Posts Tagged Biography

STEM Tuesday–Peeking into the Mind of a Scientist/Engineer–In The Classroom

STEM TUESDAY from the mixed up files

This month’s book list offers fascinating stories about the lives and learning of scientists, famous and not-so-much, real and fictional.

That said, here and there, you may find content you want to be prepared to address, so be sure to read the books before you bring them into the classroom experience. That should prove no burden, as the books offer a lot of food for thought, richly textured profiles, and insights into STEM fields.

This month’s suggested activities fall into two categories: Getting to Know the Characters and Book-Specific Extensions.

Getting to Know the Characters

Chart Traits. Keep a running wall chart to track the characteristics and life experiences of the real scientists in these books—for example, Charles Darwin, Sylvia Acevedo, Irene Curie, and Lise Meitner—as well as Calpurnia in the novel. Different students can read different books. Complete the chart as students independently make their way through the reading. In the first column, list the scientists; dedicate each additional column to a trait or descriptor, each suggested by students based on “their” scientists. These traits might include: “intensely curious,” “passionate about science,” “imaginative,” “ambitious/has dreams or goals.” Students can place post-its with brief notes that illustrate when they see that a specific scientist demonstrates a given trait.  Use these notes as a basis for exploring similarities and differences among scientists, and for reflection.

After students complete the books and the chart, consider setting up small group discussions of follow-up questions, such as:

  • Which traits do you see as helpful and/or counterproductive to the scientists in their professional lives? … To their personal lives? Do you think there are examples of any one trait being be both helpful and counterproductive for any of the scientists?
  • Complete these sentence : “I share [trait] with … [scientist(s]. For example, I…[story from life to illustrate similarity].” “Something I don’t quite connect to with …[scientist] is…”
  • A life lesson I learned from each character is…
  • Out of all of these scientists’ interests, the ones I strongly share are: ….
  • How do the social norms and circumstances of each person’s time and place help or hinder their journey?
  • What opportunities and obstacles helped and hindered the scientists in their personal and professional journeys? Have you experienced anything like this? How might your knowledge of one or more of these scientists help you in your own life, personally or as you aspire for academic and, later, career success?
Additional activity suggestions:
  • Connect these scientists’ stories to the NGSS science and engineering practices. Have students create their own graphic organizers to reflect how they see these practices in action in these books.
  • If possible, invite scientists into the classroom for students to interview. Students can enter each scientist and anecdotes into the chart.
  • Each of the scientists in these books experienced both positive moments (successes, support from others) and set-backs (fears, life events, failures) in their professional and personal lives. Have students create a Chutes and Ladders style game representing these events, labeling each chute or ladder entrance’s game square with the episode from the corresponding scientist’s life. Each game piece can represent one of the scientists. Landing on a chute or ladder entrance that depicts an episode from the game piece-scientist, the player gets an additional turn. Later, keep the game available for informal time.
  • Discuss how other people—friends, family, and colleagues—support the achievements of the individual scientists in the books.
  • Take a cue from the Radioactive! teacher guide: Create a shared graphic of things that students are curious about. This will help connect students to the scientists and each other, and foster a culture of curiosity. Have students add the scientists’ likely responses to the graphic.

Book-Specific Extensions

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgSupport Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThe Curious World of Calpurnia Tate and Charles and Emma

Both books may help students find their inner naturalists. Build on this opportunity with these ideas:

Collect Their Thoughts. Ask students to contribute inexpensive, readily available objects – seeds, leaves, pebbles, shells, marbles, and even paper clips of different configurations —  to an “interesting stuff” classroom collection. Challenge students to sort, organize, compare and contrast objects in the collection.  Conduct a collection circle discussion once a week:

  • Which objects do you find most interesting, and why?
  • What stirs your curiosity?
  • Do you know anything about this object? What interesting connections can you find between it and something else in the collection?

