STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books

More STEM Fiction: The Trouble With Ants

This week we have found another middle grade novel that promotes STEM, The Nora Notebooks, Book 1: The Trouble with Ants by Claudia Mills and illustrated by Katie Kath.


Nora, the main character, is a 10-year-old budding myrmecologist with an ant farm and a passion for studying ants. She records fascinating facts about ants in a journal, tidbits of which are given at the ends of chapters. Nora even does a simple experiment with ants and writes a paper about it.

In addition to information about ants, the text reveals basics of how scientists work. For example, Nora’s mother specializes in studying Saturn’s rings. In another part, Nora’s dad explains to her how scientists publish their work in scientific journals, something youngsters probably have no inkling about.

If this basic STEM theme doesn’t sound appealing, you will still want to give this book a chance. In fact this story is as rich and layered as a torte, with themes of boy versus girl, keeping pets, and even cat videos. It will find a wide audience because different readers are going to find different aspects relevant.

For more details about the layers and for using The Trouble With Ants for studying writing as well as promoting science, check our full review at Wrapped in Foil blog. Growing with Science also has related ant science activity suggestions this week.

STEM Friday

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

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Up, Up, and Away!


Rocketry: Investigate the Science and Technology of Rockets and Ballistics
by Carla Mooney, illustrated by Caitlin Denham
128 pp.
ages 9 to 12
Nomad Press, 2014


These days it’s not unusual to turn on your television or computer and spot pictures of planet Jupiter or hear news from planet Mars. In some ways, the galaxies that surround us are closer than ever before. As our technology improves, we are able to travel closer and closer to places once though prohibitively distant.

Our first step toward the stars was taken a long time ago when an ancient Greek named Heroherodeveloped the aeolipile, a steam-powered rocket device. Fast forward to 1232 when the Chinese used the same laws of motion to launch fire arrows filled with a gunpowder mixture at their enemies. Since then, rocketry has become increasingly sophisticated and now we can send rockets to space with the most delicate of payloads—human life.

In Rocketry: Investigate the Science and Technology of Rockets and Ballistics, kids will learn how rockets work, who figured out to make them work, and what the future might hold for rockets and space travel.
Best of all, step-by-step instructions for designing and testing their own rockets are included in each chapter. Safety first! Use eye protection and adult supervision with all projects!


Kids are fascinated with stuff that flies, and Rocketry helps them connect that fascination with an exploration of this very STEM subject!


STEM Friday

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

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Rude Bugs!

How RudeHow Rude! 10 Real Bugs Who Won’t Mind Their Manners
by Heather L. Montgomery; illus. by Howard McWilliam
32 pages; ages 6 + up
Scholastic, 2015

“Some bugs litter. Some pass gas. Others throw poop.”

This book introduces some of the rudest bugs around… although they are still young – larvae or nymphs – so we might excuse their juvenile behavior if it wasn’t SO gross!
Author Heather Montgomery introduces the bugs as contenders in a “Battle for the Grossest”- and you get to choose the winner. Each spread focuses on one insect and its uncivil behavior: mesquite bugs who pass gas, caterpillars who ooze green goo, beetle larvae who carry their poop around on their backs, and even one youngster who turns to cannibalism.
There is, of course, great back matter: some explanations about why this behavior is adaptive and not just “bad” juvenile hijinks, a handy map showing where to find these insects when traveling across the US, and a glossary.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for an interview with the author.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

Comparing Amphibians and Reptiles

AmphbnReptileAmphibians and Reptiles: a Compare and Contrast book
by Katharine Hall
32 pages; ages 4-8
Arbordale Publishing

People who study amphibians and reptiles are called herpetologists. Ask them what they study, and they lump ’em all together into one large group they call “herps”. Still, frogs and toads have some similarities, and they are very different from snakes and tortoises.

Katharine Hall compares how reptiles and amphibians are similar – they are cold-blooded and hatch from eggs. She also compares how reptiles differ from amphibians. Most amphibians have smooth skin, while reptiles tend to have dry, scaly skin. Photographs illustrate the important features: eggs, skin, fangs, webbed feet.

At the back are pages that go beyond the simple story. There kids can learn more about the five classes of vertebrates (things with backbones) and play a mystery sorting fame. There’s a wonderful page that explains what being a herpetologist is all about, and what you’ll need in your “herpetology research kit” and more.

