Quirky and True World

Attention is turned to the unexpected, unusual and rare on land, in the air and within the waters of the world. KidsPost and World articles capture students’ imaginations and a beach sand lab stimulates discoveries. Students use venery, study an elephant’s trunk and vampire bats’ kindness, and meet an octopus teacher. They delve into sea snot, ghost nets and dark splotches. 
Download Classroom Worksheets (PDF) 

Stories of the rare, unusual and unexpected populate this month’s Post curriculum guide. From the Greek words zōion, meaning “animal” and logos, meaning “the study of,” zoology encompasses all aspects of scientific knowledge about animals. The selected articles illustrate zoology’s many branches and animals’ ways to breed, survive, adapt and relate to humans. Students are introduced to venery and how writers use them.


Basic questions about animals are confronted: Who will save and restore them or resolve the conflicts? What is it? Where are they? When will it cease? How can they do that? Why should we care?


To find answers to these questions, we take close-ups of an elephant’s trunk, carefully look inside Tasmanian devils’ pouches and join a search for a zeal of zebras in the Maryland suburbs. Watch vampire bats care for others in need.


We search for answers to dark splotches expanding across the Jefferson Memorial. Wonder how to stop the sea snot stretching relentlessly across the waters along the coastline of Turkey. Learn about scientists acting as detectives to find owners of ghost nets.


We study informational graphics to learn how the Yurchenko vault is achieved and how biofilm is removed from marble without damage to body or environment. Students plan an informational graphic to explain the who, what, where, when, how and why of a student project.


Rife with the idiosyncratic, odd, eccentric and original — it is a quirky and very real world to be discovered, examined, balanced and preserved.



November 2021

Sand and Shore
Resource Graphic 

Touch the Elephant’s Trunk
Biology, English, Zoology

Teachers might talk with students about the fable “The Blind Men and the Elephant.” As each part of the elephant’s body is touched, a different conclusion is reached. For example, when the second person touched the tusk, he thought it strong and smooth like a spear. The third person touched the elephant’s trunk and thought it like a snake.


Read “What’s to know about elephants’ trunks? A lot more than people think.” What do today’s researchers discover about the trunk? Discussion might include

• Give examples of the four movements of the elephant’s trunk: wrap, twist, stretch and shorten.

• Why is study of the  elephant’s trunk important to zoologists?

* Why is study of the elephant’s trunk important to robotics?


Teachers may have students read these other KidsPost articles:
• “A Circle of Elephants

• “Separating elephant species shows they are closer to extinction than scientists thought


Get Acquainted With a Devil
Biology, Geography, Zoology

Have students look at the photograph of a Tasmanian devil. What do they think of it? Markings? Ears? Cute? Unusual? Worth saving?


Read “The devil’s return.” Antonia Noori Farzan reports on an Aussie Ark project to reintroduce Tasmanian devils that once populated Australia. Can joeys the size of tiny shrimp help “restore the continent’s environmental balance and return it to something close to its state before European contact”?


Questions for closer reading and discussion are provided in Joeys Promise Return of Devils. See ANSWERS section below for suggested responses.


What to Do With the Zeal of Zebras
Biology, English, Ethics, Government, Zoology

Did your students hear about three zebras that escaped from a Maryland farm? Discuss what they know about the zebras? What are their chances of evading capture and of surviving in winter weather? Read Petula Dvorak’s column “Maryland zebras are trying to evade capture. Just let them.”


As a columnist, Dvorak is expected to share her experiences and opinion.

• What details make you feel like you are along for the ride?

• What sad news does Dvorak share in the third paragraph?

• How does she bring in the views of others?

• What additional perspective does she give of the “farm” from which the zebras escaped?

• What is Dvorak’s point of view about the hunt for the zebras?


Group Words
Biology, English, Government, Zoology

In her column, “Maryland zebras are trying to evade capture just let them,” Petula Dvorak uses two collective nouns: a “dazzle of zebras” and “zeal of zebras.” These convey local attitude toward the escaped zebras as well as being examples of assonance and venery.


This curriculum guide’s Word Study — Not Just Any Group focuses on venery, the category of collective nouns that name animals. The Word Study takes us from the art of the hunt to fascinating ways the venery may be classified and provides student activities.

