STEM

Teachers, You Inspire Us

On this Labor Day Holiday, it only seems appropriate to give a huge shout out thank you to all the teachers. You INSPIRE US!

According to the Department of Labor:

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

While many workers fulfill that particular requirement, teachers do that every day by inspiring their students. Teachers aren’t just the ones who work in the classroom, but also are paraprofessionals,  coaches, librarians, and yes, even parents. Everyone who works with students has the ability to have a positive affect on them. Sometimes you see it right away, and sometimes it doesn’t happen for many years. Regardless, some teaching moments and teachers in particular stay with us our whole lives.

That happened to me. I truly believe that I would probably not be a science author if I hadn’t had some amazing teachers in my life.

Here is my story:

 

I have always loved science! It captured my attention and imagination from a very young age. Luckily, I had parents who encouraged my love of science. Oh, and we also had a creek in our backyard. I spent many wonderful days exploring that creek, knee-deep in water, mud, and yes, sometimes frogs.

At the age of 9, I decided that I wanted to become a pediatrician. I didn’t really know how to do that until I stepped into my 7th grade science class and met a woman that would change my life. Her name was Susan Roth. And to this day (over 40 years later) I still remember my first day in that class. She had a full skeleton model in her classroom. It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.

 

And then there was Mrs. Roth, herself, a very outgoing, happy, encouraging teacher who was EXCITED about science. And most of all made science EXCITING for us!  She used the textbook only as a guide, but instead we focused on the most amazing experiments in her classroom. She encouraged me to study the creek water, really look at it. I did reports with my classmates on the microscopic creatures that we found in it. We mapped the entire creek throughout our little town. We studied its levels, how it moved, and discussed erosion affects from the floods we had occasionally.

We also worked with that skeleton, of course, studying all of the parts of the human body, the systems, and I  could even name all 206 bones!

The best part about Mrs. Roth was that she always encouraged everyone. This was in the 1970’s and it was unusual to have a female science teacher where I lived. Yet she fit in so well. I remembered one day telling her that I wanted to be a pediatrician and she didn’t laugh. She didn’t stop to say, um, that is a difficult road. Instead, she said, “Awesome! I know you’ll be great. You can do anything.”  Those words stuck with me.

In fact, about ten years later when I was nervous about applying to the U.S. Naval Academy, where I would eventually go to college, I remembered Mrs. Roth’s words. They gave me the courage to apply, get in, and pick chemistry as my major. After all, that was the degree you’d need to go to medical school back then.

Being a chemistry major is not easy.

Those of you that have taken even 1 chemistry class in college can probably agree. When you add the requirements of 2 years of math classes, 3 years of engineering classes, plus all of the naval ship classes, it’s a lot. I got bogged down in all of that work, and my grades were about middle of the road. My dream of becoming a doctor was slipping away.

And then I had another teacher, Dr. Joseph Lomax, he was my chemistry teacher at USNA. He knew how hard I worked in the class and that my grades didn’t always reflect the amount of effort I was putting in. He took the time to talk to me and to listen to my dreams about becoming a doctor. Having had it for almost 12 years, it was a tough dream to give up. He didn’t shrug it off, instead, he told me how I could take my gifts and use them in a different way.

He told me that  I had a gift for explaining difficult things in a way that students could understand. That I could take complex science and engineering ideas and turn them into easily understandable concepts. It was something not everyone could do, and that I’d make a wonderful teacher some day. He was right.

Those words Dr. Lomax said to me carried me a long way. In fact, you might say that they helped me to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. At only 24 years of age, I could never have envisioned– all these many years later– that I would end up here, writing STEM books for children.

But when I look back, it makes total sense. I feel like I spent my whole life moving in this direction. Taking complex and unique STEM topics and turning them into exciting books for kids which, hopefully, will inspire them to love science and STEM as much as I do. I am very lucky to have a job I love. And I do it in the name of my teachers.

I’ve dedicated two of my books to my teachers. For Mrs. Roth, I dedicated my Dr. E’s Super Stellar Solar System book

 

“To Susan Roth, my 7th grade science teacher, who opened my eyes to the amazing intrigue and adventure that the world of science has to offer. She is my true Science Super Hero.”

