We are delighted to interview author Cindy Blobaum for our Ice and Snow theme this month!
Cindy is the author of:
Explore the Ice Age! With 25 Great Projects
Cindy digging up a mammoth bone, and then holding one!
Cindy, thanks for being on our blog. How fun was it to write a book about the Ice Age?
I’m one of the few people I know who absolutely LOVES winter. In fact, I drive almost everyone crazy because I sing every time it starts to snow J . The cold weather gives me the opportunity to create snow “somethings” (not usually a snowman), make snow ice cream and go ice skating (outdoors), snow shoeing and skiing. So writing a book that revolves pretty much around winter-style activities was a blast for me.
Your book is packed full of awesome projects– did you come up with them yourself?
Many of the projects tapped into my experiences as a naturalist (field trip lady). I had the good fortune to take part in a mammoth dig (excavating several mammoth skeletons), I constantly use ice cube glacier models in my geology programs to explain local topology, and teaching people how to throw spears using atl atl’s was a constant part of fall programs for many years. Other projects that explained important concepts are ones that I adapted from other programs. When I started working on Explore the Ice Age, I had a notebook full of ideas and connections, which expanded as I got going.
Did you research them? If so, where can people find cool activities for kids?
Each activity I include is thoroughly researched and tested – with my children and neighbor kids often helping out. Research is one of my favorite parts of writing! The research can include checking books, online resources, primary source materials and of course, asking real experts. I learn so much that it can be difficult to select what to include and what I have to leave out. For example, I lived in Iowa when I was writing Explore the Ice Age. When I was working on the mammoth dig, I met an expert on giant sloths. He had created a website with a wealth of information that could be enough for its own book! https://slothcentral.com/
As for finding cool activities for kids, there are multiple ways to approach the search. Activity books are an obvious choice, and don’t pass up the old ones! I have “discovered” many awesome projects that are so old that many people have never seen them, but they are still cool, fun and relevant! Online searches are great, especially if you have the time to actually use “the web” – as in follow many of the multiple possibilities that pop up, especially if you scroll past the first page of results. I also let my mind wander, choosing a word, like “lever” or “insulation” and seeing what I can find that way. And don’t be afraid to adapt activities – try doing them using different materials or in new ways.
Can you give us a sneak peek of one or two of the activities?
An easy and very effective activity to start RIGHT NOW is Sun Stretch! The purpose of the activity is to measure how much the tilt of the sun changes from season to season. If you are living in the Northern Hemisphere, use a south facing window. (Use a north facing window if you live in the Southern Hemisphere.)
Write today’s date on a piece of masking tape or similar substance. Right around noon, place the piece of tape on the floor or wall where you see the sunlight end. At least once a month, do the same thing – putting a new dated piece of tape where you see the sunlight end. The farther you live from the equator, the more change you will see!
Bundled Bottles is an activity that clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of the insulation found on some animal’s bodies. The equipment is zippered baggies, shortening, socks (the thicker, the better), plastic water bottles and a freezer. After creating a coat that mimics a warm-blooded animal’s body, you measure how long it can keep hot water from freezing.
Can you give any tips to writers who want to break into nonfiction children’s books? Should they start with educational publishers like you have done?
At a writing conference, I remember a publisher commenting that although children’s fiction titles usually steal the spotlight, young readers eagerly seek out nonfiction to feed their desire to know more and understand how things work. That is who I write for and why I write. The fact that many formal and informal educators (staff/volunteers at museums, nature centers, summer camps, home schoolers) use my books gives me a definite thrill.
Just like you have to do your research for your subject matter, it is also imperative to research potential publishers. Due to my writing style and content, it makes the most sense to work with publishers who know/understand/work with that format, which is mostly educational publishers. If your writing is more narrative, look for publishers who feature that style of titles. Two other nonfiction styles (this list is not exhaustive) are short facts/records/lists and curriculum/activity sheets. Each one has a separate but sometimes overlapping audience and publisher. .
What are you working on now?
I recently updated Explore Gravity (Nomad Press), expanding it for older readers (ages 9 – 12). I am also working on updating Geology Rocks to get it back in print with Chicago Review Press. With my new full time position, quite honestly, it would be very difficult to start a project right now – although as always, I have a notebook and file folder full of ideas!
Thanks for being on our blog, Cindy, and sharing all of this great info on your book and STEM!
You can discover more about Cindy HERE
Jennifer Swanson is the award-winning author of 45+ books for kids, mostly about STEM, and also the creator and cohost of the Solve It for Kids podcast. You can hear her recommendations for the best STEM books for kids in 2023 on NPR’s Science Friday, here!