Resource Graphic 

Illustrate a Most Difficult Twist
Journalism, Physical Education, Visual Arts

The Yurchenko Vault” informational graphic accompanies The Post SPORTS section article “Flipping the script.” Together readers understand the difficulty of training for and accomplishing the vault. Emily Giambalvo interviews Natalia Yurchenko for whom the vault is named, giving the article added authenticity and an outstanding example of interviewing a reliable source.


Discussion might include:

• What reasons are there for gymnastics to be considered a sport requiring a high level of commitment?

• Who was interviewed for this article? Why are they reliable sources?

• Why does the Yurchenko vault and its variations carry such a high point value?

• Why do coaches not encourage gymnasts to compete using the double-flipping Yurchenko?


Create an Informational Graphic
Art, Journalism, Mathematics, Science, Visual Arts

Read the information graphics “The Yurchenko Vault” and “Reclaiming marble from biofilm” found in Airborne Twists. What elements make up the graphics? (What “information” is presented?) How is the information presented? (The type of chart, graph, illustration, photographs and the organization of data.)


Select a topic to present to your classmates. What informational graphic would enhance their understanding of the topic? For examples of the types of informational graphics, visit Informational Graphics — The Visual Dimension, January 1, 2008. 


Informative illustrations may be used to explain sports moves and other concepts. Students might be asked to find the section in the article where Emily Giambalvo describes the movements that are required. Compare and contrast the words with the corresponding informational graphic section. 


Define Your Battitude
Biology, English, Zoology

Before giving students “For social vampire bats, sharing is caring” to read, teachers may ask students:

• Describe what a bat looks like.

• What adjectives would you use to describe bats?

• Who or what do you associate with bats?

• Have you ever heard of a vampire bat? What does the name make you think of?


After they have read the KidsPost article, give students Not Scary. Smart and Social worksheet. 


Remove Biofilm
Chemistry, Environmental Science, Science Journalism, Visual Arts

Much easier said than done. Once the mysterious, dark splotches were expanding, scientists and conservationists were called to help. Read “Monumental restoration” that describes the steps taken to reclaim the marble of the Jefferson Memorial from biofilm.


A group activity is suggested for a closer read.


Science journalism and visual arts teachers might focus on the informational graphic that accompanies the article. What steps were included and how does the illustration enhance understanding of the project?


If teachers wish to follow the chronology from discover to identification to search for solutions to the biofilm growth, use these Post articles:

• “A grimy, black biofilm is starting to cover the Jefferson Memorial, and it can’t be stopped,” August 10, 2016

• “David Rubenstein donates $10 million to ailing Jefferson Memorial,” October 29, 2019

• “Bugs and bad weather have had their way with the Jefferson Memorial. Now the Park Service is fighting back,” August 20, 2019


Review “Monumental restoration” in Teachers Notes. Lisa Wu and one of her former students describe the lichen project Juliana did at the time scientists were examining the growth on the Jefferson Memorial. 


Expand on Biofilm Project
Biology, Chemistry, Social Studies

Not everyone has a marble monument to study, but communities do have cemeteries. TJHSST students of Lisa Wu were excited to expand on the “monumental” projects to include studies of gravestones in the next year. A gravestone provides that very useful piece of information — a date. They begin as a clean slate so to speak, and over time can develop a complex narrative that can tell stories related to pollution, industrial growth and climate change to name a few. Using many gravestones provides usable statistics. Data that can be collected and studies over academic years.


Give a Professional Hand
Career Education, Economics

Ask students to think about all the tasks that needed to be done as described in “Monumental restoration.”

• What areas of science came into play in this project?

• What professions were involved in the Jefferson Memorial restoration project from first sightings of dark splotches to completed restoration?

• Brainstorm future products or innovations that might be useful in marble preservation.


Explore Parthenogenesis
Biology, Zoology

Once near extinction, California condors are making a comeback. Two events reported in 2021 show two sides of this recovery. In May The Post reported “Only a few hundred California condors live in the wild, but about 20 teamed up to trash one woman’s deck.” What is the attitude of the homeowner about the unwanted guests? Why might they have chosen her deck?


