STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books

Whoosh!: A Watery World of Wonderful Creatures


Whoosh!: A Watery World of Wonderful Creatures
by Marilyn Baillie (Author) and Susan Mitchell (Illustrator)

Booktalk: A wonderful, whimsical exploration of various animals in the water and the ways in which children can, and do, mimic them! Each spread features an animal in a watery scene opposite a child mimicking the animal’s activity in some way. From splashing like a dolphin to fishing like a heron, from snoozing like an alligator to hiding like a clownfish, the echoing images bring to life the real ways that animals behave — and reveal how there’s a little bit of animal in all of us. The book closes with a “Guess What?” section that provides brief and quirky facts about the animals featured throughout.

I’m a river otter pup. My mom pulls me into the chilly water for my first swimming lesson. Patiently, she teaches me to paddle and dive. Look at me float!



Jump in the WATER and Join the Fun!
Read the rebus at the back of the book and try all of the ways to get up and move, such as scuttling like a crab or waddling like a penguin.

STEM Friday

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Two Books That Offer Different Ways to Cover Plant Science

Educational standards suggest introducing plant science concepts in Kindergarten, or even in preschool. Today at Wrapped in Foil Blog we are featuring two children’s books for that level that approach the same material in different, but complimentary ways.

The first is All About Roots (All About Plants) by Claire Throp.


All About Roots is an informational beginning reader that presents the concepts in a logical and straightforward way. It uses carefully-controlled vocabulary and short sentences. The illustrations are high quality color photographs, most of which focus on different kinds of roots. Readers will learn that roots support the plant, and help the plant take in water and nutrients. They will also learn what roots look like and what common foods come from roots.

The other books in the All About Plants series also emphasize plant structures and their functions:  All About Flowers, All About Leaves, All about Stems, and All About Seeds.

In contrast, Plants Feed Me by Lizzy Rockwell covers many of the same concepts, but with a very different feel and look.



The first thing the reader notices about this book is the brightly colored-pencil-and-gouache illustrations, starting with the cover. The second is that the illustrations are filled with a lively selection of smiling children with a diversity of looks. The presence of children throughout the book draw readers in by making them feel like they are part of the action.

Another factor that draws readers in is the story is told in the first person by a young boy. The very first line is: “I am a plant eater.” The use of the first person is unusual for informational books like this, but it works well. The main thrust of this book is that plants provide us with food.

Plants Feed Me is a nonfiction book that is likely to appeal to a wide variety of young readers. It is a must have for a beginning unit on plants and it would pair well with All About Roots.

For plant-science related activities, try our Children’s Garden Week at Growing with Science

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Bee Dance

Bee Dance by Rick Chrustowski
(Henry Holt, 2015)


Suitable for sharing with a story time group, Bee Dance is presented as a conversational entreaty to bees,

Waggle faster, honeybee!

Buzz louder!

Your dance points the way to the prairie.”

Bee Dance is lyrical nonfiction with large, bright, cut-paper illustrations.  An author’s note contains additional facts and the author’s source material.

See a slide show of images from Bee Dance on the publisher’s website.

You can watch an actual “waggle dance” below.

Bee Dance was also reviewed on this site by Archimedes Notebook.  I thought it was worth mentioning again.

LEGO Space: Building the Future


LEGO Space: Building the Future
by Peter Reid (Author) and Tim Goddard (Author)

Booktalk: Spaceships, orbital outposts, and new worlds come to life in this unique vision of the future, built completely from LEGO bricks. A selection of step-by-step building instructions will have you constructing your own cosmic creations to play with at home. Marvel at interstellar battlecruisers, space pirates, charming robots, and other stunning builds from an amazing future!






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Leaflets Three, Let It Be!

