STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books


Celebrate and Learn About Water

World Water Day is March 22!

 

Water Rolls, Water Rises, Children's Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low Books, 2014

Water Rolls, Water Rises, Children’s Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low Books, 2014

Water Rolls, Water Rises/ El agua rueda, el agua sube (nonfiction, poetry) Interest level: grades 1–6

by Pat Mora, illustrated by Meilo So

In a series of poetic verses in English and Spanish, readers learn about the movement and moods of water around the world and the ways in which water affects varied landscapes and cultures.

Themes: Water & Hydrosphere, Human Activity & Impact, Human Relationship to Water, Geography, Cultural Diversity

Before reading

Ask students what they know about water. What do you know about the water cycle (local vs. global scale)? Describe water using each of your five senses. How do people use water? How is water important to life on Earth?

Questions during reading

  • Describe how water connects humans across cultures and continents based on Water Rolls, Water Rises.
  • Study how people in the book interact with the water around them. What states of water are most useful to people? Why? What are the benefits of living near water?
  • What does this book teach us about humans’ place in the natural world? What does this book teach us about the water cycle?
  • The author, Pat Mora, has spent most of her life in the Southwest desert region of the United States. How do you think living in that environment influenced her to write a book about water?

World Water DayActivity Suggestions:

  1. Pair Water Rolls, Water Rises with another title to learn about various ways humans use and rely on water. What suggestions do these books offer to take care of water environments?
  • Cycle of Rice, Cycle of Life: A Story of Sustainable Farming
  • Everglades Forever: Restoring America’s Great Wetland
  • The Woman Who Outshone the Sun
  • I Know the River Loves Me
  1. Have students research the water cycle. How does water travel from one part of the world to another? Now take a look again at Water Rolls, Water Rises. Which verses and illustrations demonstrate precipitation? Evaporation? Collection? etc.
  2. With students, try some of the in-class science experiments about water that the American Museum of Natural History created for its “Water: H2O=Life” exhibit.
  3. Provide students with a world map. (An outline of a Robinson projection world map can be downloaded here for reproduction.) Ask students to mark on the map the location of each place featured in the book. In addition, have students identify and label the seven continents, five major oceans, and the largest lake and river on each continent. Students should also mark their location on the map. Discuss what a compass rose is and the purpose it serves on a map. Students may also build their own maps at National Geographic Education’s MapMaker 1-Page Maps.
  4. Have students with their families make a list of all the things that they do in a day that require water. If you suddenly didn’t have water at your home, where could you go to get water? Estimate how much water you use in a day and reflect on what you would do if you had to live without running water.
  5. Imagine an alien from a planet without water is visiting your classroom. Have students describe, in a letter to the alien guest, what water is and the features of water. How do humans use water? Where do humans get water? What makes water special? What would happen to people, plants, animals, and weather if Earth didn’t have water?

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

Copyright © 2015 Jill Eisenberg. All Rights Reserved.

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If … A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers

If… A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers by David J. Smith.  Illustrations by Steve Adams.  Kids Can Press, 2014.

If you’re familiar with If the World Were a Village (also from Kids Can Press), then you’ll understand the context in which If introduces large concepts.

Take “Your Life,” for example.  On a two-page spread, a large Sicilian-style pizza is depicted on a table surrounded by several happy children and one salivating dog,

If your whole life could be shown as a jumbo pizza, divided into 12 slices …

4 slices would be the time you spend in school or at work

1 slice would be spent shopping, caring for others and doing things around home

4 slices would be the time you spend getting ready to sleep and sleeping,

etc., until all twelve slices have been accounted for.

Other concepts featured are:

“Inventions Through Time” – depicted on a 36″ measuring tape

“Our Galaxy” – presented on a dinner plate

“Water” – represented by 100 water glasses

and 12 others.

In each case, care is taken to equate the concept to something with which children will be familiar.  This is a great way to place an intangible concept into a simple object that a child can hold within her hand.

Suggested for grades 3 – 6.  See an interior preview of If at the publisher’s website.

 

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Books for Left-brained Kids

On Wednesday, I wrote a post about the pros and (oh, yes!) cons of narrative nonfiction on my personal blog, Celebrate Science. It led to so much discussion on Twitter, that I thought I’d explore my evolving ideas a little more here.

