Curriculum Tie-in

STEM Tuesday — Pair Up! Comparing Nonfiction Titles — In the Classroom

STEM TUESDAY from the mixed up files

Today is the 11th–a 1-1 pair-up. It’s an especially apt day for continuing with our Nonfiction Pair-up theme. One thing seems sure: You’ll double your impact if you pair nonfiction reading and writing with STEM lessons!

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Fatal Fever and Terrible Typhoid Mary highlight the social, personal, and epidemiological stories around Mary Mallon, AKA Typhoid Mary. Exemplifying how science and society intersect and examining the difficulties of clashing social and individual interests, this pair offers high drama and nearly endless entry points for curriculum learning.

  • Does the government have the right to imprison someone to keep that person from infecting others?
  • Do students think Mary was “terrible?
    • Students can develop charts with reasons for answering yes and no–then take a stand with mock op-ed pieces.
    • Form student committees to answer “What to do about Mary?” Make sure they consider how any decisions impact Mary and the community.
    • Expand into current day concerns: “What to do when one of us gets sick?” Students might research the school’s policy regarding teachers and students with the flu or other infectious diseases. What options are available to keep everyone safe and able to work and learn?

Looking for infectious enthusiasm? Try these science learning ideas.

  • DragonFly TV’s five-minute GloGerm video offers information, an experiment, and visuals including a powder that glows under UV light and spreads throughout a kids’ bowling party.
    • Show the video to accompany their reading.
    • As an alternative, if you have the resources to purchase GloGerm and a UV light, use the video as an inspiration for a lesson plan. Demonstrate the spread of disease. Then challenge students to design their own experiments.
  • In this lesson using water, baking soda and a simple acid/base indicator, one student unwittingly becomes the source of an “infectious disease”, which then spreads to classmates.  The indicator ultimately reveals “infected” students. As an extension, track down the source student–your classroom’s counterpart to Mary Mallon in 1906, someone who unknowingly spreads disease.
    • What does the student feel like?
    • How would the class feel if all of the infected students now had to stay quarantined despite feeling well, or could no longer do whatever job they would like?
  • Students become disease detectives with an engaging interactive from PBS’s NOVA resource, which allows them to “interview” subjects, collect and review data, and explore possible sources of the new Dizzy Disease. Students might also compare and contrast their methods to those used by the typhoid tracker who found Mary Mallon, George Soper.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgSupport Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgAnd Now, Some Rotten Ideas

Students can become decomposers as they break down Rotten and Death Eaters, into their essential content and structure. For example, Elementary Nest’s lesson provides suggestions on conducting a compare/contrast of the facts in paired nonfiction titles.

 

Of course, this topic screams for a scavenger hunt! Send students searching for nonfiction text features. Check out these scavenger hunts  and, presto! You’ll gather your own list of features in no time. Follow up with a look at how these features help or detract from the reading experience.

  • How do various features help engage and explain information to readers?
  • Are there places in either book where the reader’s experience would have been enhanced by the addition or omission of a given feature?

After students digest the books in these lessons, they can recycle the morsels of information and insight into new, lively texts, composing short pieces based on the facts that they collected and incorporating the nonfiction text features to help readers engage with or grasp content.

Hands-on science experiences can add to the detail of student writing.  Start with this worm bin building activity and related resources from National Agriculture in the Classroom.

 

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Heighten student awareness of different styles and purposes of informational text with this trio. This Book Stinks is full of small bits of text and splashy graphics. Contrast it with Tracking Trash and Plastic Ahoy!, which combine storytelling, exposition, and characters into a cohesive whole. Challenge students to take passages from each book and turn them into the style and format of the other.

For science experiences, tie these books in with the decomposition books above (pair the pairs!). Or:

 

There’s so much you could do with this month’s theme, maybe you, too, should pair up; find a teaching partner to develop some of these ideas into great experiences for your students, or create your own.

  • What other book pairings can you suggest?
  • Which activities work for you?

Drop a comment to let us know!

 

****** BREAKING NEWS!!****

STEM TUESDAY from the mixed up filesSTEM Tuesday is now a monthly PODCAST! Tune into Jed Dougherty’s Reading With Your Kids Podcast on iTunes to listen to your favorite STEM Tuesday posts! The first airing is right here:  STEM Tuesday Podcast #1 

Be sure to join us the second Tuesday of every month for a podcast update!

