STEM Tuesday

STEM Tuesday Field Work — Books List

Field work is a hallmark of so many science disciplines. This month we tried to cover a broad range of field work ideas–from geology to  weather to archaeology to marine science.

Please comment below if you have other ideas to add to the list.  We would love for STEM Tuesday to become a collaborative resource.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org *Life in Surtsey: Iceland’s Upstart Island  by Loree Griffin Burns
In this Scientists in the Field title, Loree Griffin Burns follows entomologist Erling Olafsson on a five-day trip to this brand-new island to discover how life takes hold in a new land.

Eye of the StSupport Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgorm: NASA, Drones, and the Race to Crack the Hurricane Code by Amy Cherrix
This Scientists in the Field title  looks at the science of meteorology. Like all Scientists in the Field titles these two bring STEM subjects, and the people studying them, to life for young readers. Check out the SITF site for a complete listing of all the books in this series.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators that Saved An Ecosystem  by Patricia Newman
Discover the fascinating story of how sea otters keep a California seagrass-filled inlet healthy.  Marine biologist Brent Hughes’ field work and detective skills uncovered an amazing new relationship between sea otters and their ecosystem. [Sibert Honor Book]

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Anita Silvey
Read about one of our most beloved and famous field researchers, Jane Goodall, in this thoughtfully researched biography. A perfect read for budding field scientists.

 

Hidden FiguSupport Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgres: The Untold True Story of Four African-American Women Who Helped Launch Our Nation Into Space by Margot Lee Sheerly
This book is geared for younger readers. It integrates every STEM theme in a highly engaging narrative text.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Hopping Ahead of Climate Change: Snowshoe Hares, Science, and Survival by Sneed Collard III
The is a story of Arctic science that integrates wildlife ecology and climate science. A wonderful addition to a classroom library.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Children of the Past: Archaeology and the Lives of Kids by Lois Huey
An archaeologist herself, Lois Huey, shares stories with her young reader of archaeological field discoveries about children who lived long ago.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Secrets of a Civil War Submarine: Solving the Mysteries of the H. L. Huntley by Sally M. Walker
A terrific story of archaeology, engineering, and marine science, Secrets of a Civil War Submarine is well-researched and engaging.

 

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 2017 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 with 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 the Green Earth Book Award and a finalist for the AAAS/Subaru Science Books and Films Award, 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.

Check back every Tuesday of every month:

  • Week 1:  STEM Tuesday Themed Book Lists
  • Week 2:  STEM Tuesday in the Classroom
  • Week 3:  STEM Tuesday Crafts and Resources
  • Week 4:  STEM Tuesday Author Interviews and Giveaways

STEM Tuesday Wild and Wacky Science — Interview with Sarah Albee

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 Sarah Albee who wrote this month’s featured wild and wacky science book, POISON: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicines.

Sarah Albee is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 100 books for kids, ranging from preschool through middle grade. Recent nonfiction titles have been Bank Street College of Education Best Books selections, Notable Social Studies Trade Books, and winners of Eureka! Nonfiction Children’s Book Awards. She loves to meet her readers and visits K-8 schools all over the country.

Mary Kay Carson: Tell us about Poison and how you came to write it.

Sarah Albee: It’s the history of how humans have poisoned one another, from ancient times to the present. For kids who want to delve deeper into the chemistry of a particular poison, there are “tox boxes” throughout the book that describe how a particular poison can be delivered, where it comes from or how it is manufactured, and what the symptoms are when a person is poisoned. I’ve been obsessed with poison and how it works ever since I was a little kid and first read Snow White. I wanted to know what sort of poison was in that apple. How could it cause a reversible paralysis and a heartbeat that is so slow, you might not find a pulse and conclude that the victim is dead? And because I know you are wondering, too, I’ll tell you my theory: atropine. It’s a plant-based alkaloid found in belladonna and mandrake, and used to be known as sleeping nightshade. Back in 1597 a botanist wrote that a small amount of belladonna leads to madness, while a moderate amount causes “dead sleepe” and a lot of it can kill you.

