Posts Tagged book clubs

STEM Tuesday– Nuclear/Atomic Science– In the Classroom

 

 

Nuclear science is the study of the atomic world. Atoms are the building blocks of all matter, and everything around us, including our bodies, is made of atoms.

Students can explore the ways nuclear science impacts our world in these books:

Who Split The Atom? by Anna Claybourne  Using a DK-like format, it explores the early history and research into the structure of atoms, the periodic table, radioactivity, and atomic science. Loaded with photographs, graphics, “That’s A Fact!,” “Breakthrough,” and scientific sidebars, as well as vignettes of scientists, it is an accessible and engaging introduction to radioactivity.

 

Atomic Universe: The Quest To Discover Radioactivity by Kate Boehm Jerome  This National Geographic book uses a running timeline across the top of the pages (from 1800 to 1971), photographs, mini-biographies, and “science booster” sidebars to interest high-low readers in an introductory overview of radioactivity, atomic science, and nuclear reactors.

 

Activity

How is nuclear energy produced? In nuclear fission, the nucleus of a uranium atom splits into tiny atoms. The splitting produces two or three free neutrons and releases a large amount of energy. In a nuclear reactor, fission is used to make atomic energy. Divide students into groups and have each group research the process of nuclear fission. Each group should create a visual demonstration of nuclear fission and present it to the class. Get creative! 

 

Meltdown: Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Disaster in Fukushima by Deirdre Langeland On March 11, 2011, the largest earthquake ever measured in Japan occurred off the northeast coast. It triggered a tsunami with a wall of water 128 feet high that ripped apart homes and schools, damaging Fukushima’s nuclear power plant and causing a nuclear meltdown. Chapters describe the events as well as the science of nuclear reactors. Each section begins with a readout of reactor status, from “offline” to “meltdown” with the last chapter exploring lessons learned.

 

Activity

Nuclear energy is a much-debated topic. In this activity, students will decide whether or not to support building a nuclear power plant in their town to provide electricity and replace fossil fuel-generated electricity. Divide the class into two groups – one group will support the building of the nuclear power plant, while the other group will oppose it. Have each group research nuclear energy and power and find facts and arguments to support their point of view. Hold a classroom debate and have each side present their strongest arguments for and against the nuclear power plant.

 

Radioactive!: How Irène Curie and Lise Meitner Revolutionized Science and Changed the World by Winifred Conkling  This gripping dual biography provides an in-depth look at the discoveries, life-long personal sacrifices, and professional struggles that Irène Curie and her husband Frédéric Joliot-Curie made in discovering artificial radiation and Lise Meitner made in discovering nuclear fission. It also touches on Marie and Pierre Curie’s discovery of natural radiation, society’s grappling with radiation, World War II, and the atomic bomb. Includes a timeline, Who’s Who section, black and white photos, and fascinating sidebars further explaining the science.

Activity

Radiation exists all around us. It is produced as unstable atoms undergo radioactive decay, and travels as energy waves or energized particles. There are many different forms of radiation, each with its own properties and effects. What sources of radiation are you exposed to in your daily life? Have students research radiation sources and create a list of exposures. They can use this calculator from the Environmental Protection Agency to calculate their annual radiation dose.  What can students do to reduce or limit radiation exposure in their lives?

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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 a dog. When not writing, she can often be spotted at a hockey rink for one of her kids’ games. Find her online at http://www.carlamooney.com, on Facebook @carlamooneyauthor, Instagram @moonwriter25, and Twitter @carlawrites.

Happy New Year from the STEM Tuesday Team!

Inertia For the New Year

Painful Inspiration

The weather turned. The temperature dropped rapidly. It was a cold and misty day but the precipitation began to freeze in the late afternoon causing black ice. Typical Kansas weather where the temperature went from the mid-40s to -8 within a 36-hour period. 

No problem. Hunker down, stay warm, and finish the STEM Tuesday New Year’s Post. Easy.

Not so fast. 

I also had to walk my daughter’s dogs who were staying with us. Dog #1 went fairly easily as the dog and human performed seamlessly transversing the ice rink of a sidewalk. Dog #2, however, had other things in mind. Just a few steps past the thawing effects of the ice melt on the sidewalk, a squirrel ran down a tree trunk and sprinted across the ice-crusted lawn. Dog #2, by all measure a champion squirrel chaser, tipping the scales at ~80 lbs., launched with great enthusiasm after the squirrel. 

Time and perception snapped to slow motion. I watched the retractable leash unroll with great speed. Just when it crossed my mind I should probably let go or get my arm jerked off, the line ran out. My arm jerked forward but, fortunately, not off. My feet shot out from under me and I found myself sliding rapidly down the sidewalk incline toward an oak tree trunk located in my path at the bottom of the walk. Just when the inevitable crash was mere seconds away, I had a STEM Tuesday New Year’s Post revelation and screamed, “INERTIA!”