 


Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano pairs writing nonfiction STEM books for kids with STEM educational consulting work.  Running on Sunshine: How Does Solar Energy Work? celebrates the innovative spirit and challenges behind engineering solar technologies, and received a starred review from Kirkus.

STEM Tuesday–Checking Your Health– Interview with Author Gail Jarrow

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 Gail Jarrow about her Deadly Diseases Trilogy: Red Madness, Fatal Fever, and Bubonic Panic. Both Red Madness and Bubonic Panic are among this month’s featured health and medicine books. Gail is an author of nonfiction books for ages 8-18 about science and history (and the history of science). Her books have received many honors, including the YALSA Award Nomination for Excellence in Nonfiction, a Notable Social Studies Trade Book, Outstanding Science Trade Book, a NSTA Best STEM book, the Jefferson Cup Award, the Eureka! Gold Award, an Orbis Pictus Recommendation, as well as Kirkus Reviews and School Library Journal Best Books and VOYA Honor Book distinctions.

                

Mary Kay Carson: How did these books come about?

Gail Jarrow: It all started with a chance discovery in the Cornell University library stacks.  While researching scurvy for a magazine article, I spotted a shelved book on pellagra written by a Cornell professor I had met. Even though the book wasn’t about my topic, I took it home to read because I knew her. I was fascinated by this forgotten nutritional deficiency disease that had once affected millions of Americans, and I sensed it would make an interesting story for young readers. But pellagra turned out to be one of those ideas you file away until you can figure out how to approach the subject. I didn’t figure it out for a dozen years. After online databases made it easier to access old medical journals and hundreds of newspapers from the early twentieth century, I saw a way to write Red Madness as a medical mystery using the experiences of doctors and pellagra victims. As part of my pellagra research, I used U.S. Public Health Service reports from the early 1900s.  I came across many entries about typhoid fever and plague, two other epidemic diseases that the Public Health Service was trying to control then. That was how Fatal Fever and Bubonic Panic were born from Red Madness, completing the Deadly Diseases trilogy. It goes to show that new ideas can be hiding anywhere and it pays to be receptive to them.

MKC: I have to ask, which of three deadly diseases—plague, typhoid, or pellagra—would you least like to suffer from? 

Gail: These diseases all have nasty symptoms. But without question, I would NOT want to contract plague. It is the deadliest of the three. We have effective antibiotics for plague today, but the survival rate is decent only if you’re diagnosed early on. If you have pneumonic plague, your chances diminish drastically. Antibiotics work against typhoid, though scientists are seeing more antibiotic resistance. Yet even before we had those drugs, the majority of typhoid victims recovered. Pellagra is easily treated with diet change or niacin supplements.

MKC: These books were quite a journey through primary sources. Do you have a favorite finding?

Gail: Of all the intriguing information I uncovered, my favorite had to do with typhoid fever. I discovered that the epidemiologist who tracked down Typhoid Mary had—four years earlier—helped end a typhoid outbreak in Ithaca, New York, where I live. He determined that the likely source of that outbreak was a creek not far  from my house. Finding connections to your own life makes history and science come alive. When I write for young readers, I look for ways to connect the book’s content to their lives. For example, in Fatal Fever, I included specific details about the physical effects of typhoid on college students in Ithaca, some of whom died during the 1903 epidemic. I found these case studies among infirmary records and other local archival material. Because the victims were teens, I hoped this would help my readers relate to a disease they probably knew nothing about.

MKC: Any further reading recommendations for fans of the Deadly Diseases Trilogy?

Gail: To add a few to the STEM Tuesday Checking Your Health list: Suzanne Jurmain’s Secret of the Yellow Death deals with medical sleuthing. John Fleischman’s Phineas Gage: A Gruesome But True Story About Brain Science would grab young readers. I really enjoyed Poison by Sarah Albee and How They Croaked by Georgia Bragg, two books that use humor to explore medical topics.

Want to know more about Gail Jarrow and the Deadly Diseases Trilogy?

 

Win a FREE copy of BUBONIC PANIC: When Plague Invaded America!

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 this week is Mary Kay Carson, author of Mission to Pluto and other nonfiction books for kids. @marykaycarson

 

STEM Tuesday — Deep Space and Beyond — In the Classroom

Let’s launch into nonfiction literacy with this month’s theme, Deep Space and Beyond!

Space is the star of the show this month. From asteroids to zero gravity, there are human interest and general STEM themes interwoven with this theme.  Have a blast as you explore the Solar System and beyond!

