STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books


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Olivia’s Birds

Olivia’s Birds: Saving the Gulf

by Olivia Bouler

32 pages, ages 7 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2011

To 13-year old Olivia Bouler, birds are fascinating, unique and intriguing. She’s been watching birds – and drawing them – for most of her life, from her backyard on Long Island (NY) to the rocky Maine coast to the sandy beaches of the Gulf Coast.

When the BP oil spill happened in April, 2010, Bouler worried for the birds. She knew that oily water would spell disaster for nesting, and she wanted to do something to help. But what can an 11-year old do to save birds?

Then she had an idea: she would sell bird drawings to raise money to save the birds. She pens a letter to the Audubon Society explaining that she is a “decent drawer” and plans to sell pictures of birds to raise money for bird rescue. In the first month she received 500 requests for paintings and raised more than $150,000.

Bouler’s book – which she wrote later that year – is part field guide, part oil-spill story. She writes about – and draws – birds that live in the woods, near the water, or in your back yard.

“You may not notice the birds around you, but there are lots of them right outside your window,” she writes. Bouler describes how birds learn to fly (from their parents), shows different habitats (forest, wetlands) and draws pictures of the weirdest, wackiest birds she’s heard of – like the scissor-tailed flycatcher.

She writes about the importance of helping birds and lists what she would do if she were President of the US: stop deforestation, use cleaner energy, and put the “eco” back into the economy.

“Even though I’m not, I know that I can make a difference,” writes Bouler. “And so can you. Kids CAN do important things to preserve our earth.” Things like putting up a bird feeder, composting egg shells and orange peels, and recycling and conserving the things we use.

Check out a talk with Olivia at Archimedes Notebook and Olivia’s facebook page.

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STEM and Wildflowers

Welcome to the November 23, 2012 edition of STEM Friday.  Thank you to everyone who participated

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Today we are featuring a picture book biography,  Miss Lady Bird’s Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America by Kathi Appelt and illustrated by Joy Fisher Hein.

We are fast approaching the the centennial of Lady Bird Johnson’s birth, December 22, 2012, and it seemed like a perfect time to investigate her life and also learn more about wildflowers.

You may wonder how a picture book about a former first lady who loved wildflowers could be used as a jumping off point for STEM. Here are just a few ideas (go to Growing With Science blog for links and more information):

Science:

  • Plant life cycles
  • Plant identification
  • Ecology issues, such as how introduced and invasive plants change an area
  • Food webs
  • Weather and climate, and how that effects plants

Technology:

  • Use a computer program to design a wildflower garden
  • Make two weather stations and compare the weather in a wildflower garden versus a parking lot

Engineering:

Wildflower seeds come in many different sizes and shapes. Investigate how wildflower seeds are planted, harvested, processed, and packaged for sale. Can you think of a machine to do this in a better way?

Math:

  • Look for patterns in a wildflower garden
  • Search for Fibonacci’s numbers in flowers
  • Calculate the perimeter and area of a garden

Miss Lady Bird’s Wildflowers is a beautiful book about an inspiring lady. Hopefully, it will encourage some young scientists and engineers, as well.

Related Activity:  Check either Kathi Appelt‘s (click on the icon next to the “brand new” image) or Joy Fisher Hein‘s websites for a fun activity kit (in .pdf) to download that accompanies the book. The kit includes a word search, card matching game and many ideas for hands-on learning.

From our participants:

Shirley at Simply Science has another picture book that celebrates wild plants:  Planting the Wild Garden by Kathryn O. Galbraith and illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin. She also has suggestions for science activities.

Sally’s Bookshelf is featuring Even an Octopus Needs a Home by Irene Kelly, a picture book that celebrates animals’ homes.

Sue at Archimedes Notebook has suggested an activity for this season, looking at trees without leaves.

Wrapped In Foil blog has a review of a fictional picture book with wildflowers that would be a good pairing with Miss Lady Bird’s Flowers:  the classic Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney.

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STEM Friday: Feats of Engineering

Bridges and Tunnels: Investigate Feats of Engineering with 25 Projects by Donna Latham
2012 Nomad Press

Sunny mornings like today always conjure up some of the spectacular vistas that stick in my mind from all sorts of places I’ve been in my life. Since I spent many years in the Bay Area, the views across the bay are some of the most frequent. And I’m not alone. Once you cross the Golden Gate Bridge, you never forget it. The view is nothing short of stunning in all directions. But there’s a lot more to that bridge than meets the eye.

