This month’s theme looks at transportation–something students might think as ordinary. But as the books we’re highlighting show, plaines, trains, and automobiles have rich histories and lots of science going on. They’re perfect starting points for different science activities and discussions in the classroom. Here are a few to try.
Save the Crash-test Dummies by Jen Swanson, illustrated by Tamika Grooms
Explore how autos are made even safer by using crash-test dummies for design. An entertaining look at the history of car production, as well as the science and engineering behind these machines we can’t seem to live without.
- Make a timeline of the evolution of the car bumper.
- Research the science behind how car bumpers absorb energy from a crash. Have students design the ultimate car bumper, listing what it can do during a crash and labeling its parts on a drawing.
- Have students imagine a crash-test dummy’s perspective of being tested in a car crash. They can make a comic or write a story about the dummy’s experience.
- Watch “The Physics of Seat Belts” video from the Smithsonian Channel and ask students to list three reasons why seat belts are important. Have them make a public safety poster about why it is important to always wearing a seat belt when riding in a car. They should include their reasons on the poster.
Milestones of Flight: From Hot Air Balloons to Space Ship One by Tim Grove
Grove gives readers a look into transportation history and science in this book. Illustrated with photographs, documents, and diagrams from the Smithsonian’s collection.
- Did one inventor make flight possible? No, like many inventions, the ideas developed from one inventor to another. Ask students to pair up and discuss how two different inventors added to the history of flight.
- Who was Charles Lindbergh? What did Robert Goddard do? This book is filled with interesting people vital to the development of flight. Students can pick one and research that person. Then have them act as their character, wearing a costume if they’d like, and tell the class who they are and what they did related to the history of flight.
Green Transport: Exploring Eco-Friendly Travel for a Better Tomorrow by Rani Iyer
More on eco-friendly alternatives as transportation industries strive to create green options. This comprehensive title explores traditional energy sources and their impacts, alternative fuels, and mass transit issues as cities move toward more sustainable solutions.
- Vehicles contribute to climate change, but what else affects the climate. Let students explore the causes of global warming on this site: https://eo.ucar.edu/kids/green/warming5.htm
- Have students create a train development timeline, listing the fuels used by different trains throughout history and how they affect the environment.
- Ask students to imagine transportation of the future and have them design a plane, train, ship, or car that runs on clean fuel that does not harm the environment. Have them describe what this fuel is and how it makes their futuristic vehicle run.
Karen Latchana Kenney loves to write books about animals, and looks for them wherever she goes—from leafcutter ants trailing through the Amazon rain forest in Guyana, where she was born, to puffins in cliff-side burrows on the Irish island of Skellig Michael. She especially enjoys creating books about nature, biodiversity, conservation, and groundbreaking scientific discoveries—but also writes about civil rights, astronomy, historical moments, and many other topics. Her award-winning and star-reviewed books have been named a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, a 2015 Book of Note from the TriState Review Committee, a 2011 Editor’s Choice for School Library Connection, and Junior Library Guild selections. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and son, and bikes, hikes, and gazes at the night sky in northern Minnesota any moment she can.