After a few minutes of nursing the scratches and bruises while the rest of the family directed all their attention to the health and well-being of Dog #2, I limped to my desk to capture the moment inertia changed everything. 

(Note: No animals or humans were hurt during this highly dramatized, perhaps over-dramatized, story.)

Inertia. A brilliant and inspirational word! In fact, a perfect word to use as the 2023 STEM Tuesday Word-of-the-Year. 

Throughout our educational journey, we’ve probably been exposed to Newton’s First Law of Motion, a.k.a. Newton’s Law of Inertia, so many times it became rote and not the alive physical law it is. An object at rest or in motion tends to stay at rest or in motion unless a force acts upon it. That’s Newton’s Law of Inertia. 

Inertia is one powerful property and one powerful word to guide us in the coming year.

A Discovery

The year was 1851. It’s deep into a cold January 6th night a few hours after midnight. A young man knelt over his latest experiment in the cellar of the house he shared with his mother at the corner of rue de Vaugirard and rue d’Assas in Paris. He is not considered a great scholar by his peers. Although he has already made several significant advances in science, he is not accepted in the inner circles of the great Parisian mathematical or astronomical minds of the era. Yet, when Leon Foucault released the 5-kg brass bob connected by a wire to an anchor on the ceiling, he made history.

Foucault watched the oscillations as the pendulum swung slowly and gracefully in front of him. Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. Then he saw it. The plane of oscillation had moved ever so slightly away from its initial position. He knew immediately he had done something nobody in history, not even Galileo, Newton, or any of the great scientific human minds, had done. Leon Foucault had proven with his simple, but elegant, pendulum experiment that the earth rotates.

The next month, Focault demonstrated to the scientific community his pendulum experiment in the Meridian at the Paris Observatory. Much debate was raised, especially about how an “amateur” could have made this discovery, but nobody could refute Foucault’s conclusions. The experiment was repeated on a grander scale a few weeks later with a 28-kg bob hanging from a 67-meter wire from the dome of the Pantheon in Paris. The public was invited and people flocked to see the exhibition. Scientists all over the world repeated the experiment and all confirmed Foucault’s findings. Even today, the Foucault Pendulum is a popular experiment to recreate by both science museums and home enthusiasts. In a sense, the inertia of Foucault’s experiment continues in motion to this day.

 

An excerpt from the illustrated supplement of the magazine Le Petit Parisien dated November 2, 1902, on the 50th anniversary of the experiment of Léon Foucault demonstrating the rotation of the earth. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

 

The STEM Tuesday 2023 Word-of-the-Year “inertia” is submitted for consideration to all creative people in the spirit of Foucault and his pendulum. The whole experiment worked because of inertia and the motion described by Newton’s First Law in the plane of oscillation. When the pendulum moved back and forth, the earth below moved. 

 

Creative Inertia

In order to create, we need to be like Foucault’s Pendulum and use the force of inertia to make our creative world turn. What if on that dark February night alone in his cellar, Leon Foucault wouldn’t have let go of the brass fob? No motion. Which would have meant no discovery. In order for him to prove the earth turned, he had to put the pendulum in motion and tap the power of inertia.

Inertia for 2023 means putting creativity in motion by…creating. Creative inertia!

What fuels creative inertia? Curiosity. A creator is driven by curiosity much like a scientist is.

  • Curiosity about what happens next drives the fiction writer.
  • Curiosity about what actually happened or what actually is drives the nonfiction writer.
  • Curiosity about the image and what it represents drive the illustrator.

Creative inertia grows out of curiosity. Like Foucault, creators need to release the bob and put creative inertia to work. It all starts with a single word or a single mark, followed by one after the other. 

Even if it sometimes (or often) feels like your creative life is static and going nowhere but back and forth, remember the world below is turning. Creative inertia means you are improving. It means you are in motion.

A creator at rest tends to stay at rest. A creator in motion tends to stay in motion.

 

Starry circles arc around the south celestial pole, seen overhead at ESO’s La Silla Observatory. http://www.eso.org/public/images/potw1534a/, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

 

The phenomenon develops calmly, but it is inevitable, unstoppable. One feels, one sees it born and grow steadily; and it is not in one’s power to either hasten it or slow it down. Any person, brought into the presence of this fact, stops for a few moments and remains pensive and silent; and then generally leaves, carrying with him forever a sharper, keener sense of our incessant motion through space.

                                                   -Leon Foucault, describing his pendulum experiment, 1851

 

Happy New Year from all of us at STEM Tuesday and From the Mixed-Up Files…of Middle-Grade Authors. May you find your creative inertia and keep your creative world turning!

