April Pulley Sayre: Science Explorer

What You Need


  • Classroom copies of the books used: Trout Are Made of Trees and Vulture View
  • Construction paper in these colors: green, blue, red, yellow
  • Glue sticks
  • Large, yellow ring (like a hula hoop)
April Pulley Sayre: Science Explorer


To explore how animals eat plants or other animals for food by using the books of April Pulley Sayre.


This lesson uses some books by April Pulley Sayre to help students explore how animals eat plants or other animals for food—or the food chain. Ms. Sayre was one of the winners of the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books for her book Stars Beneath Your Bed

April Pulley Sayre is the author of more than 50 books for children, including Trout Are Made of Trees and Vulture View, which won the Theodor “Seuss” Geisel Honor Award given by the American Library Association in 2008. Ms. Sayre received her BS from Duke University, where she studied biology. She later earned her MFA in creative writing from Vermont College. She worked at both the National Wildlife Federation and National Geographic Society before becoming a fulltime author.

This lesson should build on students' understanding of the concept that species depend on one another and on the environment for survival. It will do this by combining the study of two of Ms. Sayre's books with some hands-on activities to help reinforce the concepts being taught. In order to do this lesson, students should already have some prerequisite knowledge of food chains and food webs.

Students' awareness of how living organisms depend on one another and on the environment for survival must be supported by knowledge of the kinds of relationships that exist among organisms, the kinds of physical conditions that organisms must cope with, the kinds of environments created by the interaction of organisms with one another and their physical surroundings, and the complexity of such systems.

According to the National Science Education Standards, the idea that organisms depend on their environment (including other organisms in some cases) is not well developed in young children. In grades K-4, the focus should be on establishing the primary association of organisms with their environments and the secondary ideas of dependence on various aspects of the environment and of behaviors that help various animals survive. Lower elementary students can understand the food link between two organisms. (National Science Education Standards, pp. 128-129.)

April Pulley Sayre is a good writer for students to learn about at this grade level because her books help them understand how science is one way of answering their questions and explaining the natural world. Her books also show them how people can often learn about things around them by just observing those things carefully.

Ideas in this lesson are also related to concepts found in these Common Core State Standards:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.2 Identify the main topic of a multiparagraph text as well as the focus of specific paragraphs within the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.6 Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe. 
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.7 Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.

Planning Ahead

This lesson uses the following vocabulary words that might need to be reviewed with the class, especially younger students. These include: predator, prey, producer, consumer, and environment. You may want to include these words in a spelling list before doing this lesson.

Optional Activity: To help highlight the two books used in this lesson, it might be a good idea to create an author study center in your classroom:

  • Choose a corner or other place where you can keep and display books by the author.
  • Or you can ask students where they think the author study center should be located.
  • If you’re doing a classroom-wide author study, take a tri-fold display board and decorate it with the author’s name and photo. Students can add more information and more photos as they research the two books by the author.


Begin this lesson by introducing students to April Pulley Sayre, the author of more than 50 natural history books for children and adults. Ms. Sayre studied biology and creative writing in college. She has a great sense of adventure and is always curious about the natural world.

To help you with this part of the lesson, you can show students the slide show about Ms. Sayre on the April Pulley Sayre esheet. Or, students could use the esheet on their own to view the slide show. Once you are done going through and talking about this slide show with your students, you should point out to them that you will use a couple of her books in this lesson.

In addition to discussing Ms. Sayre and her work, you should review the food chain with your students. Students should use the esheet to go to and view Food Chains, on the BBC - KS2 Bitesize Science site. As students go through this resource, they should look for answers to these questions, which they can answer on their Food Chains student sheet:

  • What are food chains?
    • (They are links between animals and plants.)
  • What are producers and where do they get their energy?
    • (Almost all plants are producers because they make their own food. They get their energy from the sun.)
  • What are consumers?
    • (Consumers eat other plants and animals. Animals are considered consumers.)
  • What are predators and prey?
    • (Predators are animals that eat other animals. The animals they eat are called prey.)

In addition to these questions, hold a discussion with your students about what would happen if one of the links in the food chain were missing. You could perhaps suggest a missing link. Encourage your students to explain their answers.


For this part of the lesson, you should first do a class reading of Vulture View and Trout Are Made of Trees. It would be ideal if you were to have enough copies of the books for all the students in the class, but you also could have students share copies of the books. In addition, you could do a class reading with students gathered on the floor near where you sit as you read the books and show them the beautiful illustrations.

Introduce students to Vulture View, which explores the life of vultures—how they fly, what they eat, and their importance in the food chain. Take your time reading the lyrical text and pausing to show students the illustrations. If your students are capable readers, perhaps they could take turns reading parts of the book.

As you go through this book, ask guiding questions like the ones found on the April Pulley Sayre teacher sheet.

Now share Trout Are Made of Trees with your students and follow the same procedure as you did with the Vulture View book. This book explores the food chain by following what happens to a leaf once it falls from a tree. As you go through this book, ask guiding questions that you find on the teacher sheet.

After you have discussed Trout Are Made of Trees, ask your students to draw a diagram of the food chain presented in this book. Students can do this on their Food Chain student sheet.

To help reenforce the concepts in this section, engage students in a hands-on activity of making a food chain canopy. Assign students to be a certain predator: either a trout or a vulture. Provide students with the strips of colored paper that you prepared before starting the lesson (perhaps the strips could be half the size of a sheet of paper—or 8.5" by 5.5"): green for plants, blue for consumers/prey (insects, carrion), red for predators (trout, vultures). Also provide them with the images you found on the Food Chains teacher sheet. Students who are trout should get the pictures of trout, while students who are vultures should get those pictures.

Students should glue the pictures onto the appropriate color of construction paper. Then they should link the pieces of construction paper together to form a food chain using a stapler. Students can follow the directions on their Food Chains student sheet if they need help doing this activity.

Once students have finished putting together their food chains, hold a class discussion about why they put them together the way they did. At the end of this conversation, ask students: "Look carefully at your food chain. Do you think that anything else needs to be added to it to make it complete?" Encourage students to provide their thoughts and explanations. But, you want to lead them to say that the sun needs to be added, if they can't arrive at the answer on their own.

Now provide students with the yellow strips of paper and let them link their food chains to the yellow ring with those strips. When they are finished, you can display the chains by holding up the ring to create a food chain canopy. If possible, you could tie some string on opposite sides of the ring and then hang it up in your classroom.


In order to assess student understanding, ask students to create one of their own book covers for either Vulture View or Trout Are Made of Trees. These book covers should convey the main idea of this lesson: animals eat plants or other animals for food. Students can draw the pictures for the covers of the books themselves, or they could use pictures from magazines. They also could use a publishing program that would allow them to create a book cover on a computer. Another program students could use to help them create the book cover is the ReadWriteThink online Printing Press.

Once students have finished their book covers, you could add them to the author study center, if you opted to create one. Or, you could hang up the book covers around your room and invite students to enjoy each other's work.


The Science NetLinks lesson, An Egg is Quiet, can be used to help extend the ideas in this lesson.

April Pulley Sayre's page on her Featured Books provides descriptions and teacher resources for her science picture books.

If you'd like to explore doing author studies with your class, the ReadWriteThink resource, Author Study: Improving Reading Comprehension Using Inference and Comparison, is a good example of how to do one.

Funder Info
Science NetLinks is proud to have Subaru as a funder of this project.

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Lesson Details

Grades Themes Project 2061 Benchmarks National Science Standards