Leaflets Three, Let It Be!
written by Anita Sanchez; illustrated by Robin Brickman
2015 (Boyds Mills Press)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate having poison ivy. I remember having just graduated from college and interviewing for jobs while having red splotches on my arms and legs. So I’m not inclined to be sympathetic to this vile vine. But if I take the point of view of a woodland creature, I might think differently. Guess who provides a meal for rabbits and bears that are hungry after a tough winter? Poison ivy. Only humans are allergic. Protection for baby cardinals who are hungrily waiting in the nest? Courtesy of your friendly neighborhood poison ivy. Nectar that is used by bees to make tasty honey? Believe it or not, p.i. The leaves provide food for beetles, caterpillars and other insects. Tiny berries are a feast for birds. The big picture for Leaflets Three, Let It Be! is that poison ivy has been getting bad publicity from hacks like me. It is a valuable food and survival source for many animals. Sounds like a great nonfiction point of view lesson! Opinion papers could abound with this book. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the terrific cut paper illustrations from Robin Brickman. I’m delighted that I was able to meet her last month at the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference.

From now on, I will be more favorable toward poor ol’ poison ivy. I’ll just try hard not to embrace it. Check out more nonsense from Jeff at NC Teacher Stuff

Bark Scorpion


Bark Scorpion (Desert Animals Searchin’ for Shade)
by Meish Goldish (Author)

Booktalk: The sun shines on the hot desert sand. Meanwhile, a small animal with lobster-like pincers and a long tail hides under some tree bark. After the sun sets and the air cools, the creature—an Arizona bark scorpion—leaves its hideout and starts to hunt for prey.

It is a hot, dry afternoon in the desert.

A bark scorpion rests in a tree.

It hides under the tree bark to keep out of the burning sun.

During the day, the temperature can climb to 120°F (49°C).

Yet the scorpion stays cool in the shade of the bark.

See this page inside the book.

STEM + the Arts = STEAM

STEAM DIY Activity

Watch the ‘Bark scorpions’ invade Indio news video and test your front door. What will you do if you are bitten? Make an action plan and post it on the refrigerator.

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Science on the Go

NG Quiz Whiz 5Summer is a time for exploration, whether you’re heading to the beach or going camping or exploring the local park. Here’s a trio of books from National Geographic Kids that are sized just right for taking along.

Quiz Whiz 5: 1,000 super fun mind-bending totally awesome trivia questions
by National Geographic Kids
176 pages; ages 8-12 (or older)

Tired of playing “I-Spy”, the roadside Alphabet Game, twenty questions? Then you need to tuck this into your travel bag for the next road trip. It’s got more than 1,000 brain-tickling questions, jokes, and trivia that relate to just about any topic.

Going to the beach? Challenge kids with questions about sharks and shells and ships. There’s sports trivia, movies and lots of animal questions. And there are answers at the back… so everyone can learn something new.

Check out more books for “on the go” science over at Archimedes Notebook.

Experience the World of African Elephants in the Illustrated Travelogue of Ted Lewin & Betsy Lewin

Elephant Quest, from Adventures Around the World series, Lee & Low Books, 2014 (paperback)

Elephant Quest, from Adventures Around the World series, Lee & Low Books, 2014 (paperback)

Elephant Quest (nonfiction, travelogue) Interest level: grades 1–6

written and illustrated by Betsy Lewin and Ted Lewin

Caldecott Honor winners Ted and Betsy Lewin combine their distinctive artistic styles with captivating text to relate their adventure to see majestic African elephants in Botswana. Along the way they encounter a full range of African wildlife: hippos, lions, leopards, wildebeests, giraffes, wild dogs, baboons, and more. Elephant Quest is one of six illustrated travelogues in the Lewin’s Adventures Around the World series.

Honors include:

  • Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students, National Science Teachers Association/Children’s Book Council
  • John Burroughs Award for Nature Books for Young Readers, American Museum of Natural History

Themes: Biodiversity, Animal Adaptations, Habitats & Environments, Human Activity & Impact, Sustainability, Geography

Discussion Questions:

  • Describe the physical and behavioral adaptations of the elephants. What do they need to have or be able to do to survive in their environment?
  • How do Ted and Betsy Lewin and other humans that appear in the book demonstrate respect toward the animals they observe?
  • Why do you think Ted and Betsy Lewin choose to focus on the African elephants? What makes this species unique or interesting compared to the other animals in the habitat and country?
  • What is a reserve? Why do the elephants live in a reserve? What reasons might people have for creating a reserve? Do you think people have a responsibility to protect animals or the environment? Why or why not?
  • Ted and Betsy Lewin are tourists at the reserve and in Botswana. List the consequences (positive and negative) of the Lewins’ trip on the animals, habitat, people of Botswana, and young readers around the world. Do you believe wildlife tourism is beneficial, harmful, or something else to the animals and habitat? Why?