 

Make Science Social. At the beginning of the Charles and Emma, readers learn that Charles values the stimulating intellectual conversations of the day. Calpurnia also deeply enjoys the social aspect of science.  Help students experience this excitement with free-form, dorm-style, no-right-answer(-at-least-not-yet) science talks. Create a culture that encourages them to speculate, challenge each other, and use their imaginations to develop possible explanations for their questions.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgSomething Rotten

Look Inside. Author Heather Montgomery (one of STEM Tuesday’s own!) may be the real-world’s answer to Calpurnia. Like Calpurnia and her brother Travis, Heather embodies both curiosity and a connection to the natural world. Help students follow in Calpurnia and Heather’s footsteps by offering dissection opportunities for your students; if not with animals, then with plants or gadgets.

Do Some Good! Look for a citizen science opportunity, such as this one (in Vermont), to share road kill sightings with scientists so they can study and help wildlife. Or think about organizing your own study of a small section of your community. Students might track road kill along their bus routes for a period of time. They might not be able to investigate the details from the bus window, but they could create maps of the routes and areas of relatively frequent road kill incidents.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgPath to the Stars

Explore the Results of Rocket Science. On Page 289 of her autobiography, “rocket scientist” Sylvia Acevedo mentions two NASA projects she worked on. Visit NASA web pages to find out more about these missions. Solar Polar Solar Probe, now called the Parker Solar Probe, which launched this year, some 30 years after she worked on the project, and Voyager 2 Jupiter flyby. Check out the pictures of the results of these probes’ successful missions!

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgRadioactive!

Know the Alpha, Beta, and Gamma of Radioactivity. These resources can help kids grasp some of the book’s science content:

 

Bonus: Teacher Guides!

And, finally, for discussion ideas, as well as a few STEM-related activities, check out the teachers’ guides available for each book.

 

Drop Us a Line. As always, we at STEM Tuesday are eager to hear what you think of these ideas, how you use and adapt them, and how else STEM books have brought excitement to your classroom. Please leave a comment.

Picture Books and the Middle-Grade Reader

Think of picture books and often we envision a toddler on a parent’s lap, listening and pointing. Or a pack of preschoolers sitting criss-cross applesauce on a colorful rug, heads tipped up to see the pictures while their teacher reads aloud. Or maybe a first grader, sitting alone with a book, intently studying the words in a picture book, their eyes darting from picture to text and back again, making connections and feeling their confidence swell.

Oh, there’s usually no debate surrounding the place of picture books in the lives of the youngest readers and prereaders. But something often happens around second grade, somewhere around the time chapter books are mastered, and the role of the picture book is diminished, if not eliminated.

By the time readers reach the middle grades, picture books are often nonexistent or scoffed at. “You’re too old for that book,” I heard a parent tell a fifth or sixth grader at a bookstore. “You can read harder books than that.”

And, yes, I’m sure that young reader was perfectly capable of tackling longer texts, but picture books have so much to offer readers of all ages. Let’s take a look at some new picture books that middle-grade readers could not only enjoy, but that could spark a deeper level of learning and understanding.

pb older reader

Picture Book Biographies Picture book biographies are everywhere and can serve as an excellent visual and literary introduction to someone middle-graders may never encounter anywhere else..

pb william hoy story

The William Hoy Story: How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Jez Tuya, Albert Whitman, 2016.

pb to the stars

To the Stars!: The First American Woman to Walk in Space by Carmella Van Vleet and Kathryn D. Sullivan, Illustrated by Nicole Wong, Charlesbridge, 2016.

Picture Books to Address Social Issues  Civil and human rights issues such as homelessness, poverty, equal opportunities, or segregation can be difficult for the middle-grader to grasp, and yet these problems exist in their communities, families, and in the ever-present media. Often a picture book can open the door to discuss more complex topics at an appropriate level.

pb separate never equal

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh, Abrams, 2014.

pb marvelous cornelius

Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bildner, Illustrated by John Parra, Chronicle, 2015.