I’d like to introduce you to our new Investigate Feats of Engineering titles by featuring the first in this category that we’ve done. Bridges and Tunnels: Investigate Feats of Engineering with 25 Projects invites children 9 and up to explore the innovation and physical science behind these remarkable structures that our world depends on. They’ll learn about some of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles like vast canyons and mountain ranges that engineers and builders have tackled to design and construct such amazing passageways. Bridges and tunnels are lifelines that connect people and places. And some of the world’s most spectacular bridges have equally amazing stories to go along with them.

This book takes a challenging topic and makes it accessible to children. Hands-on activities encourage children to embrace the important engineering skill of trial and error. They’ll experiment with a triangular toothpick dome, liquefaction, and corrosion. They’ll make an egg bungee jump and a soda pop can engine. And with some great history thrown in, there are many lessons to be learned!

Enjoy this title and we look forward to Canals and Dams: Investigate Feats of Engineering with 25 Projects coming soon!

Today’s post is part of STEM Friday, a weekly round-up of children’s science, engineering, math and technology books.

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Happy STEM Friday to all!

Pam at Nomad


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STEM Friday: Zero the Hero

Zero the Hero
by Joan Holub (Author) and Tom Lichtenheld (Illustrator)
40 pages

Booktalk: Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. That’s what all the other numbers think of Zero. He doesn’t add anything in addition. He’s of no use in division. And don’t even ask what he does in multiplication. (Hint: Poof!) But Zero knows he’s worth a lot, and when the other numbers get into trouble, he swoops in to prove that his talents are innumerable.

Snippet: Unlike most numbers, Zero believed himself to be a hero. He just needed a chance to prove it.

BONUS!

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STEM Friday: Bring On the Birds

A guest post by science writer Susan Stockdale

Bring On the Birds celebrates 21 distinctive birds around the world. I was inspired to create the book after watching a robin build a nest on a ledge above my front door.

As with all my books, my first step was to write the words, paying close attention to how they sounded. I said them out loud as I wrote them, thinking about their alliteration and rhythm. I began with the rhyme scheme.

“Swooping birds, whooping birds,

birds with puffy chests.

Dancing birds, diving birds,

birds with fluffy crests.”

Then I headed to the library to research the birds that would suit the categories from the poem, selecting those that had the most visual appeal to me as an illustrator. There are plenty of choices for swooping, whooping and diving birds! But because I celebrate biodiversity among animals in my books, I was looking for beautiful birds from disparate geographic areas. I wanted to introduce children to a wide variety of bird habitats, ranging from the rainforest canopy of South America to the arid sand flats of Africa.

After writing my manuscript and creating a dummy with the illustrations sketches, I consulted ornithologists at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and National Zoo, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. These bird experts verified the accuracy of my textual and visual information. I also tried to see as many of the birds in my book as possible, visiting zoos and examining bird specimens at the National Museum of Natural History. My most exotic trip was to the Galapagos Islands, where I saw the Blue-footed Boobies perform their fanciful mating dance – a truly entertaining display. I painted them exactly as I remembered seeing them.

I write and illustrate my picture books to encourage children to celebrate the splendor of the natural world, including the creatures featured in Bring On the Birds. I also enjoy reminding them that there are wonders to behold in their own backyards!

Booktalk:

Birds come in all sorts of interesting shapes, sizes and colors – and many of them can do amazing things.

Can you imagine… Dancing birds, diving birds? Hanging birds, hiding birds?

They’re all real!

In her latest book, Bring On the Birds, noted author-illustrator Susan Stockdale introduces young readers to both exotic and familiar birds in engaging rhyming text. The bright, bold colors and crisp, clean lines of Stockdale’s birds, depicted in their natural habitats, can’t help but grab your attention. An afterword identifies each animal and tells and little about it and where it lives.

Susan Stockdale is the author and illustrator of children’s picture books including Bring On the BirdsFabulous Fishes and Carry Me! Animal Babies on the Move. Her books celebrate nature with grace and charm and have won awards from Parents’ Choice, the National Science Teachers Association, and the American Library Association. Susan’s engaging rhymes and vibrant illustrations elicit praise. The Washington Post exclaimed, “If the paintings are the feast, Stockdale’s words are the dessert.”

She researches her books extensively.  To create Bring On the Birds, she traveled to the Galapagos Islands where she saw Blue-footed Boobies perform their lively mating dance and the Great Frigatebird puff out its crimson chest. Bring On the Birds was selected as a 2012 ALA Notable Children’s Book and a Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the Year.

Susan lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, where she is creating a picture book about striped animals for publication in 2013. Visit her website at www.susanstockdale.com, and click here to view a Voice of America TV story about how she creates her nature books.

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  • 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!)

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