STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books

Discovering a Woman Scientist for Women’s History Month

Quick, do you know who America’s first female astronomer was? If not, Maria Mitchell, a beginning reader biography by Anna Butzer, will help you find out. It is just the right title to pull out for Women’s History Month.


Read it to learn all the pertinent details about pioneering female scientist Maria Mitchell, who was trained as an astronomer by her father. The author reveals that while Maria Mitchell was working as a librarian, she spent her nights searching the skies with a telescope. Eventually she discovered a comet that no one else had seen and it was named in her honor.

See the rest of the review at Wrapped in Foil blog.


STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Roberta Gibson at Growing with Science All Rights Reserved.

Celebrate and Learn About Water

World Water Day is March 22!


Water Rolls, Water Rises, Children's Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low Books, 2014

Water Rolls, Water Rises, Children’s Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low Books, 2014

Water Rolls, Water Rises/ El agua rueda, el agua sube (nonfiction, poetry) Interest level: grades 1–6

by Pat Mora, illustrated by Meilo So

In a series of poetic verses in English and Spanish, readers learn about the movement and moods of water around the world and the ways in which water affects varied landscapes and cultures.

Themes: Water & Hydrosphere, Human Activity & Impact, Human Relationship to Water, Geography, Cultural Diversity

Before reading

Ask students what they know about water. What do you know about the water cycle (local vs. global scale)? Describe water using each of your five senses. How do people use water? How is water important to life on Earth?

Questions during reading

  • Describe how water connects humans across cultures and continents based on Water Rolls, Water Rises.
  • Study how people in the book interact with the water around them. What states of water are most useful to people? Why? What are the benefits of living near water?
  • What does this book teach us about humans’ place in the natural world? What does this book teach us about the water cycle?
  • The author, Pat Mora, has spent most of her life in the Southwest desert region of the United States. How do you think living in that environment influenced her to write a book about water?

World Water DayActivity Suggestions:

  1. Pair Water Rolls, Water Rises with another title to learn about various ways humans use and rely on water. What suggestions do these books offer to take care of water environments?
  • Cycle of Rice, Cycle of Life: A Story of Sustainable Farming
  • Everglades Forever: Restoring America’s Great Wetland
  • The Woman Who Outshone the Sun
  • I Know the River Loves Me
  1. Have students research the water cycle. How does water travel from one part of the world to another? Now take a look again at Water Rolls, Water Rises. Which verses and illustrations demonstrate precipitation? Evaporation? Collection? etc.
  2. With students, try some of the in-class science experiments about water that the American Museum of Natural History created for its “Water: H2O=Life” exhibit.
  3. Provide students with a world map. (An outline of a Robinson projection world map can be downloaded here for reproduction.) Ask students to mark on the map the location of each place featured in the book. In addition, have students identify and label the seven continents, five major oceans, and the largest lake and river on each continent. Students should also mark their location on the map. Discuss what a compass rose is and the purpose it serves on a map. Students may also build their own maps at National Geographic Education’s MapMaker 1-Page Maps.
  4. Have students with their families make a list of all the things that they do in a day that require water. If you suddenly didn’t have water at your home, where could you go to get water? Estimate how much water you use in a day and reflect on what you would do if you had to live without running water.
  5. Imagine an alien from a planet without water is visiting your classroom. Have students describe, in a letter to the alien guest, what water is and the features of water. How do humans use water? Where do humans get water? What makes water special? What would happen to people, plants, animals, and weather if Earth didn’t have water?


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

Copyright © 2015 Jill Eisenberg. All Rights Reserved.

Two Titles for the Rainy Season

Clouds_187Clouds: a compare & contrast book
by Katharine Hall
32 pages; ages 4-8
Arbordale, 2015

“Some clouds are big and fluffy; others are thin and wispy.”
This book is filled with photos of clouds – perfect for browsing, and comparing different kinds of clouds. The language is simple enough that young readers can peruse it themselves. At the back are two hands-on experiments about precipitation, a cloud-matching game, and a handy guide to predicting the weather from the clouds.

