STEM Tuesday

STEM Tuesday Cool Inventions and the People Who Create Them – Book List

One of the world’s greatest inventors, Thomas A. Edison, once said that “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” Well, that might,or might not be true. To find out, explore these books about invention. Perhaps you will be inspired to do a little inventing yourself. And as an added plus, these STEM titles also provide terrific links to literacy, history and art.

As always, help us out by suggesting other titles that fit this theme.

Alexander Graham Bell for Kids: His Life and Inventions by Mary Kay Carson
A biography of one of the world’s greatest inventors.  A staple for any middle grade STEM shelf. Mary Kay Carson shows readers how Bell was inspired by his nearly-deaf mother and his father who created an alphabet of images of the sounds a human being can make. Includes 21 activities!

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Innovation Nation: How Canadian Inventors Made the World Smarter, Smaller, Kinder, Safer, Healthier, Wealthier, Happier by David Johnston and Tom Jenkins
A fascinating look at our neighbor country’s inventors. This volume is jam-packed with fifty different inventions, including the igloo, the life jacket, and the canoe. 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton Revealed by Mary Losure
(JLG selection)  Young Isaac lived in a apothecary’s house and recorded his observations of the world in a tiny notebook. Mary Losure delves into the childhood of the great Isaac Newton in this narrative nonfiction biography that traces Newton’s development as one of the great thinkers of our time.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Higher, Steeper, Faster: The Daredevils Who Conquered the Skies by Lawrence Goldstone
(JLG selection)  A historical biography of the men and women who  popularized flying through their death-defying stunts. Young readers will discover loop-the-loops, corkscrews, and other daring maneuvers by male and female aviators.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Science Comics – Flying Machines: How the Wright Brothers Soared by Allison Wilgus and Molly Brooks
(JLG selection)  This fun look at the Wright Brothers earned a NSTA Best STEM of 2017 honor. Before daredevils wowed us with stunts, the airplane had to be invented. Young readers will enjoy the illustrations and text as they learn about the Wright Brothers carefully recorded experiments that led to the world’s first flying machines.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Eureka! Poems About Inventors by Joyce Sidman
A perfect read for Poetry Month. This book of narrative poems explores the minds of the creators of everything from the chocolate bar to the (ahem) bra. Readers will meet Marie Curie, Leonardo da Vinci, Mary Crosby, and many other noted innovators just as their creativity blooms.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Elon Musk and the Quest for a Fantastic Future: Young Readers’ Edition by Ashlee Vance
(JLG) Read about the  fascinating inventor of the TESLA and SpaceX, Elon Musk, in this young readers edition biography. Written with exclusive access to Musk and his family and friends, this book takes readers from Musk’s childhood in South Africa through adulthood and his inventions that rock the world.

STEM Tuesday book lists prepared by:

Nancy Castaldo has written books about our planet for over 20 years including her 2016 title, THE STORY OF SEEDS: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less To Eat Around The World, which earned the Green Earth Book Award and other honors. Nancy’s research has taken her all over the world from the Galapagos to Russia. She enjoys sharing her adventures, research, and writing tips. She strives to inform, inspire, and educate her readers. Nancy also serves as the Regional Advisor of the Eastern NY SCBWI region. Her 2018 title is BACK FROM THE BRINK: Saving Animals from Extinction. www.nancycastaldo.com

Patricia Newman writes middle-grade nonfiction that inspires kids to seek connections between science, literacy, and the environment. The recipient of  a Sibert Honor Award for Sea Otter Heroes and the Green Earth Book Award for Plastic, Ahoy!, her books have received starred reviews, been honored as Junior Library Guild Selections, and included on Bank Street College’s Best Books lists. During author visits, she demonstrates how her writing skills give a voice to our beleaguered environment. Visit her at www.patriciamnewman.com.

STEM Tuesday All About Conservation – Interview with Author Nancy Castaldo

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 author Nancy Castaldo who wrote this month’s featured conservation book, Back from the Brink: Saving Animals from Extinction.

Find out how seven different animal species from around the world were saved from extinction by hard-working scientists and environmental activists in this book. Nancy Castaldo has used her experience as an environmental educator to create award-winning books about our planet for over 20 years including her 2016 title, The Story of Seeds: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less To Eat Around The World, which earned the 2017 Green Earth Book Award, Junior Library Guild Selection, and other honors. Nancy’s research has taken her all over the world from the Galapagos to Russia. She loves sharing her excitement about nonfiction with readers and fellow writers. Visit her at nancycastaldo.com, on Twitter at @NCastaldoAuthor, or on Instagram at @naturespeak.

