STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books


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Science is lyrical: STEM Friday

Science Is Real!

If you have any interest in children and science, technology, engineering, and math, you owe it yourself to buy They Might Be Giants’ “Science Is Real” album (with videos for every song). And if you hear a tune when I say “The sun is a mass of incandescent gas,” then you really must buy it because, as they say, “that thesis has been rendered invalid.”

I love the first song on the album (above) because when they sing “the facts are with science,” it’s true of course, but it’s truth wrapped in imagination and make believe and carried along by the tools of art. Making up stories is often the best way—sometimes the only way—to tell ourselves what is “true.”

“When I’m seeking knowledge, either simple or abstract, the facts are with science,” goes the song, proving that yes, the facts are with science, but their delivery depends on art

Kate Hosford and Gabi Swiatkowska’s Infinity & Me was a project born in this spirit: take a painfully abstract mathematical concept and make the facts of it resonate through the art of the picture book.

And so we were very please to learn yesterday that Infinity & Me  is a finalist for the Bank Street College’s Cook Prize, honoring “the best science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) picture book published for children aged eight to ten.”

  Anna Cavallo, Zach Marell—the book’s editor and designer respectively–and I are very proud of this honor for Kate and Gabi’s book. It represents a core value of our picture book program at Carolrhoda.

-Andrew Karre, editorial director of Carolrhoda Books

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

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The Drop in My Drink

The-Drop-in-My-Drink-Hooper-Meredith-9780670876181Water.  We love it, we need it, we all depend on it. “All the water we have is all the water we’ve always had…”  and so begins the story of where the water dripping slowly out of the tap in my kitchen came from, and where it is going.

Meredith Hooper and Chris Coady wrote a beautiful story when they created The Drop in My Drink.  But fantastical as this lengthy picture book is, it is also true. The water on Earth is as old as the planet itself, and yet also timeless. This book explores how every drop of water has cycled through the rivers, the ice sheets, the oceans, and the waves on its endless path around and around. It forms life, it is carried by wind, and it has soaked through countless bodies of penguins and dinosaurs and sunflowers.  And inevitably, it drips through each of us.

This book was published in 1998 and has big words like erodingsubstancesmicroorganisms, and evaporated, and tackles concepts like 390 million years ago, and how limestone caves form. But I read this book to my Earth Champs/Scouts group last weekend, and the young five to nine year olds were impressed by the story.  Impressed because they got it, they understood. Even with all those big words. With some stopping here and there for comments from both the other adults in the room and by our group’s very smart kids, we waded happily through the water cycle.  

While I admit my throat was a bit dry when I was done reading aloud, I felt like we all had gone on a journey. An amazing journey around the earth on a tiny droplet of water. More than anything this book gives its readers a sense of our place in the world. We are made of water, it flows through us, and it always has, and always will.

 

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STEM Friday: Understanding Natural Disasters

NaturalDisasters_Cvr_500pxUnderstanding Natural Disasters
By Kathleen Reilly
Illustrated by Tom Casteel
Nomad Press

Much of the East Coast is still reeling from the infamous Frankenstorm that struck our shores this past October. As its storm-nickname suggests, Hurricane Sandy was a bizarre and indomitable intermixing of atmospheric events. Because its path was so atypical, its magnitude felt that much more frightening. It’s not often a hurricane of such strength spirals toward the Big Apple, the most populated city in the United States at 19 million people.

Natural disasters remind us of our vulnerability as a species. They remind us that we cannot control everything. They remind us that we can do our best to prepare for the worst, but even our best defenses are not imperishable in the face of nature.  And they probably never will be. In reality, New Orleans will never be completely safe from flooding, and the Jersey shore will probably get hit again.

But what if we can understand these disasters better? What if we can at least get a stronger and stronger grip on how and why they form? Advances in technology have helped us to predict earthquakes and hurricanes much more accurately than just ten years ago. Advances in engineering have helped us to better protect what we love—our family, friends, homes, towns and cities.

Natural disasters are a pertinent STEM topic, relating to how and why they occur as well as how we can build defenses to protect ourselves against them. That’s why we’re featuring our book, Natural Disasters: Investigate Earth’s Most Destructive Forces with 25 Projects for STEM Friday this week. This title introduces young readers to nature’s most common and destructive disasters throughout history, explains what causes them, describes their impact on civilizations, and tells how people today cope with natural disasters. Readers are taught the science behind these natural events, and then challenged to put their technology and engineering skills to use as they build a wind tunnel, experiment with wind speed, and construct a shake table.

Among other things, this book teaches readers that the more we know, the more we can do, which is very much a STEM theme!

Today’s post is part of STEM Friday, a weekly round-up of children’s science, engineering, math and technology books.

Join STEM Friday! We invite you to join us!

