Nonfiction Titles

STEM Tuesday– Dinosaurs/Paleontology — In the Classroom

This month on STEM Tuesday, we’re celebrating all things dinosaur—from fossils to their biology to the scientists who study (and sometimes fight over) them. Here are a few activities to try in the classroom to go along with this great selection of books.

Dinosaur bones: And What They Tell Us, by Rob Colson\

Opening this book is like opening a field sketchbook. It’s filled with watercolor drawings, complete with labels and descriptive notes. Annotated skeleton sketches allow readers to compare their own bones to those of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. A fun way to browse dino facts.

 

 

        • Use clay to model some miniature dinosaur bones. Have students find a bone from a skeleton sketch in the book and then create their model from the drawing.
        • How do skeletons tell us what dinosaurs really looked like? Artists use the skeletons to build bodies in illustrations. First they add a body shape over the skeleton, then they shade the drawing, and finally they add details, like feathers and eyes. Provide students withe fossil drawings and ask them to build out their bodies in illustrations.

Dining with Dinosaurs: A Tasty Guide to Mesozoic Munching, by Hannah Bonner
If you are starving for dinosaur knowledge, this book serves up a full-course meal of mouthwatering Mesozoic food facts. Starting with who ate who. Along the way, we meet scientists who explain tough questions about dinosaur poop, teeth, and more.

 

 

 

        • Have students pick some dinosaurs from the book and create food chains for them along with illustrations.
        • Ask students to pick a dinosaur and then draw a dinner plate filled with that dinosaur’s favorite foods, with labels.
        • Have students imagine what future scientists might guess about their diets by looking at their poop, teeth, and other fossils. Ask them to write a short description of the scientist’s findings.

 

Gutsy Girls Go for Science: Paleontologists, by Karen Bush Gibson; illus. by Hui Li

The first chapter introduces the science of paleontology, along with tips for how to pack your field kit. Then we examine the work and challenges of scientists Mary Anning, Mignon Talbot, Tilly Edinger, Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska, and Mary Leakey. There are plenty of “Field Assignments” (hands-on STEM projects) ranging from modeling an excavation to finding clues in teeth, and informative sidebars are sprinkled through the chapters.

 

      • Students can pick a female scientists to research more. Have them write a mini-comic book biography of the scientist, showing some important moments in their lives and research.
      • Discuss with students why the author chose the paleontologists that she did. What does each paleontologist bring to the book? How is their research different?
      • Try one of the many STEM projects in the book!

 

Tooth & Claw: The Dinosaur Wars, by Deborah Noyes.

This is a tale of the epic rivalry that exploded into a personal – and professional – war between two early fossil hunters. Edward Drinker Cope wanted to find the biggest, best bones of the newly discovered dinosaurs. So did Othniel Charles Marsh. Their race to uncover bones played out across the American West and they discovered dozens of dinosaur species. But their animosity ruined their lives. Includes a list of museums where modern dino-hunters can find bones.

 

        • Create compare and contrast charts with the contributions of both Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope to the field of paleontology.
        • Have students imagine an alternate world where people did not believe that dinosaurs once existed on Earth. They should think about what might have happened if these two scientists could not have convinced the public that dinosaurs did exist. Have students write a short story about this imagined reality.

 

STEM Tuesday classroom ideas prepared by:

Karen Latchana Kenney 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. https://latchanakenney.wordpress.com

STEM Tuesday– CSI – Forensic Science and Anthropology- Book List

 

This month we uncover clues into the science of Crime Scene Investigation. Forensics is the science of finding evidence and analyzing it for clues. Evidence can be anything: blood spatters, carpet fibers, insects, pollen, powders, fingerprints, and footprints. Each piece of evidence reveals something about what happened at the scene of the crime – even if the crime happened hundreds of years ago.

Crime scene investigation:

Blood, Bullets, and Bones: The Story of Forensic Science from Sherlock Holmes to DNA by Bridget Heos (YA)

Crime scene investigation is not new; early detectives discovered ways to test for poisons, and conducted autopsies to determine cause of death. Over the years, crime-solving tools have become more sophisticated as technology improves. This book examines evidence from prints to ballistics, blood spatter to DNA and more.

Fingerprints : dead people do tell tales by Chana Stiefel.

Fingerprints are unique identifiers. Not even identical twins have the same fingerprints. This book explains the techniques scientists use to collect fingerprints and to identify criminals, and contains stories about how fingerprints helped solve real crimes.

