Posts Tagged Black in STEM

STEM Tuesday– Genetics– In the Classroom

This month’s theme ties in with a few of my interests/hobbies. An amateur genealogist, I was recently reading about the use of genetics in genealogy. As a nature lover and Environmental Science merit badge counselor, I’m constantly hearing about the effects of biodiversity (or lack thereof) on the environment. These interests impacted the books I chose to read this month.

Book Cover for Saving The Tasmanian Devil

Saving the Tasmanian Devil: How Science Is Helping the World’s Largest Marsupial Carnivore Survive by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent
Tasmanian devils are threatened by a disease that defies genetics. This book follows the author as she learns about the disease and how scientists are working to save the species.


CRISPR: A Powerful Way to Change DNA by Yolanda Ridge, illustrated by Alex Boersma
The book delves into CRISPR technology and how it can be used to modify DNA. It’s packed with interesting scenarios and questions about ethics.


BIODiversityBiodiversity: Explore the Diversity of Life on Earth with Environmental Science Activities for Kids by Laura Perdew, illustrated by Tom Casteel
Biodiversity is the variety of living things in an environment. This book explores biodiversity with a host of hands-on activities.


Bonus – This topic also ties in with a book I read for October’s STEM Tuesday theme.
Champion, The Comeback Tale of the American Chestnut Tree by Sally M Walker
To read about this book, check out this post:

Some of this month’s books have activities built into them. There’s a lot to explore there. Here are a few more ideas to extend or add to those.

Research and Speculate or Debate

There are lots of questions asked in CRISPR. For instance, in Chapter 4, while discussing the options available for modifying mosquito genes to get rid of malaria, there are the following questions:

“[S]hould humans really get to decide whether an entire species will live or die? Who decides which pests are pesty enough to get rid of, and who makes sure the technology is limited to bugs?”

Mosquitoes are carriers for some serious diseases, but what if editing their genes wiped them out? What would that do to the food web? Do a little research to see if you can find out what role mosquitoes play in the ecosystem.

How are other animals impacted by the diseases mosquitoes carry? What would happen if we wiped out those diseases? How would biodiversity be impacted?

Once you’ve done a little research, speculate or debate. Speculate on what you think might happen in the different scenarios where genetically modified mosquitoes are unleashed on the world. Debate whether or not you think we have the right to do so.

If you don’t want to explore this topic, pick one of the other topics raised in one of this month’s books. (Each chapter in CRISPR has at least one topic worthy of a deep-dive.)

Go Sci-Fi

“What If?” is a common question to ask when plotting fiction stories. Many “What if?” questions come to mind when reading up on the topic of genetics. Chapter 10 of CRISPR includes a few futuristic scenes that could be used as a Sci-Fi writing prompt. Pick a genetics-based What If? and write a science fiction story based on it.

Here’s a blog post that gives some good advice:

Explore Family Genetics

One fun way to explore genetics is to look into inherited traits. There are many published activities out there. Here are a few to start with.
This page – – has several genetics activities. Perhaps start with “An Inventory of My Traits.”

If you want, explore traits among family members. “A Tree of Genetic Traits” from the previous website does this. Another similar activity is:

Even if a child is adopted, they may share inherited traits with their adoptive parents. If not, maybe they can predict which traits they are likely to pass on to any children they might have.

Janet smiling while holding a butterflyJanet Slingerland is the author of over 20 books for young readers. Her latest project involves increasing the biodiversity in her yard by planting a wide variety of native plants. To find out more about Janet and her books, check out

STEM Tuesday– Genetics– Book List



Genes play an important role in determining what makes us us. Dive right into these books, which are great resources on genes, DNA, and cutting-edge technology that holds a lot of promise for the future.

Genetics (A True Book: Greatest Discoveries and Discoverers) 

by Christine Taylor-Butler

Scientists now know that genes are the blueprint for life, but many years ago they didn’t. They discovered it when they attempted to change the traits of living things by altering their genes. Learn about the a-ha moments these scientists had; and more, with this engaging text




The DNA Book

by Alison Woollard

A colorful, interesting book with an in-depth look at DNA and its role in our lives: what DNA does, why we look like our parents, how DNA evidence helps catch criminals, genetic engineering, and more.




The Human Genome

The Human Genome: Mapping the Blueprint of Human Life

by Carla Mooney, illustrated by Tom Casteel

All about the human genome, and how understanding it has added to our knowledge in fields like medicine and human history. With hands-on STEM activities, and discussions on the social and ethical issues of genomic science, this book is a fascinating peek into the world of genetics.




The Code Breaker -- Young Readers Edition


The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna and the Race to Understand our Genetic Code

by Walter Isaacson, Adapted for young readers by Sarah Durand

An account of how Nobel Prize Winner Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues launched CRISPR, a tool that can edit DNA, and a discussion of its potential, and the associated moral implications.





