STEM

STEM Tuesday — The Living Seas– Interview with Patricia Newman

STEM Tuesday

Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview & Book Giveaway, a repeating feature for the last Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Patricia Newman, award winning author of the newly released Planet Ocean.  Combined with Annie Crawley’s stunning photography, Patricia’s research provides an immersive experience for readers of all ages. You’ll also meet some of the people fighting to maintain the ocean’s vital role in sustaining life on our planet.

Before you start, check out this fascinating trailer featuring video shot on location and fascinating facts about the ocean ecosystems:  “Why your library needs Planet Ocean”

Planet Ocean is a beautiful book. It explains the subject material in a beautiful way and the photographs are incredible.  A must read with your children. 

Jeff Bridges, Academy Award winning actor and environmentalist

* * *

Patricia NewmanChristine Taylor-Butler: Patricia, in a past life you have been a teacher, a computer programmer, and an Assistant Director for Cornell University’s regional office. In those capacities, you’ve traveled all over the world, including Kenya with a geneticist as a volunteer for the San Diego Zoo. Do you ever slow down?

Patricia Newman: My husband asks the same question, Christine. I confess I have a hard time sitting still and I enjoy working on multiple projects simultaneously. That said, I relish quiet time, too, to read, soak up nature, and allow my brain to make the connections that ultimately inspire book ideas.

 

CTB: You received the Sibert Honor award for your book Sea Otter Heroes. You mention that a teacher once described fiction as “heart” and nonfiction as “facts.” You said it hurt your feelings. Could you elaborate?

Sea OttersPatricia: The conference speaker was asked to define fiction and nonfiction. She said, “Fiction is the heart and nonfiction is the facts.” And you’re right, Christine. That bland, watered down definition hurt my feelings because she implied nonfiction authors don’t add heart to their work. What about children’s biographies profiling people that empower children to reach for the stars? What about the scientists in books such as Sea Otter Heroes who inspire the next generation of scientists? What about books on focused topics, such as sharks, bugs, or space, that feed the curiosity of young readers? Nonfiction authors write from personal experience and passion. Our topics come from who we are as people and light fires within us. And we want to share that passion with young readers – both as they read our work and as they write. I’d advise teachers out there to pick up a copy of Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep edited by Melissa Stewart. Share with students the essays from 50 nonfiction authors and try to mimic our pre-writing process to add heart to student work.

 

CTB: Your body of work is such a joyful exploration of both science and the human spirit that seeks to explore and improve the environment. Where did that passion come from?

Patricia: When I was young, I watched bugs. I grew vegetables. I scoured tidepools. I compared the shapes of leaves. Like all children, I was a natural scientist, and my questions led my “investigations.” I guess I’m one of the lucky ones because I never lost that desire to question. I still spend as much time outdoors as I can. Because of my love of science, I understand our connection to our natural world – how it feeds our souls, how it supports life on our planet. Whenever I hear about an amazing scientist working to help others understand this connection, I look for the story.

I often hear librarians say that history is people. What I’d like to hear more of is history AND science is people. The scientific skills of observation, investigation, and analysis form the bedrock of the discovery process in any discipline, whether history, language, culture, or mathematics.

 

CTB: Let’s talk about Planet Ocean. It’s an amazing work. You collaborated with Annie Crawley, a professional diver and photographer who explores oceans all over the world with a dive team. How did you first meet?

Planet ocean coverPatricia: Planet Ocean is my third book with the amazing Annie Crawley. We first met while I was working on Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. After the Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition (SEAPLEX) returned to dry land, I contacted the scientists I wanted to interview for the book. I also contacted Annie because she was the expedition photographer, and I knew no one would have the kind of images she had. At the time, not too many people were willing to talk trash, and Annie was thrilled to showcase the expedition’s disturbing findings in a book for kids. Plastic, Ahoy! was one of the first children’s books about marine debris and it has inspired more children than I can count. One middle school reader later wrote her college essay about how Plastic, Ahoy! inspired her to study ocean plastic.

 

CTB: When Annie traveled to take location shots, she uploaded audio and video so you could stay connected with the source material. Was it hard to live the adventures vicariously?

Crawley with Whale

Crawley

Dive/Photographer Annie Crawley

Patricia: I was fortunate to travel to Seattle where Annie and I began our research for the Salish Sea chapter of Planet Ocean. We interviewed several scientists and experts by phone and in person. I also spoke to Annie’s Dive Team about communicating science through writing.

