STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books


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A Trip into Space: An Adventure to the International Space Station

A Trip into Space: An Adventure to the International Space Station
by Lori Haskins Houran (Author) and Francisca Marquez (Illustrator)

Booktalk: Visit the International Space Station, where astronauts work, sleep, and walk in space!

Snippet:
Tasting a drink
That may float around
Sipping in space

Taking a walk
Without any ground
Flipping in space

Two in One!

This week’s Poetry Friday Round-up will be hosted by Today’s Little Ditty.

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

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Saving Cheetahs

SITF CheetahChasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cats (Scientists in the Field)
by Sy Montgomery; photos by Nic Bishop
80 pages; ages 10- 14
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014

A full-grown cheetah weighs about 90 pounds and can run 70 miles per hour – as fast as a car driving on a highway. It can go from zero to 40 in three steps, but after a few hundred yards it has to stop for a rest, or it will overheat.

These fast cats live in one place: Africa. But they are endangered and, without help, may go extinct. This book shows how Laurie Marker – and other scientists working with the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia – is working to preserve remaining cheetah populations. Saving cheetahs, she says, is about more than saving the big cats. “It’s about antelopes and birds, leopards and giraffes, soil and trees, dogs and goats.” That’s because, if you save the cheetahs you end up saving all of the other plants and animals in that ecosystem.

One strategy is to use dogs to save cats. Farmers shoot cheetahs because the big cats take goats from their herds. But in cases where herds are protected by large dogs, cheetahs don’t bother the livestock. Instead, they chase down wild game. So Laurie’s strategy: give a dog to every farmer, and teach them how to protect their flocks so both wild and domestic animals can share the landscape.

In one chapter Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop take us on a forensic expedition to determine which cheetahs have been in an area, and what those cheetahs are eating. Using DNA from scat and hairs left behind, scientists can figure out whether cheetahs are dining on gazelles or goats. They also check in with a wildlife vet for some hands-on lessons on cheetah health.

I particularly like how the book ends with Laurie’s “advice for saving the world”. Her first (and most important) bit of wisdom: “Don’t wait for ‘somebody’ to do it.” If you’re ever thinking that “somebody should do something”, then that somebody might be you. Her last and just-as-important words of advice: “We can save the world. There’s no reason we can’t. But we have to actively do it.” Everyone- even kids- can do something to make this world a better place.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2014 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.


Vibrations Make Sound

Vibrations Make Sound
by Jennifer Boothroyd (Author)

Booktalk: Young readers will learn how vibrations make sound that we can hear with simple text for beginning readers.

Snippet: Sound is what we hear.

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2014 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.


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John Muir: America’s First Environmentalist

One of my all time favorite quotes comes from John Muir- “People need beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.” It’s weird to think a person like John Muir can be reduced to a quote, but you’ve got to admit, it’s a good one. The quote comes up in John Muir: America’s First Environmentalist by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Stan Fellows, as Muir falls in love with the California Mountains in the 1860’s.

This picture book from 2006 is a comprehensive look at John Muir’s life. It includes the requisite flash over his childhood that writing for children must have these days, his long walk to Florida, his days herding sheep in the Sierras, and his love of ice and storms. The book is arranged chronologically, and attempts to show how Muir’s love and respect for nature grew throughout his life experiences.

Most striking about this book are the illustrations. They balance between painting and sketchbook, vibrant color and pencil scratchings, and close detail and pictures fading to blurs. Fellows did a remarkable job capturing moments of Muir’s life in a truly beautiful way.

It’s always interesting to me how those on the forefront of the environmental movement are generally discounted as “quacks,” “ignorant,” or “unscientific.” Muir was captivated by glaciers, and conducted studies and made observations to show that glaciers actually move in Yosemite Valley. Yet, the scientists of the time called him a “mere sheepherder.” Were those scientists so bent on maintaining power over the science that they could not concede someone else might have unearthed some truth? Were they that scared of admitting their own mistakes? Or were they simply ignorant quacks themselves?

Hard to say, but I can see that we humans have a strong resistance to change, and an even stronger resistance to accepting our place in the nature of the earth. Thankfully, John Muir didn’t seem to have this problem. His work altered the course of so many natural places in this country; he caused thousands of acres of land to be preserved. And I for one, am so thankful to have those places where nature may heal and cheer and give me strength.

