Posts Tagged engineering

STEM Tuesday: Peeking into the Mind of a Scientist/Engineer Book List

STEM TUESDAY from the mixed up files

During the month of November, we feature a list of fascinating books about famous scientists and how they think. As an extra layer, we’d like you to consider this list from the nonfiction authors’ points of view as well. What parts of these scientists lives did we focus on? What did we leave out? What do you think interested us the most? Whether you realize it or not, every nonfiction story has an angle–something that connects us AND our readers to the topic. See if you can find it in the books listed below as you dive into the minds of these scientists who have shaped their fields.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Something Rotten: A Fresh Look at Roadkill by Heather L. Montgomery; illustrated by Kevin O’Malley

Readers will meet up with a scientist searching for a cancer cure, a boy engaged in animal anatomy, and citizens joining together to save an endangered species, with the help of roadkill. A great title for kids who enjoy a little gore with their science.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Charles and Emma: The Darwin’s Leap of Faith by Deborah Heligman

Delve into the complex world of the Darwins in this award-winning title that introduces readers to the relationship of this famous couple.

 

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d by Mary Losure

Read about the growing mind of one of the world’s greatest scientists in this award-winning nonfiction narrative of Isaac Newton. A wonderful read for budding scientists.

 

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Radioactive! How Irène Curie and Lisa Meitner Revolutionized Science and Changed the World by Winifred Conkling

A fascinating look at two groundbreaking and mostly unrecognized scientists who contributed to the science of nuclear energy and the race to build the atomic bomb. Readers might be more familiar with the work of Curie’s famous mother, Marie, but she was important in her own right.  A terrific read for Women’s History Month and every day after.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scouts to Rocket Scientist by Sylvia Acevedo

An inspirational memoir about a Latina rocket scientist whose early life was transformed by  her membership in Girl Scouts. Acevedo is currently the CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA.

 

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Google It! A History of Google: How Two Students’ Mission to Organize the Internet Changed the World by Anna Crowley Redding

Discover how two college students came up with an idea that has changed our world.

 

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org The Hyena Scientist by Sy Montgomery; photographs by Nic Bishop

Noted nonfiction author debunks the stereotypes of hyenas in her latest Scientists in the Field title focused on scientist Kay Holecamp.

 

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Think Like a Scientist in the Gym by Christine Taylor Butler

In this title, the readers are the scientists testing their scientific thinking by performing a series of fun experiments using basic gym equipment. Consider asking students to record results in a science notebook.

 

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Alexander Graham Bell for Kids: His Life and Inventions, with 21 Activities by Mary Kay Carson

This 2019 finalist for the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Hands-on Science is a perfect title for budding inventors. Readers will learn about Alexander Graham Bell’s many inventions and have the opportunity to try their hand at creating some of their own.

 

FICTION PAIRINGS about kids thinking like scientists:

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org The Lost Tribes series by Christine Taylor Butler

Christine Taylor-Butler is a trained civil engineer, and she creates smart science-centered characters in this adventure-mystery series. Five friends team up to find their missing parents, who they discover are on a secret science mission. The friends must solve puzzles, crack codes, and think logically as they race against time to find their parents and save the universe.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Readers of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate will enjoy this next tale of young, inquisitive Calpurnia. A wonderful fiction title to pair up with one of the above informational books.

 

 

 

***** And Finally, we’d like to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US!! STEM Tuesday is celebrating our ONE YEAR Anniversary!! Thanks to all of our readers who have followed us faithfully the past year. We couldn’t do it without you. YAY for STEM/STEAM Middle Grade Books!!***

 


STEM Tuesday book lists prepared by:

Nancy Castaldo has written books about our planet for over 20 years including her Crystal Kite award-winning title, Beastly Brains: Exploring How Animals Think, Talk, and Feel, which delves into the study of cognition, both animal and human.  Nancy’s research has taken her all over the world from the Galapagos to Russia. She enjoys sharing her adventures, research, and writing tips with students during her author visits. She strives to inform, inspire, and educate her readers. Nancy also serves as a Regional Advisor for SCBWI. Her 2018 title is Back From The Brink: Saving Animals from Extinction. www.nancycastaldo.com