Annie already had science expeditions planned for Indonesia and the Arctic, so I knew early on that I would have to live vicariously. (One interesting note: Publishers rarely fund nonfiction research expenses.) Annie recorded and, in many cases, videoed the interviews, she traveled with my questions in hand and frequently added her own, and often included messages to me from our experts. When Annie and composer Stella Sung met for a performance of Oceana, they called me from the car to celebrate!
Note: Find out more about Annie Crawley at: www.anniecrawley.com and www.ouroceanandyou.com

 

CTB: The book is a wonderful marriage of science and profiles in courage. I was taken with the enormous diversity of people featured who are active in their local communities combating activities that threaten the health of our oceans. Who stands out the most to you? Is there one particular story that stayed with you after the book was finished?

Patricia: I feel like you’re asking me to pick my favorite child, Christine! I love all the stories – Aji Piper who’s not fighting for climate change, but human change; Eben Hopson who makes films to give his Iñupiat people a voice; Helen Pananggung and her indomitable group of children who clean their Indonesian beach every week; Nicole Helgason who replants coral; Dana Wlson who mourns the lack of salmon in his native waters; the kids and teens from Annie’s Dive Team who lobby the state legislature and made two inspiring films for Planet Ocean.

Divers

photo credit: anniecrawley.com ouroceanandyou.com.

These people and their stories are connected by their love of and their dependence on the ocean And they are working as hard as they can to make sure we all understand that connection.

The stories also demonstrate how readers can take action in their own lives and become a voice for the sea. Annie and I ultimately want readers to love the ocean because we protect what we love.

 

CTB: Planet Ocean features QR codes that link to videos of Annie and the dive team on location. It really brings the book alive and puts the reader in the middle of the action. I found myself stopping to explore beyond the text. How did that idea come about?

Patricia: I’m so happy you watched them! When I wrote Eavesdropping on Elephants, my editor loved the idea of including QR codes to hear the elephants talking just as the scientists did in the forest. The QR codes are a popular feature of that book.

QR exampleWhen Annie and I partnered again for Planet Ocean, her filmmaking skills seemed like a natural fit for QR codes. We wrote and designed Planet Ocean with an underwater perspective. The QR codes give readers the opportunity to dive below the surface to witness what happens for themselves.

 

CTB: To help you get up close and personal with the material, Annie and her team taught you how to scuba dive. What was that like?

Patricia: Annie began with a classroom lesson that included how to breathe through a regulator, how to read my portable computer to keep track of my air supply, how to clear my mask, and the science of diving.

Newman and CrawleyThen I dressed in my wet suit, flippers, mask, snorkel, buoyancy vest, and air tank. The air tank is astonishingly heavy on land! We dove in an indoor pool – the water in the Salish Sea hovers around 45 degrees and requires a dry suit and more diving skills than I currently possess. I learned how to breathe slowly, remain neutrally buoyant, and maneuver in the water with all the equipment. We also practiced safety techniques, such as communicating with our buddy. Of course, the Dive Team swam circles around me.

The real challenge was the underwater photo – holding my end of Annie’s camera housing steady while maintaining neutral buoyancy – not sinking too deep or floating to the surface.

 

CTB: You’ve written a wide range of nonfiction topics. Many people don’t know that books often start with an idea and a pitch to an editor. It’s a lot of research to conduct for a project that may not find a home. How do you find the right balance?

Patricia: Longer form nonfiction usually begins with a proposal or sales document that provides an overview of the concept, a chapter outline, and a list of the experts I plan to interview. And you’re right, Christine, balance is key.

Before beginning the proposal, I contact the scientists I’d like to feature to get their buy-in. I explain the time commitment involved after the book sells. If they are interested in working with me, I read to acquaint myself with the topic and develop a list of questions. I then set up a 20- to 30-minute interview with the scientist(s) to get at the highlights and dig deep enough to discover a possible narrative thread but not take advantage of the scientists’ time. I must be extremely efficient. If you’re interested in proposal writing, explore this article I wrote for Melissa Stewart’s Celebrate Science blog.

books

 

CTB: You’ve done a number of articles and interviews about your passion for writing. But the one that stuck out was your call to action in Publisher’s Weekly about conventions where publishers and vendors give away thousands of plastic items and tote bags in the quest to sell books. You make some sensible suggestions for sustainable options. Could you give a few here?