Picture Book Origin Stories Older readers love to ask deep questions: Like where did doughnuts come from? and Who invented the super-soaker, and Why? Origin stories can inspire young inventors to dig deeper into science and become problem-solvers themselves.

pb Hole Story of Donut

The Hole Story of the Doughnut by Pat Miller, Illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch, HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016.

pb whoosh

Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton, Illustrated by Don Tate, Charlesbridge, 2016.

Picture Books for Content Areas  Math class is probably the least likely place you’ll find middle-graders reading picture books, but there are some great reasons to put picture books into the hands of young mathematicians. And scientists. And paleontologists. And astrophysicists.

pb boy-who-loved-math

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman, Illustrated by LeUyen Pham,  Roaring Brook, 2013.

pb blockhead

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D’Agnese, Illustrated by John O’Brien, Henry Holt, 2010.

Picture Books to Address Environmental Issues Upper elementary and middle schoolers hear phrases such as “global warming” and “our carbon footprint,” but explaining just exactly what these mean can be challenging. It’s likely they are already a part of a “reduce, reuse, and recycle” initiative, at school or at home. Picture books can help them understand how they might do more.

pb One_Plastic_Bag_Cover_Miranda_Paul1

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul, Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon, Millbrook, 2015.

Picture Books as Art Study The youngest readers look at the pictures in a picture book. Older readers can study them. They can understand how illustration contributes to the story-telling, how a picture book is a visual experience as well as a literary one. Older students can discuss how the artist’s choice of style, media, and color palette create mood and pace. This can be done with every picture book, any picture, all picture books, fiction or non. But, I’ll leave you with one that makes me smile, and I think any middle-grader would smile after reading it, too.

pb maybe something beautiful

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, Illustrated by Rafael López, HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016.

Michelle Houts is the author of four books for middle-grade readers. Her first picture book, When Grandma Gatewood Took a Hike (Ohio University Press, September 2016) is the biography of Emma Gatewood, the first women to walk the Appalachian Trail alone in one continuous hike.

March New Releases

Happy March! Here are some of the of the fabulous books hitting the shelves this month, including our own Jen Swanson’s EVERYTHING ROBOTICS: ALL THE PHOTOS, FACTS, AND FUN TO MAKE YOU RACE FOR ROBOTICS which comes out March 8th from National Geographic. Congratulations, Jen!

EverythingRobotics

TheLandOfForgottenGirlsTHE LAND OF FORGOTTEN GIRLS by Erin Entrada Kelly releasing March 1st from Greenwillow Books. Soledad has always been able to escape into the stories she creates. Just like her mother always could. And Soledad has needed that escape more than ever in the five years since her mother and sister died and her father moved Sol and her youngest sister from the Philippines to Louisiana. Then he left, and all Sol and Ming have now is their evil stepmother, Vea. Sol has protected Ming all this time, but then Ming begins to believe that Auntie Jove—their mythical, world-traveling aunt—is really going to come rescue them. Have Sol’s stories done more harm than good? Can she protect Ming from this impossible hope? Erin Entrada Kelly writes with grace, imagination, and deepest heart about the meaning of family and about finding hope in the hardest circumstances.

DreambenderDREAMBENDER by Ronald Kidd releasing March 1st from Albert Whitman & Company. Everyone in the City is assigned a job by the choosers–keeper, catcher, computer. Callie Crawford is a computer. She works with numbers: putting them together, taking them apart. Her work is important, but sometimes she wants more. Jeremy Finn is a dreambender. His job is to adjust people’s dreams. He and others like him quietly remove thoughts of music and art to keep the people in the City from becoming too focused on themselves and their own feelings rather than on the world. They need to keep the world safe from another Warming. But Jeremy thinks music is beautiful, and when he pops into a dream of Callie singing, he becomes fascinated with her. He begins to wonder if there is more to life than being safe. Defying his community and the role they have established for him, he sets off to find her in the real world. Together, they will challenge their world’s expectations. But how far will they go to achieve their own dreams?

