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 Katie Coppens, author of Geology is a Piece of Cake. It’s a “truly delicious, hands-on way to study science in action,” says Kirkus Reviews.
Katie Coppens: I’m a middle school science teacher who uses analogies to help my students understand concepts. One of the analogies my students have enjoyed is learning the difference between a rock and a mineral through cake; where minerals are like the ingredients for cake and the cake is like the rock. Year-after-year, I kept expanding cake examples to a range of concepts in geology, such as fossil formation and plate tectonics. My students benefited from these analogies and the ideas kept coming. Then, I thought of the title for a possible book, Geology is a Piece of Cake, and it all went from there. I started writing, baking, taking photos of cakes, and developing recipes for kids to do that have geological thinking embedded into them. Using this hands-on method is fun and helps concepts resonate!
MKC: Care to share a favorite research experience?
Katie: My children were two and four years old when I wrote the book. For months, I was baking and testing recipes and my kids and I developed a love of baking together. They also became accustomed to having cakes for dessert because it was important to taste test the cakes that had recipes in the book. When I finished writing, my kids were disappointed that the daily desserts stopped. They were delighted when I wrote the companion book Geometry is as Easy as Pie, which teaches math concepts through pie and pie recipes.
MKC: How would you describe the book’s approach?
Katie: Cake is a great hook for kids (and adults!)! It’s a hands-on, delicious way to better understand geology. In addition to teachers’ use in the classroom, parents have also enjoyed making the recipes with their child and learning together. Out of all of the cakes, I think the extrusive molten lava chocolate cake (at left) is the most fun. It represents an extrusive igneous rock and when you cut into it, the chocolate lava flows out!
MKC: To whom did you imagine yourself writing to while drafting the book?
Katie: I was imagining my 6th grade students with every step of writing, which is why I dedicated the book to them! I kept thinking about the questions they ask and they were my inspiration behind writing the book in a question and answer format. One of my favorite moments as an author is when readers reach out to me and with this book, I’ve received emails with photos of the cakes kids have made with their geological thinking! I have a YouTube channel that includes a fun video that some of my students made when they baked a cake from the book.
MKC: Do you choose to write about STEM books?
Katie: I’ve been a teacher for 20 years and have written eight STEM-themed children’s books. I’m also an advisor of my school’s STEM club. My favorite part of STEM is that it encourages creative and critical thinking!
Katie Coppens is an award-winning middle school science teacher who lives in Maine with her husband and two daughters. She’s written eight STEM-themed books for kids and writes a column for the National Science Teaching Association’s Science Scope magazine called “Interdisciplinary Ideas.” Her goal in both teaching and writing is to encourage curiosity and make learning fun. For more information on her books, go to www.katiecoppens.com or follow her @Katie_Coppens on Twitter.
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