Pitter & PatterPitter and Patter
by Martha Sullivan; illus. by Cathy Morrison
32 pages; ages 4-10
Dawn publications, 2015

“Pitter and Patter dropped from a cool, gray cloud one day.” Pitter lands on an oak leaf, drips into the stream below, and is on a water cycle adventure that carries him through a valley, wetland, and finally into the ocean. Along the way he meets fox and deer, dragonfly and trout. Patter lands in a meadow and percolates into the soil. His journey is different from Pitters, but eventually they both meet when they are evaporated back into the sky. There’s plenty of back matter explaining states of matter, water cycle, and water sheds, plus hands-on activities.

Head over to Sally’s Bookshelf for some beyond-the-book activities.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

Animal Helpers: Aquariums

Animal Helpers: Aquariums
by Jennifer Keats Curtis (Author)

Booktalk: Follow this behind-the-scenes photographic journal as it leads you into the wondrous world of aquariums and the animal helpers who work there.

Snippet: You won’t need a snorkel and mask in here! In an aquarium, you can trek through millions of gallons of fresh and salt water, but you won’t get wet.

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2014 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.


Learn About Insects

Young children of a certain age are often fascinated by insects. Insects (Smithsonian Little Explorer) by Martha E. H. Rustad is a great way to encourage them to learn more.


In addition to explaining metamorphosis and insect senses, Insects covers eight main insect groups from bees to flies. Each two-page spread has bright color photographs throughout. Some of the photographs are edge to edge, giving a feeling that you are actually seeing the scene first hand.

In the back are suggestions for thinking more deeply about insects, as well as a glossary, book recommendations for further reading, and a portal to Internet Sites through FactHound.

Insects will thrill budding entomologists. It is also a useful resource for libraries and classrooms.

See our full review and a related activity about insect senses at Growing With Science blog.


STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Roberta Gibson at Growing with Science All Rights Reserved.

Extra Special Pi Day

reflections-on-pi-20110209-083754Tomorrow – Saturday, March 14 – is a historic day. It’s Albert Einstein’s birthday for which, if he were still alive, he’d have 136 candles on his cake.

It’s also Pi Day. March 14.

3.14. Get it?

But this year, Pi Day is extra special because it’s 2015, which means tomorrow is 3.1415. And if you chow down on a slice of pizza at 9:26 and 53 seconds – either for breakfast or a bedtime snack – you get even more Pi: 3.141592653.

You won’t see that again for another hundred years.

Back in 250 BC, Archimedes worked out that the value of pi is greater than 223/71 but less than 22/7. He did this by approximating the area of a circle using the area of a regular polygon inscribed within the circle and the area of a polygon within which the circle was circumscribed. He started with a hexagon and worked his way up to a 96-sided polygon, getting really close to the approximation of pi.

You can do that too, by comparing the ratio of a circle’s circumference (distance around) to its diameter (distance across). Put in math language, π = c/d.

All you need are a tape measure (or string), a ruler, a pencil and paper, a calculator and a few round things: soup cans, the compost bucket, cheerios, m&m’s, a cocoa mug, cookies, marshmallows, cupcakes, a pizza….

Use the tape measure or string to measure the distance around your object (circumference). Now measure the diameter (the distance from one side to the other, through the middle of the circle). Divide C by d to get … oh, perhaps you didn’t get 3.14159. Not a problem – compare the circumference and diameter of another round thing. And another. Do any of them come close? If you get 3.14 you’re doing well.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for more Pi Day activities.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

Before We Eat: From Farm to Table

Before We Eat: From Farm to Table
written by Pat Brisson; illustrated by Mary Azarian
2014 (Tilbury House)
Source: Orange County Public Library

As we sit around this table let’s give thanks as we are able
to all the folks we’ll never meet who helped provide this food we eat.

Cue Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. This rhyming paean to workers sheds light on the many hands that make the everyday possible. I know I take for granted the easy accessibility of the food that I eat. Earlier this evening, I was complaining in my head that my local store didn’t have a better selection of bagged apples. I should be grateful that there were apples available at all.

Before We Eat pays tribute to the workers who plow the fields, plant the seeds, pull in the nets, and all the other tasks that bring us the food that we eat. The rhyming text and Mary Azarian’s wood carving illustrations are a fine tribute to those who don’t receive a lot of credit for the important things that grace our tables.

With younger students, you could create a circle map and write down who was responsible for the lunch that was just eaten. Older students could create a flow chart to show the sequence of how the food that was in their lunchbox arrived there. This could also lead to discussions of reading labels and the availability of fresh food. There are many possibilities for lessons involving Before We Eat.


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