STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books


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Come See the Earth Turn

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Come See the Earth Turn

By Lori Mortensen

Illustrated by Raul Allen

Tricycle Press, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-58246-284-4

Nonfiction picture book

Ages 8-12

Come See the Earth Turn tells the story of Leon Foucault and the way he proved that the Earth turned using a pendulum to show the movement. Lacking formal training, Foucault, a poor student, found his place in developing “clever instruments and magnificent contraptions.”

He wondered about questions relating to light, its speed, and how to prove these sorts of things. And while people had begun to think the Earth turned, no one had proved it—until Foucault did.

Even though he’d received honors for his work, he wasn’t formally trained and it wasn’t until three years before his death that he was granted membership into the French Academy of Science.

The book contains an author’s note, glossary with pictures of the instruments, and bibliography.  In this day of Common Core State Standards, this book begs to be included in classroom and library lessons.

It would make a wonderful introduction to a lesson on Earth science, gravity, and the Earth’s motion. The invention could be compared with that of another early scientist and used as a way to show the scientific method.

Determine the main idea and find examples of how the story supports it. Look up the tools listed in the vocabulary to find more about how they worked to support academic and domain-specific word acquisition.

Compare the book with a scientific explanation of the Earth’s motion and discuss they different ways the authors used to explain this principle.

With the Next Generation Science Standards now available, the book fits perfectly with the Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions and Earth’s Place in the Universe strand. It would kick off a fun lesson to begin a study of these topics in the relevant grades.

Nonfiction is a terrific way to liven up lessons and provides a fun introduction to many topics. It gives teachers, parents, and librarians the opportunity to show children the pleasure and fun of nonfiction.

This site has a good biography of Foucault.


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Capybara: The World’s Largest Rodent

Capybara: The World’s Largest Rodent

written by Natalie Lunis
2010 (Bearport Publishing)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Being the world’s biggest in anything is a huge deal. As the world’s largest rodent, the capybara (kap-i-BAR-uh) is a 110 pound plant eating machine that resides mostly in South America. It is almost double the weight of the next largest rodent, the North American beaver. Water is important to this creature as it uses it to stay cool since it lives in a place that is warm year round. Protection is another service provided by water. Capybaras live in groups of 10 to 30 and when the lookouts see danger, they bark and warn the other capybaras to head to the water. The ability to stay completely underwater for 5 minutes and to stay in the water mostly submerged for hours helps stave off prey like the jaguar. This enormous rodent is a model of group work. Females work together to watch the young. Communication is key as “they bark, grunt, chirp, and whistle” to make sure everyone in the group is informed. It’s not easy being a large rodent in the world of caimans and jaguars, but the capybaras survive by relying on one another.

Students like to read about unusual animals and the capybara fits the bill. A good comparison activity would be to use a Venn diagram and compare this animal with its smaller fellow rodent, the beaver. The back matter in the book includes other rodents and their measurements so you could make further comparisons. An interesting contradiction is featured near the end of the book and this would make for a great discussion. Ranches that raise capybaras for their meat are actually aiding in the animal’s survival. It would be a good thinking exercise for students to wrap their brains around how this could be true.


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NGSS Headstart

The final draft of the Next Generation Science Standards was released in April, so it seems like the perfect time to start thinking about how some of our favorite books can be integrated into lessons that support the performance expectations (PE)–what kids will be expected to understand at each grade level.

One kindergarten PE is: “Communicate and discuss solutions that will reduce the impact of humans on the land, water, air, and/or other living things in the local environment.” Here are some books that would be perfect for addressing this concept:

Where Once There Was a Wood by Denise Flemming

The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry

Dumpster Diver by Janet S. Wong

No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart

Finding Home by Sandra Markle

Big Night for Salamanders by Sarah Merwil Lamstein

Turtle, Turtle, Watch Out! by April Sayre

Subway Story by Julia Sarcone-Roach

365 Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromental

A Warmer World by Caroline Arnold

It isn’t too early to start thinking about how we can use some of the great books out there to teach STEM ideas in the future. Will that be one of your summer projects?

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STEM Friday and Summertime!

Slime Poop

Summertime is here! As schoolchildren gleefully break the bonds of their scholastic routine, summer reading is often the last thing on their minds. And when kids do think about reading on their time off, they’re often geared toward fiction. But fitting in some STEM nonfiction isn’t all that difficult. Kids are natural scientists—digging in dirt, inspecting tree bark, and generally marveling at the world around them. Capitalize on your children’s natural curiosity this summer with interesting STEM-themed titles. You might want to start with a book I edited called Slime, Poop, and Other Wacky Animal Defenses. It recently made Science Books & Films’ “10 Top Summer Books for K-4.” What other books make the cut?

-Amanda Robbins, Capstone Nonfiction Editorial