 

Forensics: Uncover the Science and Technology of Crime Scene Investigation by Carla Mooney

This book introduces the science of crime scene investigation, with chapters about fingerprints, blood evidence, bones, and bodies. Sidebars highlight forensic careers, and there are plenty of hands-on activities for kids to try on their own.

Forensic Identification: Putting a Name and Face on Death by Elizabeth Murray

Forensic anthropologist, Dr. Elizabeth Murray takes readers into morgues and labs where scientists use technology to determine the identities of remains. Filled with case files and a diversity of techniques including facial reconstruction, dental records, X-rays, and DNA testing.

Ancient Cold Cases:

Bone Detective: The Story Of Forensic Anthropologist Diane France by Lorraine Jean Hopping

Meet forensic anthropologist Diane France as she lugs a two-gallon bucket containing a brain …without letting it slosh around. Any other day she might be examining skeletal remains of past royalty or Civil War soldiers, or be called to the site of a disaster to help identify victims. Side bars, photos, and diagrams explain science concepts.

Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland by Sally M. Walker

Forensic scientists use their knowledge of human remains to help solve mysteries of remains found in colonial-era graves near Jamestown, Virginia. Using science, they help recreate the lives of a ship’s captain, an enslaved African girl, and more.

 

Two books about the Kennewick Man:

  Mysterious Bones: The Story of Kennewick Man by Katherine Kirkpatrick and Their Skeletons Speak: Kennewick Man and the Paleoamerican World by Sally M. Walker and Douglas W. Owsley

In July of 1996, two young men accidentally uncovered a skeleton along a bank of the Columbia River in Kennewick, Washington. Was this an unsolved murder or the remnants of a settler’s or Native American’s unmarked grave? Scientists determined that the bones were more than 9,000 years old – transforming our understanding of how humans colonized North America.

 

Channel your Inner Detective:

CSI Expert!: Forensic Science for Kids by Karen Schulz

This book contains 25 hands-on forensic science activities, including fingerprinting, blood-stain identification, chemical analysis, ballistics, and fiber identification. Each activity is set up as a lab.

 

Crime Scene Detective Arson: Using Science and Critical Thinking to Solve Crimes by Karen Schulz

This book includes everything teachers (or mystery dinner hosts) need to set up a mock crime scene based on arson. There are suspects to interview, forensic lab tests, and a section on forensic science careers.

Carson-Dellosa Forensic Investigations Resource Book by Schyrlet Cameron, Janie Doss, & Suzanne Myers

This book contains ten cases for students to solve, including forgery, theft, and vandalism. Each case (unit) highlights specific skill-based activities, such as handwriting analysis. Labs challenge students to apply the skills they learned to solve the crime.

 

One-Hour Mysteries, Private Eye School: More One-Hour Mysteries, and More One-Hour Mysteries by Mary Ann Carr

A series of fun classroom mysteries for 4th and 5th graders. Each book provides five mysteries that challenge students to apply their skills of deductive reasoning, inferring, taking notes, organizing data, and analyzing evidence to solve the case.

 

 

STEM Tuesday book list prepared by:

Sue Heavenrich writes about science for children and their families, from space to backyard ecology. Bees, flies, squirrel behavior—things she observes in her neighborhood and around her home—inspire her writing. A long line of ants marching across the kitchen counter generated one of her first articles for kids. When not writing, you can find her committing acts of science from counting native pollinators to monitoring water quality of the local watershed. Her most recent book is Diet for a Changing Climate (2018).

 

Maria is a children’s author, blogger, and poet passionate about making nature and reading fun for children. She’s been a Cybils Award judge since 2017 and a judge for the #50PreciousWords competition since its inception. Two of her poems are published in The Best Of Today’s Little Ditty 2016 and 2014-2015 anthologies. When not writing, or reading, she bird watches, travels the world, bakes, and hikes. Visit her at www.mariacmarshall.com

 

STEM Tuesday — Digging Up History/Archeology– In The Classroom

I love both science and history, so I was really excited to read books on this month’s list. I confess to being a bit grossed out by some of the mummies, but these books didn’t disappoint. I saw many different aspects of the field of archaeology and learned a lot about the societies and people the archaeologists studied.

