STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books


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Muskrat Will Be Swimming

Muskrat Will Be Swimming, by Cheryl Savageau, illustrated by Robert Hynes, is one of those classic old school picture books from the 1990’s. It has more words per page than most picture books have per book these days. But I found this story to be a perfect blend of fiction, Native American hmuskrateritage, and natural science.

A muskrat is similar to a beaver, in that it is a water mammal that lives in marsh and lake habitats. While there is extensive information on muskrats at the back of the book, and there are internet links to information for teachers wishing to find out how to teach about this story, the basis of the book is not science about muskrats. Rather it is about a girl who is in love with her home near a lake where nature is still wild and muskrats are busily leading their lives. Yet, even as she appreciates the wilderness surrounding her home, she struggles with her experiences at school, where the other kids make fun of her and what they think of as a gross place to live.

With the help of her Grandpa and a Native American legend, the girl learns to find confidence in her place in the natural world.

The highlight of the book for me is the beautifully, and scientifically accurate, depictions of the lake environment and creatures. Robert Hynes’ artwork is meticulous and brings depth and life to this story. I’m a sucker for nature art, and this book is a perfect one to pull me in.

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

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A Rock Is Lively

rockA Rock is Lively by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long, published by Chronicle Books, is the fourth book in the series by this team. I enjoyed the other ones, but having some experience with geology, and my own significant rock collection, I found this newest book to be particularly compelling.

One does not generally think of rocks as particularly lively, but Aston’s words, and Long’s illustrations take us on a journey around the earth (and even into space!) to see just how varied and changing and full of life rocks really are. The illustrations are perfection, full of color and detail, and capture the essence of a wide variety of rocks. Everything from the “mixed up” Lapis Lazuli, to the “galactic” rocks that fall from space, to the stunning insides of geodes are offered up to the reader with gusto. Aston’s words are poetic and yet simple. She skillfully captures the facts that make this book nonfiction, while at the same time giving them to us with a bright and clear voice.

I loved this book, and I think it might be my favorite of theirs. It is a beautiful example of nonfiction picture book done well. And one that my son and I can read again and again, continuing to be amazed at the stunning liveliness of rocks.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2013 Amanda K. Jaros All Rights Reserved.


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The Chiru of High Tibet

One of the things I love about picture books is the growing trend right now towards creative nonfiction stories. Real stories that are brought to life in colorful, easy-to-read, and narrative ways. The Chiru of High Tibet by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Linda S. Wingerter, is one of these books.

I found this book, published in 2010, to be a perfect meshing of fact and narrative. The story has an arc, has suspense, has characters we care about, all the while giving us information on an animal species most of us probably have never heard of, and a region of the world that we probably will never go to. Some of the facts are woven into the story, but there are also subtle side boxes to give us even more.

Chiru are deer or antelope like animals, living live in the mountainous Chang Tang region of Northern Tibet, whose fur is extremely soft and luxurious. The chiru migrate through the mountains each year to an unknown location to birth and raise their babies. People did not know where this area was, but when they discovered that the fur made a wonderfully warm wrap, they were quite able to kill the adults in their summer lands.  Eventually, like many other species in a similar situation, this population began to lessen. The crux of the book asks “In the wide, unpeople plains, who would care if the chiru disappeared?”

Who cares, is what the rest of the story is about. It tells of one man who tried to find and protect the chiru calving grounds, but failed. Then there was the expedition of four explorers who took up that quest to protect the chiru. They trekked across Tibet through harsh conditions to follow the chiru to the calving grounds, and find a way to protect this land.

This book is nonfiction, done in a creative way. I may never see a chiru in high Tibet, but this picture book made me care about them, made me wonder just how soft that chiru fur is, and made me quickly turn each page to find out what happens next in their story.

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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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  • Link your post to the comments of our weekly STEM Friday Round-up. (Please use the link to your STEM Friday post, not the address of your blog. Thanks!)

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