Longitude & Literature


Recommended Book Recommended Book Recommended Book
Carry on Mr. Bowditch The Longitude Prize The Man Who Made Time Travel

By Kathleen Isaacs
Edmund Burke School, Washington, D.C.

Mystery Class is convincing evidence of the appropriateness of the name "equinox" and a wonderful set of graphing exercises. This year we used the following resources to help students learn how time and longitude are related.

Our reading of Carry on Mr. Bowditch was a natural lead-in to the longitude problem, and the students were interested to read about sailors of long ago. After going through that exercise I had students write an explanation of how sailors found longitude. Later, when we calculated mystery class longitudes, for the first time this year, students had no trouble understanding the longitude calculation and why it might be east or west of Greenwich depending on the direction of time difference. These are sixth graders who do not yet know about positive and negative numbers.

I also recommend the a title for younger readers (grades 5 up probably), Joan Dash's The Longitude Prize published by Farrar, Straus, Giroux IN 2000. This book was a Sibert Informational Book Award honor winner. As a member of that ALA committee that chose the award recipients this year, I read it in conjunction with Sobel's LONGITUDE (which I had read and loved before). I found Dash's book less lyrical but considerably more appropriate for middle school readers. She offers more information about the time which will be helpful for readers without an adult's historical background. There are amusing and interesting line drawings to break up the text, as well.

Finally, another title that might be more appropriate for younger readers and listeners, is Katheryn Lasky's The Man Who Made Time Travel. The NOVA longitude program also helps students learn how time and longitude are related.

If you have tips you'd like to share, please write to Journey North: jnorth@learner.org