STEM Tuesday

STEM Tuesday — Coding– Book List

Let’s get coding! Why? Because coding skills develop students’ logical thinkng and problem solving skills, teach structural thinking and how things work, and is fun and rewarding. We’ve assembled a varied list of books on coding designed to capture a middle-grade reader’s imagination.

Code This Game! Make Your Game Using Python, Then Break Your Game To Create a New One! by Meg Ray and Keith Zulawnik

This is a great book for instruction on how teens can create their own video game.

Code This! Puzzles, Games, Challenges and Computer Coding Concepts for the Problem Solver In You by Jennifer Szymanski

Join the Coder Crew’s mission and learn coding with puzzles, games, and fun characters.

Can You Crack the Code? A Fascinating History of Ciphers and Cryptography by Ella Schwartz; illustrated by Lily Williams

Delve into the history of codes in this fun book that introduces readers to wartime secrets and hidden messages.

Coding Creations by Janet Slingerland

Young readers will use SCRATCH, a computer language, to create their own music, stories, games, and animations.

Video Game Coding by Janet Slingerland

Slingerland takes readers on the path of discovery with this title about coding video games.

So, You Want to Be A Coder? The Ultimate Guide to a Career in Programming, Video Game Creation, Robotics, and More!  by Jane Bedell

Readers who have begun having fun with coding will enjoy reading about STEM careers in coding, from cyber security to artificial intelligence to gaming.

Coding Games in Scratch: A Step-by-Step Visual Guide to Building Your Own Computer Games by Jon Woodcock

Learn to master SCRATCH in this step-by-step guide for young coders.

Code Your Own Games: 20 Games to Create with Scratch by Max Wainewright

More coding adventures await young readers in this additional Wainewright title.

Scratch Programming Playground: Learn to Program by Making Cool Games by Al Sweigart

Here’s another title that uses SCRATCH to engage young coders.

Code Like A Girl: Rad Tech Projects and Practical Tips by Miriam Peskowitz

Step-by-step projects will guide young readers through the creative process, self-expressions, and telling their own stories. Projects include smartphone gloves and a motion sensor to tell when someone enters your room.

Spies, Code Breakers and Secret Agents: A World War II Book for Kids by Carole P. Roman

Take a look at another facet of coding with this historical STEM book that takes readers on a tour of the undercover operations that helped the Allies win WWII.

Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change The World by Reshma Saujani

Be inspired by the creator of the Girls Who Code organization to get hands-on with this book. Create apps, games, and robots to make the world a better place.

Secret Coders 6-book series by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes

Although this series is fiction, former computer programming teacher Yang delivers an exciting mystery full of logic puzzles and basic coding instructions. Pair with any of the other coding books above.


Nancy Castaldo has written books about our planet for over 20 years including, THE STORY OF SEEDS, which earned the 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 strives to inform, inspire, and empower her readers. Nancy also served as Regional Advisor Emeritus of the Eastern NY SCBWI region. Her 2020 international title about farm and food is THE FARM THAT FEEDS US: A Year In The Life Of An Organic Farm. Visit her at www.nancycastaldo.com. 

Patricia Newman writes middle-grade nonfiction that empowers young readers to act on behalf of the environment and their communities. The Sibert Honor author of Sea Otter Heroes, Newman has also received an NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book Award for Eavesdropping on Elephants, a Green Earth Book Award for Plastic, Ahoy!, and a Eureka! Gold Medal from the California Reading Association for Zoo Scientists to the Rescue. 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 young readers can use writing to be the voice of change. Visit her at www.patriciamnewman.com. Stay tuned for her upcoming Planet Ocean – spring 2021.

STEM Tuesday – Diseases and Pandemics — Author Interview

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 revisiting Gail Jarrow, author of the highly acclaimed Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary. Although this is a historical medical thriller its exploration of the opportunities and ethics of public health resonate in today’s COVID-19 reality.

Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano: Thank you for joining STEM Tuesday again. I hope you are doing well during this pandemic. Fatal Fever takes readers to a time when typhoid fever outbreaks were not uncommon in the U.S. and elsewhere. What would you say the book is primarily about?

Picture of the cover of fatal fever. Gail Jarrow:  The book is part of my Deadly Diseases trilogy, which focuses on early-20th-century medicine.  I consider that period a turning point. After the acceptance  of  germ theory, scientists and physicians were looking for ways to prevent, treat, and cure diseases. I wrote Fatal Fever to explain how typhoid fever was tackled, and I chose Mary Mallon, aka Typhoid Mary,  as a way to tell the story.