Patricia Newman writes middle-grade nonfiction that inspires kids to seek connections between science, literacy, and the environment. Her Sibert Honor-winning Sea Otter Heroes dives inside the mind of marine biologist Brent Hughes as he solves a food chain mystery. Other titles include:  Zoo Scientists to the Rescue, a Bank Street College Best Book and Plastic, Ahoy!, a Green Earth Book Award winner. New in 2018:  Eavesdropping on Elephants: How Listening Helps Conservation. Educators describe her author visits as “phenomenal,” “fantastic,” “passionate,” and “inspirational.” Visit her at www.patriciamnewman.com.

STEM Tuesday Cool Inventions and the People Who Create Them – In the Classroom

Cool Inventions and the People Who Create Them

For this In the Classroom feature, I’m taking a broad view of the idea of “invention,” and including similar processes, such as discovery (science) and engineering, although each is unique.I’ve also tried to give a broad range of possible activities–some of them hands-on STEM experiences, others more literary, imaginative, or whimsical, to help you ignite the type of passion and curiosity that your students will be reading about in this month’s books.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgMind Your (and Your Students’) Metaphors
You can explore metaphors and our perceptions of discovery, while learning about a whole range of innovators, with Joyce Sidman’s Eureka! Poems about Inventors (illustrated by K. Bennett Chavez).

Especially with older students, you can begin by conducting the survey described and discussed in Kristen C. Elmore and Myra Luna-Lucera’s work, article, “Light Bulbs or Seeds? How Metaphors for Ideas Influence Judgments About Genius,” which examines how specific metaphors about discovery influence our perceptions of the not just of the process, but, perhaps surprisingly, of the discoverers and value of their achievements. After students respond to the survey (resources are provided in the article), let them in on the whole study and discuss their own responses in light of the researchers’ findings.

Then crack open Eureka! While enjoying the poems and thinking about the inventors, also of looking for the ways in which design, discovery, and invention are portrayed. In any poem, does Sidman seem to see the inventor’s experience as  a “light bulb moment” (as the book’s title suggests), or as a process of  “nurturing seeds?” Perhaps something else? Overall, does Sidman’s view of invention seem to favor one metaphor or the other? (Keep in mind that you can continue this discussion with respect to other books from this month’s list.)

Of course, after students read the stories in Eureka! it makes perfect sense for them to write their own poems about:

  • Their own experiences of discovery or engineering insight
  • Other innovators featured in this month’s books–Elon Musk or Isaac Newton, for example.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgDream Big—Really Big (and Then Maybe Engineer Something)

Readers of Ashlee Vance’s Elon Musk & the Quest for a Fantastic Future will surely notice something that really makes Elon Musk stand out: his mission-driven ambition.

This guy dreams big.

Many people– including engineers and inventors–hope to make the world a better place; Musk wants to save humanity. This kind of high-impact calling can be a great motivator for future engineers and other innovators. Capitalize on the excitement of the Musk’s vision with one or more of these ideas:

Encourage Daydreaming!

  • Invite your students to take a cue from Musk and envision something that would be really important to the well-being of people around the world. Begin a discussion with a grand question: If you could invent anything to make the world a much better place for everyone, what would you invent?

 

  • Follow through with a brainstorming session around this question, encouraging students to think about ideas that might not seem realistic or possible right now. (If the class has already read the book, you can remind students that Musk’s ideas might not have seemed feasible at first, and, in fact, that lots of people have scoffed at his ideas.)

 

  • Keep a running dream-list posted in the classroom and return to it from time to time. Invite students to keep “Dream Books,” where they focus on one or two ideas (or more) and write and sketch about how the dream might become a reality through some technology.

