STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books


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Out on the Prairie

By Jeff Barger (NC Teacher Stuff)

Out on the Prairie
written by Donna M. Bateman; illustrated by Susan Swan
2012 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Out on the prairie where the grass and flowers mix
Lived a mother sharp-tailed grouse and her little chicks Six.
“Scurry!” said the mother. “We scurry,” said the Six.
So they scurried after beetles where the grass and flowers mix.

Set in the Badlands of South Dakota, Out on the Prairie features flora and fauna found in this prairie area. The first two page spread shows a mother bison and her single calf wallowing in the dust while surrounded by pretty purple coneflowers known as snakeroot. Bateman explains in the back matter that this flower was used by Native Americans to treat snakebites and other ailments such as stings, toothaches, and sicknesses like measles. Susan Swan’s mixed media illustrations don’t catch your eye. They capture it and demand that you scour every square inch so you notice the big and little details. I believe the word for this is sumptuous. Each spread that follows repeats the pattern of showcasing a mother animal and her young in action on the prairie. The number of young increases by one (2 pronghorn fawns, 3 meadowlark chicks, etc.) as you continue through the book. I like the repetition as teachers of young readers will be able to use these four line poems for shared readings with their students. I would write these poems on chart paper and ask children to find the action words. Then you could have them reenact the action as they pretend to be the animal. One of the nice things about Out on the Prairie is that you can use this book with several grade levels. In North Carolina, students study ecosystems in the fifth grade and there is plenty of information in the back matter for lessons on living things on the prairie. I learned several facts as I read this including information about the bison (not a buffalo) and grama grasses which were new to me. An important fact to pass along is that only 1 percent of native prairies exist in North America. Hopefully, what is remaining can be preserved. This book also serves as excellent background information for novels such as Sarah, Plain and Tall and the Little House series of books.

It has been over 30 years since I visited the Badlands of South Dakota. I knew very little about the region at the time and I remember being pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the area. Out on the Prairie shows us that this is not a desolate area, but a vital ecosystem full of life.

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Copyright © 2012 Jeff Barger All Rights Reserved.

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Blast off for STEM!

Once again here at Nomad Press we’re hosting STEM Friday. It’s a chance for us to feature children’s books from all over the web that incorporate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Leave your links and information in the comments.

This week for STEM Friday we want to feature two of our books about the solar system. The first, Explore the Solar System!, is for kids ages 6-9, and the second, Amazing Solar System Projects You Can Build Yourself, is for kids ages 9 and up. We’re featuring these two books on space because this week STEM Friday happens to follow two important anniversaries: the anniversary of the first woman in space on June 16 AND the anniversary of the first American woman in space on June 18!

In 1963 Valentina Tereshkova, a Soviet cosmonaut, became the first woman to fly in space when she orbited Earth 48 times in the spacecraft Vostok 6. A crater on the Moon is named in her honor. Twenty years later, in 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space on the shuttle Challenger (STS-7).

Pioneering accolades aside, Sally Ride is a pretty great woman, especially in the world of science and technology. In 2001 she founded Sally Ride Science to help motivate girls and young women to pursue careers in science, math, and technology. Among other things, the company develops programs for parents and teachers to help spark and sustain interest in these subjects. She’s a STEM torchbearer! And she’s not just a name behind the program either. She’s launched science-centered festivals for girls, where she too participates in the workshops led by female scientists. When asked about the progress of the program in an interview with SUCCESS magazine, Ride said, “We need to make science cool again…If we can make science and engineering cool again, maybe our work is done.”

Sally Ride Science has teamed up with ExxonMobil with a project called “Let’s Solve This” to promote STEM inspired programs that transform student performance. When, in 2009, the Program for International Students Assessment ranked US students 17th in the world in science and 25th in math, Sally said, let’s change that.

The only way to change that is to teach and inspire and make these subjects rocket to the top of our children’s interest lists! Hey, this woman went to space. She knows first-hand that the universe is awesome!

Sally Ride, you make science cool in our book!

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The Role of Art in STEM Titles

By Melissa Stewart

I recently received the sketches for a picture book schedule for publication in 2014. This book, which I’ll call FEATHERS doesn’t have an agreed upon title yet.

For this book, I’m working with a new illustrator, Sarah Brannen. Sarah’s artwork isn’t new to me, though. We’ve been in the same critique group for . . . well, I can’t remember how long, but I’m going to guess 8 years. We were introduced to one another by a librarian at the Goodnow Library in Sudbury, MA. (Hooray for librarians!)

I visited Sarah’s studio, saw her work, and got really excited. There were paintings of insects everywhere, and she even had a taxidermied insect collection. How cool is that?

When Sarah pulled out her children’s book portfolio, I was gobsmacked. It was wonderful. I told to my critique group and we HAD to ask her to join. It turned out another member also knew Sarah and heartily endorsed her. And Sarah has been part of my life ever since.

Her picture book Uncle Bobby’s Wedding came out the same season as my book When Rain Falls, and we did a lot of events together. It was a blast. And it’s been a pleasure to see Sarah grow professionally, from an unknown name to an artist with a steady stream of children’s book illustration work.

