Common Core & NGSS

STEM Tuesday –Planes, Trains, Automobiles, and More! — In the Classroom

 

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.

 

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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.

STEM Tuesday — Digging Up History/Archeology — Interview with Author Kerrie Logan Hollihan

Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview & Book Giveaway, a repeating feature for the fourth Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!

Today we’re interviewing Kerrie Logan Hollihan, author of MUMMIES EXPOSED! The highly-praised first installment in a new Creepy and True series published by Abrams. The book received starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Booklist. Wow!

Mary Kay Carson: Tell us a bit about your new book.

Kerrie Logan Hollihan: Mummies Exposed! takes an in-depth look at human bodies that were preserved either with intent or by Mother Nature. (Some call the latter “serendipitous” mummies but “natural” is a friendlier term for my middle grade readers.)  I tell their stories of discovery—and, thanks in part to STEM research—at least part of the stories of the dead themselves: ten children, women, and men across space and time, explaining why these people (like us) were mummified or how their bodies survived the process of decay.

MKC: Did your exhaustive research led to some interesting finds?

Kerrie: The best surprise I share with my readers is this: There is always something new to discover about something old! For instance, here I am writing about King Tutankhamun when along comes a New York Times story reporting that the blade in one of Tut’s daggers is composed of metal from a meteorite. That fresh fact would merit a quick revision before the book went to press. Stuff like that happened frequently during the more than three years I spent researching for various proposals and eventually writing the book. I like to say it nearly made a mummy out of me!

MKC: Do you choose to specifically write STEM books?

Kerrie: STEM writing found me in the course of thinking about something or someone I wanted to learn about. When I was in a master’s program in journalism at Northwestern University, I took a science writing class that led me to lots of interesting spots to learn—and ask questions about—astronomy, portland cement, nuclear physics, medications, and how to claw your way out of quicksand. I discovered then that I like to learn about the history of science. The key component to science writing, I learned, is to ask questions…lots of them…find answers, and then interpret these for the reader at a number of levels: general readership, science magazines, and best for me, young readers.

Kerrie Hollihan channels her inner sixth grader (who read Compton’s Encyclopedia for fun) to write award-winning nonfiction for young people. Kerrie belongs to the well-regarded nonfiction author group iNK Think Tank and its interactive partner, Authors on Call, and blogs at Hands on Books: Nonfiction for Kids with Fun Activities. Find Kerrie online at www.kerriehollihan.com.

MKC: What approach or angle did you take to writing this book?

Kerrie: In my heart, I’m still a sixth-grade girl who read the encyclopedia for fun. That’s who I target when I write for young people. As it turns out, older people can learn a few things from my books as well if they sit down and read my work. For Mummies Exposed!, I identified which mummies to include, according to availability of information, reliability of sources, and appropriateness for middle grade kids.

Some chapters were far tougher to write, because I had to explain (or gloss) key terms such as anthropology and archaeology, not to mention how they differ! There was quite a bit of science research to explain, as well—DNA and CT scans, aerobic and anaerobic bacteria, tuberculosis, and so on. It took well over a year to research and write the book. I worked chapter by chapter, researching each as I went along. I think you’d say Mummies Exposed! is mostly narrative nonfiction, but I also included bits that are expository, too.

MKC: What are you working on now?

Kerrie: I’m wrapping up final edits in my next book for Abrams Books for Young Readers, Ghosts Aghast! It’s more STEAM than STEM. After we started work on Mummies Exposed!, Abrams suggested a series to me: “Creepy and True.”  Abrams suggested the ghost title, to be followed by a third book (which I’d proposed initially) which we are calling Bones! Think King Richard III buried in a parking lot in England, and a young woman who was cannibalized—posthumously—in the Jamestown Colony. Lots of intriguing STEM info to locate, read, and explain to my readers.

Win a FREE copy of Mummies Exposed!

Enter the giveaway by leaving a comment below. The randomly-chosen winner will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (within the U.S. only) to receive the book.

Good luck!

Your host is Mary Kay Carson, author of The Tornado Scientist, Alexander Graham Bell for Kids, Mission to Pluto, Weird Animals, and other nonfiction books for kids. @marykaycarson

STEM Tuesday — Digging Up History/Archeology– Writing Tips & Resources

Introduction (aka The Mike Hays “work-a-Jurassic Park-reference-in-any-chance-I-get” opening paragraph.)

There’s some really cool experimental technology in the first part of Jurassic Park (I know, I know! There’s cool theoretical technology all over Jurassic Park but bear with me.). Take the Thumper, computer-assisted sonic tomography (CAST), technology, for example. The Thumper fires a lead slug into the ground creating waves which are analyzed by a computer to give an image. Dr. Alan Grant distrusts the technology but when the computer transforms the wave echo to yellow contour lines in the shape of a perfect juvenile velociraptor skeleton on the screen, he realizes technology might not be all bad. 

By National Park Service – Public Domain

All the Lovely Facts (aren’t always so lovely)

I’m a fact nerd. One of the reasons I enjoy writing is the process of research and the collection of interesting facts on a particular subject. In some ways, my facts nerdom is a blessing. In other ways, it’s a curse. 

