Heath is an absolutely fascinating subject. Health-related media surrounds our daily life. The reasons are fairly simple as health affects everyone and is something everyone can relate to. Children’s literature is no exception. Health-related topics make great kid lit!
Microbes are my jam. Bacteria, viruses, parasites, microbiomes are things that attract my attention every time. I caught the fever in college. As strictly a cell biology student, I wandered down the hall one semester to take an elective from the microbiology section. I liked it and took another. Then another. Pretty soon my cell biology emphasis was a thing of the past and I switched lanes into the world of microbiology. Viruses especially grabbed me. The simplicity of their construction. The intricate ways they infect and replicate inside of the host cell. It was the perfect marriage of cell biology and infectious agent. Fast forward thirty years to my day job as a research microbiologist. The group I work with studies the interaction of pathogens with the host cell. Our primary focus is how bacteria intricately switch on and off the host inflammatory defensive response to their survival advantage. It’s a fascinating story to observe how pathogens go about affecting health.
Microbes make great STEM health topics. Look back at our book list for this month. Microbe heavy! Today we are going to take a look at how health fits into the craft of STEM literature and some resources to learn or stay informed about health topics.
Health fits into just about any type of nonfiction. Using Melissa Stewart’s fantastic nonfiction book family tree, try to think of health-related middle grade or middle reader books you can put into each category. If you really want to burst my TBR budget, add your list of books in the comment section below.
When writing health nonfiction for middle grade, the key is in the details and how to best use them.
- Is the topic better suited as a straight up informative text?
- Do the details and the facts lend themselves to a narrative structure? What’s their story?
- Is the topic loaded with activities which help illustrate and teach the information?
- Is the topic wide-ranging enough to allow for many separate facts to be included?
Allow the facts to help dictate what the best way to tell a health-related STEM nonfiction story. But where can one find the facts and details about a topic which interests them? That’s where the research comes in, right? Where do you start research? By finding solid resources.
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)
Back in those college days, my virology and pathogenic microbiology professor had a standing assignment due every Friday. We had to turn in a summary of at least two articles in the latest MMWR bulletin from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). We’d race over to the library to check the shelf to see if the latest version of the pamphlet arrived yet. What’s MMWR, you say? The Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report. With online access now in the digital age, it’s a weekly update from the CDC on what’s making Americans sick or causing death.
World Health Organization
World Health Organization (WHO) has a great website to find information, resources and exceptional commentary on world health. It’s always good to keep a healthy eye on what’s going on around the world. In a global economy, where one can travel great distances in short amounts of time, health issues halfway around the world can still be threats.
National Institutes of Health
The NIH is a slice of science and health nerd heaven. The grants, the news, the health reports, the grant funding, the databases for researchers, etc. It’s nearly impossible to write in one STEM Tuesday blog post about all the information on the NIH website. I use PubMed and GenBank at least twice a week at my job. (Confession. I sometimes get sucked down the PubMed rabbit hole while searching for research papers; like the time my labmates and I spent half a day talking about a medical pathology journal paper titled, Death by Greyhound.)
There are all kinds of newsletters one can search for to provide information on health and health issues.
The Biotechniques daily news updates are one of my favorites daily email newsletters. The email updates cover interesting molecular science in a variety of disciplines from around the world. Plus, their Biotechniques journal is free!
Death Toll Comparison Breakdown
I ran across this Death Toll Comparison Breakdown post from Tim Urban’s Wait But Why blog that is possibly the most informative graphic ever about health and comparative death tolls of various historical events.
Nothing to fear but fear itself…
Heath can also be used to invoke fear and create a culture of fear. Think about conversations going on right now in our society:
- Exercise and weight loss
- Emerging pathogens – Ebola, Zika, Bird Flu
The more science we know behind our health problems and issues, the better we can analyze, identify, and reduce the fear factor associated with the health issues. Information fights fear. Observe, verify, and then pass information on. Once we get past the fear, we can focus on solutions to those health issues.
Check your health!
Health is one of those common concerns for humanity. It affects so much of our lives. It’s a good idea to learn as much as possible about the way our bodies work and how they interact with our nature and environments. STEM nonfiction can be a powerful tool in developing this understanding. Health concerns can be scary. Knowledge can overcome this fear which can lead to overcoming the health concern. Knowledge is power within the health realm.
Improve your health and go check out some STEM health titles. Or write some health-related nonfiction books on whatever fascinates you. There’s something out there for every taste—even for that someone who is interested in studying how we taste!
Mike Hays, Microbiologist III
The O.O.L.F Files
The Out Of Left Field files this month focus on the….
I’m hacking the O.O.L.F. File this month for a little self-promo. But it’s self-promo with a purpose. Me and 38 science friends have joined Dan Koboldt in an information-packed book from Writer’s Digest Books called, PUTTING THE SCIENCE IN FICTION. The release date is set for October 16, 2018.
It’s an awesome resource for writers and educators with experts explaining the nuts and bolts of science topics, including health. There’s also an introduction written by Chuck Wendig. (Yeah, that Chuck Wendig!)
Here’s a look at the section titles in PUTTING THE SCIENCE IN FICTION:
- Research Labs, Hospitals, And Really Bad Ways To Die
- Genome Engineering: It Never Ends Well
- The Brain Is Wider Than The Sky
- From Zero To Sixty (Legs, That Is)
- Things To Know For When Skynet Takes Over
- Earth And Other Planets. Yes, Pluto Counts!
- Sometimes, It Really Is Rocket Science
- Star Wars And The Far Future
My two contributions to the anthology are “The Science of Jurassic Park” and “Zombie Microbiology 101”.
You can also check out Dan’s Science In SciFi, Fact in Fantasy blog series for even more awesome science content from real-life experts. The blog is a great place to learn something new or to learn science for your writing.