STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books

Explore Simple Machines

Learning about and making simple machines is a great way to explore physics with kids. The Kids’ Book of Simple Machines: Cool Projects & Activities that Make Science Fun! by Kelly Doudna (coming out August 25, 2015) is the perfect way to get started.


The Kids’ Book of Simple Machines has concise explanations of the science of simple machines,  clear step-by-step instructions, and enticing colorful photographs of the projects. In addition, the background information in the different sections introduces children to famous scientists and inventors, from Archimedes to the Wright brothers.

The six simple machines covered are the lever, pulley, inclined plane, wedge, wheel and axle, and screw. After a brief introduction to each type in the front, the following chapters give more in-depth information, numerous examples of the different simple machines, and several activities and projects to explore the concepts more fully.

Whether you are teaching science in the classroom, after school, or at home, The Kids’ Book of Simple Machines is a well-designed and useful resource. The young makers of the world are going to have hours of fun trying out the activities in this book.

At Growing with Science blog, we have more information and some suggestions for related activities.

STEM Friday

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

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The Brain: Discover the Universe Inside Your Head
by Carla Mooney, Illustrated by Tom Casteel
128 pages, grades 7-9
Nomad Press, 2015



We all have them. We use them to know when and what to eat, to make decisions both large and small, to sense who to trust and who to stay away from, and to recognize pain and react accordingly.


Brains! That three-pound lump of grayish matter can do things that no other animal or machine can do. Without your brain, you would not be alive. Your brain regulates your heartbeat, blood pressure, and breathing. It tells you when to eat, drink, and sleep. Your brain also makes you the person that you are. It guides and directs your actions and behavior. Your brain controls how you feel, perceive, and think about the world around you. That’s a pretty huge job.

In The Brain: Discover the Universe Inside Your Head, kids learn about the structure and function of the brain, how it develops as a person ages, and how we use our brains to form memories, develop language, feel emotion, and sense the world around us. A whole chapter is dedicated to ideas on how to keep brains healthy and how unhealthy habits, such as not eating well or using drugs, can affect your brain for the worse.

Readers 12 to 15 will appreciate the hands-on projects, including building a model of a brain and performing memory tests. Lots of STEM connections make this book perfect for both home and classroom!

 Try this activity to see how neurotransmission works!

STEM Friday

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

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Indy Cars


Indy Cars
by Kate Riggs (Author)

Booktalk: A kindergarten-level introduction to Indy cars, covering their speed, drivers, role in racing sports, and such defining features as their wings.

Snippet: Indy cars are fast cars.
They race on oval tracks. They race on roads.



Play the Hot Wheels Pit Race Off Take game online.

STEM Friday

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

Check out my new #kidlit #bookaday blog Writing Lessons for #6traits #mentortexts M-F.

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New Collection of Biographies of 16 Women in STEM

Over at Growing with Science blog today we are featuring book that is a collection of biographies chronicling the lives of women who made a name for themselves in the areas of STEM and health care, Magnificent Minds: 16 Pioneering Women in Science and Medicine by Pendred E. Noyce.


The book is organized into chapters that are separate biographies. Because the chapters stand alone, readers can easily page to an individual subject of their choice. Also, at the beginning of each chapter is a well-researched timeline that gives details of not only that woman’s life, but also with significant events that occurred during her lifetime. The timelines help tremendously to add context.

Moving chronologically from the birth of midwife Louise Bourgeois Boursier in 1563 to the death of chemist and drug discoverer Gertrude Elion in 1999, the author has taken a novel look at the accomplishments of these women. For example, Florence Nightingale is known for her nursing skills, but Noyce suggests those skills were improved by Nightingale’s reliance on statistics and evidence-based research.

Magnificent Minds will thrill those interested in history, particularly the history of STEM and medicine. It would also make a good choice for encouraging girls and young women to pursue STEM careers.

Stop by Growing with Science for a challenge to see if you can recognize three groundbreaking women in STEM.



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.

Alphabet Trains

Alphabet Trains
written by Samantha R. Vamos; illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke
2015 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Around the world, from land to sea,
trains work hard from A to Z.

Quick question. How many different trains can you name? Not companies, but actual trains. I know freight trains, monorails, and passenger trains. I should have named elevated train as well but I had to look in the book to be reminded. That’s it. Now, after readingAlphabet Trains, my knowledge has quadrupled. I like that kind of return when reading a nonfiction book. There are so many cool trains here. One of my favorites is the Hurricane Turn. That should be located in a warm weather climate, right? Well, you will actually find it in Alaska. In the back matter (terrific information!), I read that riders have to wave a white flag to stop the train. When they want to get off the train, they tell the conductor the milepost where they need to leave. I was interested enough to research this and learn more about the Hurricane Turn. That’s one of the beauties of this book. It’s going to lead to extra research by young readers and their families. Did you know there was a snow plow train? I never considered how snow would be removed from a train track. They have special blades that carve the snow, sends it through a chute, and blows it to one side of the track. After reading Alphabet Trains, readers will also ask questions that will lead to further research. As a kid, I lived off of nonfiction books with bite-sized information that led me to read other books.