Mummies Exposed! by Kerrie Logan Hollihan

This book covers many different types of mummies. While many were purposeful, some were accidental. Through the examples, we learn about the science behind the creation of mummies. Analysis of the Items buried with the mummies gave clues to the type of people they had been and how they spent their time when they were alive.

 

 

 

The Whydah by Martin W. Sandler

The search for the pirate ship Whydah required the study of historical maps and records. These records, along with the artifacts discovered on the shipwreck paint a very different picture of pirates than we’ve come to expect.

 

 

 

Forgotten Bones by Lois Miner Huey

This book looks at what archaeologists have learned about a segment of society whose history has gone largely unwritten. I was fascinated by how much information they were able to glean from the bodies. Customs that left permanent marks on the body helped identify those who grew up in Africa versus those that grew up in America. Scars from injuries helped indicate what types of jobs the people performed. Most amazing was the ability of an artist to create a possible representation of each of the skeletons found using DNA analysis and the structure of the skulls.

 

Suggested Activities

In true “me” fashion, my brain went into overdrive thinking of activities that would fit well with these books. Here are a few…

Become an Artifact Detective

Archaeologists have to be detectives. They need to use the clues they’ve unearthed to figure out who these people were, how they lived, and what caused them to die. Challenge your class to be detectives, too.

First, have each person represent themselves with things. Have them pick 5 to 10 items that are often found with them. They could be things they carry around with them or wear every day. They could be favorite items or games we might find in their room at home.

To include science in this exercise, have the students describe the items as a scientist would. What is the item made of? What color is it? What are its measurements? Include a sketch or photo of the item. You could even pretend that these things have been buried for centuries. What would degrade and what would stay whole? If it broke into pieces, what would a defining feature be that might give a clue to what the item is?

For the next part, make sure each list doesn’t identify who the items belong to. Instead, use a student number or a nickname like the archaeologists did in the books.

Provide the set of lists to the class. This could be done by posting them around the room or through a virtual message board. Challenge the students to identify which of their classmates belongs with each of the artifact lists.

Once everyone has attempted to identify their classmates based on their artifacts, have each person present their artifacts and explain why they picked the items they did. The students will not only practice deductive reasoning, they’ll also get to know each other better.

Do Some Research

The discoveries described in The Whydah and Forgotten Bones relied upon historical research to help identify what was discovered. In the case of The Whydah, historical records like maps and diaries helped provide the location where excavators should look for the lost ship.

Use these examples to look into where historical records can be found and what kinds of information different documents can provide. This could even include a field trip to a local historical library or National Archives location and a lesson on how to use microfiche.

So many people use these resources – authors, archaeologists, genealogists, historians, lawyers, and more. To make this exercise more relatable, perhaps tie it to research into a local historical figure or genealogical research.

Debate the Issue

In Mummies Exposed! and Forgotten Bones, archaeologists faced cultures that believed burial grounds should remain untouched. After reading one or more of these books, have your students join the debate. Does the knowledge gained from archaeological research outweigh the beliefs that burial grounds should not be disturbed? Is it enough to rebury the bodies once they’ve been studied?

Other Ideas

Time Capsule

It occurred to me that each archaeological dig described in these books is like a time capsule. They capture what life was like for that person or people at the moment in time when they became buried or lost at sea. There are some good ideas here: http://www.timecapsule.com/time-capsule/how-to-make-a-school-time-capsule

Decoding the Past

The Smithsonian Learning Lab has a lesson about how archaeologists interpret artifacts called “Decoding the Past.” If you download the PDF, you will find an article on the subject and worksheets for some related activities. https://learninglab.si.edu/collections/decoding-the-past-the-work-of-archaeologists/AUq5scPw1RXKYyNy

Archaeology Activities

The Society for American Archaeology has a ton of activities for students, including a few about the Iceman (featured in Mummies Exposed!). https://www.saa.org/education-outreach/teaching-archaeology/k-12-activities-resources

 

I hope you and your students enjoy exploring these books and activities. If you have any suggestions for how you make archaeology and history come alive, please share in the comments below!

 


Janet pointing to Slingerland drum head of Chicago drummer Danny SeraphineJanet Slingerland loves learning about science, history, nature, and – well, everything – which she then turns into a book. She especially loves visiting living history museums, where the past really comes alive. To find out more about Janet and her books, check out her website: janetsbooks.com

You never know what you’ll find in a museum. Here’s a pic of Janet at the Musician’s Hall of Fame in Nashville, where she found a Slingerland drum head.