CCD: The opening scene, in which Mary Mallon seeks to escape from health officials and the police, is full of suspense. It’s a gripping beginning and it flows smoothly to the rest of the book’s structure. It makes me wonder how the book’s narrative arc took shape in your mind. Can you fill us on in some of that process?

GJ:  I think it helps readers to understand unfamiliar information, such as a disease, when I approach the subject through personal stories.  Because Mary Mallon was an asymptomatic typhoid carrier,  I couldn’t show the disease’s horrible toll by only telling  her story.  I found another way.  I discovered that George Soper (the sanitary engineer  who tracked her down) had helped to clean up a typhoid epidemic in my hometown of Ithaca, New York, in 1903.  Early in my  book, I use details about that episode to introduce readers to the biology of the disease, the ways it devastated the bodies of individual Ithacans, and the fact that there was no cure or treatment.  When Soper starts his search for Mary Mallon in New York City just three years later, the reader understands why he believes it is critically important to find her before she can sicken and kill others.

CCD: This book brings in various disciplines and topics –history, human rights and civics, and public health and the biology of disease all come into play. Yet it’s a tight story. Did you ever struggle with drafts that were too complex or too rambling a book for your readers?

GJ: My biggest hurdle is the jump from researching to writing. I’ve read thousands of pages of historical background, past and present scientific literature, and primary documents. From all that, I have to figure out the most engaging, accessible, and accurate way to present this knowledge in abbreviated form. One thing that often helps is to remember my days teaching middle-school science. If I were conveying this information to my students, how would I do it?  As I write, I keep an eye on vocabulary as well as sentence, paragraph, and chapter length. I read everything  aloud so that I hear how it sounds. I’m not afraid to slash my prose. When I hand my manuscript to my longtime editor, Carolyn Yoder, I always ask her to look for spots that drag or confuse.

CCD: How did you decide which scientific information to include and what to leave out?

GJ: I consider how much science background my typical readers probably have. Do they know enough that I can build on that foundation to explain new information?  I’m careful not to simplify so much that I make incorrect statements.  Sometimes, after reading many scientific papers and talking to experts, I realize that parts of the science aren’t settled. Depending on the topic, I might explain the debate. But if it’s too technical and in the weeds for my audience, I might not include that aspect. I ran into a different problem with my book about plague, Bubonic Panic. I came across a recent controversial hypothesis about the history of plague. Though intriguing, it was based on very weak evidence. If the evidence had been stronger, I might have mentioned the idea. But I decided it would be irresponsible to perpetuate what might turn out to be speculative balderdash.

CCD: I have experienced similar decisions in my own writing. Deciding which new ideas to include can be a tough call! Moving on…Obviously, as a book that features a dangerous infectious disease, there are parallels to our current COVID-19 pandemic. Which Fatal Fever themes and issues resonate most strongly for you as the world faces and attempts to cope with COVID-19?

GJ:  In my Author’s Note to Fatal Fever, which I wrote several years ago, I raised the issues that arise when a deadly, highly contagious, and untreatable disease strikes.  I was thinking about typhoid fever in 1900 and the plight of Mary Mallon when quarantines and contact tracing were part of the story. But what I wrote then applies to any epidemic:  What do we expect health authorities to do? What government actions would or should we tolerate? Does protecting a city/state/country override the rights and freedoms of an individual?  You can’t get any more relevant to COVID than that!

public health poster/cartoon

 The numerous historical images and documents in FATAL FEVER, such as this cartoon (Page 115), help to bring readers back to the early 20th century and better understand the tale and its context.

CCD: In Fatal Fever, you point out that science understanding that asymptomatic individuals can spread typhoid fever was new at the time when Mary Mallon was identified as a carrier. Today, we are facing a new disease, and information about its transmission has developed and evolved over the months. I wonder if you see anything in the story of Mary Mallon and her intersection with disease, transmission, and public health that might be of use in our individual and collective responses to COVID-19?

GJ: I personally learned several lessons from Mary’s case and typhoid outbreaks. People whose job it was to worry about public health (officials, medical personnel) had one agenda. People who had to make a living to support themselves and their families (Mary, other typhoid carriers) had a different agenda. The goals and needs of these groups ended up in conflict.  Compromises had to be found.  They have to be found today, too.

World Health Organization slide about how COVID-19 is spread.