Patricia: All my environmental titles include a call to action because we must be grateful for nature and begin giving back. Page 53 of Planet Ocean includes several concrete suggestions. In addition, please consider the following:

  • Eat sustainably. Buy organic when possible and purchase seafood caught using sustainable fishing methods (Seafood Watch publishes handy guides to help you). Consider eating one plant-based meal per week.
  • Use your purchasing power to change corporate practices. Refuse goods packaged with too much plastic or produced by companies that pollute the planet. Some of my favorite alternatives, include:
  1. Bamboo utensils for to-go meals instead of single-use plastic. Use a refillable coffee mug for your designer coffee and skip the plastic cup/lid/stirrer.
  2. Bites Toothpaste Bits to refuse the plastic toothpaste tube, plastic dental floss box, and plastic toothbrush. Ask you dentist to stop giving out plastic toothbrushes.
  3. Etee reusable beeswax food wraps instead of plastic wrap.
  4. Who Gives a Crap sustainable toilet paper, paper towels, and tissues. They also donate 50% of their profits “to build toilets because we believe access to a safe, dignified loo is a basic human right.”
  5. Ten Tree for clothing made with sustainable materials. And for every item you purchase, Ten Tree plants ten trees.
  • Email corporations who continue to flaunt environmental guidelines. I have emails ready for Amazon and Target for unsustainable shipping practices that include loads of single-use plastic.
  • Research electric or hybrid vehicles as a family. What are the pluses and minuses of switching?
  • Take your political leaders to task at the local, state, and federal levels. Our health, clean air, clean water, and adequate food supplies start with a healthy ocean and sustainable habits.

 

CTB: You describe writing these books as “meeting the emotional need in me.” So now I’m intrigued. Is there a project you are dying to write about?

Patricia: One idea in particular tickles me, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, the time is not yet right. Hopefully in the not-too-distant future…

 

CTB: You’ve been amazing asset to children’s publishing. Do you have any books on the horizon we should keep an eye out for?

Patricia: I have a nonfiction picture book releasing in the fall of 2022 illustrated by Natasha Donovan. All I can say right now is that it’s a conservation story with a happy ending.

CTB: Thanks, Patricia, for taking time out to talk to us!

Win a FREE copy of “Planet Ocean.”

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!

Newman headshotPatricia Newman studied child development at Cornell University. While there, she also studied French, Italian and Childen’s Literature. Patricia’s books encourage readers to use their imaginations to solve real‑world problems and act on behalf of their communities. A Robert F. Sibert Honor recipient for Sea Otter Heroes, Her books have received starred reviews, Green Earth Book Awards, a Parents’ Choice Award, and Bank Street College’s Best Books honors. Patricia speaks at schools and conferences to share how children of any age can affect change.

To learn more about Patricia and her books, please visit www.patriciamnewman.com. You can follow her on Twitter @PatriciaNewman. Or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/patricia.newman.9275

 

author christine Taylor-butlerYour host is Christine Taylor-Butler, MIT engineering nerd and author of Bathroom Science, Sacred Mountain: Everest, Genetics, and more than 70 other nonfiction books for kids. She is also the author of the middle grade sci-fi series The Lost Tribes. Follow @ChristineTB on Twitter and/or @ChristineTaylorButler on Instagram

Sibert Showdown, Middle Grade STEM-Style

 

Hello There! Let me first say, yes it IS Thursday. (with this year you never know, right?)

The STEM Tuesday Team has staged a Thursday takeover of the Mixed Up Files blog so that we can add one more day to the week to celebrate STEM/STEAM books!!

Today we are offering a  FUN activity with STEM/STEAM books to do in your classroom:

 

 

 

 

SIBERT SHOWDOWN, Middle Grade STEM-Style 

Every year the American Library Association honors the best informational books of the year at their annual conference at the end of January.  The award for that is the Robert F. Sibert Award. Typically, one book receives that award and several honor books are chosen as well.

