STEM Tuesday

STEM Tuesday – Diseases and Pandemics — In the Classroom

Throughout history, infectious diseases have impacted humans around the world. Whenever a strange new disease emerges, scientists called epidemiologists study it to learn how it spreads, its effects on humans, and how to stop it.

The books we’re highlighting this month focus on some of the most infamous and deadly infectious diseases in history and the scientific work to study and contain them. They are a great starting point for different sciences activities and discussions in the classroom. Here are a few to try:

Outbreak! Plagues That Changed History by Bryn Barnard

Here’s an extensive evaluation of the causes and human reactions and interactions (from the 1300s to the present) to bubonic plague, smallpox, yellow fever, cholera, tuberculosis, and the 1918 influenza pandemic. This book examines how these diseases changed societies and what it will ultimately take to eliminate cholera worldwide. It also looks at how wealth, bias, and prejudice continue to affect governmental reactions to microbial evolution.

Classroom activity: Divide the class into small groups and assign each an infectious disease to study. Have them answer the following questions: What type of disease is this – virus or bacteria? How does it enter the human body? How does it spread? What effect did this disease have on people around the world? Have scientists been able to stop the spread of this disease? If so, how? If not, why not? Have each group present what they have learned to the class.

An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy

This book dramatically examines another “invisible stalker.” Using both first-hand witness and medical accounts, newspaper clippings, and contemporary images, it follows yellow fever’s arrival and spread throughout Philadelphia. Detailing the social, political, and medical conditions and struggles to combat this disease, this book examines the changes that the plague brought to modern medicine and the fear that it could reappear.

Classroom activity: Compare the historical yellow fever epidemic to the current Covid-19 pandemic. How would you document today’s pandemic for future generations? Have students create their own modern-day pandemic documentation – using first-hand witness accounts, newspaper articles, photographs, and other primary sources. What do they hope future generations will learn from their work?

Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary, by Gail Jarrow

When typhoid fever breaks out in New York, medical detective George Soper traces the outbreak to Mary Mallon. His job: to prevent her from infecting others. But Mary refuses to comply with quarantine and other medical directives. After all, she isn’t sick. So she continues cooking and passing on the disease. Personal freedom versus public health questions are once again relevant as we deliberate quarantines, lockdowns, and contact tracing.

Classroom activity: When an infectious disease is spreading through a community, should public health take priority over personal rights and freedoms? What are the pros and cons of each point of view? Divide students into two groups – one that prioritizes public health and one that prioritizes individual rights. Have each group prepare arguments that support their assigned point of view and debate the issue.

Fever Year- The Killer Flu of 1918: A Tragedy in Three Acts by Don Brown

Presented in a graphic novel format, this book tracks the course of the 1918 flu from Camp Funston, Kansas around the world. Many images look eerily familiar – empty streets and masks. A very accessible examination of the politics and science involved in battling the spread and ultimate containment of this flu. Additionally, it comments on current scientist’s desire to discover why this flu was so deadly by recreating it.

Classroom activity: The lessons we can learn from history are invaluable. After reading about the 1918 flu pandemic, ask students what they have learned about the spread of the flu virus and the effectiveness of different prevention methods taken in 1918. How have people applied these lessons learned from history to today’s Covid-19 pandemic? In what ways could we do better? What have you learned that you can use to help stop the spread of infectious disease?

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Carla Mooney loves to explore the world around us and discover the details about how it works. An award-winning author of numerous nonfiction science books for kids and teens, she hopes to spark a healthy curiosity and love of science in today’s young people. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, three kids, and her dog. When not writing, she can often be spotted at a hockey rink for one of her kids’ games. Find her at http://www.carlamooney.com, on Facebook @carlamooneyauthor, or on Twitter @carlawrites.

STEM Tuesday – Diseases and Pandemics — Book List

From the first sneeze to the last wheeze, these books explore diseases and the scientists who study them.

 

All in a Drop: How Antony van Leeuwenhoek Discovered an Invisible World by Lori Alexander; illus by Vivien Mildenberger

When Antony van Leeuwenhoek read a book showing plants and insects as seen through a microscope, he decided to build his own. Antony is considered the “father of microbiology” and his work with microscopes laid the foundation for (100 years later) understanding that microscopic germs were responsible for disease.

 

 

Science Comics: Plagues: The Microscopic Battlefield by Falynn Koch

Imagine Jules Verne meets Miss Frizzle. In this book, a scientist uses interactive technology to communicate with bubonic plague and yellow fever germs. Readers learn how bacteria and viruses invade our bodies, elude our defenses, and how immunity works. There’s a good explanation of vaccinations and virus mutation (why we need a flu shot every year…).

 

 

Outbreak: Disease Detectives at Work by Mark P. Friedlander, Jr.

What happens when a strange new illness affects entire swaths of people all at once? You call on the “disease detectives” – epidemiologists – to investigate. In this book you’ll learn about the history of plagues, ancient and modern, as well as how epidemiologists study diseases such as Lyme disease, SARS, and AIDS. This book has already been updated twice; I predict in another couple years we’ll see a newer edition that includes Covid-19.

