STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books

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West Coast Wild: A Nature Alphabet


West Coast Wild: A Nature Alphabet
by Deborah Hodge (Author) and Karen Reczuch (Illustrator)

Booktalk: This stunning nature alphabet book explores the fascinating ecosystem of the Pacific West Coast — a magnificent area that combines an ancient rainforest, a rugged beach and a vast, open ocean, and where whales, bears, wolves, eagles and a rich variety of marine species thrive in an interconnected web of life.



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

Copyright © 2016 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

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Smart Crows

crow-smartsCrow Smarts: inside the brain of the world’s brightest bird (Scientists in the Field series)

by Pamela S. Turner; photos by Andy Comins

80 pages; ages 10 – 12

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016

“Is a crow smarter than a second grader?” That’s the question this book opens with – and the question Roberta posed a couple weeks ago on this same blog. The answer:  a resounding “yes”. Thing is, you might not recognize crow intelligence unless you know what you’re looking for. They don’t write essays or take multiple choice tests. What they do is solve problems.

In this book, author Pamela Turner spends time with scientists studying New Caledonian crows. In the wild, these birds fashion tools to spear their food. One chapter focuses on how a juvenile crow learns tool-making from his parents and by trial-and-error. She devotes an entire chapter to tool-making and another to the challenges that scientists presented to the birds including problems that required multiple steps to solve.

What I love about this book – about Turner’s nonfiction in general – is that it is fun to read! She takes you into the jungle with the scientists, and shares the logic crows use to puzzle out solutions. There are maps and sidebars and an “ask the author” section at the end.

I wanted to “ask the author” a whole lot of questions – and she happily answered them. You can read my interview with her over at Archimedes Notebook – where, next week, you’ll find a bunch of hands-on science activities for bird brains.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2016 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

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Tiny Stitches


Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas
by Gwendolyn Hooks (Author) and Colin Bootman (Illustrator)

Booktalk: Vivien Thomas’s greatest dream was to attend college to study medicine. But after the stock market crashed in 1929, Vivien lost all his savings. Then he heard about a job opening at the Vanderbilt University medical school under the supervision of Dr. Alfred Blalock. Vivien knew that the all-white school would never admit him as a student, but he hoped working there meant he was getting closer to his dream.

As Dr. Blalock’s research assistant, Vivien learned surgical techniques. In 1943, Vivien was asked to help Dr. Helen Taussig find a cure for children with a specific heart defect. After months of experimenting, Vivien developed a procedure that was used for the first successful open-heart surgery on a child. Afterward, Dr. Blalock and Dr. Taussig announced their innovative new surgical technique, the Blalock-Taussig shunt. Vivien’s name did not appear in the report.

Overcoming racism and resistance from his colleagues, Vivien ushered in a new era of medicine children’s heart surgery. Tiny Stitches is the compelling story of this incredible pioneer in medicine.

Snippet: After a few months of experimenting, Vivien realized that the solution might be a procedure he and Dr. Blalock had perfected at Vanderbilt for a different problem. The procedure involved creating a shunt between two arteries. If they sutured an artery coming from the heart directly to an artery going to the lungs, it would create a direct connection for the blood to make it to the lungs. Then a child’s body would have all the oxygen it needed.

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

Copyright © 2016 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

Crow Smarts: Can Birds Be Smarter Than a Second Grader?

We are featuring the new middle grade book Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World’s Brightest Bird by Pamela S. Turner and photographs by Andy Comins today at Growing With Science blog.


Crow Smarts chronicles Dr. Gavin Hunt’s intriguing research into tool use and learning by New Caledonian crows.

Why New Caledonian crows? It turns out they have a lot going for them. They are pretty smart. Not only can they use sticks as tools to pry their food- in this case large beetle larvae – out of wood, but also they can fashion new tools by shaping and modifying twigs and stems. As more sophisticated experiments have shown, they have a remarkable ability to solve problems (see some of the videos below). They also have bigger eyes than other species of crows and their eyes are closer to the front of their head, which means they have better depth perception.

Although the special crows are fascinating enough, author Pamela Turner’s discussion of Dr. Hunt’s research is written with just the right touch of humor to keep young readers fully engaged. For example, she notes one of the crows is named “Crow we never got around to naming.” Many of her observations are highly entertaining.

Andy Comins’s amazing birds-eye-view photographs (see the one on the cover above) help us see the crows as individuals. It isn’t easy to photograph active birds in the wild, and he makes us feel like we are right there studying the birds, too.

Whether you have read all of books in the Scientists in the Field series or none of them, you are going to want to pick up this one. Perfect for anyone interested in learning, animal behavior, birds, tool use, or science in general.

Be sure to stop by Growing with Science for bird science activity suggestions to accompany the book.


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

Site Meter Copyright © 2016 Roberta Gibson at Growing with Science All Rights Reserved.


Arduino Project Handbook

Arduino Project Handbook: 25 Practical Projects to Get You Started
by Mark Geddes (Author)

Booktalk: A beginner-friendly collection of electronics projects using the low-cost Arduino board. With just a handful of components, an Arduino, and a computer, you’ll learn to build and program everything from light shows to arcade games to an ultrasonic security system.

First you’ll get set up with an introduction to the Arduino and valuable advice on tools and components. Then you can work through the book in order or just jump to projects that catch your eye. Each project includes simple instructions, colorful photos and circuit diagrams, and all necessary code.





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

Copyright © 2016 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

Plants Can’t Sit Still

plants can't sitPlants Can’t Sit Still

by Rebecca E. Hirsch; illus. by Mia Posada

32 pages; ages 5-10 (and older!)

Millbrook Press, 2016

Plants don’t have feet or fins or wings, yet they can move in many ways.

If you look closely, you discover that plants can’t sit still! Maybe you’ve seen a plant move – a seedling starting to grow in your garden. You run out to see if the beans have started to grow and there’s a green sprout poking out of the soil. Run in for a glass of lemonade, and by the time you’ve returned something thick is poking out and by the next day there’s a seedling, unfolding its leaves.

Or maybe you planted some morning glories by the fence and sort of forgot about them – but a few weeks later you notice they’ve climbed up and over and around. That’s plants moving!

What I like LOVE about this book: This is such a fun book to read – it makes you want to get up and move around. It validates any kid who’s been accused of being unable to sit still.Seriously, if plants – the things rooted into the ground – if they can’t sit still, then why should we be expected to?

I love the simple, yet accurate, language that Rebecca Hirsch uses to show how plants move – in space, time, and developmental stages. Plants wiggle and squirm, they float and fly, they hitch rides. They definitely don’t sit still.

I also LOVE the bright, bold watercolor and collage illustrations. Mia Posada’s artwork is astounding and brings every page to life. I especially like the Venus Fly Trap.

Drop  by Archimedes Notebook for some beyond-the-book activities and an interview with author, Rebecca Hirsch.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2016 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

Good Trick, Walking Stick!

Good Trick, Walking Stick!
by Sheri M. Bestor (Author) and Jonny Lambert (Illustrator)

Booktalk: Walking sticks are among the world’s most fascinating insects. And one many children can find right in their backyards! With a simple story, perfect for read-alouds, and colorful illustrations, this scientific look at a walking stick’s life-cycle will captivate budding entomologists. Informative sidebars are included that let children learn even more about these wild insects.

Snippet: Munch. Munch. As the baby walking stick eats, she grows. As she grows, her outer shell, or casing, becomes tight. The baby walking stick wiggles and stretches. She sheds her casing and grows a new one.

The walking stick blends into the forest.

Good trick, walking stick!

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

Copyright © 2016 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.