 

 

 

 

And to Dr. Lomax, I dedicate my new chemistry book, ” Thank you for believing in me and helping me to see how my gifts in STEM can be used to inspire others as yours have done for me.”

 

 

 

 

In fact, all of the amazing things I’ve been able to do as a STEM author can be traced back to their encouraging words. I wouldn’t be there without them. (And my AWESOME family, too, of course).

     

 

I realize that this year is particularly difficult for all who are teaching. Unusual circumstances have changed the way things normally work.  And yet, I know you are all doing your best to continue to make those personal connections. Students won’t forget that.  When they reach a time in their life when they need a voice to tell them, “You can do it”, it just might be that of a special teacher who believed in them.

HUGS to all of the amazing teachers out there and THANK YOU for what you do for us. We appreciate it!

Enjoy your holiday. You deserve it.

 

And in honor of my two amazing science teachers, I am offering a giveaway of these two books as a pack.

 

I’ll pick 3 winners. To be entered, leave a comment below about a teacher who inspired YOU. OR if you are a teacher, let us know about the kids YOU inspire every day. 😀

 

Editor Spotlight: Meet Carol Hinz of Millbrook Press and Carolrhoda Books at Lerner Publishing

Carol Hinz is Editorial Director of Millbrook Press and Carolrhoda Books, divisions of Lerner Publishing Group in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She acquires and edits picture books, poetry, and nonfiction. Books she’s edited include Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Storyby Caren Stelson; A Map into the World by Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Seo Kim; Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko; and Tracking Pythons: The Quest to Catch an Invasive Predator and Save an Ecosystem by Kate Messner

Hello Mixed-up Filers, today we’re featuring Editorial Director Carol Hinz for our Editor Spotlight. I was fortunate enough to meet and work alongside Carol at Lerner Publishing and saw the many wonderful books she publishes for Millbrook Press and Carolrhoda Books. Thanks for joining us on the blog today, Carol!

Thank you so much for inviting me here, Karen. I’m excited to talk about all things middle grade!

Can you tell me a bit about how you ended up in your role at Lerner? And what you love about it?

Sure—as you’ll see, it evolved over time. Way back in 2003, I began working at Lerner as an editor, focusing primarily on series nonfiction for the school and library market. Lerner acquired Millbrook Press in 2004, and after Millbrook cofounder Jean Reynolds decided to scale back her role, I got the opportunity to become editorial director for the imprint, which I began late in 2007. And I added Carolrhoda’s picture books and nonfiction to my job duties a decade later.

I love that I get to be involved with such a variety of books and that I get to work closely with so many immensely talented authors, illustrators, and photographers! I also feel fortunate that since I’ve started as editorial director, there’s been increased interest in high-quality nonfiction for young people and a great deal of innovation in how authors are approaching nonfiction topics. It’s truly a fascinating time to be making nonfiction!

What was the first middle-grade book you edited? Did you have any challenges with it?

Oh, wow! If I recall correctly, it was Ghana in Pictures by Yvette La Pierre, which was part of the Visual Geography Series. Because I was so new to editing nonfiction at the time, my big challenge was figuring out how it was supposed to be done! We had to make sure the text was at the correct reading level while also conveying important information about Ghana’s landforms, history, government, and people.

Editing that book really taught me just how challenging it is to create engaging nonfiction for young people. Authors need to present complex information while being mindful of vocabulary, sentence structure, sentence length, and what sort of background information a reader might need to fully understand the topic.

Can you tell us about your editorial process now, from acquisition to print?

Um . . . do you have all day? As a book geek, I also love the creation process, but I’ll try to keep this brief. Most of the time with MG nonfiction, I acquire based on a proposal. So once the acquisition is approved, the author needs to go off and write the full book.

After the author has written the manuscript and sends it over to me, I read through it and then ideally will set it aside for a month or more. One of the reasons for this is that I find I do my best editing after I’ve had a chance to percolate on the manuscript. The process from there always involves certain key steps, but there’s also a lot of individual variation depending on the book and the author.

For some books, my feedback will include requesting that the author write new chapters or reorganize information. Once the structure is solid, I’ll focus in on the flow of information within paragraphs as well as phrasing and word choice. I’ll also look for places where I think the author needs to fill in a little background information or context for our readership. I’m all about the track changes feature—I try to ask lots of questions and throw out lots of suggestions as I go. My goal is not for an author to simply agree with everything I say; instead, I want them to engage with my comments. I love when an author understands where I’m coming from and then responds with with an even better idea than what I suggested.

