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the poetry of science

Poetry Celebrates Science and Culture

Take 5!

  1. Set the stage for this poem by showing a map locating the Zhejiang Province of China and talking about the timeframe for this subject (1031–1095). Encourage students to visualize that time and place as you read the poem aloud.
  2. Share this poem again, and invite students to join in on the pivotal line (But people did not want to hear these things) while you read the rest of the poem aloud.
  3. For discussion: Why do people sometimes ignore the claims of science?
  4. Work together to research Shen Kuo’s many contributions to science, starting with those listed in the poem. One helpful resource is available online from China Culture.
  5. For a poem about magnetic poles, seek out “No Penguins Here” by Michael Salinger or the nonfiction picture book Magnetism Investigations by Karen Latchana Kenney.
Shen Kuo (1031–1095) by Janet Wong
Shen Kuo (1031–1095) by Janet Wong

Almost a thousand years ago

a Chinese scientist named Shen Kuo,


discovered fossilized shells

hundreds of miles inland

that made it clear the shoreline had moved.

Petrified bamboo convinced him

that climate change was happening.

But people did not want to hear these things.

Instead he became known for the idea

that true north is not magnetic north.

His magnetic needle compass was worth

spices, gold, jewels—even a giraffe—

as explorers later sailed to Africa and back.


Climate change and the shifting sea:

who would choose such mundane news

over promises of spices, gold, and jewels?

Poem © 2014 Janet S. Wong from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong © 2014 Pomelo Books; illustration by Frank Ramspott from The Poetry of Science: The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science for Kids © 2015 Pomelo Books..   


Kenney, K.L. 2017. Magnetism Investigations. Minneapolis: Lerner.

Wong, J. 2014. “Shen Kuo” in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science, eds. S. Vardell and J. Wong, 259. Princeton, NJ: Pomelo Books.

Online Resources 

No Penguins Here” by Michael Salinger

Literacy Early Childhood Elementary

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