Scientists discovered in 2021 that two California condors born in 2001 and 2009 to two different females were virgin births. No DNA from males in the breeding program was found during standard genetic analysis. Parthenogenesis is rare.


Read more about virgin births in sharks, lizards, rays and the condors.

Read About Curious Animals

Stop Net Loss
Economics, Environmental Science, Government, Marine Biology   
Teachers might begin the lesson with asking students to locate Hawaii on a map and  reading the lede of “Scientists become detectives to identify ‘ghost nets.’” What picture is painted through verbs, adjectives and nouns? Most students are aware of the pollution caused by plastics on land and in the waters. Read and discuss the KidsPost article that introduces the hunt to find owners.


Delve Into Sea Snot Mystery
Chemistry, Environmental Science, Geography, Marine Biology
Before giving students “Turkey launches massive effort to vacuum up thick layer of ‘sea snot’ choking its coast” to read, give students the guided reading activity, A Blanket of “Sea Snot.” Do the map exercise in question #1?


What do students know of Turkey’s strategic location? It bridges Europe and Asia. Maps and more about Turkey are found in Turkey, the November 2018 NIE curriculum guide.


Students might have been given A Blanket of  “Sea Snot” as homework the night before reading and discussing the article. They will have defined all terms in #3.


Discuss the photograph and map that accompanies the article. What would it be like to swim in that water or go by boat through it? The last question and suggested extensions could be done in groups.


Explore Student-Teacher Relation
Biology, Psychology, Marine Biology

Keeping with this month’s theme of the unusual and unexpected, ask students to read “‘My Octopus Teacher’ shows a rare bond between a human and a sea creature.”

• Ask students to underline the unexpected.

• What does Foster learn from San masters of South Africa’s Kalahari region?

• Explain the importance of trust.


Become a Psammophile
Biology, Environmental Science, Marine Biology, Zoology
Surprise! “That sand between your toes may start as rock. But it may also be fish poop.”

Ask students to answer these questions: Why are the beaches of Hawaii white? Why are many beaches in the Caribbean pink? After reading the KidsPost article, they will know the answer.


It’s a Shore Thing
Biology, Environmental Science, Marine Biology, Zoology
Steps to create a beach sand lab are provided in It’s a Shore Thing … Sun, Sand and Science — A Closer Look at the World’s Second Most Valuable Natural Resource. The lesson has been successfully completed by Lisa Wu, a former oceanography lab director and educator.



Post NIE Guide Editor | Carol Lange

Post NIE Guide Art Editor | Donna McCullough

Resource Graphic 
In The Know 

Abrade Scrape or wear away by friction or erosion
Algae  Simple, nonflowering, and typically aquatic plant of a large group that includes the seaweeds and many single-celled forms. Algae contain chlorophyll but lack true stems, roots, leaves, and vascular tissue.
Arenology The study of sand

Bottom dwelling organisms who live on or burrow into the sediment


Microorganisms that stick to each other and often also to a surface; microbial community of bacteria, fugi and algae 

Blue-green algae

Is not really an algae but a bacteria that lives in water and soil. They thrive in nutrient rich environments, can rapidly reproduce and cause “blooms” and can also produce toxins.

Conservation area

Area of special architectural or historic interest, the character of which is desirable to preserve or enhance.  These protected areas limit human presence or the exploitation of resources. 


Dinoflagellate   Single-celled organisms that live in aquatic environments 
E.coli  A bacteria that is typically found in the guts of warm-blooded animals – mammals, including humans, birds, dogs. If you come into contact with the feces, it can lead to serious illness. It has become a standard for determining the safety of swimmable, drinkable water. It can enter the water through untreated wastes, bird droppings and pets.
Marine muscilage   Mucus produced by marine plants, in this case the phytoplankton
Microalgae  Single-celled, microscopic algae living in water or the soil

New field of study that involves the manipulation of fluids in channels with dimensions of tens of micrometers

Mucus Substance produced by many organisms; slippery and sticky and used to lubricate, protect, adhere
Phytoplankton  Drifting organisms that use the sun for photosynthesis.  In the context of the article, the phytoplankton, when provided with excess nutrients, will multiply or “bloom” rapidly. These are the organisms producing the mucus.
Psammophile An organism that prefers or thrives in sandy soils or areas. Sand collectors are also referred to by this term.     
Sea snot  Non-scientific term referring to the thick layer of mucilage produced by the phytoplankton off the coast of Turkey; named for its disgusting smell and phlegm-like texture. See marine mucilage.    