 

  • You can expand on this idea by holding your own school version of the National Academy of Engineering’s “E4U” contest—minus the $25,000 grand prize– which (apparently) was last held in 2016. While the national contest is not open now, students can follow the contest rules to create 1-2 minute videos that aim to highlight a mega-engineering project related to one of their big dreams and, in the words of the contest guidelines, “expand the way people think about engineering and how it is involved in solving large-scale global challenges.” Check out winning entries, guidelines that you can use or adapt, and an explanatory (if outdated) video at the E4U contest site. Whether you run this as a contest or a showcase, this is a creative way to help students connect to Musk’s work and the importance of STEM in our world

Join Musk on His Mission (Sort Of)

For a more concrete experience, lead your students through engineering projects with connections to SpaceX rockets and Tesla’s electric cars, such as those featured in these resources from Design Squad Global:

Musk is all about the future. But there’s plenty of excitement in the past. Just check out the likes of Isaac Newton, whose experiences can add a bit of magic to how we think of early science and engineering.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgExplore a Little Magic with Isaac Newton

From the outset of Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d, author Mary Losure explains to readers that in Isaac Newton’s time, some of what we now understand through science, such as chemical reactions and optical effects,  seemed a lot like magic.

They still do.  Have fun with this idea and explore the magical effects of our everyday world!

 

  • Adapt additional resources to create inquiry-based, surprising, and delightfully magical lessons. (Notes: I named these activities to spice things up; you won’t see these activity names in the resources. Also, see the safety reminder, below.)

Spirit Writing?

Cast a Colorful Spell (magic trick begins at about the 7-minute mark)

Cast a Colorful Spell 2

Refraction Action: Disappearing Coin

Liquid Refraction Action 2: Liquid Invisibility Cloak!

Vanishing Glass (See Item 1 in the linked resource.)

 

  •  Finally, to continue the science-is-magical theme, and for a bit more fun and a creative literacy extension, you might have students write and perform scripts for a magic show, each student team building a story or act that uses one of the chemical reactions to create the “magic.”

As I find every month when I contribute to STEMTuesday, the books on the list inspire many more lesson ideas than space will allow. What inspires you? Leave a comment sharing new ideas or comments on what you see here!


*Safety Reminder: The magic/science activities are generally safe, but in the classroom, you should always be sure to follow the guidelines for safety and for modeling safe use of all chemicals. Check with your local science curriculum coordinator or the National Science Teachers Association Minimum Safety Practices and Regulations for Demonstrations, Experiments, and Workshops.


portrait of author Carolyn Cinami DeCristofanoSTEM Tuesday–In the Classroom contributor, author, and STEM education consultant Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano writes about science and technology/engineering for kids.  Running on Sunshine: How Does Solar Energy Work? –a book for early readers released this month–celebrates the innovative spirit and challenges behind engineering solar technologies, and received a starred review from Kirkus.

STEM Tuesday Exploration– In the Classroom

January. The month for making resolutions. At STEM Tuesday, it’s also the month for exploration. Why not resolve to explore creative ways to bring middle grade, STEM-themed books into the lives of young readers?

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgLaunch into exploration with Mission: MarsAuthor Pascal Lee, a planetary scientist and chairman of the Mars Institute, embraces the theme by transporting readers to this far-flung destination. As would-be astronauts contemplate heading to the Red Planet, even short segments of the book serve as possible springboards to new lessons or activity ideas.

For example, with a single, short passage on page 5, you can connect math, science, and ELA. Here, providing a sense of the distances to Earth’s nearest neighbors, Lee compares how many months it would take to drive (at 70 miles per hour) to the Moon and Mars—5 months and 5,000 months (more than 400 years), respectively. The numbers are fun and informative – and a great model for your students’ own sense-making and communication.

Invite them to check Lee’s calculations (because it’s good to get in the habit of checking authors’ figures). Next, students can write a similar passage comparing the same distances (to the Moon and Mars). After they select different vehicles and research or estimate typical speeds, you can help students work through how long it would take for the vehicles to get them to their destinations.