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Try a Trio.

Emphasize the human heart of science as you compare and contrast the stories in a trio of books: Team Moon (Catherine Thimmesh), Mission to Pluto (Mary Kay Carson), and Voyager’s Greatest Hits (Alexandra Siy).  Focus on the motivations, challenges, worries, and risks involved in reaching for big, ambitious goals that advance scientific and technological frontiers.  Students can consider which missions they find most interesting; which one they think they would most like to have been involved in; and where else they think humanity should explore. They might also write about what they see as the advantages and disadvantages of  human explorations compared to robotic ones.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Make an Impact.

Elizabeth Rusch’s IMPACT! Asteroids and the Science of Saving the World focuses on professional scientists’ efforts to understand asteroids and their, er, impacts, both past and potential, on Earth. Then Rusch invites readers to get involved in citizen, or amateur, asteroid science. (After reading this book, who wouldn’t want to join the fun?) Page 64 offers resources to help engage your group, or just one motivated kid, in efforts to track asteroids, discover one, or even save the world from an asteroid! Rusch provides tips for meteorite collecting, but it might be easier to collect tiny micrometeorites. Their incredibly long adventures through space can end on rooftops and in downspout debris. They’re ready for pick-up by the well-informed, slightly lucky, prepared amateur with a magnet. Check out Popular Science’s DIY article for details. (Be sure to get all the appropriate permissions and scout only in safe areas when collecting!)

 

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Readers zipping through Dr. E’s Super Stellar Solar System  (Bethany Ehlmann with STEM Tuesday’s Jennifer Swanson) might appreciate the mind-boggling size of the solar system after they make and revise solar system models to various scales. Get started with a scale and relevant data for a football field-sized model, found on page 18. Before heading out to the gridiron, however, help students map out the model.

Begin by sketching the football field on cm-grid graph paper and locating the planets’ orbits on it. (Each cm represents one foot on the field and 5 million miles in real space.) At this scale, students will find the field is too small for all orbits; students will need to adjust the scale so all planets can fit. New map in hand, head outside. Students can position themselves at the scaled planetary distances from the Sun.

Reading on, as students find that the solar system extends farther than the planetary orbits, they can track distance data for all Solar System features mentioned in the book. At the scale students used before, where in the community beyond the field would these features have to be placed?

For more depth, consider the scale of the objects and other models.

  • Is the model of the Sun (an orange) the right size for this scale?
  • If not, what would be?
  • What are the strengths and limitations of various 3D and illustrated visual models of the solar system that students have encountered?

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Explore Metaphors with Black Holes.

Metaphors and imagery help scientists flesh out ideas for themselves. Piggy-backing new ideas onto ones we already grasp is also important in science communication, especially when it comes to fascinating but abstract, challenging concepts related to black holes.

Keep a class log of the metaphors, analogies, and other comparisons used by scientists and the authors—including Sara Latta, author of Black Holes: the Weird Science of the Most Mysterious Objects in the Universe and me, author of A Black Hole is NOT a Hole. You’ll find some, for example, on page 35 of Black Holes, where Latta quotes Neil deGrasse Tyson describing galactic (and black hole) cannibalism : “…the big galaxies get bigger; the little ones get eaten”. By contrast my book begins by challenging  such anthropomorphism (“monstermorphism”?); soon, starting on page 8, the text compares a black hole to a whirlpool.

  • What other examples can readers find of scientists or writers using metaphorical language to describe black holes and related ideas?
  • In what ways does each metaphor work as a model and in what ways does it break down? What metaphors do students come across in other science contexts?
  • Based on their own world experience, what metaphors can students develop for the science concepts they are learning?

 

Make It Your Mission. Just as it took 400,000 people—Team Moon–to launch humanity to the moon, it takes a big Team STEM Tuesday to launch kids into getting the most of their STEM and STEM reading experiences. We would love to hear from you.

  • What books on this month’s list do you want to bring to your young readers?
  • Which of this month’s suggestions intrigue you most?
  • What other ideas, thoughts, and questions around using space books with your young learners do you have?

 


portrait of author Carolyn Cinami DeCristofanoSTEM author Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano writes books for kids about space and other topics. Her lively author programs bring engaging science and writing experiences to readers.  As co-founder of Blue Heron STEM Education, she provides teacher professional development and creates curriculum resources for classrooms and other contexts.