DorotheasEyesDOROTHEA’S EYES: DOROTHEA LANGE PHOTOGRAPHS THE TRUTH by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Gerard Dubois releasing March 1st from Calkins Creek. After a childhood bout of polio left her with a limp, all Dorothea Lange wanted to do was disappear. But this desire not to be seen helped her learn how to blend into the background and observe others acutely. With a passion for the artistic life, and in spite of her family’s disapproval, Dorothea pursued her dream to become a photographer and focused her lens on the previously unseen victims of the Great Depression. This poetic biography tells the emotional story of Lange’s evolution as one of the founders of documentary photography. It includes a gallery of Lange’s photographs, and an author’s note, timeline, and bibliography.

TheMidnightWarOfMateoMartinezTHE MIDNIGHT WAR OF MATEO MARTINEZ by Robin Yardi releasing March 1st from Carolrhoda Books. Life is confusing for Mateo Martinez. He and Johnny Ramirez don’t hang out anymore, even though they used to be best friends. He and his new friend Ashwin try to act like brave, old-time knights, but it only gets them in trouble. His parents keep telling him to hold his sister’s hand when crossing busy streets, even though she’s the one who always runs ahead.
And last night, two skunks stole Mateo’s old trike. Wait—two skunks stole his trike? Mateo is too big for that rusty kid toy. He has a cool, shiny new bike anyway. But Mateo also has a neighborhood to protect. And he’s about to begin a big, stinky quest to catch the thieves. A quest that starts in the middle of the night

IsabelFeeney,StarReporterISABEL FEENEY, STAR REPORTER by Beth Fantaskey releasing March 1st from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It’s 1920s Chicago—the guns-and-gangster era of Al Capone—and it’s unusual for a girl to be selling the Tribune on the street corner. But ten-year-old Isabel Feeney is unusual . . . unusually obsessed with being a news reporter. She can’t believe her luck when she stumbles not only into a real-live murder scene, but also into her hero, the famous journalist Maude Collier. The story of how the smart, curious, loyal Isabel fights to defend the honor of her accused friend and latches on to the murder case like a dog on a pant leg makes for a winning, thoroughly entertaining middle grade mystery.

EgyptworldEGYPTWORLD: DISCOVER THE WONDERS OF THE ANCIENT LAND OF TUTANKHAMUN AND CLEOPATRA by Stella Caldwell releasing March 1st from Carlton Kids. Unlock the secrets of an ancient and mysterious civilization. Through breathtakingly vivid images—including awe-inspiring CGI scenes—Egyptworld travels down the Nile River, through the land of the pharaohs. Return to a world where the desert sun sparks the gleaming tips of majestic pyramids, treasure-filled tombs hold mummified rulers, and colossal beasts of stone stand guard. This sumptuously illustrated book makes a perfect gift for all budding archaeologists!

HourOfTheBees

HOUR OF THE BEES by Lindsay Eagar releasing March 8th from Candlewick Press. While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina — Carol — is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on and the heat bears down, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots. Readers who dream that there’s something more out there will be enchanted by this captivating novel of family, renewal, and discovering the wonder of the world.

MuttsPromiseMUTT’S PROMISE by Julie Salamon and illustrated by Jill Weber releasing March 8th from Dial Books. Luna is a farm puppy who loves to dance, and has only known a happy, serene life surrounded by her mother, Mutt, and her siblings, and cared for by Gilberto, the son of farm workers. But now Gilberto and his parents have moved on, and Mr. Thomas the farmer doesn’t feel he can take care of a whole family of dogs. He finds new homes for the puppies, not realizing that the man who took Luna and her brother does not have their best interests at heart. Luna and Chief, hungry and scared, are trapped in the smelly barn of a puppy mill—until they take matters into their own paws and find a way to escape. But can Luna and Chief find their way home?