Why?

Crafting a STEM story, project or homework assignment is usually based on facts. The creative and/or informative work begins with a collection of relevant facts—an often unruly and random collection with a lack of cohesion. In short, the massive collection of somewhat related facts becomes a chaotic mess. These are tossed in a pile, studied, and then lined up in some sort of order that resembles the story inside your head you wish to tell. Then comes the work.

  • Dig deep
  • Chip away
  • Clear away the dust
  • Extract
  • Clean

Finding your story is like finding the fossilized femur bone in the side of a mountain. Discover, dig, chip away, clear what doesn’t belong, and shine it until it sparkles and is ready to put on display. Writing becomes a whole lot like archaeology. Your story is out there. It’s buried deep under layers of sediment or fossilized in stone. Keep chipping away until you find it and then do the work to make it shine.

Melissa Stewart had an excellent Celebrate Science blog post in May of 2018 about the importance of focused nonfiction expository writing. Being a story archaeologist is key to producing this type of focused work. Sure one can use a drone camera to identify areas where a find likely exists, but until one gets focused on a site, does the digging, and finds the specific artifact, the drone picture is just a nice picture. A good story is the same. Focused. It grabs the reader from their drone-height view and embeds them into the story. 

Hits & Misses

All the data suggests below the spot you now stand is a goldmine of artifacts. Artifacts you’ve spent your entire adult life searching for. Your heart pounds in anticipation as you can almost feel the remnants of an ancient society held gently in your gloved hands. You dream of headlines, prestigious publications, research grants, and museum exhibitions. 

The grid is set over the location and the excavation begins. Day after day, week after week, month after month pass without a single discovery. Finally, you give up and admit this site is a dud. 

Disappointing? Sure. 

Devastating? Maybe.

Time to give up? No way! 

You keep going because you know there’s something out there. You learn to accept the failures because you understand failure and success are made from the same cloth. The cloth of taking a chance on an idea. No one ever hit a baseball without swinging the bat. The same is true for science and writing. Moving forward often takes the courage to leap out of one’s comfort zone and into the unknown.

In writing nonfiction and fiction, ideas are cheap. They’re a dime a dozen plentiful. The fully fleshed and polished stories, however, are gold. There are more misses than hits in writing, especially when just starting out. With experience, though, the ratio begins to even out. A writer learns what works and what doesn’t work for them. They learn to focus. They learn to chip away at the rock until the perfect baby velociraptor skeleton of a story emerges. 

The key is to keep digging.

Keep swinging.

Your story is out there.

Make it happen. 

But please don’t start an amusement park of cloned, extinct alpha-predators without first considering the principles of chaos theory.

Have a STEM-filled 2019-2020 school year!

Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal opportunity sports enthusiasts, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports/training related topics at www.coachhays.com and writer stuff at www.mikehaysbooks.comTwo of his science essays, The Science of Jurassic Park and Zombie Microbiology 101,  are included in the Putting the Science in Fiction collection from Writer’s Digest Books. He can be found roaming around the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64.

 


The O.O.L.F Files

This month’s Out Of Left Field (O.O.L.F.) Files uncover some interesting links and information exploring archaeology and history while digging up some STEM funnies. 

  • How do you discover a dinosaur? via The Guardian
  • Hunting for dinosaur bones in the digital age
    • “Nowicki flew drones with thermal and spectral cameras over hundreds of square miles to create high-resolution, three-dimensional maps accurate down to the inch. The process identified 250 likely new locations to find fossils.”
  • 4 New Technologies That Are Driving Archaeology Into the Future
    • “Human history can easily be covered by nature, but archaeologists like Cusicanqui can use drones and LIDAR and Muon Tomography to uncover our past.”
  • Archaeology unearthing the past using modern technology
    • “Archaeology has always been very interdisciplinary,” says Heather Richards-Rissetto, an archaeologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln told NBC’s MACH. “But I think now there’s a lot more collaboration between science and engineering than before, and archaeologists are a part of that, helping to develop the technologies to study the past.”
  • Tech in the Sediment: 12 Ways Archaeologists Use Technology
  • Not quite as exciting as Dr. Grant imaging an infant velociraptor skeleton embedded in the rock, here is a tutorial video on how to use Argus Electronic’s PiCUS Sonic Tomograph to measure cavities or decay in a tree non-invasively.

And now for something completely different…

Archaeological Funnies (via Funny-Jokes.com)

Archaeologists are fickle. They’re always dating other people.

Most mothers tell their daughters to marry doctors…
I told mine to marry an archaeologist because the older she gets, the more interested he will be in her.

Two archaeologists were excavating a tomb in Egypt.
1st Archaeologist: I just found another tomb of a mummified pharaoh!
2nd Archaeologist: Are you serious?
1st Archaeologist: No bones about it!

Q: Why did the archaeologist go bankrupt?
A: Because his career was in ruins.

Q: What do you get in a 5-star pyramid?
A: A tomb with a view.