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Happy STEM Friday to all! Jane at Nomad


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Snow School

Snow School

written by Sandra Markle; illustrated by Alan Marks
2013 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Two snow leopard cubs sleep in a den in the Hindu Kush Mountains of Pakistan. They are waiting for their mother to bring back food. The boy cub awakes and decides to explore outside the cave. His first lesson learned almost turns out to be his last lesson as a golden eagle approaches the cub. Fortunately for him, his mother arrives in time to swat at the eagle and chase it away. The beginning to Sandra Markle’s narrative tale of two endangered cubs grabs you and leads you to further reading as you want to learn about the early life of these snow leopards. We follow the cubs as they learn to play and observe their mother hunting. She teaches them many lessons. Rubbing your cheek against a boulder leaves a scent to tell other leopards that this is your hunting ground. Students will make the connection to a house cat rubbing against their owner’s leg. Another lesson taught is to be quiet while you are hunting. Noisy play is fun, but it can also lead to empty stomachs as potential prey is scared away. Challenging terrain and speedy potential meals like the ibex mean a snow leopard also has to be fast and able to stay on its feet as it pursues food in the rugged mountains. As the female and male cubs grow, they learn other lessons about guarding food, picking your battles, and keeping away from humans. Before too long, they are ready to leave and start their own families.

The beauty of Snow School lies in Sandra Markle’s storytelling. Each lesson learned by the cubs is an engaging read. There are plenty of facts imparted, but you get good storytelling as well which makes it more interesting than a straight up informational text. Alan Marks’s illustrations of these beautiful animals will hook readers as well. This book would be a great resource for an animal report. It would be a good challenge for students to have to glean facts from the narrative instead of having the information dropped in their laps. Snow School will teach many students about a fascinating animal in an unfamiliar setting.

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STEM Friday: One Times Square

At the heart of New York City lies the junction of Seventh Avenue and Broadway, perhaps the most well known intersection in the world.


As a kid, I stayed awake on New Year’s Eve and watched the ball drop in New York City’s Times Square at midnight. I was fascinated by all the billboards and the crowds of people. One Times Square provides the intriguing history behind one of the world’s most famous pieces of real estate. Broadway started out as a dirt path with the name of Bloomingdale Road. Near the end of the 19th century, theater impresario Oscar Hammerstein built two theaters in this area which led to several other theater owners to follow and create what is now known as Broadway. In 1904, the New York Times built its new headquarters on the intersection at an impressive height of 395 feet. This prompted Mayor George B. McClellan to crown the area as Times Square. Author Joe McKendry takes readers on an exciting journey through the following hundred years as the square serves as an information hub before television and the computer age take hold. I was particularly interested in the workings of the “Zipper” sign which broadcast breaking news on a five foot electronic panel. There are so many iconic images contained in the pages of this wonderful book.

One of big themes of social studies is change over time. One Times Square would be a great resource to track U.S. history over the last century. McKendry documents the decaying of the square during the 60’s and 70’s and its resurgence in the ’80s. Older students can read this part of the text and discuss the pros and cons of urban revitalization. Before you watch the ball drop next Monday night, you should go and find a copy of One Times Square and amaze your friends and family with the interesting history of the area.

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

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Awards for STEM titles

Each year, two organizations call attention to fantastic STEM books for children–the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Science Teachers Association.

What do they recommend for 2012? Take a look:

AAAS

NSTA

Join STEM Friday!

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Olivia’s Birds

Olivia’s Birds: Saving the Gulf

by Olivia Bouler

32 pages, ages 7 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2011

To 13-year old Olivia Bouler, birds are fascinating, unique and intriguing. She’s been watching birds – and drawing them – for most of her life, from her backyard on Long Island (NY) to the rocky Maine coast to the sandy beaches of the Gulf Coast.

When the BP oil spill happened in April, 2010, Bouler worried for the birds. She knew that oily water would spell disaster for nesting, and she wanted to do something to help. But what can an 11-year old do to save birds?

Then she had an idea: she would sell bird drawings to raise money to save the birds. She pens a letter to the Audubon Society explaining that she is a “decent drawer” and plans to sell pictures of birds to raise money for bird rescue. In the first month she received 500 requests for paintings and raised more than $150,000.

Bouler’s book – which she wrote later that year – is part field guide, part oil-spill story. She writes about – and draws – birds that live in the woods, near the water, or in your back yard.

“You may not notice the birds around you, but there are lots of them right outside your window,” she writes. Bouler describes how birds learn to fly (from their parents), shows different habitats (forest, wetlands) and draws pictures of the weirdest, wackiest birds she’s heard of – like the scissor-tailed flycatcher.

She writes about the importance of helping birds and lists what she would do if she were President of the US: stop deforestation, use cleaner energy, and put the “eco” back into the economy.

“Even though I’m not, I know that I can make a difference,” writes Bouler. “And so can you. Kids CAN do important things to preserve our earth.” Things like putting up a bird feeder, composting egg shells and orange peels, and recycling and conserving the things we use.

Check out a talk with Olivia at Archimedes Notebook and Olivia’s facebook page.