The Wheel on the School is About So Much More Than Storks

The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong
Pictures by Maurice Sendak

This story is about storks… and so much more.

It takes place in a Dutch village called Shora.

Shora has no storks. The six schoolchildren of Shora decide to find out why the storks always fly over Shora but never stay there and nest. They discover that storks need trees and wheels on the roofs of buildings to build nests on. Shora has no trees because of storms that come in and spray salt water everywhere and kill almost all of the vegetation. Most of the buildings have sharp roofs, so storks would not choose to build a nest on them. There are no wheels on top of the buildings (for obvious reasons!)

The teacher at their school gives them an assignment to find out how to attract storks to Shora. Through this simple assignment, many wonderful, exciting, amazing things happen to many people in Shora and the surrounding region.

Relationships are strengthened and new relationships are formed. Children learn the history of their town, their families and the people of their town. Families are helped. A community comes together to accomplish something great.

And the children learn that older people really do matter, really do have something to add to their lives. They know things about Shora that nobody else knows! They remember how things used to be, and they are not “miles of years away”, as the schoolchildren thought they were. Before the stork adventure.

The schoolchildren learn so much – outside of the school building! They learn things they could never have learned from books.

I read this story to my older kids when they were younger. It is recommended for children 8 and up.

Now I’m reading it to Garrett and Fiona. They are 9. It is one of our favorite stories. It is very well-written, which is no surprise because Meindert DeJong’s stories are all well-written, in my opinion.

There are so many different ways you could extend this story for a unit study.

Geography – You could use maps to find the flight path of the storks from Africa to Europe, specifically The Netherlands. You could study The Netherlands and the dikes and the land that is below sea level, and the ways people have developed to live in such a naturally inhospitable place. You could learn all about The Netherlands, also known as Holland.

Science – You could study all about storks. You could also study about storms. There’s a big one in the story.

History – Study the history of The Netherlands and the culture, especially of the fishing villages on the coast.

Research Project – You could have your kids do the same kind of thing the kids in the story did. Tell them to think of a question they want to know the answer to, and then have them research to find the answer. If it is something that they want to do, then help them find the materials they need to make it happen.

Creative Writing – Students could write a story about storks or some other bird that children helped to make nests in places where their habitat had been disturbed. Or this could be extended to any other kind of animal that needs help finding a suitable place to live.

There are many ways to extend the story if your children are interested in a particular element from the story.

These ideas could also help you to develop a lapbook based on the story.

If you are looking for a good read-aloud for your family, I would highly recommend The Wheel on the School.

Metamorphosis – This Time It’s Butterflies!

I would love to show this DVD to the kids to go with our study of Metamorphosis. I am going to have to order it as soon as I can.

This trailer shows a lot of beautiful footage of butterflies. I can’t wait to see the whole movie!

I am done with tadpoles (for now).

Those little guys changed into frogs that were smaller than they were as tadpoles.

We took the last three to the lake yesterday. It was another emergency run after Anna said, “Mama, I think 2 out of the 3 tadpoles are dead!”

I rushed over to the tank. I moved it around vigorously, and they all woke up. They were all alive but very lethargic, so we hastily (with great effort and trouble) caught them, put them in a moist container and whisked them off to the lake. Anna ran to the lake with them, through squishy mud that stuck to her flip flops, and set them free near the water. Her shoes were a mess when she came back to the car. The things we go through for our pet tadpoles/frogs!

We will probably try to find some caterpillars this year and raise butterflies and hope for better results than we had with the tadpoles. Six out of eight tadpoles survived, but I was not happy with the size of the adults they became. I hope we also have better results than we did with the Monarchs in Illinois. I think we will. Everythings’s better in Texas (I speak this out of faith, not pride). We are still holding onto staying in Texas by our fingernails. I love the freedom here, but we definitely need a source of income here if the Lord wants us to stay here.

Say a prayer for us. I really want to live in Texas. And we really need a job for Gary here if that is going to happen.