So we all know that lately narrative nonfiction is getting a lot of buzz in the kidlit community. Editors look for it. Awards committees honor it. Teachers and librarians buy it. And yet, by and large, kids just don’t seem to be drawn to it.

Now there are lots of possible reasons for that, but today I’d like to talk about what kinds of nonfiction school librarians tell me elementary kids do love. They pick it themselves, and they read it enthusiastically.

#1 The Gunniess Book of World Records

#2 Anything like The Gunniess Book of World Records, such as the National Geographic’s Kids Everything books

#3 Any book on any topic they are interested in, whether it’s an award-winning book or not. All that matters is the topic—dirt bikes, snowboarding, spiders, dinosaurs, monsters, cars, UFOs, ghosts, swords.

These books generally don’t win awards. They aren’t the ones the adult kidlkit community gets excited about. And for the most part, they aren’t the books editors are actively seeking out. Why is that?

Frankly, I think the answer has to do with brain chemistry. Yep, I’m serious.

Think about it. Most editors and librarians and elementary teachers and kidlit advocates have brains that work in a particular way. They are naturally drawn to the arts and humanities and social sciences. They are right-brain thinkers.

But there is a whole different way of interacting with and experiencing the world. Left-brain thinkers are straight-line thinkers–scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and computer programmers. Logic, not emotion, rules in the land of the analytical.

Left-brain thinkers love reading and sharing The Guinness Book of World Records and other just-the-facts books because these titles are chockful of what they love best– data. Kids can use the information they gather in these books to learn about the world and its possibilities and their place in it. And that’s what they want more than anything.

IMHO, these kids aren’t drawn to narrative (fiction or nonfiction) in the same way that right-brained kids (and adults, such as most book editors and elementary teachers and librarians and kidlit advocates are). They don’t crave an emotional connection with the main character in a novel or a central figure in a biography. They want the data, and then they will interpret it for themselves.

But right-brained kids aren’t reading narrative nonfiction. They are perfectly content with novels. And so that leaves narrative nonfiction sitting on a shelf.

So here’s my take home message: I strongly believe that left-brain thinkers are currently being underserved by the kidlit community. We need to honor and nurture their analytical minds by:

–appreciating the value of existing books that meet the needs of these students

–purchasing more books that will appeal to them (even if they don’t appeal to us)

–creating more books that help them understand the world and its possibilities and their place in it.

If we want a strong STEM workforce in the future, we need to meet the needs of curious left-brained thinkers today.

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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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Top Awards for STEM Titles

Top Awards for STEM Titles

By Melissa Stewart

While I was presenting at the SCBWI summer conference in Los Angeles, I couldn’t help but ask my audience a question I’ve been thinking about for a long time: Why don’t STEM titles seem to win the BIG awards in children’s literature as often as social studies titles? One person in the audience was so intrigued by my question that she asked me to lunch. Needless to say, we had quite a discussion.

When I tossed out that question on the spur of the moment, I didn’t have any data to back me up. (I know what you’re thinking. What kind of scientists am I?) But recently, I’ve looked back over past winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, and Sibert and tallied the nonfiction winners.

The Newbery was created in 1922, and the Caldecott was created in 1938. I reviewed the medalists and honor winners since 1995. The Silbert was created in 2001, so I tallied the winners since its inception.

Here are the results:

Newbery
Medal
Caldecott
Medal
Sibert
Medal
Total
biography 0 2 6 8
history 0 1 5 6
STEM 0 0 1 1
Newbery   Honor CaldecottHonor SibertHonor Total
biography 3 10 16 29
history 7 0 9 16
STEM 1 3 7 11

I have to admit that when I’ve read through these lists in the past, I came away with the impression that history titles had STEM beat hands down. But a closer look shows that history is only the clear leader among Newberys. Biographies are the big winners overall with a total score of 37 (8 medalists, 29 honors) overall. While history (22 overall) and STEM (12 overall) trail behind.

Then I took a closer look at the people featured in the biographies. It turns out that 23 are key historical figures and 8 are scientists. The rest are artists or musicians.

So why don’t STEM boosk win their fair share of accolades? What do you think?

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STEM Friday: Science Experiments

The Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize is the UK’s only award solely for books about science for children and young people. One of the book’s on this year’s shortlist is Science Experiments by Robert Winston and Ian Graham.

