STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books


Learn About Insects

Young children of a certain age are often fascinated by insects. Insects (Smithsonian Little Explorer) by Martha E. H. Rustad is a great way to encourage them to learn more.


In addition to explaining metamorphosis and insect senses, Insects covers eight main insect groups from bees to flies. Each two-page spread has bright color photographs throughout. Some of the photographs are edge to edge, giving a feeling that you are actually seeing the scene first hand.

In the back are suggestions for thinking more deeply about insects, as well as a glossary, book recommendations for further reading, and a portal to Internet Sites through FactHound.

Insects will thrill budding entomologists. It is also a useful resource for libraries and classrooms.

See our full review and a related activity about insect senses at Growing With Science blog.


STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Roberta Gibson at Growing with Science All Rights Reserved.

Extra Special Pi Day

reflections-on-pi-20110209-083754Tomorrow – Saturday, March 14 – is a historic day. It’s Albert Einstein’s birthday for which, if he were still alive, he’d have 136 candles on his cake.

It’s also Pi Day. March 14.

3.14. Get it?

But this year, Pi Day is extra special because it’s 2015, which means tomorrow is 3.1415. And if you chow down on a slice of pizza at 9:26 and 53 seconds – either for breakfast or a bedtime snack – you get even more Pi: 3.141592653.

You won’t see that again for another hundred years.

Back in 250 BC, Archimedes worked out that the value of pi is greater than 223/71 but less than 22/7. He did this by approximating the area of a circle using the area of a regular polygon inscribed within the circle and the area of a polygon within which the circle was circumscribed. He started with a hexagon and worked his way up to a 96-sided polygon, getting really close to the approximation of pi.

You can do that too, by comparing the ratio of a circle’s circumference (distance around) to its diameter (distance across). Put in math language, π = c/d.

All you need are a tape measure (or string), a ruler, a pencil and paper, a calculator and a few round things: soup cans, the compost bucket, cheerios, m&m’s, a cocoa mug, cookies, marshmallows, cupcakes, a pizza….

Use the tape measure or string to measure the distance around your object (circumference). Now measure the diameter (the distance from one side to the other, through the middle of the circle). Divide C by d to get … oh, perhaps you didn’t get 3.14159. Not a problem – compare the circumference and diameter of another round thing. And another. Do any of them come close? If you get 3.14 you’re doing well.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for more Pi Day activities.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

Before We Eat: From Farm to Table

Before We Eat: From Farm to Table
written by Pat Brisson; illustrated by Mary Azarian
2014 (Tilbury House)
Source: Orange County Public Library

As we sit around this table let’s give thanks as we are able
to all the folks we’ll never meet who helped provide this food we eat.

Cue Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. This rhyming paean to workers sheds light on the many hands that make the everyday possible. I know I take for granted the easy accessibility of the food that I eat. Earlier this evening, I was complaining in my head that my local store didn’t have a better selection of bagged apples. I should be grateful that there were apples available at all.

Before We Eat pays tribute to the workers who plow the fields, plant the seeds, pull in the nets, and all the other tasks that bring us the food that we eat. The rhyming text and Mary Azarian’s wood carving illustrations are a fine tribute to those who don’t receive a lot of credit for the important things that grace our tables.

With younger students, you could create a circle map and write down who was responsible for the lunch that was just eaten. Older students could create a flow chart to show the sequence of how the food that was in their lunchbox arrived there. This could also lead to discussions of reading labels and the availability of fresh food. There are many possibilities for lessons involving Before We Eat.

Celebrate and Learn About STEM on International Women’s Day

In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, explore STEM concepts with students through the lens of environmental science and conservation. Students can read about women-led conservation movements in Kenya and India.

Seeds of Change, Lee & Low Books, 2010

Seeds of Change, Lee & Low Books, 2010

Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace (nonfiction/biography) Interest level: grades 1–6

written by Jen Cullerton Johnson and illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler

A picture book biography of scientist Wangari Maathai, the first African woman—and first environmentalist—to win a Nobel Peace Prize (in 2004) for her work planting trees in her native Kenya. Blazing a trail in the field of science, Wangari used her knowledge and compassion to promote the rights of her countrywomen and help save the land, one tree at a time.