Mary Kay Carson: How did this book come about?

Nancy Castaldo: When I was young I had nightmares of creatures going extinct. I was terrified of losing any endangered species. I still am, but I know that my younger self needed to see hope and learn about the helpers. I wanted to give those stories to my readers. I wanted them to see that we all can make a difference, that every endangered species doesn’t go extinct because of the helpers. And that no matter where you live or how old you are, we all have the ability to join in the bucket brigade. I hope that Back from the Brink does that for my readers.

MKC: Could you share some highlights of doing research for Back from the Brink

Nancy: Every place I visit for research and photography has been life changing for me. This book, like the others for Houghton Mifflin such as Sniffer Dogs and The Story of Seeds, has taken me to places I only dreamed of visiting. I am a herper at heart, meaning I love reptiles and amphibians. Spending time with the tortoises and marine iguanas in the Galapagos was heaven. Another favorite experience was spending time with the dedicated California condor researchers in the Sespe Wilderness area. Part scientist and part adventurer, these biologists work tirelessly to conserve the condor population, despite continued threats to the birds from lead poisoning and micro-trash litter. It was a joy to enter their world.

MKC: Do you have a STEM background?

Nancy: I do have a STEM background. I completed a biology/chemistry double major in college and was president of the science club. At the same time I was also the co-editor of my college’s literary magazine. I was highlighted when I graduated in the college’s view book with the title, Creative Combinations. I’m still combining, having then went on to get a master’s that focused on children’s literature. Science, writing, and photography are all my passions. I love writing STEM books. I was a curious kid and I love writing for curious readers. I strive to inspire, inform, and empower my young readers because I believe they are our hope for the future. Our world needs them now more than ever.

Purchase Back from the Brink!

MKC: Any recommendations for fans of Back from the Brink?

Nancy: I’m hoping that readers will become inspired and empowered with the success stories in Back from the Brink and want to learn more about these creatures and other endangered species. There are many wonderful fiction and nonfiction books that can continue the experience. I’ve included many in the Learn More section of the book, including Dorothy Patent’s The Buffalo and the Indian, Farley Mowat’s Never Cry Wolf, and Jazynka Kitson’s Mission Wolf Rescue. While these books are great reads, I really hope that my readers will step out into the wild and discover some of these creatures first hand. I list places throughout the country for outdoor, natural sightings in my book.

Praise for Back from the Brink:

  • “[Castaldo] offers solid, meaningful suggestions for young readers […] including many, many learning opportunities: things to watch and read, organizations to investigate, websites and parks to explore. Challenging but important reading for the intended audience.”–Kirkus, STARRED review
  • “Readers will be moved by Castaldo’s appreciation for these animals.”–Booklist, STARRED review

Win a FREE copy of Back from the Brink!   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!

Hosting this week is Mary Kay Carson, fellow animal lover, science nerd, and author of Mission to Pluto and other nonfiction books for kids. @marykaycarson

 

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STEM Tuesday All About Conservation- Writing Craft and Resources

 

Maps & Footprints

(Author’s Note: I recently read an estimated 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 do not exist in 2018. That’s only twelve years from now. 12 years! Today’s elementary students and those kids who aren’t even in school yet will face a whole new world and workplace. The way we raise, teach, and prepare the future adults of 2030 must also shift as we bridge the gap between the industrial age and the digital age. Conservation will occupy a fundamental piece in this shift and STEAM will have to rise to the forefront to meet the challenges. Think STEAM literacy and philosophy are important now? Over the next decade, they will become considerably more vital to the education of our young minds. The future that rests in the hands of the kids out in the playground today depends on how we manage our limited resources. We need STEAM thinkers and we need to crank up their STEAM education. It’s up to us to make sure they are ready for the challenges that lie ahead. 12 years will be here in the blink of an eye.)

There are two ways of looking at conservation. Conservation from an ecological point of view means we work to preserve our resources. Animals, plants, land, soil, materials, culture, etc. are generally the common resources targeted by conservationists. In the majority of these cases, these projects are undertaken for either efficiency or ethical reasons. For example, plant and agricultural scientists look to protect the biodiversity of existing foodstuffs by preserving seed varieties deep under the ice, such as at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

The second way to look at conservation is through the physical science lens—the nuts and bolts science that underlies the way our world works. Conservation of mass, energy, and momentum all state that some property (matter, energy, momentum) in an isolated system doesn’t change over time. The old “matter/energy cannot be created or destroyed” principle many can probably recite in their sleep.

