STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books


Books starring Koalas!

Koala, by Claire Saxby; illus. by Julie Vivas

32 pages; ages 4-8. Candlewick Press, 2017

In a high tree fork, a gray ball unfurls. Tall as a toddler, a sleepy young koala sniffs at leaves.

He’s hungry and it’s dinnertime. Climb, koala! Because up there – that’s where the yummy leaves are. Koala wants to snuggle with mom, but it’s time for him to find his own way. It’s time to find his own sleeping branch – even his own tree.

This is a wonderful story of growing up, leaving home, and learning to be independent. Koala faces challenges, but he finds a place of his own. I also like the different sizes of text on the page. Large, simple text is easier for younger readers, while more dense text meant for older readers provides more details about how koalas live and behave.

Climb, Koala! (NGK Readers series), by Jennifer Szymanski

24 pages; ages 2-5. National Geographic Children’s Books, 2017

Climb, koala! Koalas can climb high.

What I like about this book is the text – it’s in large font, and each page is illustrated with photos that complement the text. So when kids are reading about claws, they get a close-up look at the sharp koala claws. There’s a “Vocabulary tree” at the beginning – a word classification which divides featured words into things the koalas have (claws, fur) and what they do (climb, eat). There’s a matching game on the last page, too.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for some beyond-the-book activities.

 

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2017 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

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Beauty and the Beak

Beauty and the Beak: how science, technology, and a 3-D printed beak rescued a Bald Eagle. by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp

48 pages; ages 5-12; Persnickety Press, 2017

In a huge nest of twigs, high above an icy cold Alaskan river, a Bald Eagle chick cracked open her egg.

At first she’s covered in down. But soon her wings become longer and stronger. Bit by bit her feathers grow in. She’s a teen, taking test flights, and then off on her own. She hunts, eats, and soon is ready to fly back to the land where she was born. But one day she is shot in the face. A bullet shatters her beak, tears her eye, and leaves her bleeding.

“Beauty” is rescued and taken to a wildlife center where she can heal. But she can’t eat or drink because her beak hasn’t grown back. Then Janie, a raptor rehabilitator, takes Beauty to a raptor center in Idaho. She works with an engineer to try something crazy: create a prosthetic beak for the eagle – and make it with a 3-D printer! But would it work? It did, and Beauty learned to eat and drink again on her own.

What I like about this book: This is a true story of how engineering and technology come to the rescue! That would be enough, but there are 16 pages of back matter packed with details about Beauty’s beak and other prosthetic devices, as well as tons of facts about Bald Eagles.

I also like that this book comes out in the tenth anniversary year of the Bald Eagle being taken off the Endangered Species List. Even though they are no longer “endangered”, Bald Eagles still face many risks – especially from human activity. People shoot them, or the eagles collide with cars, trains, or power lines.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for some beyond-the-book activities.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2017 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.


Celebrating Biographies about Science Guys

Alexander Graham Bell Answers the Call, by Mary Ann Fraser

32 pages; ages 6-9. Charlesbridge, 2017

From the beginning, the world all around spoke to Alexander Graham Bell. And he listened.

He listened to the hustle and bustle of traffic on the streets, and the sound of the wind blowing through wheat. And because his father was a speech therapist and worked at home, Alec listened to the sounds and chants of the students. Which may have influenced his work as a teacher for the deaf, and his desire to invent a way for people to communicate over long distances.

What I like about this book: I love that the end papers show the history of the telephone and the informative charts Mary Fraser drops into the text (one shows how the ear works). And I like how she shows him growing up within a family where hearing and deafness were part of their lives. Fraser shows Alec discovering vibrations and then putting his discovery to use to communicate with his mom. What I like most of all is that the invention of the telephone took time and met with failures along the way. But Alec didn’t give up.

Newton’s Rainbow, by Kathryn Lasky; illus. by Kevin Hawkes

48 pages; ages 4-8. Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2017

On Christmas Day over three hundred years ago, in a village in England, a baby was born too early.