 

Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal-opportunity sports enthusiast, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports/training-related topics at  www.coachhays.com and writer stuff at  www.mikehaysbooks.comTwo of his science essays, The Science of Jurassic Park and Zombie Microbiology 101, are included in the Putting the Science in Fiction collection from Writer’s Digest Books. He can be found roaming around the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64 and on Instagram at @mikehays64.

STEM Tuesday– Evolution– In the Classroom

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and discovery of natural selection changed the way people viewed themselves and the world around them. The idea that organisms adapt over time to survive in their environment was groundbreaking. It contradicted what people had always assumed to be true. Many incredible books have been written to help students understand the importance of this discovery and how it influences our understanding of the world today. These books can be used as a springboard for classroom discussions and activities.

 

cover of the book "One Beetle Too Many," featuring an illustration of Charles Darwin peeking through leaves at insects

One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin by Kathryn Lasky and Matthew Trueman

This book does an excellent job of making Charles Darwin relatable to young readers. He was a child who loved all type of creatures, including insects and worms. He loved being outside and took great pride in his collections. Kids may see that they aren’t too different from Darwin, and that will keep them engaged throughout the entire book. The illustrations complement the text perfectly, and students will want to look closely to take in all the details.

 

 

 

 

Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman

Many biographies of Charles Darwin focus on his research and his time spent on the HMS Beagle. Charles and Emma, however, starts after that adventure is already over, when Charles is trying to decide if he should get married. The relationship between Charles and Emma was a loving one, but she, like many others at the time, had trouble accepting his Theory of Evolution. It completely contradicted peoples’ religious beliefs. This book explores Charles and Emma’s relationship and how that impacted his thinking and his work. Young readers will view Darwin through a different lens.

 

 

 

 

cover of the book "Evolution" featuring a multicolored chameleon on white background

Evolution: How Life Adapts to a Changing Environment with 25 Projects by Carla Mooney and Alexis Cornell

In this book, STEM Tuesday’s own Carla Mooney makes evolution accessible to middle grade readers. She clearly explains what it is, how we think it works, and how this ongoing process will affect the future of our planet. The thought provoking essential questions and subsequent activities give students hands on opportunities to discover how and why animal adaptations occur.

The following two activities were taken directly from this book and are ones I think students will especially enjoy.

 

 

Activity 1 – Create Your Own Animal

In this activity, students will create their own animal with useful adaptations. They will begin by considering the following questions.

  • Where does the animal live?
  • How much water is in the area?
  • What is the climate and weather like in this location?
  • What does the animal eat? What predators threaten the animal?

Using these details, students will create their animal. What does it look like? How does it behave? Have them write a paragraph describing their animal and its behaviors. Draw a picture of the animal. What adaptations does the animal have to help it better survive in its environment?

Now try this: Have students design another environment. Imagine their animal in the new environment. What features are useful for the animal in the new environment? What features are not helpful? If the animal stays in the new environment, what new adaptations do you predict will arise during many generations. Why?

 

Activity 2 – Darwin’s Finches

In this activity, students will demonstrate how different adaptations can help different birds collect food.

  1. Gather several objects that represent different types of seeds a bird might encounter, including large seeds, small seeds, dried beans, rice. etc.
  2. Find or design several “tools” that they can use to pick up the seeds. Ideas include forks, spoons, knives, chopsticks, tweezers, and straws. Students can also build their own tools.
  3. Using each tool, attempt to pick up each type of seed. Which tool works the best? What type of seed is the easiest to collect? Which tool is the least effective? Which seed is the hardest to collect? Do some tools work better with certain seeds and not others?

Now try this: Students will demonstrate the process of evolution by natural selection using the seeds and the tools. Using only one type of food, assign each of the tools to the students. Set a time limit and see how many they can collect with their assigned tool. After the time has expired, see which tools have collected the most food. Those that did not collect enough food will die out and be replaced by the top-performing tools. Have students repeat this process several times. What happens to the tools in the population? What was the role of natural selection in the outcome?

 

Peppered Moth Simulation

In this online game, students will see how camouflage protects moths through the eyes of a predator. Click here to access the game.

 

Speciation Video

Further explore the idea of speciation by having students watch this video from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Click here to access the video.

 

Hopefully, these books and activities will help students understand the Theory of Evolution and how it influences our understanding of the world today.

 

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Jenna Grodziki

Jenna Grodzicki is the author of more than twenty fiction and nonfiction children’s books. Her books include Wild Style: Amazing Animal Adornments (Millbrook Press 2020) and I See Sea Food: Sea Creatures That Look Like Food (Millbrook Press 2019), the winner of the 2020 Connecticut Book Award in the Young Readers Nonfiction Category. Jenna lives near the beach with her husband and two children. In addition to being a writer, she is also a library media specialist at a K-4 school. To learn more, visit her website at www.jennagrodzicki.com.