STEM Tuesday– Tectonics: Volcanoes, Ring of Fire — Interview with Author Katie Coppens

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.

Mary Kay Carson: Tell us a bit about Geology is a Piece of Cake. How did the book come about?

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 or follow her @Katie_Coppens on Twitter.

Win a FREE copy of Geology is a Piece of Cake!

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 is Mary Kay Carson, author of Wildlife Ranger Action Guide, The Tornado ScientistAlexander Graham Bell for Kids, Mission to Pluto, and other nonfiction books for kids. @marykaycarson

STEM Tuesday
STEM books ENGAGE. EXCITE. and INSPIRE! Join us each week as a group of dedicated STEM authors highlight FUN topics, interesting resources, and make real-life connections to STEM in ways that may surprise you. #STEMRocks!
  1. Good questions there, MKC! This is such an amazing idea, using a cooking analogy most students can relate to. I also love that Katie realized the baking analogy was working and expanded upon it. It makes concepts so much easier to grasp and remember. I also suggest putting these baking analogies/concepts to music, so they can be pulled out of thin air any time the student (or parent, LOL!) needs to remember. Just remind the Ss that if they need to hum to remember, do it quietly, lol) One girl I heard about was humming during the Science part of her ACTS. They asked her several times to keep it down. SHE ACED THE ACT!!! Please enter me in the drawing for this delicious sounding book filled with facts I need, if the drawing is still on. Congratulations to all involved in making this cool book. Stay well and Happy Holidays! Peace, Annie Lynn

  2. This book sounds wonderful! I teach middle school math, it’s my husband who taught science and geology. He would absolutely love this book. Our daughter loves both science and baking so they will have lots of fun creating and learning together with this book! Then we can start on Geometry is as Easy as Pie! Thank you for the opportunity!

  3. What a fantastic (and yummy) way of teaching science! Science is my 7th grade daughter’s favorite subject, and I’d love to win a copy of the book to share with her and my 8YO, then share it with her middle school teacher. Thanks for the interview!

  4. What a great way to generate excitement about geology! Can’t wait to share with student and teacher friends!`

  5. What an exciting book giveaway!! I am a librarian at a school where we have an amazing STEM program and our STEM teacher uses many books to get the kids excited about each project/concept.

  6. This idea of desserts to teach kids science and math concepts is excellent and also tasty. Just working on recipes alone is a chance to learn science and math concepts. Thank you for the chance to win a copy!