What is the Robert F. Sibert Award?   “The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal is awarded annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished informational book published in the United States in English during the preceding year. The award is named in honor of Robert F. Sibert, the long-time President of Bound to Stay Bound Books, Inc. of Jacksonville, Illinois. ALSC administers the award.”– quoted directly from the ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children) website

What is an informational book?  “Information books are defined as those written and illustrated to present, organize, and interpret documentable, factual material for children. There are no limitations as to the character of the book, although traditional literature (e.g., folktales) is not eligible. Poetry is not eligible except as a format or vehicle to convey information.”  – quoted directly from the ALSC website

 

THE ACTIVITY

Get your class to decide! Which book do they think should win the Sibert Award? Which one(s) should be awarded a Sibert Honor?

Award-winning author Melissa Stewart started her Sibert Smackdown four years ago. What a BRILLIANT idea! Many teachers and librarians have been using it every year since. Here is a post about  Melissa’s  Sibert Smackdown

With a very enthusiastic nod to Melissa, we here at STEM Tuesday invite you to put a slightly different slant on her version. We encourage you to use middle grade STEM/STEAM books in your Sibert Showdown. This would be great to do for older classes, perhaps 4th graders and up. We realize that reading an entire middle grade book might seem daunting but don’t worry, we offer a few suggestions.

 

HOW TO DO IT: 

  Pick a book (see the book list below) 

  Decide how your class will read the books. Here are a few ideas: 

  1. Book Talk in Teams –Divide them up into teams of 2-3 students. Have each student read the introduction, table of contents and one to two chapters. They can present the book to the rest of the class in a 5-10 minute Book Talk.
  2. Book Tasting– Every student reads just the first chapter of the book and then you discuss in class.
  3. Individual Book Talk– each student picks a different book and skims it, reading the first chapter, a middle one, and maybe the last one.
  4. Book Talk by Class– Split your class up into different groups. Each group reads the back cover blurb and one chapter. (don’t forget the back matter). Then have a discussion and compare.
  5. Read the whole book Book Talk– Of course, this is the best, let students pick from the list below which book they’d like to read. Have them read it all the way through (most of them aren’t too long). Then they give a presentation about why it should be chosen (or not chosen) for the award.
  6. Persuasive Writing Paragraph– Do any of the above, but instead of a presentation, have the students write a persuasive paragraph explaining why this book should or shouldn’t be included in consideration for the Sibert Award.

 

GUIDELINES FOR THE ACTIVITY:

So that they are all working from the same guidelines, have the students ask themselves these questions as they go through the book:

  • Is the book interesting or FUN to read?
  • Does this book have a lot of information in it– enough to give a reader a very good idea of the topic?
  • Is the book easy to understand? (does the author do a good job of explaining things?)
  • Is the information presented in an organized way? (does it make sense as you are reading it?)
  • Is there a glossary or index in the book to help you understand the terms and find the topics?
  • Is there an author’s note or a way to learn more about the topic?

Their presentations, discussions, or writing should include their answers to these questions.

Sound fun? It IS!

***  And just a note, you could do this activity ANY time of the year, not just during the Sibert Award consideration time. There is always a time to have fun with STEM/STEAM Books!  😊***

 

BOOK LIST TO GET YOU STARTED

Our STEM Tuesday Team came up with a list of some 2020 STEM/STEAM books we think are awesome and will get you started. But feel free to add to our list! Post your favorites in the comments below  OR you can always invite your students to come up with their own classroom list.

 

 

Condor Comeback (Scientists in the Field Series) by Sy Montgomery (Author), Tianne Strombeck (Photographer),   HMH Kids

 

 

 

 

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat, Candlewick Press

 

 

 

 

 

Changing the Equation: 50+ US Black Women in STEM by Tonya Bolden, Abrams BFYR

 

 

 

 

 

Earth Day and the Environmental Movement: Standing Up for Earth by Christy Peterson, 21st Century Books

 

 

 

Beastly Bionics: Rad Robots, Brilliant Biomimicry, and Incredible Inventions Inspired by Nature by Jennifer Swanson, National Geographic Kids

 

 

 

 

Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier by Jim Ottaviani illustrated  by Maris Wicks, First Second Books

 

 

 

 

 

Tracking Pythons: The Quest to Catch an Invasive Predator and Save an Ecosystem by Kate Messner, Millbrook Press

 

 

Who Gives a Poop?: Surprising Science from One End to the Other by Heather Montgomery, Bloomsbury Kids

 

 

 

 

Big Ideas That Changed The World: Machines That Think by Don Brown, Amulet Books

 

 

 

 

Machines in Motion: The Amazing History of Transportation by Tom Jackson, Bloomsbury Children’s Books

 

 

 

Where Have All The Bees Gone? Pollinators in Crisis By Rebecca Hirsch, 21-First Century Books

 

 

 

 

This is our list. What is YOURS? Add to this list below. And if you use this activity in your classroom, we’d love to hear about it. Thanks for celebrating STEM/STEAM books with us!

