Posts Tagged cross-curricular

STEM Tuesday– Nuclear/Atomic Science– Interview

I’m delighted to interview Julie Knutson for STEM Tuesday! Julie and I have worked together on three books and each time she impressed me with her super-thorough research and passionate curiosity of whatever topic she was writing about, whether that was globalism, World War I, or Marie Curie!

The Science and Technology of Marie Curie explores Curie’s life and work—not only the discoveries she made while working with her husband that made them both famous, but also the work she continued after his death. For example, did you know Curie developed a transportable X-ray that was used in World War I to help surgeons avoid unnecessary surgery on the battlefield?

Let’s learn more about this amazing woman who made great scientific strides during a time when women weren’t always respected (or funded) as much as their male colleagues.

 

Andi Diehn: What fascinated you about Marie Curie to write a whole book about her?

Julie Knutson: At the beginning of the research process, I came across personal details about Curie’s life that really drew me into her story. From her attendance at an “underground” Polish university at a time when women were banned from higher education to her embrace of the cycling craze of the 1890s, I came to see Curie as a complex, multi-faceted human with varied interests and commitments. This pushed me to want to learn more about her not simply as a scientist, but also as a person very much of her time and place.

Marie Curie book coverThe end result of that research? This book!

AD: Curie was making incredible strides during a time when women weren’t always welcome in the scientific community – why is it important for us to learn about her work and life now?

JK: Curie’s life offers us so many lessons, one of which is the importance of surrounding yourself with people who encourage and foster your interests and talents. Family, friends, mentors, teachers, classmates, her spouse: the “village” around her allowed her to defy the conventions and norms of her time and place. I hope this example encourages young readers to form and join their own networks rooted in shared curiosity!

Marie and her daughters

Marie Curie and her daughters

AD: Your book has lots of activities – why include activities in a nonfiction book for kids?

JK: Observing, questioning, hypothesizing, experimenting, analyzing, drawing conclusions . . . these are the cornerstones of the scientific method. The activities in this book prompt readers to actively practice this process. This builds not only a “lived” understanding of complex topics like atomic structure, but also solid habits of mind that they can carry with them as young scientists.

WWI ambulance

A petit Curie, a portable radiology system used on battlefields during WWI.

 

AD: I was surprised to learn about Curie’s role during World War I. What do you think her work with portable X-ray machines shows us about her character?

JK: One of Curie’s guiding principles was “Science in the Service of Humanity.” Throughout World War I, Curie’s actions reveal her as a person who not just professed this mantra, but really lived it. At the beginning of the war—when Paris was invaded—she secreted a vial of radium from her lab to safety in a town 375 miles away, protecting this critical resource. After suspending her research, she coordinated a fleet of mobile X-ray units, which were used to identify the sites of bullet and shrapnel wounds, as well as broken bones.

Here, we see Curie identify a problem and use her knowledge and skills to solve it . . . in the process, saving countless lives in the process.

AD: If you could share one thing about Marie Curie’s life with everyone you know, what would it be?

JK: There’s so much more — beyond the Nobel Prizes — to learn from Curie’s life and story; I’d encourage readers of all ages to delve into it! She’s a figure of endless depths, who exceeds the honors and accolades for which she’s best known.

Marie Curie comic strip

***headshot of author Julie KnutsonJulie Knutson is an author and educator with a wide-ranging background in history and the social sciences. She holds an undergraduate degree in cultural studies from NYU, a master’s degree in Political Sociology from The London School of Economics, and additional post-graduate degrees in education and art history from Rice University in Houston. Julie’s passion for global citizenship, world history, and human rights stems from these formative academic experiences and from her time as a classroom teacher.

Julie is an active member of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), having served as the Chair of its Middle School Teacher of the Year Award in 2018. She also maintains membership in Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

Andi Diehn***

Andi Diehn grew up near the ocean chatting with horseshoe crabs and now lives in the mountains surrounded by dogs, cats, lizards, chickens, ducks, moose, deer, and bobcats, some of which help themselves to whatever she manages to grow in the garden. You are most likely to find her reading a book, talking about books, writing a book, or discussing politics with her sons. She has 18 children’s nonfiction books published or forthcoming.

STEM Tuesday– Nuclear/Atomic Science– Writing Tips & Resources

 

This month’s theme is nuclear/atomic energy. In searching for ways to bring the arts into STE(A)M, I found books for older readers that focus on the “politics” of energy and offer opportunities for activities. Certainly that is relevant in today’s world where what we know as good science is being questioned. It’s not new. Galileo went to prison because he said the earth rotates around the sun. Scientists make discoveries and then those discoveries go out into the world in various ways. Politics, religion, culture, and economics can influence their uses and interpretations.