He was so tiny that no one expected him to live. But he did, and he was immensely curious. While a student, he boarded with the village apothecary. The shelves in the shop were crammed full of jars with fluids and powders, spiderwebs, and leeches. This is where he learned chemistry.

One day he was in a jumping competition. Being small, he waited for an extra-strong gust of wind to give him the boost he needed to get the longest jump. So he began his study of physics. He carved sundials, made models, and spent his days thinking – even when he was supposed to do farm work!

What I like about this book: It takes us right inside of Newton’s life and times. Kathryn Lasky tells us straight out what’s true and what’s “story”. There was an apple, she says, and it did indeed fall – but probably not on Newton’s noggin. She helps us see his thought process as he experiments with light and gravity.

Head over to Sally’s Bookshelf for some hands-on scientific beyond-the-book activities.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2017 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.


Super Women, six scientists who changed the world

Super Women, Six scientists who changed the world

by Laurie Lawlor

64 pages; ages 8-12

Holiday House, 2017

“Imagine being a highly trained astronomer who’s forbidden to look through a state-of-the-art telescope,” writes Laurie Lawler. Or that you’re an accomplished underwater cartographer not allowed on a research vessel, or a chemist not allowed to work in a research lab.

Not because you don’t have the skills – but only because you’re a woman. We’re not talking about women in science hundreds of years ago, but within our lifetime. Absurd, right? And yet, Lawlor has compiled half a dozen stories of real scientists who had to fight against gender discrimination to do their research. Her tales include:

  •     Eugenie  Clark, known as the “shark lady” – an oceanographer who dives into the sea to study sharks and other creatures living in the deep. Her research helped people understand that sharks can learn. Scientist, explorer, Clark authored more than 175 scholarly and popular science articles and been a champion of ocean conservation.
  •     Gertrude Elion shares the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology & Medicine with George Hitchings and Sir James Black. Her research contributes to drug treatment for cancers. But when she graduated in 1937 with high honors in chemistry, she was turned away from research labs because hiring a woman would be “too distracting”.
  •     Katherine Coleman Johnson served as a human “computer”, one of a team of mathematicians who helped send Alan B. Shepard, Jr. into orbit around Earth. As an African American woman and mathematician, she faced many obstacles working in the brand new space agency, whose technical staff was mostly white and male. In 2015, President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  •     Marie Tharp mapped underwater mountains, valleys, ridges, and plains. She was one of the first scientists to notice evidence for plate tectonics. Other researchers discounted her thoughts as “wacky ideas” and “girl talk”, but eventually she convinced them. She worked with another researcher to create the world ocean floor map.
  •     Florence Hawley Ellis wanted to be an archeologist, but men joked that she’d never find workers willing to follow her into the field. In addition to digging up artifacts, she collected information from Pueblo and Navajo elders about customs, stories, social organizations and more. She also noticed historical evidence of droughts and ongoing perils of climate change in the Southwest.
  •     Eleanor Margaret Burbidge is an astronomer who hunts deep-space objects. She viewed the first image of a quasar that was billions of light years from Earth. But in the early years of her career, institutes denied women access to telescopes because the living quarters were meant to be places where male astronomers wouldn’t be bothered by wives or family. She finagled a way to live off campus and use the telescope and has contributed greatly to the field of astronomy.

The book is filled with photos, and complemented with a glossary where you can quickly look up “quasar”.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2017 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.


Round

Round

by Joyce Sidman; illus. by Taeeun Yoo

32 pages; ages 4-7

HMH books for young readers, 2017

I love round things. I like to feel their smoothness. My hands want to reach around their curves.

Through the pages of this book a young girl explores things that are round in nature: seeds, eggs, berries… Round things spread. Round things roll.

What I like about this book: The diversity of round things! And the encouragement to look closer at the world around us. Also the reminder that some things that are round now were once jagged (like hills), and that some round things are ephemeral. And that some round things aren’t round all the time.

There is also Back Matter! You know how I like books with Back Matter! Why are so many things in nature round? Joyce Sidman gives a few reasons including: round shapes distribute weight, round helps spread seeds or spores, and round things roll – which helps with distribution.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for some Beyond the Book activities on Round Things.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2017 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.