TheEyeOfMidnightTHE EYE OF MIDNIGHT by Andrew Brumbach releasing March 8th from Delacorte. On a stormy May day in 1929, William and Maxine arrive on the doorstep of Battersea Manor to spend the summer with a grandfather they barely remember. Whatever the cousins expected, Colonel Battersea isn’t it.
Soon after they settle in, Grandpa receives a cryptic telegram and promptly whisks the cousins off to New York City so that he can meet an unknown courier and collect a very important package. Before he can do so, however, Grandpa vanishes without a trace. When the cousins stumble upon Nura, a tenacious girl from Turkey, she promises to help them track down the parcel and rescue Colonel Battersea. But with cold-blooded gangsters and a secret society of assassins all clamoring for the same mysterious object, the children soon find themselves in a desperate struggle just to escape the city’s dark streets alive.

EverydayHeroEVERYDAY HERO by Kathleen Cherry releasing March 15th from Orca Books. Alice doesn’t like noise, smells or strangers. She does like rules. Lots of rules. Nobody at her new school knows she has Asperger’s, so it doesn’t take long for her odd behavior to get her into trouble. When she meets Megan in detention, she doesn’t know what to make of her. Megan doesn’t smell, she’s not terribly noisy, and she’s not exactly a stranger, but is she a friend? Megan seems fearless to Alice—but also angry or maybe sad. Alice isn’t sure which. When Megan decides to run away, Alice resolves to help her friend, no matter how many rules she has to break or how bad it makes her feel.

THE EXTRAORDINARY SUZY WRIGHT: A COLONIAL WOMAN ON THE FRONTIER  by Teri Kanefield releasing March 15th from Abrams. Children are taught much about the men who shaped early America, but history-shaping colonial women remain largely unknown and undiscussed. The Extraordinary Suzy Wright sets about to change that, telling the little-known story of Quaker Susanna (Suzy) Wright (1697–1784), a renowned poet and political activist. Suzy helped settle the Pennsylvania frontier, where she acted as legal counselor to her less literate neighbors, preparing wills, deeds, indentures, and other contracts. Surviving documents and correspondence between Suzy and a host of her contemporaries—including Benjamin Franklin; James Logan, Pennsylvania’s governor and chief justice; and a few signers of the Declaration of Independence—reveal that Suzy, from her home on the frontier, exerted considerable influence in the highest circles of Pennsylvania government. This fascinating and inspiring story includes an author’s note, bibliography, and index.

TheCharmedChildrenTHE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE by Janet Fox releasing March 15th from Viking. Something is not right at Rookskill Castle, a rundown Scottish manor shrouded in mystery. The castle is a temporary boarding school for children escaping the Blitz, but soon it’s clear there is something terribly wrong. There are clues hinting that a spy is in the house, and there are undeniable signs of a sinister magic. When the children in the castle’s temporary boarding school begin disappearing one by one, it’s a race against the clock for twelve-year-old Kat Bateson, her two younger siblings, and their new best friend.

Summerlost_BOM.inddSUMMERLOST by Ally Condie releasing March 29th from Dutton Books for Young Readers. It’s the first real summer since the devastating accident that killed Cedar’s father and younger brother, Ben. But now Cedar and what’s left of her family are returning to the town of Iron Creek for the summer. They’re just settling into their new house when a boy named Leo, dressed in costume, rides by on his bike. Intrigued, Cedar follows him to the renowned Summerlost theatre festival. Soon, she not only has a new friend in Leo and a job working concessions at the festival, she finds herself surrounded by mystery. The mystery of the tragic, too-short life of the Hollywood actress who haunts the halls of Summerlost. And the mystery of the strange gifts that keep appearing for Cedar.

Which books are you looking forward to reading this month? Are there any that you’re excited about we might have missed? Happy Spring Reading!

Louise Galveston is the author of By the Grace of Todd, In Todd We Trust (Razorbill). She lives in southern Kansas with a passel of kids and a loud-mouthed parrot.