elephant (3)Activity Suggestions:

  1. Have students research the geography of Botswana. What are the physical features, climate, and seasons? Which animals and plants are found there? What culture(s) are found there? What makes the region unique from other parts of the world? How might the region’s geography make it attractive to elephants and ideal for the Moremi Reserve?
  2. Elephant Quest was originally published in 2000. Encourage students to research the status of African elephants today. If the Lewins were to write an update to their travelogue, what might they include about the species and the challenges they face? Explore the conditions of African elephants with the World Wildlife Fund and National Geographic Kids.
  3. If the Lewins were to come to your community, what animal species should they search for and write a travelogue about? Ask students to write a letter to persuade the Lewins to visit this place and study an animal species of their choosing. Describe the species where you live. What does it look like? What does it eat? What are its predators? What challenges does it face?
  4. Encourage students to design and create a travel poster advertising the Moremi Reserve. Persuade tourists to visit this region based on facts about its climate, animals, and geography found in the book. Think about the time of year that would be best to visit this region. Students may wish to study examples of travel advertisements in newspapers, magazines, or online travel sites for inspiration.
  5. Ted and Betsy Lewin choose to use watercolor paint to convey their experiences. How do watercolors help them tell the story and capture their observations? How do watercolor illustrations compare to photographs (check out the photo galleries of Moremi from Expert Africa and Botswana Tourism for examples)? Contrast Ted Lewin’s realistic images to Betsy Lewin’s field sketches. How do the Lewins use watercolors differently from each other? If possible, have students practice painting a scene with watercolor paints. Have students reflect on the material, time involved, and process of painting with watercolors. Have students hypothesize whether the Lewins painted during the trip or after they returned to their studios. Then show them a video interview with the Lewins in their studios.
  6. Home-School Connections: Encourage students and their families to participate in Wildlife Watch, the National Wildlife Federation’s national nature-watching program created for people of all ages. Students and families share the details of the wildlife they see in their communities to help National Wildlife Federation track the health and behavior of species.

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Copyright © 2015 Jill Eisenberg. All Rights Reserved.

STEM Friday: Physics: Investigate the Mechanics of Nature

Physics_ColorPhysics: Investigate the Mechanics of Nature
by Jane Gardner, illus. by Samuel Carbaugh
128 pages, grades 7-9
Nomad Press, 2014



When skateboarder Tony Hawk performs his signature move, the Ollie, Physics_9781619302280he might not be running actual calculations in his head. It’s probably second nature for him to figure out how much force he needs to exert on his board and how far he needs to bend his knees to cushion the landing. But every move he makes on his skateboard is based on physics.

What about beginner skateboarders (like me!)? Are they using physics, too? Sure! Visit a local skateboard park and you’ll see plenty of physics in action, from hesitant beginners choosing the most gradual slopes to experts flying through the air and using gravity to their advantage. All of this action uses force, which is one of the foundational concepts of physics. So is gravity!

Using real-life scenarios including skateboarding, training for a marathon, investigating a train wreck, and solving the mystery of a power outage, Physics: Investigate the Mechanics of Nature explores the foundational concepts of physics in an accessible, fun way. Comic strips, links to online primary sources, and a friendly tone help break down tough-to-understand ideas about magnetism, optics and lots of other areas of study.

The science of physics provides a profound understanding of the way our world works, an understanding kids in junior high and beyond will be thrilled to be equipped with. Especially when it means improving their skateboarding skills.





STEM Friday

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

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Teach STEM Now webinar recap


On July 9, 2015, STEM Friday participated in the 2015 Summer of Learning professional development series at Share My Lesson. This free AFT webinar offers one hour of professional development credit.

The Teach Stem Now webcast was recorded on July 9, 2015 and will be active for a full year. Sample the webinar with these live tweets:

STEM Friday

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

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