MKC: You undertook a phenomenal amount of research to write this book. 

SA: I uncovered so many cool stories, I didn’t have room to include them all in the book. So I released a series of short videos called The Poison Files, mostly “whodunit” poison cases from history, and starring some great kid-actors. You can find them on YouTube and on my website.

MKC: This book, as well as others you’ve authored, are a mix of both history and science. Do you have a STEM background? 

SA: Many of my books are a mash-up of history and science. I am more of a historian than a scientist. In fact, to refresh my scientific knowledge, I took two online college courses as part of my research for this book (chemistry and forensics). But the division of human knowledge into separate disciplines is a relatively recent phenomenon, and in my mind, somewhat of an artificial construct. Enlightenment era thinkers considered all human knowledge seamless. What I find fascinating to explore and to write about are the in-between areas—the science behind historical events, the history of science, the real lives of painters and musicians and how their experiences informed their art, and the real-life events that might have inspired novels and poems.

MKC: For readers who loved POSION, what other middle-grade books would you suggest—nonfiction and/or fiction?

SA: I’m a big fan of How They Croaked/How They Choked by Georgia Bragg (and, fun fact, we share the same editor!). Also books by Carlyn Beccia (she has a new one coming out in April that I can’t wait to read, called They Lost Their Heads!). Another science writer with a great sense of humor is Jess Keating. Love her books!

MKC: What’s next for Sarah Albee?

SA: I am hard at work right now on a book that has yet to be announced, so I can’t talk too specifically about it. But it will be a combination of (true) stories that include a bit of history, science, biography, art, and sports, all rolled into one. As for how I’m tackling it…let’s just say one must tiptoe gently through my office to avoid setting off an avalanche and being crushed beneath a tumbling pile of books.

More about Sarah Albee and her book POISON:

  • Read reviews from KirkusSchool Library JournalBooklist, and Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books here.
  • Buy the book!
  • See the book trailer!
  • Watch six videos from Sarah Albee’s “Poison Files.”

Win a FREE copy of POISON!

* 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 this week is Mary Kay Carson, fellow space geek, science nerd, and author of Mission to Pluto and other nonfiction books for kids.

 

STEM Tuesday Wild and Wacky Science — Writing Craft and Resources

Wild and Wacky (and Weird) Science

Wild & wacky science is all around us. One of the best examples I’ve ever personally encountered is the Titan arum, or corpse flower, that went full bloom last summer at the university where I work. Beautiful in its perfect weirdness. And, if you’ve never had the pleasure of a blooming corpse flower experience, its smell is just as wonderfully horrific as the name suggests. Think one hundred dead mice in a 90°F humidity chamber and you’re getting really close…

Sometimes in the STEM world, great discoveries are made through observations that, at first glance, are considered “wild” and/or “wacky”. And for argument’s sake, I’m going to add “weird” as the third “W”. Science is basically built on things which appear odd at first glance. Imagine the first person who ever looked at the four-legged ruminant chewing cud in the meadow next to the village and said, “Hey, I bet whatever’s inside that hangy-down, bag thing would go great with my PB&J sandwich.”

The wild, weird and wacky often leads to open doors in both thought and discovery. One notices a little thing like how annoying it is to pick the cockleburrs off the dog after every single trip to the field. And while struggling to pull the little !@#$s out of the dog’s fur as she sits so, so patiently, you notice the weird design details of the burr. The hooked barbs jutting out at the perfect angles to cover the maximum surface area. You notice how those hooks grab and hold tight. You also notice that for the umpteenth time today your preschool-aged offspring asks you to tie his or her shoes. BINGO! The observation of the weird natural design of the burr serves as a template for the invention of something awesome like Velcro; one of the greatest and most practical inventions of the 20th-century.