So back to my new book—FEATHERS. I worked on the manuscript for four years. Each time I brought it to my critique group, Sarah said how much she loved feathers. Some weeks she brought feathers she’d collected during walks in the woods.

About two years into the revisions, Sarah started painting feathers. Then she painted an illustration to go with one of my spreads and gave it to me. It’s been hanging in my office ever since. (It’s interesting to note that nothing in that spread remains in the final book.)

When the manuscript was accepted and the editor asked me if I had any ideas about who might illustrate it, you know what I said. Sarah.

The editor and I talked about a concept for the art, and I was happy with it. And then I found out they had, in fact, hired Sarah as the illustrator. Hooray!

At our critique group’s annual Christmas party in 2011, Sarah started talking about the sketches. She said just enough for me to realize she wasn’t doing what the editor and I had discussed. So I literally put my fingers in my ears and sang la, la, la, la. Sarah stopped talking, and we agreed not to discuss what she was doing. I knew anything I might say at that point could stifle her creativity, and that was the last thing I wanted to do.

I was nervous, but I trusted Sarah and I knew how passionate she was about the book. And I knew that my editor and art director had approved Sarah’s concept. So I waited and waited. I hoped I’d like what she was doing because I wasn’t sure what would happen if I didn’t. Would the publisher say tough noogies to me? Would I lose a friend? I just sat on my hands and hoped for the best.

So it was with trepidation that I opened the package of sketches from my publisher. My hands might have been shaking, just a little, as I opened the oversized sheets of paper. And then I took a look. Wow! They were beyond my wildest dreams.

Sarah’s sketches had brought the book to a whole new level. She hadn’t just drawn art to match my text, she’d added a whole new layer–a strong, compelling narrative thread, a backstory that simultaneously provides context for my words AND expresses what I’m all about as a writer and a human being. Simply put, I was blown away.

I wish I could tell you more about what Sarah did, but for now it must remain a secret. I’m really looking forward to seeing the final book. Too bad 2014 is so far away.

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Counting on Math

Counting on Math
By Anastasia Suen (Booktalking)

STEM Friday

The last letter in STEM is M for mathematics. Here are two new math books, one for the very young (about counting to ten) and one for tweens and teens (about counting money!)
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Picture Book of the Day

One Two That’s My Shoe!
by Alison Murray (Author, Illustrator)

Booktalk: When a mischievous puppy runs off with his owner’s shoe, it’s a race from one to ten to get it back again!

Snippet:
1
One…

TURN THE PAGE

2
Two
That’s my shoe!”
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Chapter Book of the Day

The Secret Life of Money: A Kid’s Guide to Cash
by Kira Vermond (Author) and Clayton Hanmer (Illustrator)
160 pages

Booktalk: Odd anecdotes, engaging comics, and a wealth of surprising everyday connections help young readers see and understand cash from an entirely different angle.

Snippet: Cheddar. Bucks. Moolah. Funds. Bread. Bacon. Beans. Whatever you call your money, there’s a good chance you’re starting to take it a bit more seriously these days. Maybe you’re thinking about taking a babysitting class or mowing the neighbor’s lawn to turn your spare time into pure moneymaking magic. Sounds like a plan.
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Site Meter Copyright © 2012 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.


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Be an Insect Detective

Be an Insect Detective
by Sue Heavenrich

Insect Detective

By Steve Voake; illustrated by Charlotte Voake

Candlewick Press 2010, ages 5 – 8

“Right now, all around you, thousands of insects are doing strange and wonderful things,” writes Steve Voake. The problem is, you have to know where to look. Fortunately, this book guides young nature detectives to the best places to find bugs. Hear that scratching sound by the fence? Sneak up and take a peek – it might be a paper wasp scraping at the wood with her jaws. Want to find an ant nest? Follow that ant! Can’t see any insects? It could be they’re hiding in plain sight, camouflaged to blend in with their surroundings. So look closer.

The illustrations provide enough detail to engage readers, yet simple enough to encourage curious naturalists to grab a pencil and sketch the insects they see. Something we should all do: grab a pencil and sketch. Not only is it a great way to document what you see, but drawing something makes you look closer – see more details.

The underlying message in this book is that all kids have to is “…open the door and step outside.” You don’t even need a back yard, either. There’s a lot to discover in sidewalk cracks, roadside edges and vacant lots. Voake adds some practical advice for insect detectives in the last couple pages: directions for making pitfall traps, how to construct a bee condo, and tell-tale signs that wasps have been gnawing on your picnic table.

If you’re looking for some hands-on ideas for your insect detectives, check out Archimedes Notebook.

Join STEM Friday!

We invite you to join us!

  • Write about STEM each Friday on your blog.
  • Copy the STEM Friday button to use in your blog post.

STEM Friday

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

  • Link your post to the comments of our weekly STEM Friday Round-up. (Please use the link to your STEM Friday post, not the address of your blog. Thanks!)

Site Meter Copyright © 2012 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.