STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books

How Things Work

How Things Work
by T.J. Resler (Author)

Booktalk: Ever wanted to take apart the microwave to see how it works? Crack open your computer and peek inside? Intrigued by how things work? So are we! That’s why we’re dissecting all kinds of things from rubber erasers to tractor beams! Read along as National Geographic Kids unplugs, unravels, and reveals how things do what they do.

Touchy Subject
Touching a screen is a handy way to control a tablet. But how can a tablet understand what you’re tapping and swiping with your fingers?

Tablets read your touches by sensing electrical charges. No shocks involved.

E. M. Forster

Long before 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Trek, writer E. M. Forster envisioned a type of tablet. In his 1909 science-fiction story “THE MACHINE STOPS,” people communicated through handheld round plates, a type of live video call.

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

Copyright © 2016 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

Plants Can’t Sit Still

Plants Can’t Sit Still
written by Rebecca E. Hirsch; illustrated by Mia Posada
2016 (Millbrook Press)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Some plants sleep at night, leaves nodding, flowers folding.

With apologies to R.E.M.

That’s great, plants start with a wiggle, squirm and reaching for the light.
I think this book is out of sight.
Creeping and slithering underground
Crawling through grass all around.
Up a fence, up a wall
Opening up as night falls.
Rolling around as a tumbleweed
Erupting in the air with its seeds.
Ride a bear, ride a fox,
Sticking on your dad’s socks.
Whirl like a copter,
Float as a seed,
Here are the origins of a tree.

It shows plants can’t sit still and now I know it.
It shows plants can’t sit still and now I know it.
It shows plants can’t sit still and now I know it.
And I feel fine!

Option #1 – I ask students to predict and talk/write in pairs about why this is the title of the book before reading.
Option #2 – Pull out a big ol’ piece of chart paper and ask K-1 students how plants can move. Then I revisit the chart paper after reading the book.
Option #3 – A P.E. or classroom teacher can do a brain break by having students move like a plant in the different ways shown in the book. “Float like seed!” “Now, tumble, tumble, tumble like a weed.”
Option #4 – Use four or six pages and identify the vivid verbs.

This is a terrific book that marries science and vivid verbs better than a Vegas chapel full of Elvis impersonators. And the back matter rocks with in-depth information about each of the plants in the book. Plant this book in your read-aloud collection.

The LEGO Christmas Ornaments Book

The LEGO Christmas Ornaments Book: 15 Designs to Spread Holiday Cheer
by Chris McVeigh (Author)

Booktalk: Packed with step-by-step instructions for 15 charming builds, you’ll make classic globe and barrel ornaments, as well as original gingerbread houses, a merry Santa, arcade cabinets, and many more. The perfect family activity for the holiday season.


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

Copyright © 2016 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.


National Geographic’s “Explore my world” is a series  aimed at curious preschoolers.  There are a bunch out there featuring frogs, baby animals, koalas… and this one:



by Jill Esbaum

32 pages; ages 3-7

NGK, 2016.

Here’s how it begins: “A tiger! She prowls the steamy jungle on padded paws. This tiger is hungry. Stay hidden, buffalo. Watch out, wild pigs.”

Simple language tells about a tiger’s life. Active words in large type begin each topic. For example, “Chase!” for tiger on the hunt, and “Cuddle” for a description of how mama tiger cares for her cups. Facts are highlighted in “circle” text boxes scattered throughout the book, and every page is illustrated with high-quality photos.

I also like the interactive pages. There’s a spread that compares tigers and house cats. A big difference: tigers enjoy swimming and pet cats usually don’t! Another spread illustrates similarities between tigers and house cats. And there’s a matching game at the end.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for a review of a chapter book about animal friends.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2016 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

Super Gear

Super Gear: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up
written by Jennifer Swanson
2016 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Nanotechnology is the science of things at the nanoscale. It deals with microscopic particles called nanoparticles. Nano- means “one-billionth,” so a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter.

Bigger is not always better. With nanotechnology, the little guy is the winner. Two key quotes from page four of the fascinating book Super Gear explain why. Smaller particles fit more tightly together than large particles, increasing the strength of the material and Atoms within a smaller particle also attract one another with greater force, resulting in stronger atom-to-atom bonds. The tighter bonds make for a much more durable substance. The manipulation of these nanoparticles has created gear in the sports world that puts Pierre de Coubertin’s quote, Swifter, higher, stronger, on its head. But you can’t talk about the super suits in swimming before you understand the why. Author Jennifer Swanson gets this so she explains in the first chapter how all of it works. Scientists are able to move nanoparticles with the use of a laser beam from an optical nanotweezer. What are the results of this work? Swimsuits that produced such fast times in the pool that the technology had to be curbed. The nanotech suits cut down on the drag from the water. This also works in track and field, cutting down times by as much as two hundredths of a second. That’s enough to separate winners and losers. Other sports equipment that has been enhanced by nanotechnology includes baseball bats, golf clubs, and tennis racquets. Think about the changes in what we wear to play our games. It’s no longer enough to slap on a sport gray t-shirt. Your 5K time will be slower than the runner who has the cool sweat-resistant shirt. Before you talk about sports “back in my day” and chase kids off your lawn, it’s not just the reduction of time or increase in distance that nanotechnology has affected. It’s also making sports safer with better helmets and running tracks that cut down on injury.

Speaking of little spaces, it’s almost impossible to include all of the cool details from Super Gear in this blog rectangle. It will change the way you look at your favorite sport. I’m watching Chiefs-Raiders right now and thinking about helmets and uniforms instead of my beloved fantasy team. Wonder why we have so many highlights of great catches by receivers? Is it the gloves, money? In children’s literature, we have a lot of biographies of sports figures, but not very much in the way of sports science. This interesting mix of science and sports will hopefully lead to more texts like Super Gear in the near future.

Busy Builders, Busy Week!


Busy Builders, Busy Week!
by Jean Reidy (Author) and Leo Timmers (Illustrator)

Booktalk: A cast of animal characters are building a brand-new playground in a local park for their community! Each day of the week contains a different construction plan as the steam-rolling, digging, and planting gets underway. (Available as a picture book and a board book.)




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


Octopus Escapes Again!

octopus-escapes-againOctopus Escapes Again!

by Laurie Ellen Angus

32 pages, ages 4-10

Dawn Publications, 2016

Octopus is very hungry. She peeks to the right. Peeks to the left. And dashes from her den into the deep, dark sea.

Will she eat today? Or be eaten?

When a turtle spies Octopus, Octopus squeezes into a shell. Threatened by an eel, Octopus releases her “secret weapon” – a cloud of dark ink.

What I like about this book: It’s a fun look at a predator on the hunt, but one who must also escape predation. Laurie Angus shows us many ways Octopus escapes.

I like the layered text: large text tells the story of Octopus’s journey. Smaller, italicized text goes into detail about the particular adaptation Octopus uses, from ink to jet propulsion to camouflage.

I LOVE the back matter. There is a section called “Explore More for Kids”, with more info about the Octopus, and tasty tidbits about her prey  – and predators. Plus a warning to never wrestle with an Octopus. There’s even more stuff for teachers and parents: a story about Laurie’s first encounter with an octopus and some activities.

Check out Beyond-the-Book activities over at Archimedes Notebook.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2016 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.