Conservation of a system

Our world is an interconnected system. Planet Earth is an isolated system, but we are not isolated within the system. One of the most important thought shifts, as we move forward in the field of conservation, will be to recognize interconnected systems and how the pieces and parts of the system function together.

  • How does protecting this one factor affect the entire system?
  • How does one behavior cascade down, around, over, under, or through the behavior and well-being of others?

Take an electric car in the year 2018 as an example. Big environmental impact? Not as much as you might think. Sure the emissions are down, which is great.

But how was that electricity generated? Fossil fuels or solar or wind or hydroelectric?

As you can see, the system matters. The conservation issues, both the ecological and the physical parts, must be studied for the entire system in order to develop long-term and successful solutions.

In order to develop long-term solutions to our local and global conservation issues, we need to develop system thinkers. Problem solvers who are able to attack problems from a systemic approach and look at all the parts of the whole.

In short, we as parents, teachers, librarians, authors, and scientists need to develop STEAM thinkers!

Maps

Last month, Heather gave us an excellent exercise for making sound maps. I like this exercise both as a writer and as a scientist. It’s a simple, easy, take-it-anywhere method to develop observational skills. This month for a conservation slant, work those observational muscles by repeating the sound map exercise several different times at several different places/locations (Preferably completely different places, like a park, a busy intersection, a mall, a sports event, a pasture). To this map, add additional details of the system. People, cars, workers, stop lights, animals, weather…whatever interacts with this small system you are observing in the time in which you are observing.

Footprints

Take your detailed map from the above exercise and think about all the observations that were recorded in that system. Now the fun part. Make a list of those moving or static interacting parts and consider the ecological or physical footprint of those parts within your mapped system.

  • How are energy and mass being incorporated in this system?
  • What story do they tell?
  • What are some of the reaching effects happening in this system?

Here’s a quick example from what’s going on outside the laboratory today with a construction crew patching potholes on a busy street leading into a high traffic flow intersection.

  • What effect does the construction have on the traffic flow? Traffic congestion.
  • How does the intersection system benefit when the construction crew is finished? Improved traffic flow and increased safety due to the poor quality of the road causing vehicles to swerve out of the way of monster pothole leading into the busy intersection.
  • What’s the economic impact of the work? The workers make money which they spend at local businesses. They patch that monster pothole and save potential repair costs on hundreds of vehicles that pass that way every hour. The area businesses around the intersection may experience a temporary lull in business due to the construction which will return to normal quickly.
  • What’s their environmental impact? The trucks and asphalt produce harmful emissions in their use and disposal but traffic flows smoother which allows travelers to reach their destinations within the system more efficiently.

Thinking Points

What are points to consider as conservation efforts move forward taking into account the systemic effects?

Laws of supply and demand. The economics of conservation is perhaps the single most important force either blocking or promoting conservation efforts. Economics from both the supply side and the demand side are important pieces of the puzzle that need respect and consideration in the solutions

Management and design. Great strides have been taken over the past few decades in these facets of conservation. Smarter buildings, transportation systems, and energy production have made and will make a difference. But these things take time and money so patience and persistence are important.

Saving the planet vs saving ourselves. We need to get a little selfish but in a smart way. Conservation, at its core, is about us protecting the things important to our survival and wellness as a species. Our needs, our values, and our histories all matter. The planet will probably be here long after we’re gone, let’s make sure we don’t force ourselves out before our time.

Conclusion

Matter and energy in a finite system are neither created or destroyed. This is something we’ve been taught in about every physical science class since our latter elementary school days. We’ve heard it so many times, we probably don’t even consider its power and its importance in the field of conservation. Perhaps, it’s time for the Laws of Conservation of Matter and Energy to step outside the classroom and into the minds of every action we take.

In a finite system, we only have so much of a resource so we need responsible and system-sensitive solutions to conserve and/or replenish these resources. We need a STEAM generation that understands the systems and can develop solutions to improve conservation with the entire system in mind.

The goal is to develop a STEM/STEAM generation that pays attention and understands their maps and their footprints.

 

Indosylvirana urbis, the Urban Golden-backed Frog resting in the pink colored boat-shaped bract of the Curcuma angustifolia (East Indian Arrowroot) flower.

 


THE O.O.L.F. FILES

This month, The Out Of Left Field (O.O.L.F.) Files look at conservation from several different angles, including systems, space, art, failures, and the laws of conservation.


 By MIKE HAYS

Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded 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-related topics at coachhays.com and writer stuff at mikehaysbooks.com. He can often be found roaming the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64.