Joeys Promise Return of Devils.  1. Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea. Students may include Bass Strait between Tasmania and southeastern Australia. 2. See In the Know. 3. A contagious facial cancer. 4. When born joeys are resemble tiny shrimp, live in their mother’s pouches for months. 5. Dingoes, foxes, cars and humans are threats to Tasmanian devils who are predators of foxes and feral cats who threaten native wildlife. 6-7. Aussie Ark is reintroducing the Tasmanian devil in a protected sanctuary that attempts to simulate living in the wild as much as possible. Some scientists question whether the devils can be adequately protected from natural larger predators as well as humans and cars. They question whether the expense of the sanctuary is worth the possible saving of the Tasmanian devil. 8-9. Answers will vary. Be sure students include their evaluation of the positions. 10. Answers will vary. Students should support their perspective with examples.


Word Study | Not Just Any Group

Examples. Responses would include:

Colony — Ants, badgers. bats, beavers, prairie dogs

Flock — Flamingos, chickens, ducks (when in flight), birds

Herd — Cattle, deer, elephants, manatees, pigs, reindeer

School — Fish, whales

Swarm — Bees, jellyfish, mosquitoes, wasps


Match. Bask, k; Bloat, f; Brood, i; Cackle, a; Flamboyance, l; Lounge, c;

Murder, g; Parliament, j; Pod, d; Shrewdness, e; Smack, b; Squabble, h.

District of Columbia Public Schools Academic Content Standards 

The District of Columbia has adopted the Common Core State Standards in reading and mathematics. In addition, DCPS has adopted new learning standards in arts, health and physical education, social studies, technology and world languages. DCPS has adopted Next Generation Science Standards as the K-12 Science Standards.


Earth’s Systems. Construct an argument supported by evidence for how plants and animals (including humans) can change the environment to meet their needs. (K-ESS2-2)


Biological Evolution. Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all. (3-LS4-3)



Academic Content Standards may be found at http://osse.dc.gov/service/dc-educational-standards.

Maryland Academic Content Standards 

Visual Art. Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work. (Anchor Standard 6)


Science, Key Ideas and Details. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text (CC Anchor Standard #1. Maryland Common Core State Curriculum Framework. Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects. Grades 9-12)


Science, Craft and Structure. Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone. (CC Anchor Standard #4. Grades 9-12)



The Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum Content Standards can be found online at https://mdk12.msde.maryland.gov/INSTRUCTION/curriculum/ela/SiteAssets/Ho...

Virginia Academic Content Standards 

Biology. The student will investigate and understand that populations change through time. Key ideas include

b) genetic variation, reproductive strategies, and environmental pressures affect the survival of populations (BIO.7)


Biology. The student will investigate and understand that there are dynamic equilibria within populations, communities, and ecosystems. Key ideas include

a)     interactions within and among populations include carrying capacities, limiting factors, and growth curves;

b)    nutrients cycle with energy flow through ecosystems;

c)     ecosystems have succession patterns; and

d)    natural events and human activities influence local and global ecosystems and may affect the flora and fauna of Virginia. (BIO.8)


English. The student will read, interpret, analyze, and evaluate nonfiction texts.

a)   Analyze text features and organizational patterns to evaluate the meaning of texts.

b)   Recognize an author’s intended audience and purpose for writing.

c)   Skim materials to develop an overview and locate information.

d)   Compare and contrast informational texts for intent and content.

e)   Interpret and use data and information in maps, charts, graphs, timelines, tables, and diagrams.



Academic Content Standards may be found at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/index.shtml.

Common Core Standards 

Common Core Standards

English Language Arts/Informational Text. Analyze the interactions between individuals, events, and ideas in a text (e.g., how ideas influence individuals or events, or how individuals influence ideas or events. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.7.3)


English Language Arts/Reading Informational Text. Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.6)


English Language Arts/Reading Informational Text. Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expression their own clearly and persuasively.  (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.1)



Common Core standards may be found at www.corestandards.org.