STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books

How Smart are Crows?

Last month, scientists in New Zealand published a study showing that crows can solve puzzles to get food. They offered crows food that was floating on top of water in tubes. The problem: the tubes were narrow, so only their beak fit in. And the water level was so low the crows couldn’t reach the food. Fortunately, the scientists provided the crows with an assortment of blocks and other heavy items. The crows figured out that if they dropped the blocks in the tube they would displace the water, raising the food to a level where they could reach in and grab it with their beaks.

Drop by Archimedes Notebook to see videos of smart crows solving problems.


STEM Friday

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

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A Trip to the Beach with North Carolina’s Amazing Coast

Not all books are flexible enough to work with a variety of ages, but North Carolina’s Amazing Coast: Natural Wonders from Alligators to Zoeas by David Bryant, George Davidson, Terri Kirby Hathaway, and Kathleen Angione, and 
illustrated by Charlotte Ingram definitely fills the bill.



This book came about to accompany an elementary curriculum from the Center of Ocean Studies Educational-Excellence Southeast, so it was conceived with children in mind. Inside are 100 single-page discourses that explore the flora and fauna of the beaches, marshes, and ocean along the North Carolina coast. Each page consists on an illustration of the organism (or habitat in a few cases) and a few paragraphs of interesting facts. The organisms are listed in alphabetical order by common name, ranging from alligators and avocets, to yaupon holly and zoeas. Did you know there are red wolves in North Carolina? Don’t worry, they are very shy.

Although it is designed for children, the text isn’t oversimplified. In fact, it contains subtle humor with clever tidbits that draw the adult reader in, such as that the “current chief predator” of the diamondback terrapin is “the automobile.”

Illustrator Charlotte Ingram’s former career as a graphic designer is evident on every page, from the tastefully decorative fonts to the clean, crisp full-color illustrations. Each organism is displayed against a simple graphic of the North Carolina coast.

North Carolina’s Amazing Coast is a must have for those headed to the beaches of North Carolina. It would also make a wonderful gift for anyone wanting to learn more about beaches and nature.

For more information and links to a plethora of lessons related to marine environments and coasts, check Growing With Science.

STEM Friday

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

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STEM Haiku for 2014

It’s April again, so we are making our 3rd annual call for original STEM haiku. Click on the National Poetry Month 2014 poster image to be taken to our 2014 STEM haiku page. There are how to write haiku tutorial links and the first 2 haiku for 2014: one about the big bang and one about Fibonacci numbers.

National Poetry Month

You can also take a look at the 2012 STEM Haiku and 2013 STEM Haiku that our readers shared.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2014 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

It’s Time for Vernal Pools

the-secret-poolWhen the snow melts, it leaves puddles in my driveway and on my lawn. Back in the woods, though, the melting water collects in deeper pools that are shaded by the trees. Those secret pools become homes to frogs and salamanders, and a snack bar for snakes and birds.

If you don’t happen to have a vernal pool in your neighborhood, just pick up a copy of Kimberly Ridley and Rebekah Raye’s book, The Secret Pool. It’s almost as good as visiting a pool, but without the need for wellies.

Still, nothing quite matches the experience of walking through the woods, or along the hedgerow of a golf course, and discovering a secret pool full of tadpoles and salamander eggs. Or sitting near one of these tiny wetlands on a late spring evening and listening to the symphony of frog songs.

Ridley’s language is fun – she incorporates rhyme, without depending on rhyming text, and sprinkles alliterations throughout the book. So if you’re looking for a STEM book that offers possibilities for language play, this is a good one. Raye’s artwork is so delicious you just want to grab a brush and try your hand painting ferns and frogs, bugs and bogs. Looking for more? Check out my “beyond the book” activities over at Archimedes Notebook.


STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2014 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.





written and illustrated by David Macauley with Sheila Keenan

2013 (Macmillan)

Source: Mebane Public Library

This blog has gone in the toilet and that’s a good thing. David Macauley’s Toilet explores the workings of a toilet and what happens to waste. Appropriately, the first order of business is to learn about why we need toilets in the first place. What is waste and how does it leave our bodies? Macauley answers that question in about as tasteful a manner as you can explain it. Body parts, sans the body, are drawn to illustrate an eclair’s path through the body. You see the liver, the stomach, intestines and bladder without seeing any “private” parts. Simply read the text  and follow the drawing to learn how waste leaves your body. The next stop is the toilet. If you lift the lid of the tank of your toilet, you will see what readers see in this book along with a simple explanation of the mechanics of how the chain, floats, and stoppers work. Further explanations show how waste and water exit the toilet through the siphon. Where does all of this go from there? Depends on where you live. Having experienced both, I prefer a sewer system over a septic tank. Macauley goes into detail to explain how both of those work. A great companion to this book would be The Magic School Bus Goes to the Waterworks since it also covers some of the same territory of showing what happens to water when it goes to the treatment plant. Toilet covers more of what happens to the solids (sludge) of waste water than Waterworks.


It would be easy (And I’ve done this!) to dismiss a child who asks what happens to waste once we flush. Instead, sit down with a copy of Toilet and explain how all of this works. The text and illustrations are terrific so you will be able to engage a young learner and help them understand. Just know that this is an easier reader but not necessarily an easy reader. I think a third grader could probably read and comprehend the text independently, but not much further below that level. The books in this series receive stars from reviewers because they are top notch explanations of processes that are important in our lives.

Now to explain the picture below. I was visiting a science museum in Copenhagen, Denmark where they explained the processes of what happens to waste water. You climbed down a ladder inside the toilet to visit a basement part of the museum that informed you about the history of the treatment of waste in cities and why sewer systems were such an upgrade.  Now that’s interactive!