STEM Tuesday

STEM Tuesday — Sustainable Living — Interview with Authors Sue Heavenrich & Chris Mihaly

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’ve the pleasure of interviewing Christy Mihaly and Sue Heavenrich, co-authors of Diet for a Changing Climate: Food for Thought. Kirkus called it an “optimistic introduction for those who want to ‘take a bite out of climate change'” by eating bugs, weeds, and invasive species!

Mary Kay Carson: What is Diet for a Changing Climate about? 

Chips topped with roasted Japanese beetles are the perfect snack while reading Diet for a Changing Climate.

Sue Heavenrich: Between climate chaos, habitat loss, poverty, and hunger, we’re facing a bunch of environmental and societal challenges. It can feel overwhelming, so we wanted to provide some tools for kids and their families to help meet these challenges.

Christy (Chris) Mihaly: We humans sit at the top of the food chain. So we wanted to discuss rethinking what we consider food. What if we ate “invasive” species, like periwinkles and lionfish?

Sue: What if we substituted crickets and other insect protein for meat? Or, instead of spraying dandelions with poison, we ate them?

Chris: The fact is, if enough of us changed what and how we eat, we can improve the health of our communities and our planet.

MKC: How did the two of you come to write it?

Sue: I started thinking about eating insects many years ago while in my garden. I was knocking Japanese beetles off my bean plants and into a bucket of soapy water. When I looked at the thick layer of beetle bodies bound for the compost pile, I bemoaned the waste of all that insect protein. My next thought was: I wonder if they are edible. Soon I discovered that not only are many insects edible, but people all over the world eat them. I began scribbling ideas for a children’s “field guide to eating insects.”

Chris: Around that same time I was interviewing a local environmental activist for a magazine article. This young woman was an entomophagy (insect-eating) advocate who hosted public bug-munching dinners at which she emphasized the environmental and nutritional benefits, as well as the tastiness, of eating insects. I began researching the topic and learned about the UN’s longstanding advocacy of entomophagy – and I was hooked. We’ve been critique partners for many years. The summer of 2014 we both attended a nonfiction conference. I told Sue about a proposal I’d submitted to one of the conference editors: “Entomophagy ABC’s.”

Sue: I’m like, “No way! I’m working on an entomophagy book.” We decided to collaborate.

MKC: I have to ask, how many of the critters in the book have you personally eaten?

Chris: We begin the book by presenting more traditionally palatable food items: dandelions and other weeds, lionfish filets and other tasty invasive animals. As for eating insects, I’m a more recent (though willing) convert. I’ve done the crickets and the beetles, and a few others.

Sue: I remember picking chokecherries and elderberries with my mom in Utah. When I was in high school I discovered Euell Gibbons (Stalking the Wild Asparagus) and field guides on edible plants. I experimented, cooking up dandelion greens and mashing – and leaching – acorns for pancakes. Now I gather wild greens for quiche and purslane and edible flowers for salads. Eating insects happened by accident, and usually while camping. While working on the book, I began integrating bugs into my diet. Those little green caterpillars on the broccoli? Extra protein for the stir fry. A carpenter ant invasion became an opportunity to experiment with frittata recipes. Hint: they are sweeter than I expected! And those Japanese beetles? A friend taught me how to roast them and sent me a good recipe for marinade.

Chris: Sue dedicates the book to her husband, who, she notes “does not know about the ants in the frittata yet.” Hah.

MKC: What challenged or most surprised you both while researching the book?

Chris: We were surprised by how many people already eat invasive species and insects. We hadn’t realized the extent of entomophagy and invasivore Facebook groups, websites, associations, restaurants, courses, conventions, cooking events, and more. We also were struck by the grave environmental and economic problems presented by invasive plant and animal species—as well as by industrial farming.

Sue: A major challenge was the recipes. Dandelions and weeds weren’t a big deal, but eating crickets and Japanese beetles took a leap of faith. So we reached out to more experienced folks who shared their recipes, and then we tested a few. The other thing was an ethical conundrum. I love insects, so we spent a lot of time discussing and researching humane ways to catch and kill bugs. Freezing turns out to be the best, and easiest, way.

MKC: To whom did you imagine yourself writing to while drafting the book?

Sue: As we worked on this book I thought about what 6th-grade me would have wanted to know. We also wanted to include hands-on activities to get readers engaged.

Chris: We wanted to counteract the feelings that so many kids (and adults) have of being powerless in the face of climate change. So we show that changing what you eat can make a difference.

MKC: How does co-authoring a book work, exactly?

Sue and Chris practice what they write about!         • CHRISTY MIHALY (at right) studied law and environmental policy, and practiced environmental law for twenty-plus years. She writes for kids about science, history, government, nature, technology, and other stuff. Her most recent release is Free for You and Me: What Our First Amendment Means. www.christymihaly.com                                                            • SUE HEAVENRICH (left) has a master’s degree in biology. She has studied ants and cockroaches, and now collects data on pollinators as a citizen scientist. Sue writes about nature and books at ArchimedesNotebook.blogspot.com and her picture book, 13 Ways to Eat a Fly comes out in February.