An early 21st-century public health slide about how COVID-19 spreads. Note that as of this posting, WHO and the US Centers for disease control acknowledge that asymptomatic individuals can also spread the coronavirus. (Source: World Health Organization)

 

Another lesson is a hopeful one. The diseases I’ve studied from 100 years ago have been controlled and, in some cases, conquered.  We have witnessed amazing discoveries in COVID treatments and vaccines in nine or ten months. It took years, even decades, to make that progress with earlier diseases. Our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents suffered through much worse times—disease-wise—than today, and they coped and survived. History gives us perspective.

CCD: I appreciate that hopeful, historical angle! As you explain in a short video on your website, you write about history. Yet science themes come into your books. What thoughts do you have about how these historical stories might impact readers’ relationship to science?

GJ: First, as I mentioned above, I think personal stories make scientific topics more relatable.

Second, the history of science shows that understanding and “theories” change as we gain more information. In the past, scientists and physicians  fervently believed in ideas that we now know were absolutely wrong, and the scientific/medical establishment criticized and ridiculed anyone who challenged those ideas. Two examples of 19th-century mavericks who are relevant today as we deal with antiseptics and handwashing: Lister and Semmelweis. Scientific views change. Careful observation and proof from unbiased tests are essential.

CCD: Stepping away from history—what’s new for you as an author, and what we can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?

The cover of Gail Jarrow's most recent book, BLOOD AND GERMS.

Gail Jarrow continues to write about the intersection of history and medicine. BLOOD AND GERMS is her most recent book.

GJ: In keeping with my interest in history and the evolution of medicine, this fall I launched my Medical Fiascoes series with Boyds Mills & Kane. The first book, BLOOD AND GERMS: The Civil War Battle Against Wounds and Disease,  came out last month. The second book, AMBUSHED!: The Assassination Plot Against President Garfield, will be published next fall, and it explores the way medical ignorance led to his death. I’m currently in the midst of research for the third book in the series.

CCD: This is exciting! I’m sure we all look forward to exploring more medical history with you as our thoughtful, informative guide, Gail. I want to thank you for your wonderful writing and for this interview. Stay well.

 

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Win a FREE copy of FATAL FEVER: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary!

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!

Photo of Carolyn DeCristofanoYour host is Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano, founding STEM Tuesday contributor, STEM Education Consultant, and author of STEM books for kids. Her books include A Black Hole is NOT a Hole, Running on Sunshine: How Does Solar Energy Work?, and National Geographic Kids Ultimate Space Atlas.

 

 

 

Gail Jarrow is the author of nonfiction books and novels for ages 8-18. Her nonfiction books have earned numerous awards. Photograph of author Gail Jarrow

 

 

STEM Tuesday – Diseases and Pandemics — Writing Tips & Resources

Reading Science History Through Photographs

From YouTube videos to memes, from graphs to diagrams, a lot of the information we take in every day comes from pictures. The process of reading images is called visual literacy. Academics define visual literacy as “set of abilities that enables an individual to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use, and create images and visual media.” (Lundy and Stephens, 2014). Reading images is a critical skill not just for life, but also for researching and writing captivating nonfiction.

Every book I’ve written has required analyzing and interpreting photos or videos. That’s where I glean juicy details, especially about characters and settings. Writing a scene is certainly easier if I can picture it in my mind.

Today, I want to focus on reading just one type of primary source — the photograph. Many of the books on this month’s book list are illustrated using archival photographs. For example, Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s TERRIBLE TYPHOID MARY: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America has an entire photo album in the back matter.

Likewise, THE 1918 FLU PANDEMIC: Core Events of a Worldwide Outbreak by John Mickols, Jr. features many historic images from the 1918 flu pandemic, including those sourced from the Library of Congress (LOC) or the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). 

And here’s the good news: many of those LOC and NARA images can be found online. If you go to LOC.gov and search for 1918 and influenza, you’ll find dozens of historic images you can review with your students. Or click here to access my search.  At the NARA, find 1918 influenza images here.

Activity – Reading Historic Photographs

This activity will help your students learn to read historic photographs, glean useful details, and interpret them.

First, select a historic photo, perhaps from one of the collections mentioned above.

Next, review the Library of Congress’s Teachers Guide for analyzing historic photographs. You’ll find that here.  The LOC encourages students to work through a three-step process. Those steps are:

  • Observing – noting details from the photo
  • Reflecting – generating and testing hypotheses about the image
  • Questioning – asking questions that lead to more observations and reflections.

Download the blank student Primary Source Analysis Tool here.

Students could work on this activity individually, in small groups, or as a whole class.

Once you’ve analyzed your photo, consider how you could use the information you discovered in a piece of nonfiction writing.

O.O.L.F