Other than prompting further research, you could use this book for quick shared reading sessions with a reading group. Leave off the last word in the second sentence and see if students can provide it. They can use the last word in the previous sentence and context clues (the illustration) to try and come up with the missing word. This will help build vocabulary and prompt readers to practice using the tools they have to figure out new words. I think creating an alphabet book would also be a fun nonfiction writing challenge for 2nd-4th grade writers too. Punch your ticket now and join the Alphabet Trains!

Check out more posts about new books at NC Teacher Stuff.

Novels Can Promote STEM, Too

When we think of promoting STEM books for kids, we usually think of nonfiction. Fiction can play a role as well, however, especially for the middle-grade reader. Today at Wrapped in Foil blog we are highlighting an excellent example of a novel that promotes STEM.

In the middle-grade work Something Stinks! by Gail Hedrick the main character, Emily, is an aspiring writer who finds out that science can help answer tough questions.


The middle school years are a time of big changes. Emily is discovering that her friends are looking and behaving in unexpected ways, and she isn’t sure how to react. On top of that, piles of fish are dying in the river near her uncle and aunt’s farm, and Emily wants to know why. Is it run off from local farms, pesticides from a nearby golf course, or pollutants from a local factory that are causing the fish to die? Will she be able to solve the mystery without getting into trouble and losing all her friends?

This is the type of book that is likely to inspire readers who might otherwise avoid STEM to give it a chance because it reveals how science can have important real-world applications. At the same time the characters are not hardcore science whizzes, but kids who many middle-grade readers will find easy to recognize, with problems that are relatable.

The water are not always smooth as author sets up the characters and their conflicts in the beginning of the book. Once the story was underway, however, it becomes a compelling page turner. In fact, Something Stinks! was chosen by the National Science Teachers Association – Children’s Book Council’s Outstanding Science Committee as an Outstanding Science Trade Book in 2014.

Want to encourage a middle grade reader to appreciate science? Give Something Stinks! a try.

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.

Understanding Credit


Understanding Credit (Searchlight Books–How Do We Use Money?)
by Carla Mooney (Author)

Booktalk: It is easy to spend money when you have a credit card or a loan. But it is also easy to spend or borrow more than you can afford. How can you use credit responsibly? How can you avoid going into debt? Read this book to understand how credit works.

Snippet: A credit card lets you use debt to pay for something. When you use a credit card, you borrow money from a credit card company. You must pay back this money. Credit card companies also charge interest. Interest increases over time. The longer you take to pay back the money, the more you must pay.


It’s back to school shopping time–a teachable moment for a lesson on spending and credit! Try the Take the Spending Challenge and play a game to see how paying with cash or credit affects how much you owe.

Carla is one of my former students!

STEM Friday

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

Check out my new #kidlit #bookaday blog Writing Lessons for #6traits #mentortexts M-F.

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

A Tower of Giraffes

A Tower of Giraffes:Animals in Groups
written and illustrated by Anna Wright
2015 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
Available starting September 8th

A Drove of Pigs
Pigs like to spend time with other pigs-they are very social. Groups, called droves, are led by females, called sows. Within a drove, some pigs sleep beside the same companion for many years. 

Is that wallpaper? That was my first reaction when I saw the striking cover of A Tower of Giraffes. Then I went into full blast teacher craft mode (Can I trademark that phrase?) and thought about how cool it would be to use wallpaper samples to create animal pictures with second graders. When I opened the book and looked through the illustrations, I also saw watercolors, fabric, and feathers used to illustrate other groups of animals. My eyes feasted on these beautiful and original illustrations. After recovering from near craft hyperventilation (NCH), I began to pay attention to the text and notice all the new facts that I was learning. Look at the paragraph highlighted above. Did you know that the sows led groups of pigs? I didn’t. I also wasn’t aware of how social they were. That’s two new pieces of information in a small paragraph. There’s a lot of animal information that your students will collect from A Tower of Giraffes. Furthermore, you can use this book to teach collective nouns. Check out the vocabulary below:

How great is it to learn the word flamboyance? After reading A Tower of Giraffes, I would challenge students to research and find more collective nouns related to animals. You can create a chart in your classroom. Kids will be flying to their computers at home to add to the list. If excellent illustrations, new animal information, and fun grammar lessons weren’t enough, then might I suggest main idea and supporting details? The first sentence of these paragraphs gives the name of the group and the following sentences are supporting details. This informational text is the total package! It can score, make assists and gather rebounds. A Tower of Giraffes is to informational text as LeBron James is to basketball. If you think I’m bathing in hyperbole with that analogy, check out this book and decide for yourself.
You can find more book posts at NC Teacher Stuff.