STEM Friday

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

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Park Scientists

park-scientistsPark Scientists: Gila Monsters, Geysers, and Grizzly Bears in America’s Own Backyard
Scientists in the Field series
by Mary Kay Carson; photos by Tom Uhlman
80 pages; ages 10-14
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014

The National Park Service is nearly 100 years old (their anniversary is 2016) and for all those years the rangers and park scientists have been studying the best ways to preserve and protect the landscape, plants and animals.

“Because national parks are protected places, researchers are able to do long-term studies of ecosystems, geysers, and climate,” writes Mary Kay Carson. They don’t have to worry that their natural laboratory will be clear-cut for a mall or highway project.

In this book, Carson and photographer Tom Uhlman document scientists at work in three of our most popular national parks: Yellowstone, Saguaro, and Great Smoky Mountains. She opens each section with a park brief: how big, how many visitors, when it was established, and reasons to visit. Then she takes us into the field with the park scientists.

In Yellowstone (our oldest national park, established in 1872 by Ulysses S. Grant) we head into a hot spot to learn more about why the temperatures are rising. But first, everyone has to suit up with protective clothing and heat-resistant boots. Then there’s the science gear: infrared camera, temperature probes, gas detectors and more. On another trip into the field we learn how scientists apply GPS technology to track and manage grizzly bears.

Then it’s down to Arizona to track Gila monsters and count cacti. From there it’s a cross-country trek to the Smoky Mountains which really do live up to their name. We head into the forests on a salamander safari – the Smokies are home to more than thirty species of salamanders. Data from the salamander study indicate that a rise in the earth’s temperature will erase much of the red-cheeked salamander habitat. The good news? There will be some refuges where the salamanders can thrive.

Carson ends with an evening light show: fireflies in the Smokies. There’s a wonderful glossary at the end, some sources (for those who want to dig deeper) and an index that makes it easier to revisit cool stuff you forgot to bookmark. Oh, and did I mention the abundant and awesome photos?

I’m not the first to review this book … here’s a link to a great review from Roberta back in May.

STEM Friday

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

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Dandelion Seed’s Big Dream

dandelion seedThe Dandelion Seed’s Big Dream

by Joseph Anthony; illus. by Chris Arbo

32 pages; ages 4-10

Dawn Publications, 2014

 “Once a little seed took to the sky. It had a dream…”

The tiny seed soars, filled with possibilities. But the wind shifts, it nearly loses its fluffy parachute, and it ends up in the wrong place. But it would not let go of its dream

Granted, dreams are a bit anthropomorphic for dandelion seeds. But while the text tells the universal story of hanging on to one’s dream, the illustrations show a truer story of what happens to dandelion seeds – and other seeds that depend on aerial dispersal. Some seeds catch a breeze that drops them in soil just right for sprouting. Others end up wedged between bits of gravel, or between squares of a sidewalk. This particular seed ends up in a place where it would be impossible to set down roots – if not for a bit of chance.

The illustrations also show a story of children and their adult friends coming together to clean up a bit of trash-strewn land and turn it into a community garden. I especially like the ending – and the underlying thought that dandelions are beautiful and have a place in our world. Head over to Sally’s Bookshelf for some hands-on fall seed dispersal explorations and a link to an interview with the author.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2014 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.


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The Soda Bottle School

The Soda Bottle School
by Laura Kutner (Author), Suzanne Slade (Author) and Aileen Darragh (Illustrator)

Booktalk: In a Guatemalan village, students squished into their tiny schoolhouse, two grades to a classroom. The villagers had tried expanding the school, but the money ran out before the project was finished. No money meant no wall materials, and that meant no more room for the students. Until they got a wonderful, crazy idea: Why not use soda bottles, which were scattered all around, to form the cores of the walls?

Snippet: The empty bottles weren’t strong enough to build a wall, so students stuffed the bottles with trash to create eco-ladrillos. Using small sticks, they shoved old chip bags, grocery sacks, and plastic trash into the bottles.

See how they made the bottles into eco-ladrillos and built a wall.

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2014 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.