Odd triggers inquiry in our brain. We, as humans, are innately curious. We see something wild, weird, and/or wacky and, after our initial shock, begin to ask, “Why?”. “Why?” is the switch which fires the STEM mind. Once switched on, these STEM neural connections in the brain process the input observations and begin formulating the next question, “How?”.

The wild, the wacky, and the weird can lead to the WONDERFUL. Answering the “why” and the “how” questions unlocks the door to discovery. And this is the same in the laboratory as it is in the classroom, the library, or in the writing bunker. Wild and wacky things we observe in our universe spark inquiry. Inquiry leads to discovery. Discovery leads to more discovery and more creativity

An interest in certain wild and wacky and wonderful aspects of our universe also lends itself to social connection. People with like interests can bond over these seemingly off-the-wall interests.   

What halfway reputable STEM wild & wacky science blog post would omit a list of random wild and wacky science facts? Not this halfway reputable STEM blogger! So, for your STEM entertainment, here’s an eye-opening list of wild, wacky, weird, and wonderful science facts.

  • The human brain processes around 11 million bits of information every second but is aware of only 40.
  • 42 minutes and 12 seconds? That’s how long it would take to jump to the other side of the earth through a hole drilled straight through the center of our wonderful planet.
  • A light particle, called a photon takes only 8 minutes to travel from the Sun’s surface to Earth.
  • But it takes 40,000 years for that same light particle to travel from its origins in the Sun’s core to its surface.
  • A mid-sized, run-of-the-mill cumulus cloud weighs as much as 80 elephants.
  • A single bolt of lightning contains enough energy to cook 100,000 pieces of toast.
  • After removing all the empty spaces in all the atoms in every person on Planet Earth, the entire human race would fit into an apple.
  • Over the course of an average human lifespan, the skin completely replaces itself 900 times.
  • The air in an average-sized room weighs about 100 pounds.
  • In 20 seconds, a red blood cell can make a complete circuit through the body.
  • Tyrannosaurus rex lived closer in time to us than to Stegosaurus.

Dear student, teacher, writer, and/or librarian readers, your STEM Tuesday Wild and Wacky Mission for the week is to observe and record something odd in your everyday world. Be it animal, vegetable, mineral, or mechanical, write it down and then think about it.

  • The size.
  • The shape.
  • The function or niche.

Whatever you see, document it. Use the information to formulate the “why” and then the “how” questions. Finally, let your imagination and logic run loose in the spirit of discovery and invention to formulate an alternate use, function, or future for your odd observation. Repeat daily for one week to find out how much fun, and how functional, the wild, the wacky, and the weird science in your world can be.

I bet it’s wonderful!

Have a wild and wacky month!


THE O.O.L.F. FILES

My biggest question for this month was whether we even need the O.O.L.F. files in the month of Wild and Wacky Science since The O.O.L.F. File section is basically wild, wacky, and weird by design. After much deep thought and soul-searching, the issue was decided. Of course, we need an O.O.L.F. Files! One can never have too much wild, wacky, and weird STEM information, am I right?

  • Titan arum, the corpse flower, blooms!
  • Mitochondria run hot!
    • Our cellular power plants can operate at what temp? Is that even possible? I honestly can’t feel a thing in any of my 37 trillion cells. Can you?
  • What Baby Poop Says About Brain Development.
    • Can the composition of an infant’s intestinal microbiota have an effect on future cognitive abilities? 
  • A Virus With Black Widow DNA
    •  In order to find a new host Wolbachia bacterial cell, the WO bacteriophage must punch its way back into another insect cell and another Wolbachia. Viruses are masters of escape and infiltration, but WO can uniquely get through two sets of barriers—one bacterial, and one animal—by using genes picked up from the black widow venom’s toxin.  Think that’s freaky? So do I!
  • Keeping Cool With Drool
    • By drooling and then slurping up the drop of saliva, a blowfly keeps a cool head despite not having the ability to sweat. (This makes my inner middle school boy smile with joy.)

Mike Hays, O.O.L.F. Master