If you really love frogs, then head over to Sally’s Bookshelf today where there’s a bunch of frog-related activities.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

Explore Saturn and the Galaxy

secrets of SaturnThe Secrets of Saturn
by Kassandra Radomski
32 pages; ages 7-10
Capstone Press, 2015

Capstone has just published a new series called “Smithsonian Planets”. Got questions about where the fastest winds in the solar system are? Whether people are going to Mars? What Saturn’s rings are made of? Then you’ll want to read about “The Secrets of Jupiter” and all the other planets: Earth, Mars, Mercury, Neptune, Saturn, Uranus, and Venus.

(What about Pluto, you ask? As you might recall, Pluto was determined to be “too small” for regular planet-hood, so is now considered a dwarf planet or Kuiper Belt object – even though it has plenty of moons of its own.)

What I like about the books in this series is that they begin with some basic info about the planet: distance from the sun (886 billion miles for Saturn), number of moons, day-length. On Saturn a day is 10 and a half hours, but it takes 29 Earth years to make one complete orbit around the sun. So winters would be really long…. great for skiers, though how one would ski on a gas giant is anyone’s guess.

Then there’s the wind: at Saturn’s equator, wind speeds reach up to 1100 miles per hour. Compare that to the fastest wind on Earth, 246 mph, and that was during a hurricane. Kids will learn a lot about the planet, moons, and history of ancient astronomers in this photo-rich book. The text explains concepts well in kid-friendly language, and there’s lots of fun stuff: a timeline of Cassini mission, a scientist spotlight, speculation on what scientists will find next.

astronauts exploreFuture space cadets might be interested in Enslow’s new “Launch into Space” series. These books explore the earth, moon, stars, solar system and the sun. Here’s one I like:

Astronauts Explore the Galaxy
by Carmen Bredeson
32 pages; ages 7-10
Enslow Publishing, 2015

The book opens with some introductory information about astronauts, with each page focusing on one aspect: free fall, what jobs they do, space walking. What do they eat in space? Apparently the same stuff I eat for lunch, only packaged differently – and there’s a great photo of some of their food. You learn how astronauts brush their teeth, use the toilet, and keep their muscles in shape. There’s even some tips for astronauts to be.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for some lunar eclipse news and link to current Saturn news.

Wild Ideas!

Wild Ideas 2Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking
by Elin Kelsey; illus. by Soyeon Kim
32 pages; ages 4-10
Owl Kids, 2015

Problems are like sticker burrs.
They poke. They prick.
… but sometimes, writes Elin Kelsey, these problems spark marvelous ideas. For example, the hooks on burrs inspired one scientist to develop velcro.

So what can we learn from nature, she asks. If squirrels can learn to cross roads by watching people, what can people learn from watching squirrels? Some animals create safe “thinking areas” before tackling a new situation, while others dive right in. Some animals use tools to gather food, some use group strategies to hunt prey, and some learn survival lessons from their parents and elders.

I like Kelsey’s encouragement for us to “untame” our imaginations. She gives wonderful examples of animals doing things we least expect: counting, calculating, inventing… and even observing people to learn things, like when it’s safe to cross a street.

wild ideas illus

I also like the three-dimensional dioramas that Soyeon Kim created for illustrating the book. The burrs are huge and detailed, and she tucks children into unlikely places: a gorilla nest, fishing with whales, hunting with hyenas. What fun!

There will always be problems that need solving, but if we open our eyes (and our minds) we might find answers in the natural world. Check out some “beyond the book” activities over at Archimedes Notebook

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.


spidermaniaSpidermania: Friends on the Web
by Alexandra Siy; illus. by Dennis Kunkel
48 pages; ages 6-10
Holiday House, 2015

I have lots of spiders living in my garden: crab spiders, wolf spiders, jumping spiders, garden spiders…. so I cannot resist a new book about spiders.

What I like about this book: Alexandra Siy starts right off by making sure readers know the difference between spiders and insects:

  • spiders have two body parts; insects have three
  • spiders have eight legs; insects have six

“Spiders have lived on Earth a lot longer than humans,” she writes. About 390 million years. They can be found in caves, atop mountains, in trees … and just recently scientists in Australia have found an unexpected species of funnel-web spider. I love that Siy introduces readers to a diversity of spiders, and shows off their web skills.

I also love the illustrations – photos and brightly colored electron micrographs that show spider eyes and claws up close. This book is amazing even if all you do is look at the photos!

Head over to Archimedes Notebook 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.


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