Aani and the Tree Huggers, Lee & Low Books, 1995

Aani and the Tree Huggers, Lee & Low Books, 1995

Aani and the Tree Huggers (fiction) Interest level: grades 1–4

written by Jeannine Atkins and illustrated by Venantius J. Pinto

Based on a true event in northern India, Aani and the Tree Huggers presents an enduring message of environmental action. Aani acts with quiet, instinctive heroism to save not only her special tree, but also the village’s beloved forest.

Themes: Ecology, Environmental Science, Conservation, Activism

International Women's DayBefore reading:

  • Ask students what they know about Kenya and India. Help students locate these countries on a map or globe.
  • Ask students what they know about deforestation. How do trees help people and ecosystems? What are examples of ways people depend on trees?

Questions during reading:

  • How do these women respond to the destruction of trees in their communities?
  • What causes deforestation in these communities?
  • What do these texts teach about interdependence?
  • How are we responsible for our environment? What suggestions do these books offer to take care of the world around us?
  • How do these books demonstrate the value of conservation?
  • What risks do these women take for their goals? Why do you think they took these risks? What are their motivations to act?
  • How do these women empower other women? How do these women demonstrate perseverance and leadership?

Activity Suggestions:

  1. Create a Venn Diagram comparing the central figures, Aani and Wangari Maathai, or the books, Aani and the Tree Huggers and Seeds of Change.
  2. Encourage students to research the Chipko Andolan movement (Hug the Tree Movement) in India or the Green Belt Movement in Kenya. What events took place? What was the purpose(s) of these movements? What were the results?
  3. Study the history of a nearby state or national park. Who was involved in its establishment? What challenges did people face in its creation? What makes this place unique or significant? Show students how to find a state or national park near them. Visit the National Park Service’s Find a Park web page.
  4. Have students identify the trees in their neighborhood. Check out the Arbor Day Foundation’s step-by-step Tree Identification guide. Help students study one of these species. Describe its physical features, including trunk, leaves/needles, and roots. Where is this species found? What types of animals live near, in, or among this species? How do people use this tree species? What survival challenges does this species face today?




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

Copyright © 2015 Jill Eisenberg. All Rights Reserved.

Zoology for Kids

This week we are taking a look at the fantastic new middle grade nonfiction title Zoology for Kids: Understanding and Working with Animals, with 21 Activities (For Kids series) by Josh and Bethanie Hestermann.



For those of you who are familiar with Chicago Review Press, this book follows the tried-in-true format of informational text intermingled with appropriate hands-on activities, such as baking a model of an animal cell, playing a dolphin echolocation game, and eating a bat fruit salad.

Zoology for Kids also has some nice, unexpected extras. In addition to the exciting introduction by TV stars the Kratt Brothers, it also begins with timeline that reveals some of the significant advancements in zoology. The timeline starts with an entry for Aristotle, who is credited as the Father of Zoology and goes to the astonishing discovery of a new member of the raccoon family in 2013.

Although the book is definitely written for middle graders, it is also an invaluable resource for educators. Anyone teaching a unit on animals will want to have a copy of this book on the shelf for project ideas. Librarians will want to have it as a go-to resource for information on animals and career options for those interested in animals, as well.

Many of the projects could be easily adapted for younger children. For example, older kids can make their own bat fruit salad, but younger children would certainly enjoy eating one (dare I say while reading Stellaluna?) Zoology for Kids is one of those rare books that is really for almost all ages!

Look for a full review at Wrapped in Foil blog and related activities (and a giveaway) at Growing with Science.


STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Roberta Gibson at Growing with Science All Rights Reserved.

When the Wind Blows

when wind blowsWhen the Wind Blows
by Stacy Clark; illus. by Brad Sneed
32 pages; ages 4-8
Holiday House, 2015

When the wind blows
Porch doors sway
Dune grass bends
Sea waves spray

This is a wonderful book about harnessing the wind’s energy – how it is transformed from a force of nature that spins turbines into electricity that powers our cities.

What I like about this book: The lyrical language. This is a nonfiction book, filled with wind turbine innards and magnetic forces and electrons. It is also written is lovely poetic language. I also love the way each page begins with “When the wind blows…” I also like the structure: we start at the beach, head offshore to wind turbines, then back onshore with electricity, and finally end up right back where we started: at the beach.

Check out hands-on wind activities over at Archimedes Notebook.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.