Let’s Study Metamorphosis – Day 18 – Tadpole Woes

It’s so hard being a tadpole mom.

I went and got big rocks from Aaron – really pretty, colorful rocks from Arizona – thanks, Aaron! I put them in the tadpole tank and one of the tadpoles hung out there all the time. He was the one who got front legs first. He could actually climb up on it.

He was hard to see when he sat on it. Camouflage, you know.

Then I was gone for the day Saturday at a seminar. When I came home, Katie said she could only find 6 of the tadpoles. I told her I needed to change the water anyway. I did, and we found the missing tadpole – dead under the white pebbles.

I put the remaining tadpoles in a small bowl of water while cleaning the tank, and 3 of them looked like they were dead in the water – all sprawled out and stiff – just floating in the water. I panicked! Katie panicked when she looked at them. We got them out as fast as we could.

Guess what? They are full-fledged lung-breathing frogs, and instead of getting bigger, they got smaller!

Three of them have all of their legs, still have a tail, and can’t survive in water anymore. And they are only a centimeter long. They became tiny when they got their front legs.

They are entirely too tiny and squishable for me to feel comfortable trying to take care of them. And I’m not sure what they need to eat.

So we took them to the lake and released them.

I worried about them, because they were so tiny that anything could eat them. They are less than bite-size.

But I would rather give them a fighting chance than to starve them or squish them myself.

Here are the last pictures I got of them before releasing them.


See how squishable he looks?!


See how hard he is to see! Drat that camouflage.


Tiny, squishable and camouflaged. Bad combination.








I took them to the lake after taking these pictures.


These guys are still here. I’m watching for their breathing habits to see when they can no longer be in the water. I only put a little bit of water in the tank and built up the other end with the rocks and beads. Now they have a way to be in the water or out of it, whichever they need. I will be releasing them soon. I can’t deal with such tiny frogs that they can hardly be seen!

Let’s Study Metamorphosis – Day 17

Well, today’s plans went a totally different way than I had — planned.

Last night, I was studying more about metamorphosis, and what the Bible says about it. I thought I would talk to the kids about it today.

Then Emma asked if we could make lily pads to put in the tadpole tank. I didn’t know what she meant at first, but then I thought about the colored foam sheets that we bought at Hobby Lobby. I told her she could make a few, and I set Fiona to the task of helping her make them while I read some chapters of “The Giver” to the big kids.

That kept all of the littles occupied for quite a while. They made about 19 of them. I let them put 3 of them in the tadpole tank. I didn’t want the tadpoles to drown in lily pads.



I still felt pretty energetic after reading to the big kids, and I was thinking about lily pads, so my mind turned to the Nelson Water Gardens, a neat place that I had read about that is nearby. It has little backyard ponds set up with lily pads and fish and fountains and lots of flowers and accessories for gardens.

So I told the younger kids we were going to go see some ponds with lily pads and fish and little ponds, and we were off!


The blue pot behind the kids is a disappearing fountain, which Nelson’s Water Gardens is known for. You can choose your own pot or rock or other structure, and they can turn it into a disappearing fountain. They are very beautiful. The water runs over the outside of the structure then gathers at the bottom and the water is sent back up to the top inside of the pot or whatever and just keeps flowing. And you hear the sound of running water. Very nice!
They make fountains from decorative pots, statues, waterfalls, stones, etc. They even made one out of a garbage can to prove a point!






Their favorite activity of the day: feeding the fish.





Look at those huge lily pads! Those things are real. They are growing out of a submerged pot in the middle of the pond.




There’s a dragonfly on the corner of the metal bench. I couldn’t see what I was taking pictures of because of the bright sun. We were sweating so bad, we felt like we were melting. It was 100 degrees! We had so much fun!!!




Kelsey and the frog she’s standing behind are both wearing their hats backward. If you click on the picture and then click on the magnifying glass, you can see the frog’s hat.