Happy Holidays from the entire STEM Tuesday TEAM!

Using Picture Books to Teach Middle Grade and Beyond

Teaching with Picture Books

by Robyn Gioia, M.Ed.

When most people think of picture books, they think of cute pictures and feel-good stories that thrill children from ages 0-7. But, teachers know better. There is much more to picture books than meets the eye.

Students have grown up with visuals since the day they were born. From elementary to high school, picture books can spark the imagination and open the eyes as an introduction to a subject. Picture books boil down to the main topic and draw the reader in with interesting tidbits. Our public libraries are full of wonderful picture books ready to do the job. Picture books inspire conversations and provide topics for research. They allow insightful tie-ins to curriculum and present opportunities for projects. Their pictures bring the topic to life. They create understanding unlike anything else. They are quick reads that can fit into almost any schedule.

Take the book, The Turtle Ship by Helena Ku Ree.

One of the greatest historical war heroes in the S. Korean culture was Admiral Yi Sun-Sin. He is known for saving Korea from Japan, a conquering country with a formidable naval fleet. Because of his design, the undefeatable Turtle ship had the ability to defeat the Japanese. His larger than life statue looms high over the skyline in Gwanghwamun Square, Seoul.

In the picture book, a young Sun-Sin comes to life as a boy who is afraid to enter a shipbuilding contest sponsored by the King. The King needs an indestructible ship able to withstand ongoing invasions from the sea. Sun-Sin decides to accept the challenge. The author imagines what experiences might have influenced a young Sun-Sin’s turtle ship design, and from there the story is told.

Teaching Middle Grade with Picture Books

(Artwork from “Fighting Ships of the Far East (2)” by Stephen Turnbull © Osprey Publishing, part of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc)

The Turtle Ship picture book goes step by step through the design engineering process. Young Sun-Sin tries and fails at several design attempts before creating the design known today. This was something I was able to use in my 6th-grade science class. As we talked about the boy Sun-Sin and identified how the process was evolving, it created a bridge to understanding the design process. We had also learned that historically, a lot of designs were inspired by nature. The Wright brothers studied birds before designing the first airplane. In our story, Sun-Sin looks to his turtle for solutions.

When I used The Turtle Ship book in our lesson, my students were fascinated by the Turtle ship design from the 1500s. They learned the ship could rotate in one spot and fire cannons from each of its sides. They discovered soldiers were encased inside the ship so the enemy could not attack. They loved that the top was curved and covered in spikes to keep from being boarded by the enemy. They also learned that the hull was designed to ram into other vessels.

The Korean Turtle Ship

The turtle ship became one of the top engineering designs in warship history. You can read about this incredible ship and its design ingenuity on the U.S. Naval Institute News website. USNI News asked its readers, “What is the greatest warship of all time and why?” The answer can be found on the USNI News website https://news.usni.org/2016/04/06/survey-results-what-is-the-greatest-warship-of-all-time

Teachers in grade levels from primary to high school have used this story to inspire students with a wide range of activities and topics.

Engineering Design Process (EDP)

Research on Korean Inventions

Historical Fiction Comparative Study

Creating a Historical Timeline between Asia and American History

Writing Sijo, a Korean Poetic Form

Analyzing Civic Characteristics of Main Characters

Origin Story with Read-Alouds and Comparisons with Multiple Sources

Teaching Korea through Writing

Teaching Modern Asian Culture through History

Creative Writing

Using the Glossary for Vocabulary Understanding

Study of Honor

Compare and Contrast Other Korean Historical Picture Books

STEAM: Create a Vessel that Holds the Most Weight

STEAM: Design a Boat That is the Fastest

Downloadable Teaching resources:

Lee and Lowe Teaching Guide: TURTLE-SHIP.TG

Historical Information on Admiral Yi Sun-Sin: Admiral Yi Sunsin_KSCPP(1)