Sue: From the beginning, we viewed this book as a joint project. I think the most important thing is that each of us was willing to put our ego aside and focus on creating the best work we could. It helps that both of us are familiar with collaboration, me as a biologist and Chris as an environmental lawyer.

Chris: When you think about writing with a colleague, at least before covid-19, there’s a good chance you imagine meetings at the local café. Since we live 345 miles apart, we used email and phone. We scheduled regular conversations to go over plans, set goals and deadlines, and keep the lines of communication clear.

Sue: We made lists and divvied up tasks. We wrote alternating chapters, and then shared first drafts of chapter sections via email. Then each of us revised what the other wrote. This helped us develop a consistent voice for the entire book. I remember thinking that by collaborating we could each do half the work.

Chris: Ha! I figure that doing it together required twice the work that writing solo would have required. But we feel our book is all the better for it.

Sue: All those phone calls played another important role, too. They gave us a chance to get to know each other on a more personal level. Drinking coffee and talking about the dog, the dishes, the kids… and then the BOOK. We did some of our best brainstorming over phone lines.

MKC: Why do you choose to write STEM books?

Sue: I write about STEM for kids and their families to encourage them to go outside and explore the world. To solve a problem, to try something and, if it doesn’t work, figure out what happened and how to fix it. STEM, for me, is just an excuse to play. I was lucky to have parents who supported my curiosity. They sent me to science camp, took us to national parks, rock hunting, star-gazing … and tolerated the skeleton collection I had in the garage. In fourth grade I begged for a microscope for Christmas – and got one!

Chris: I have always loved nature. One reason I write STEM is to share that love with kids. My background is in environmental science and policy – I tend to want to jump to that next step, taking action to help the earth. That’s what Sue and I did with this book—exploring concrete ways that kids who care about the environment can act on their concern.

Win a FREE copy of DIET FOR A CHANGING CLIMATE

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 Wildlife Ranger Action Guide, The Tornado Scientist, Alexander Graham Bell for Kids, Mission to Pluto, and other nonfiction books for kids. @marykaycarson

STEM Tuesday — Sustainable Living– Writing Tips & Resources

 

 

Aphoria, Brachylogia, Chriea: It Sounds Greek to me!

Ever since Aristotle, humans have been using rhetorical devices to strengthen their communication. Shakespeare used them. Modern movies use them. And, sneaky science writers use them, too!

Rhetoric is an art. Most frequently we think of rhetoric as speaking or writing for persuasive purposes, but it can also be used to inform. Rhetoric includes logic, motivation, and speaking techniques, plus it includes figures of rhetoric. Figures that fiddle with the structure of sentences. Figures that string words together in a striking way. Figures that focus the attention of the reader.

Nonfiction writers can use some of that.

Rhetorical figures or devices provide formulas that have been tested and tried since the time of the Ancient Greeks. There’s an entire alphabet of effective rhetorical devices out there. Today, we don’t have time to work our way all the way to Zeugma, but we can peak into this world of word wisdom by starting with “A.”

 

Alliteration:

the repetition of the same sound at the beginning of words that are in close proximity

When Shakespeare wrote The Tragedie of Anthonie and Cleopatra, he borrowed a paragraph almost word-for-word from Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans. Note that word “almost.” What change did the great bard make to this history that might have sounded a wee bit stodgy?

Alliteration.

“The barge she sat in like a burnished throne,

Burned on the water: the poop was beaten gold;

Purple the sales and so perfumed that. . .”

I bet you spotted all those b’s and a few p’s. Now, let’s look at how a modern book, We Are All Greta: Be Inspired by Greta  Thunberg to Save the World  by Valentina Gianella and illustrated by Manuela Marazzi, puts alliteration to work:

“My daughter’s school chat room has been buzzing since dawn: dozens of colorful cartoons have appeared, with slogans sent out by #FridaysForFuture sites. Today is the day of the great global student strike organized by Greta Thunberg. . .”

 

Try this: Replace every other alliterative word with a synonym. Re-read the passage. How did those changes affect the reading? Practice yourself by selecting a stodgy sentence from this blog and give it some bounce by adding alliteration.

 

Anaphora:

the repetition of entire words or phrases at the beginning of successive clauses

Anaphora adds rhythm. Anaphora adds cadence. Anaphora adds emotional pull to key content. The result is emphasis on a particular piece of text, often making it memorable. Is that something you’d like to do with your writing?

A tip for using this rhetorical device: use active sentences and use anaphora when you wish to emphasize the subject of the sentence.

Try this: Put your hand on the closest book to you. Select a line from that book, a subject in that book, or a character within that book as the starting place, and write something short using anaphora for emphasis.

 

Aphoria:

an expression of doubt or uncertainty

Adding uncertainty to your writing couldn’t be useful to science writers, could it? Aphoria provides the reader an opportunity to evaluate, analyze, or judge the situation for themselves. The doubt

expressed may be genuine, sincere, or feigned. If feigned, the effect may be to guide the reader towards a specific point. If sincere, the effect may be to convey humility. If genuine, the effect may be to encourage critical thinking in the reader’s mind.