While the author and I are finalizing the text, someone in our photo research department will be searching for just the right photos. If the book needs diagrams, either our in-house illustrator or a freelance illustrator will start working on those elements. My fabulous colleagues in the art department start working on cover designs, and and after the final (well, mostly final) text is typeset, they’ll start putting the layout together. The author sees the layout at several points along the way to give input on photos and any diagrams, write captions, and just generally ensure that everything is coming together well. I really enjoy the collaborative nature of book making—both working closely with authors and working with my Lerner colleagues.

No manuscript is perfect, so what qualities make it feel right for fixing to you? What do you think can be fixed? What makes it unfixable?

Oooh, that’s a good question! No matter what, I think the premise of the manuscript needs to be solid—both what the manuscript is about and how the author wants to present that topic. And I can’t fix insufficient research or a lack of interest/enthusiasm on the author’s part. But as long as the author is up for it, I can work with them on structure, reading level, and plenty of line editing. So much really comes down to having a shared vision for the book. As long as the author and I have that shared vision—and the time to really dig deep and work together—we can create a great book!

 

What have been some of your favorite MG books you’ve worked on and why?

Gah, this is such a hard question!

Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story by Caren Stelson: Making this book was a powerful emotional journey that took me all the way to Japan. (Read about it here: https://lernerbooks.blog/2017/01/dispatch-from-nagasaki-visiting-sachiko-yasui.html)

 

 

Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem by Patricia Newman (one of our STEM Tuesday contributors!): This book is a fascinating story of scientific discovery that taught me the phrase trophic cascade and makes me feel smarter every time I read it.

 


Monstrous: The Lore, Gore, and Science behind Your Favorite Monsters by Carlyn Beccia: Edited by my colleague Shaina Olmanson, this book offers a unique and compelling look at famous monsters and the history and science behind them—and has awesome illustrations and infographics to boot!

 

 

Tracking Pythons: The Quest to Catch an Invasive Predator and Save an Ecosystem by Kate Messner: earlier this year, my younger son became obsessed with this book. It was magical to see a book I’d edited spark such curiosity in him! (I talk about it here: https://lernerbooks.blog/2020/03/tracking-pythons-science-up-close.html)

 

Journey into the Deep: Discovering New Ocean Creatures by Rebecca L. Johnson: I learned a lot about making an ambitious MG book from this book—it’s a 64-page look at recently discovered ocean creatures scientists found during the ten-year Census of Marine Life, and it’s packed with fantastic photos as well as rich text that takes readers from the ocean’s surface down to its depths. The book came out in 2010, and it’s the first book I ever edited to receive a starred review. I still remember the thrill I felt the day that review came through. (CHeck out the review here: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/rebecca-l-johnson/journey-deep/)

 

Having been at the epicenter of the George Floyd protests, how has the Black Lives Matter movement affected Lerner? And children’s publishing in general? Do you think children’s publishing has changed or is changing in response?

Lerner’s downtown Minneapolis offices were boarded up for about a week at the height of the protests, but in a lot of ways, that’s the least of it. While this is not the first time we’ve had internal conversations about publishing diverse voices and what we’re doing to make our workplace more inclusive, in the aftermath of the protests these conversations took on new urgency. And I believe that’s true across the industry as well.

In children’s publishing, the creation of We Need Diverse Books in 2014 spurred a number of important changes, but it’s clear right now that we still have more to do to make this industry more equitable.

While a lot of the conversation about diversity in children’s books has focused on picture books and fiction, I think we in the nonfiction community need to take a very serious look at just how few BIPOC authors are writing nonfiction (especially MG and YA) and find ways to bring in new authors from more diverse backgrounds. To this end, I am working on an idea that includes an open call for MG nonfiction, but I’m not ready to share specifics just yet. (Check back in the fall!)

Another outcome of the protests is that we’ve seen a surge of interest in books such as Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Gwen Strauss, illustrated by Floyd Cooper; Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Selina Alko and Sean Qualls; The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie; and Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini.