 

Outbreak! Plagues That Changed History by Bryn Barnard

Here’s an extensive evaluation of the causes and human reactions and interactions (from the 1300’s to the present) to bubonic plague, smallpox, yellow fever, cholera, tuberculosis, and the 1918 influenza pandemic. This book examines how these diseases changed societies and what it will ultimately take to eliminate cholera worldwide. It also looks at how wealth, bias, and prejudice continue to affect governmental reactions to microbial evolution.

 

 

Plagues, Pox, and Pestilence by Richard Platt, illus by John Kelly

In an ironic twist, a lab-coated rat, Professor Ratticus, and his cockroach and mosquito assistants lead the reader through a comprehensive look at diseases and epidemics. Comic-like illustrations (like war rooms mapping the spread of germs) and a browseable nonfiction format combine with entertaining graphics, facts, and history to provide a great overview of the world’s worst epidemics and illnesses.

 

Bubonic Plague & Yellow Fever

 

The Horror of the Bubonic Plague (Deadly History series) by Claire Throp

This book provides a concise overview of the history of bubonic plague from the Sixth century to present. Readers learn about causes and cures and some historical context. Some things will sound familiar: the use of quarantine and lockdowns, wearing masks and protective clothing, peddling fake cures, and suffering economic losses. It ends with mention of where plague still exists, but forgets to include the U.S.

 

 

The Plague (Deadliest Diseases of All Time) by Lawrence Andrews

Andrews provides a straightforward examination of the origin of the bubonic plague, methods of transmission, historic effect around the world, and its continued existence. He explains why the plague still affects 1,000 to 2,000 people a year, including within the U.S., and the race to limit its spread and find a way to eliminate the disease.

 

 

Bubonic Panic: When Plague Invaded America by Gail Jarrow

Written as a gripping medical “who-done-it,” this book introduces the ‘phantom killer” and explores the earliest plague pandemics through 1722. When this menace resurfaces in China, India, and Honolulu in the late 1890’s and then San Francisco in 1900, scientists scramble to identify the cause and find a cure, public health officials fight to finish it, and politicians hurry to hide it. This fascinating tale of how the plague settled into American and continues to infect a handful of people each year, includes a “frequently asked questions” section, timeline, and author’s note.

 

An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy

This book dramatically examines another “invisible stalker.” Using both first-hand witness and medical accounts, newspaper clippings, and contemporary images, it follows yellow fever’s arrival and spread throughout Philadelphia. Detailing the social, political, and medical conditions and struggles to combat this disease, this book examines the changes that the plague brought to modern medicine and the fear that it could reappear.

 

Typhoid Fever 

 

Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America, by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

This book is not for the squeamish – but if you don’t wash your hands after using the toilet and eat cookies that fell to the floor (5-second rule!) then you should be OK. Mary Mallon cooked for some of the wealthiest families in New York and was well- known for her hand-cranked ice cream topped with fresh fruit. Somehow, her families came down with typhoid fever. George Soper was the epidemic detective on the hunt to find the person making people sick. At the center of it all the question of civil rights and asymptomatic carriers.

 

Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary, by Gail Jarrow

When typhoid fever breaks out in New York, medical detective George Soper traces the outbreak to Mary Mallon. His job: to prevent her from infecting others. But Mary refuses to comply with quarantine and other medical directives. After all, she isn’t sick. So she continues cooking and passing on the disease. Questions of personal freedom versus public health are once again relevant as we deliberate quarantines, lockdowns, and contact tracing.

 

Flu Pandemic

 

Influenza: How the Flu Changed History, by Barbara Krasner

In 1918, people didn’t know the exact cause of the flu. But they knew the germs spread through the air. Some families sealed up their windows, and public health officials ordered people to wear masks. From initial outbreak to development of a vaccine to future epidemics, this book provides a good overview of the flu.

 

 

The 1918 Flu Pandemic: Core Events of a Worldwide Outbreak (What Went Wrong?) by John Joseph Micklos Jr.

Tracking the spread and undulation of the three waves of the 1918 Flu, from March 1918 to June 1919, this book explores the potential causes, actions that facilitated its expansion (such as WWI, armistice celebrations, and soldier’s returns), and lack of a cure that resulted in over 40 million deaths worldwide. Published in 2016, one of the critical thinking questions at the end asks how well the world may be prepared for another flu pandemic.

 

Fever Year- The Killer Flu of 1918 : A Tragedy in Three Acts by Brown, Don

Presented in a graphic novel format, this book tracks the course of the 1918 flu from Camp Funston, Kansas around the world. Many images look eerily familiar – empty streets and masks. A very accessible examination of the politics and science involved in battling the spread and ultimate containment of this flu. Additionally, it comments on current scientist’s desire to discover why this flu was so deadly, by recreating it.

 

 


STEM Tuesday book list prepared by:

 

Sue Heavenrich writes about science for children and their families, from space to backyard ecology. A long line of ants marching across the kitchen counter inspired her first article for kids. When not writing, she’s committing acts of citizen science in the garden. She blogs about science for kids and families at archimedesnotebook.blogspot.com.

 

 

Maria Marshall is a children’s author, blogger, and poet passionate about making nature and reading fun for children. She’s been a judge for the Cybils Awards from 2017 to present. Her poems are published in The Best Of Today’s Little Ditty 2017-2018, 2016, and 2014-2015 anthologies. When not writing, critiquing, or reading, she bird watches, travels the world, bakes, and hikes. Visit her at www.mariacmarshall.com/blog.

 

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