Here’s an example of aphoria from Diet for a Changing Climate, by Christy Mihaly and Sue Heavenrich.

“Pulling weeds and invasive kudzu vines from the garden and . . . eating them?”

Try this: Decide if this doubt is genuine or feigned. What effect might this use of aphoria have on a reader? Can you think of more than one?

 

Assonance:

the repetition of internal vowel sounds

Can you ascertain the assonance in this passage from Jodi Wheeler-Toppen’s Recycled Science: Bring Out Your work Science Genius? Bonus points if you find alliteration as well.

“Test out a physics fact, and have a blast at the same time!”

Assonance can be put to good use creating a mood and rhythm within prose. Writers who pay attention to the sounds of letters can maximize the impact of a rhetorical device such as assonance. Consider how assonance affects the mood of “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

Try this: Search for assonance in another book and ferret out the effect on the mood of the text.

 

26 More Letters to Go!

One list of rhetorical figures includes 108 that begin with “A!” We will stop here, but you can dive into the rest of the alphabet with resources at the end of this post.

Figures of rhetoric can infuse your writing with passion and power. Now that you have easy-peazy formulas, you can just toss in some words and have a masterpiece, right? Maybe not. A gifted writer selects devices purposefully.

 

Try this: Flip through several books, and flag the use of rhetorical devices. Work your way through the book a second time, making note of the frequency per page or absence of these tools. Do you see any trends? When might it be wise to avoid using a rhetorical device?

When you’re ready to level up to the next challenge, compare the figures from several books. Try a textbook, a nonfiction book from a series, and a trade book on the same topic. What differences do you notice?

O.O.L.F. (Out of Left Field)

Resources in Rhetoric

The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase, Mark Forsyth

Literary Devices, a list of commonly used rhetorical devices with in-depth explanation and examples, https://literarydevices.net/

The Forest of Rhetoric, a more complete list of rhetorical devices with brief definitions, http://rhetoric.byu.edu/

 

Rhyme Zone, for help with alliteration, plug a word into the synonym search and then sort alphabetically, https://www.rhymezone.com/

Heather L. Montgomery enjoys finding a fun turn of phrase while writing about wild and wacky wildlife. You might even spot a few rhetorical devices in her recent nonfiction: Who Gives a Poop? Surprising Science from One End to the Other.

STEM Tuesday — Sustainable Living– In the Classroom

Sustainable living protects the environment, and it’s something everyone can try. Here are the books I read that promote sustainable living, covering topics students can experiment with in their in-school classrooms or at-home ones.

Let’s Eat: Sustainable Food for a Hungry Planet by Kimberley Veness

Readers will take a look at the impact of pesticides, fertilizers, food chains, and commercial fishing on our food and environment.

 

The Nitty Gritty Gardening Book: Fun Projects For All Seasons by Kari Cornell, photographs by Jennifer S. Larson

Why rely on others for your fruits and veggies? This book provides readers with easy projects to jumpstart your own gardening.

 

Classroom activity: Try the fall and winter projects in the book, from growing an avocado plant from its seed to making an herb window box. Activities include detailed materials lists and instructions. Incorporate some science into the projects by asking students to record observations such as how much their plant grows in one week, or how different areas in their homes or classrooms affect the growth of their plants. Students will have some fun and tasty projects to try over the winter with this book.

Additional resource: National Garden Bureau, https://ngb.org/2020/03/25/kids-gardening-activities/

Recycled Science: Bring Out Your Science Genius with Soda Bottles, Potato Chip Bags, and More Unexpected Stuff by Tammy Enz and Jodi Wheeler-Toppen

This title shows you how to put your waste to work with ideas to recycle common household items and learn science while you are at it.

 

Classroom activity: Students can earn all kinds of interesting science concepts in this book through activities that recycle what is usually waste–like how wood can bend and how crystals form. Have students try any of the activities in this book. Encourage them to make a video demonstrating their end results, describing the recycled materials they used and the science behind what they created.

Additional resource: NASA Climate Kids, https://climatekids.nasa.gov/recycle-this/

 

Diet for a Changing Climate: Food for Thought by Christy Mihaly and Sue Heavenrich

Can we alter the way we eat to solve the problem of hunger in the world? Authors Mihaly and Heavenrich offer a compelling look at facing the global hunger crisis by eating weeds, wild plants, and bugs.

 

Classroom activity: Most kids (and not just picky eaters) may think eating weeds, wild plants, and bugs is gross, but as this book points out–doing so could really help our environment. Ask students to pick a bug or plant described in the book and create a commercial or poster listing its many benefits to humans and the environment. Ask them to do some further research to support their claims, and think of a meal or recipe their chosen food could be used in. In addition to this activity, students can try making one of the recipes in the book.

Additional resource: Time for Kids, https://www.timeforkids.com/g56/bug-business/

 

There are so many STEM-filled activities in each of these books and the others on this month’s book list. Students will have fun with the science and learn about sustainability with each one!