STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books

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Next week, April 22nd, is Earth Day. But what exactly is Earth Day? What are we meant to do on this day? Isn’t Every Day Earth Day, as the slogan goes? I aim to live my live in concert with my planet, and so I wondered what I should do differently on this day, as opposed to any other day.

So, I did the usual. I stopped by the Tompkins County Public Library to troll the shelves for science books. A few weeks ago I wrote about Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. And now, again, I come back to Rachel.

In 2003 Amy Ehrlich published a book called Rachel: The Story of Rachel Carson, illustrated by Wendell Minor. This vibrant picture book takes us through Rachel’s life from her early nature explorations, to her biology studies at college, to her continued devotion to having science in her life by the Maine sea. The book is divided into chapters, a page each, with joyful illustrations capturing a moment in Rachel’s life. It includes her writings, and her magnificent Silent Spring, but the focus is Rachel’s life. It is simply written, and yet draws the reader in completely.

In 2012, Laurie Lawlor published a book called Rachel Carson and Her Book that Changed the World, illustrated by Laura Beingessner. Oddly, this more recent book is a bit more wordy, but it too tells Rachel’s story with color and clarity. There is more focus on Rachel’s struggles supporting her family, and her place as one of few women working in the sciences. By the end, Lawlor is showing more overtly the challenges and triumphs of Silent Spring.

Both books present the essence of Rachel and her work with honesty, and both share the impact that she had on our world. Both also made me fall a little bit more in love with Rachel Carson. She was a woman of her times, yet she defied those times to pursue her passions- nature, science, writing. She did what she had to do to care for her family, to work her way through the publishing world, and to create work that she was proud of, and in the process she ended up changing the world.

Earth Day sprouted from the environmental movement that Rachel started. And perhaps it is to the new growths of spring that we should return. Earth Day is a day to plant spinach seeds, to walk in the woods with a child, to petition our government to use less energy, to stand up and defend our planet, defying our times if necessary. Whatever we do on Earth Day, let us look to the bugs, beech trees, rain clouds, and bird-song-filled spring sunshine surrounding us and be grateful for it all.

“It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know of wonder and humility.”  Rachel Carson

STEM Friday

It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

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Beneath the Sun

beneath the sunBeneath the Sun
by Melissa Stewart; illustrated by Constance R. Bergum
32 pages; ages 4-8
Peachtree Publishers, 2014

When it gets hot outside, what do you do? Go inside? Sit in the shade? Turn on a fan? Drink cold lemonade? We have lots of different ways of beating the heat – but what do animals do?

In Beneath the Sun, author Melissa Stewart takes readers into four different habitats for a look at how different animals cool off on hot days. We learn about earthworm loops and horned toad hangouts, cool rocky dens and tide pools. The text is full of vivid verbs, and Constance Bergum’s illustrations beg for closer inspection.

Head over to Sally’s Bookshelf for a short interview with Melissa. You can see her video on how she revised her text to make her language come alive with vivid verbs here.

STEM Friday

It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

Site Meter Copyright © 2014 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.


Ingenious Dung Beetles

behold dung beetle“Somewhere in the world right now an animal is lightening its load,” writes Cheryl Bardoe. It could be happening in your backyard, on a farm, in a forest, or on a grassland. Dung beetles, it turns out, are found everywhere on earth – except for Antarctica. And they are very busy workers. They also waste no time locating the dung they depend on to feed themselves and their young.

Within seconds of a cow pie plopping to the ground, dung beetles are there. They all want a piece of that pie! Some shape bits of dung into balls that they’ll roll to their nests. Others tunnel beneath the cow pat, filling nesting burrows with yummy dung for their young. And others just dive right into the dung before it dries up.

What’s waste to one animal is treasure to the beetles – and they’ll even fight over their share. Bardoe does a wonderful job showing us how dung beetles collect and move their resources, as well as giving us a glimpse of how the young dung beetles grow and develop in the poop-filled nest. There’s great back matter – including tips on finding dung beetles and some fascinating facts. And the illustrations are great.

STEM Friday

It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

Site Meter Copyright © 2014 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.


Food Chains in the Swamp

swamp-chomp Today is a good day to stay away from the alligator in the swamp. He’s a hungry guy… and if you don’t pay attention, you might just end up as lunch. Swamp Chomp is a food-chain romp, filled with lively language as various animals dive and circle and pounce. They slurp and nibble and munch and snap.

Swamp where Gator hidesIf you live in the swamp, you’ll want to pay attention to that carpet of algae where gator hides. This book introduces animals in the swamp food chain through a cumulative story a’la “the house that Jack built” until the very end where we find out just who Gator eats for lunch…

There’s a handful of Beyond the Book activities over at Sally’s Bookshelf.


STEM Friday

It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

Site Meter Copyright © 2014 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.


How Smart are Crows?

Last month, scientists in New Zealand published a study showing that crows can solve puzzles to get food. They offered crows food that was floating on top of water in tubes. The problem: the tubes were narrow, so only their beak fit in. And the water level was so low the crows couldn’t reach the food. Fortunately, the scientists provided the crows with an assortment of blocks and other heavy items. The crows figured out that if they dropped the blocks in the tube they would displace the water, raising the food to a level where they could reach in and grab it with their beaks.

Drop by Archimedes Notebook to see videos of smart crows solving problems.


STEM Friday

It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

Site Meter Copyright © 2014 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

A Trip to the Beach with North Carolina’s Amazing Coast

Not all books are flexible enough to work with a variety of ages, but North Carolina’s Amazing Coast: Natural Wonders from Alligators to Zoeas by David Bryant, George Davidson, Terri Kirby Hathaway, and Kathleen Angione, and 
illustrated by Charlotte Ingram definitely fills the bill.



This book came about to accompany an elementary curriculum from the Center of Ocean Studies Educational-Excellence Southeast, so it was conceived with children in mind. Inside are 100 single-page discourses that explore the flora and fauna of the beaches, marshes, and ocean along the North Carolina coast. Each page consists on an illustration of the organism (or habitat in a few cases) and a few paragraphs of interesting facts. The organisms are listed in alphabetical order by common name, ranging from alligators and avocets, to yaupon holly and zoeas. Did you know there are red wolves in North Carolina? Don’t worry, they are very shy.

Although it is designed for children, the text isn’t oversimplified. In fact, it contains subtle humor with clever tidbits that draw the adult reader in, such as that the “current chief predator” of the diamondback terrapin is “the automobile.”

Illustrator Charlotte Ingram’s former career as a graphic designer is evident on every page, from the tastefully decorative fonts to the clean, crisp full-color illustrations. Each organism is displayed against a simple graphic of the North Carolina coast.

North Carolina’s Amazing Coast is a must have for those headed to the beaches of North Carolina. It would also make a wonderful gift for anyone wanting to learn more about beaches and nature.

For more information and links to a plethora of lessons related to marine environments and coasts, check Growing With Science.

STEM Haiku for 2014

It’s April again, so we are making our 3rd annual call for original STEM haiku. Click on the National Poetry Month 2014 poster image to be taken to our 2014 STEM haiku page. There are how to write haiku tutorial links and the first 2 haiku for 2014: one about the big bang and one about Fibonacci numbers.

National Poetry Month

You can also take a look at the 2012 STEM Haiku and 2013 STEM Haiku that our readers shared.

STEM Friday

It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

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