Hurricane Scientists in the Field

In the United States, 10 million people live in hurricane danger zones. Given the storms of the past few weeks, I figured now would be the perfect time to introduce Amy Cherrix’s book – released this spring.

Eye of the Storm: NASA, drones, and the race to crack the hurricane code (Scientists in the Field Series), by Amy Sherrix (80 pages; ages 10-14; HMH, 2017)

Cherrix is no stranger to hurricanes, having survived the devastation of four major storms. So her first chapter, a story of a family caught by Hurricane Sandy (October, 2012) tingles with true life fight for survival. Sandy, you may recall, was a “frankenstorm” – a combined hurricane-snowstorm. Thought it was classified as a category 1 hurricane (Irma was category 5, Harvey a category 4) it was much larger. Sandy measured 1100 miles across and affected 24 states, from Maine to Florida and as far west as Michigan and Wisconsin. While the coast suffered from rain and storm surge, inland areas were buried in three feet of snow.

The thing is, meteorologists can, using weather satellites and early warning systems, see hurricanes taking shape days – sometimes weeks – before they make landfall. Cherrix introduces us to the researchers behind the science and tools that meteorologists depend on. But first, she gives us a physics lesson in hurricane formation.

Did you know that Atlantic hurricanes are “born” in the driest place on earth? They come from the Sahara Desert, and some of that desert dust may affect the intensity of the hurricane. Cyclonic storms are forming all around the earth all times of the year. We may not be able to stop them from forming, says Cherrix, but we can certainly learn more about how they grow and change. And while she points out that we can’t control the force (or intensity) of these storms, there are some who say that our contributions to climate change has done just that. “A warming planet means wetter storms, higher storm surges and more intense hurricanes, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory,” explains a recent article in the Houston Chronicle.

Eye of the Storm reads like a science adventure. We meet the scientists who follow the data that their probes send back. Some of those are dropsondes,  probes that fall through the storm and measure pressure, temperature, humidity, wind speed, and gps locations. They also send out thousands of rapid light pulses each second that scatter off particles in the storm and are bounced back to an instrument that reads the data. There are drone pilots on the ground and an in-air pilot to keep an eye in the sky.

At the end, Cherrix has an emergency preparedness checklist: an evacuation kit to put together before the storm, how to prepare for pet evacuations, and what to do after the storm. There’s also a great list of apps for smart phones and tablets, and more.


Can an aardvark Bark?

by Melissa Stewart; illustrated by Steve Jenkins

Can an Aardvark Bark?

No, but it can grunt. Lots of other animals grunt too.

This is such a fun book, filled with barks, squeals, grunts, roars, and whines. Also bellows, growls, and laughs. Animals, it turns out, make all kinds of sounds. For all kinds of reasons – and Melissa gives us an inside look at what those sounds mean.

What I like LOVE about this book: The sounds! If you’re reading it out loud, expect your listeners to bellow, roar, grunt, and bark along with the animals. Every page if filled with SOUND – and plenty of examples of animals that make those sounds. Did you know that frogs bark and rats chortle? OK, I’ve heard frogs bark and quack, but laughing? I haven’t heard wild things laugh, chortle, or giggle with glee. But they do and Melissa gives us the facts.

I love the illustrations! Steve Jenkins does such spectacular work, and it’s always fun to open up a new book filled with his cut-and-torn-paper artwork.

And then there’s the structure! This is subtle and it took me a couple pages to realize what was going on – but then I discovered a pattern to the questions and the answers.I don’t want to spoil the fun of discovering it yourself.

But the best thing? Readers learn that animals use a diverse array of sounds to communicate their thoughts and feelings. Just like people do. This is the perfect book to share with a kid who dreams of becoming a translator for their dog, cat, snake, goldfish, or pet rock. OK, maybe not the rock…

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for some Beyond the Book activities, and on Monday hop over to the GROG Blog where Melissa will share her story of how lo-o-o-ong it took to go from idea to book.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2017 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.