Each book here focuses on past consequences of scientific discoveries. My books this month are for older readers and the STEAM activities are ones which would require the students to have research, writing, and visual communication skills.

 

 

 

Radium girls coverThe first is The Radium Girls: The Scary But True Story Of The Poison That Made People Glow In The Dark (Young Readers’ Edition 2020, Sourcebooks Explore) by Kate Moore. This book is not for the faint of heart, with archival photos and heart-rending accounts. It is rich with content, bibliography, and story. While the discovery of radium was useful to mankind, abuse of the substance led to tragedy.archival photos

In 1917, there was competition for the jobs at the Radium Luminous Materials Corporation in Newark, New Jersey, where the girls who worked in the watch studio made good money. They painted the numbers on watch faces with paint that glowed in the dark. Radium, discovered by Marie Curie, was a miracle of new technology. It was especially important because the watch dials could be seen by soldiers fighting in World War I.

In order to get a good point on the paint brush, so as to paint the tiny numbers, the girls used their lips to make a fine point on the brush. Some of the girls were concerned. Their clothes glowed in the dark. They got sores in their mouths and acne.

The personal stories in the book are engaging and thought provoking. Also sad and direct. Some of the photos are shocking. At over 700 pages, the book is a comprehensive collection of materials, including bibliography, archival photos, and reading group guide.

 

 

 

Radium Girls play cover

I first heard of the Radium Girls when I attended the play in 2018 at Lasell University. The young actors performed the sad and informative story with deep feeling. (https://the1851chronicle.org/2018/04/26/radium-girls-turns-the-dial-towards-feminism/).

In order to bring the A into STEAM, writing or performing a play is a great way to create a multidisciplinary educational experience for any topic. Having to explain a concept to others always helps students to a better understanding of a topic themselves. A full length script for Radium Girls is available through Dramatic Publishing.( by D.W. Gregory https://www.dramaticpublishing.com/radium-girls)

If you think of writing a play and that intimidates you (it would me!), I found a number of resources on the Teachers Pay Teachers website (https://www.teacherspayteachers.com). You can search for “writing a play” and you have many options. I haven’t used any of these but the materials I have ordered from them in the past have been useful in my teaching.

 

 

Fallout coverAnd looking to continue the theme of including art, it amused me to think of atomic rhyming with comic. So I selected Fallout: J. Robert Oppenheimer, Leo Slizard, and the Policial Science of the Atomic Bomb ( Jim Ottaviani (Author), Janine Johnston (Illustrator), Steve Lieber (Illustrator), Vince Locke (Illustrator), Bernie Mireault (Illustrator), Jeff Parker (Illustrator), Jeffrey Jones (Illustrator) by GT Labs. This is for older readers and I think some previous knowledge of the development of the atomic bomb will help the reader to follow the story.

The comic platform, with its countless illustrations, brings the characters to life. We can feel the emotional conflicts of the scientists, especially facing the demands of the war interests. To me, the black and white drawings were reminiscent of film noir and helped to place the time frame pre-1960. It is especially valuable for reluctant readers who can get visual cues from the pictures.

To be clear, the book is more about political science (a branch of social science) and it does include information about the development of the bomb. It’s always good to bring in the humanity aspects of science to keep it in perspective.

 

 

 

There are studies about the effectiveness of comics in education. Comparing Effectiveness and Engagement of Data Comics and Infographics, downloadable from https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3290605.3300483. They say Our results suggest participants largely prefer data comics in terms of enjoyment, focus, and overall engagement and that comics improve understanding and recall of information in the stories. (by Zezhong Wang, Shunming Wang, Matteo Farinella, Dave Murray-Rust, Nathalie Henry Riche, Benjamin Bach).

free downloadThe Center for Cartoon Studies (https://www.cartoonstudies.org/) offers a free downloadable book called The World is Made of Cheese, The Applied Cartooning Manifesto, as well as other materials on comics. The materials are user friendly and you don’t have to be an “artist” to make a comic. Most published comics are collaborations anyway, so find a partner. And the goal is to create a page or book that tells a story (fiction or nonfiction) communicates ideas, and provides the satisfaction of being creative. In my experience, students enjoy making (and reading) comics and there are more choices available every day.

 

 

 

 


Kaleidoscope front cover

Margo Lemieux draws, paints, reads, and writes all the time. And, following her own advice, she is doing a cartoon assignment in the spring for her university class. She also does editing and publishing. Her most recent project is an anthology for her long-time witers’ group, The Magic Storymakers, titled Kaleidoscope.

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.