So thanks again for joining me today, and until next time, keep exploring, keep learning, and keep naturally teaching.


Thank you so much for tuning in to today's episode of the Naturally Teaching Elementary Science Podcast. I hope you found it informative, inspiring, and full of actionable insights to enhance your science teaching journey. Connect with me on social media for more updates, science tidbits, and additional resources.

You can find me on Instagram and Facebook at naturally.teaching. Let's continue the conversation and share our passion for elementary science education together. Don't forget to visit my website at for all the show notes from today's episode. If you enjoyed today's episode, please consider leaving a review on your favorite podcast platform.

Your feedback helps me improve and reach more educators just like you. Thank you again for listening and until next time, keep exploring, keep learning, and keep naturally teaching.

Episode 5: Science Skills for Students: 10 Picture Books for Encouraging Kid Scientists
Science Skills for Students: 10 Picture Books for Encouraging Kid Scientists [ep. 5]
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