Essentially a book of recipes for experiments which kids and families can do at home, this book makes for a tantalising read. Divided into 5 sections covering “The Material World”, “Forces and Motion”, Energy in Action”, Electricity and Magnetism” and “The Natural World” there are 85 experiments, ranging from the very simple, requiring only things to hand in any kitchen (for example exploring changes of state, and how to avoid clouds in ice), to those which are more complicated, need time to prepare or specialist resources (like making your own metal detector, or creating bubbles with dry ice).

With nearly every page turn my 7 year old was pulling on my sleeve; “Can we do this? Can we do this one? Please, Mummy, pleeaaase?”. You can’t ask for a better response than that, if your aim is to get kids excited about science.

But just as you can’t review a cookery book without putting some recipes to the test, the most important way to find out what an experiments’ books is really like is to try out some of the activities.

We’ve done a good dozen of them by the time of writing this review and all the instructions have been very clear and easy to follow, with excellent results in all cases. The text is easy enough for my 7 year old to read herself, and the illustrations (a mixture of drawings and photographs) are clear and helpful, as well as inspiring.

However, quite a number of the experiments need either a fair amount of time in preparation (mostly in saving up junk that might otherwise have been thrown out) or for you to purchase materials which may not be cheap (e.g. powdered alum or phenolphthalein). It would be great if this book came with a list of suggested equipment and suppliers at the back (or linked online) so you could start stocking up and looking around for everything before handing over this book to your kids; it’s very demotivating if they read an experiment which they want to try but then can’t follow up their enthusiasm because the resources aren’t available.

I was also frustrated by the index. Having leafed through the entire book to get an idea of what we wanted to try, we couldn’t easily find the experiments on our mental check list using the index (for example, one activity involved eggs but the only experiment indexed under eggs was a different one entirely).

Despite these concerns, Science Experiments is a good book. It’s designed with elegance and clarity and simply looks much more appealing than other experiments-to-do-at-home type books we’ve read in the past.

We’ve learned lots together as a family as well as having fun, directly as a result of reading this book. My eldest has been very keen to both read the book and try out everything described inside its covers. But… I can’t call this a great book. Whilst Science Experiments by Robert Winston and Ian Graham probably does deserve to be on the shortlist for the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize, I don’t think it will ultimately be the winner.

NB. In the US this book is sold under a different title and with a different cover: in the US: Science Rocks!

Science Experiments
Robert Winston
Dorling Kindersley
Hardback : 01 Feb 2011
8 – 11 years
£14.99

My copy came from my bookshelves.




Claire Eamer at Sci/Why joins this week’s STEM Friday with a post about the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

Shirley at Simply Science offers us a review of I, Galileo by Bonnie Christensen

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STEM Books with an Autumn Theme

Looking for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books for children with an autumn theme? You have come to the right place!

Note:  The links to the book title will take you to full reviews at the blog indicated.

STEM Books with an Autumn Theme

Shirley at Simply Science starts us out with a review of the recently released picture book  Exploring Fall by Terri DeGezelle, part of the controlled vocabulary Exploring the Seasons Series. As usual, Shirley has some great suggestions for activities.

Shirley also suggests another book for younger readers, Count Down to Fall by Fran Hawk and illustrated by Sherry Neidigh. told in rhyme.

My contribution is Awesome Autumn by Bruce Goldstone.

Autumn isn’t just about fall foliage, it is also about getting ready for winter. Jeff at NC Teacher Stuff has Hibernation Station  written by Michelle Meadows and illustrated by Kurt Cyrus.

Sue at Archimedes Notebook reminds us about fall migrations with Butterfly Tree by Sandra Markle and illustrated by Leslie Wu. Sue also has a wonderful list of science/nature things to do in fall in her right sidebar.

Pam at Nomad Press is joining this week with Explore Weather and Climate! With 25 Great Projects by Kathleen M. Reilly and illustrated by Bryan Stone, for budding meteorologists and climatologists ages 6-9.

Anastasia has a lovely picture book A Leaf Can Be… by one of her former students, Laura Purdie Salas  and illustrated by Violeta Dabija at Booktalking.

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Lindsey Carmichael from Sci/Why in Canada has an off-topic post about evolution in digital organisms. Her colleague has a post about getting ready for winter in the far North, Harvest Time in the Forest.

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Thank you to everyone who has participated.

Join STEM Friday!

We invite you to join us!

  • Write about STEM each Friday on your blog.
  • Copy the STEM Friday button to use in your blog post.

STEM Friday

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

  • 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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