CRISPR: A Powerful Way to Change DNA

by Yolanda Ridge, illustrated by Alex Boersma

An engaging book, with detailed illutsrations that explains CRISPR, and the potential it has in the fields of medicine, food and conservation.




Blood, Bullets and Bone: The Story of Forensic Science from Sherlock Holmes to DNA

by Bridget Heos

A history of modern forensic science right from the 1700s to modern times, with its advanced technology, including DNA testing, which has changed the world of forensic science.



Biodiversity: Explore the Diversity of Life on Earth with Environmental Science Activities for Kids (Build It Yourself)

by Laura Perdew (Author), Tom Casteel (Illustrator)

Calling all middle schoolers who are curious about life on earth and its biodiversity. This hands-on STEM-based book is filled with activities to engage critical thinking, as well as lead readers to explorations of the biodiversity around them. 


I Can Be a Science Detective: Fun STEM Activities for Kids 

by Claudia Martin

Simple hands-on experiments on how to catch a thief, extract DNA from strawberries, and much more!


Extract DNA with Rosalind Franklin: Women in Science Interactive Book With Illustrations

Rosalind Franklin is a known chemist and x-ray crystallographer who is passionate about DNA. She loves sharing her knowledge about this fantastic discovery:  she was the first person to discover the shape of DNA! With her expert guidance, readers will be able to experiment at home and make discoveries for themselves. 




She Persisted: Rosalind Franklin


She Persisted: Rosalind Franklin

by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Chelsea Clinton, Alexandra Boiger (Illustrator), Gillian Flint (Illustrator)

A biography of the amazing woman who persisted in following her dreams to become a scientist and played an important role in the discovery of the shape of the DNA.





Saving the Tasmanian Devil: How Science is Helping the World’s Largest Marsupial Carnivore Survive

by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent

This book describes how scientists are working to prevent and eradicate genetic diseases, and helping to save Tasmanian Devils, which are dying in large numbers due a deadly disease.




De-Extinction: The Science of Bringing Lost Species Back to Life

by Rebecca E. Hirsch

This book explains how scientists are trying to reverse extinction and bring back species to life, using techniques like cloning. It also discusses the pros and cons of de-extinction.






Susan Summers is a wildlife enthusiast and an author. Contact her at:



Shruthi Rao is an author. Her home on the web is



STEM Tuesday– Celebrating Diversity in STEM– In the Classroom

This month we are celebrating diversity in STEM with several books that highlight the accomplishments of mathematicians, scientists, inventors, and more, all with diverse backgrounds. These books will help students learn more about these trailblazing STEM pioneers, their lives, and their contributions to science. They are a great starting point for different activities and discussions in the classroom. Here are a few to try:

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Changing the Equation: 50+ U.S. Black Women in STEM by Tonya Bolden

In this book, Bolden examines the lives of trailblazing Black female computer scientists, inventors, mathematicians, and more to inspire young readers.


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What Color Is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with Raymond Obstfeld, illustrated by Ben Boos and A.G. Ford

Discover African-American inventors with basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.


Classroom activity: Have students choose a Black pioneer in STEM who they would like to learn more about and research. Then, create a living museum in the classroom. Students can dress up and present to the class what they have learned about their subject from their research.


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The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

An inspiring story about the power of books and STEM-thinking. A fourteen-year old Malawi boy who cannot attend school educates himself and learns how to build a windmill to help his village.

Classroom activity: Lead a classroom discussion about windmills. Ask students to describe a windmill and brainstorm what they are used for and how they work. Have students design and build their own windmill using common household materials such as craft sticks, glue, paper cups, string, straws, rubber bands, paper towel rolls, push pins, and more. Have students compare the finished windmills. Which design features worked the best? What design challenges did students face? How did they overcome these challenges? What changes would students make to their windmills based on what they have learned through the design process?


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101 Black Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics by L.A. Amber

Young readers will be inspired by the women included in Amber’s book who paved the way for other women of color in STEM fields from the 1800s to today.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgWomen in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky

Take a peek into the lives of women who chose STEM for their life’s work, trailblazing through a field with few women.


Classroom activity: Have students work in pairs and choose a STEM pioneer. Each pair should research their chosen pioneer to learn about their lives and their work. Then, have the students create an interview with their subject. They can present this interview to the class with one student taking the role of interviewer and the other taking the role of the STEM subject.


Carla Mooney loves to explore the world around us and discover the details about how it works. An award-winning author of numerous nonfiction science books for kids and teens, she hopes to spark a healthy curiosity and love of science in today’s young people. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, three kids, and dog. When not writing, she can often be spotted at a hockey rink for one of her kids’ games. Find her at, on Facebook @carlamooneyauthor, or on Twitter @carlawrites.