            

What are some under-represented MG topics you’d like to see more of?

Books about areas of science other than biology! As much as I adore animals, I’d love to see some smart authors write about chemistry, physics, engineering, and all manner of other science topics in ways that engage MG readers.

I would also like to see books that highlight the work of BIPOC scientists. We’ve published some great narrative nonfiction about individual scientists—including Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem by Patricia Newman—and I’d love to see something along those lines focusing on the work of a scientist of color.

What advice can you give authors?

If you want to write truly ambitious nonfiction for kids, don’t think about your book as existing in isolation. Rather, imagine your book as being in conversation with other books that are in the same space as your book.

As an example, when I was editing Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story by Caren Stelson, I thought a lot about the book Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin. Sheinkin’s book wraps up pretty quickly once the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, whereas Stelson’s book covers fifty years of aftermath, as it plays out in Sachiko Yasui’s life. Reading the two books together will enrich a reader’s understanding of them both.

Do you have any upcoming middle-grade books that you’d like to tell our readers about?

I’m really excited about a book coming out this October, Bionic Beasts: Saving Animal Lives with Artificial Flippers, Legs, and Beaks by Jolene Gutiérrez. It’s a STEM-themed book that brings together biology and engineering through the stories of five different animals from around the globe that are thriving thanks to their prosthetic body parts. There’s Lola, a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, Mosha, an Asian elephant, Cassidy, a German shepherd, Vitória, a greylag goose, and Pirate, a Berkshire-Tamworth pig. Each of these animals was at risk of dying due to their circumstances, but humans intervened, and using a variety of techniques and technologies including surgery, 3D printing, and more, they were able to create prosthetics that enabled these animals to survive. The book also includes hands-on activities in each chapter so readers can better understand the engineering concepts involved.

Is there anything else you’d like to add

To support excellent MG nonfiction for kids, please be sure to buy these books! You can also request them from the library, review them, and share them with others.

Well, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today, Carol!

Find Carol on Twitter: @CarolCHinz.

Books to Inspire You to Explore the Outdoors (safely)

Hopefully this blog post finds you all well and safe. I’m imaging it also finds you perhaps a bit anxious to get outside. After all, it is summer, and while I don’t know what the weather is like where you live, here in Florida, it’s glorious! A perfect time to get out and about and explore.

But what if where you live it’s not the right time to get out much yet. What can you do to keep your kids — and yourselves — occupied for the next few weeks while things open up? What can you do?  Why not bring the outdoors inside or at the very least get creative with your own little outdoor spot. I’m talking about getting creative with SCIENCE outside. (come on, if you know me, you knew this was going to be a science post) 😁

Are you ready to get your outdoor science on? GREAT!  —>  Head to your bookshelf!

That’s right, inspiration for how to imagine, invent and discover great outdoor science is right there among the books.

What are you interested in?  Bugs? Moths? Birds? Cool!

Check out a few of these books.

            

 

Or perhaps you have more of a technology bent and want to understand how animals and technology go together.

For that check out my new book BEASTLY BIONICS                             

 

And who says that animals are the only bits of science you can see outside or around your house? What about cars? or buildings?

       

 

Finally, what if you are just inspired to invent something? Try out these fun new books

      

 

For MORE great ideas of how to use STEM/STEAM books to create fun at home,

check out our STEM Tuesday Blog, which has three years worth of activities for kids/parents/teachers —   

and also STEAMTEAM2020 website which highlights new books coming out in 2020!

 

Now that your interest has been piqued, it’s time to DO something with your new knowledge.

Your challenge is to observe, design, draw, build and create something new.

  • Come up with a new type of animal– one that doesn’t exist but you think it should
  • Design a new type of bionic robot that mimics the way an animal moves or reacts that would be helpful to humans
  • Draw a picture of a car or building that would be awesome to drive or live in
  • Write a story about your creation and share it with your friends and family
  • Make a game or puzzle for others to try to guess what you drew
  • Turn your living room into a new type of ecosystem (be sure to ask your parent’s permission) and take everyone on a safari

 

Science really IS all around you. It starts with your imagination. Time to let that imagination and inspiration SOAR!

I’d love to see what you come up with. Leave a comment/picture below and you’ll be entered to win a copy of my new Beastly Bionics book!

Happy inventing!