For a truly open-ended approach, ask students how they would try to solve the problem and invite them to give it a try on their own. Of course, you might prefer to provide more direction, using this example in a lesson on proportional reasoning, using tables, spreadsheets, unit analysis, or other approaches relevant to your curriculum goals. Afterward, return to Lee’s passage. Help readers notice that comparisons like this work especially well because they connect to something the reader can readily imagine or has experienced. Which of their own comparisons would be most useful to readers of different ages? Which might make the greatest impressions? Why?

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgKeep on trekking. Once your readers-turned-math-and-science-communicators have the Earth-Moon-Mars scale under control, let them loose on the whole universe! Cracking open National Geographic Kids Ultimate Space Atlas (which I authored), check out the facts and figures related to the sizes of objects and distances across our Solar System, through the Milky Way, and beyond. Students can translate these measurements into the distance scales they have just developed based on vehicles’ travel times. Continuing your exploration of space, use Venn diagrams to compare and contrast various features of solar systems, stars, and more. Or take a close look at the different types of graphic information in this highly visual book. How do illustrations, scientific images (from telescopes, for example), photographs, and more draw readers in? How do they shape a reader’s impression of the information?

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgDiving in to an exploration that is closer to home, check out Kenneth Mallory’s Diving to a Deep-Sea Volcano. Vbrant pictures of exotic organisms and underwater landscapes complement the fascinating story. As with space exploration, technologies for transportation, remote sensing, and communications play a vital role in oceanographic discovery. Now’s the time for an engineering design challenge that’s linked to ocean exploration technology–submarines and more.

For example, Engineering is Elementary’s* Ocean Engineering unit, Taking the Plunge, offers an engineering challenge focused on remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROV), no electronics required. This or any well-developed ROV design challenge would make an important engineering connection to Mallory’s book, attracting tinkerers and readers alike.

The Hatfield Marine Science Center’s free ROV-related guide can also help you dive further into the deep sea exploration! For example, following one of the resource’s links, I found this wonderful clip. Watch an enchanting little fish roam its territory while a scientist reminds us that anyone watching the video live was witnessing the first-ever glimpse of this particular species. The experience—as well as the scientist’s voice–affirms that science is an exciting, vibrant adventure.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Launch and dive into science exploration — at the same time. That’s no mixed metaphor if we’re talking about Jennifer Swanson’s Astronaut Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact. To strengthen conceptual knowledge and help readers connect science topics to the excitement of exploration, try reading the book before or during a science unit on density, buoyancy, plate tectonics, technology…or any of the other topics that are woven into the book.

The included science activities might be of special interest to help you extend the literacy experience, but don’t miss the obvious opportunity to reflect on the comparisons throughout the story.

You might want to use the text as a model for students–and challenge them to find and write about other topics with surprising or interesting connections. (How about comparing and contrasting the forces that shape mountains and canyons…that cause droughts and floods?) Whatever your learners choose, ask them to consider what concepts bind them and what connections they see in how people explore these topics.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgKeep an eye out for opportunities to explore. Speaking of “new” species, Sandra Markle’s The Search for Olinguito. reminds us that sometimes exploration involves taking a new look at something we have seen before. Curiosity and sharp observation are part of the story of scientific exploration. If not for scientist Kristofer Halgen’s observation of a unique pelt in a museum collection, the olinguito (an adorable raccoon relative) might not be known to science.  Emphasize this point with a fun, game-like experience.

Tell partners take a good look at each other. Then, ask partners to turn away from each other; each one should make a subtle change to his or her appearance. When partners face each other again, can they find the change? You can adapt this idea as an ongoing group experience. Every few days, change something about the physical environment. Challenge students to notice. Keep them tuned in to visual detail.

This book is also a great opportunity to help your students understand how scientists classify organisms in the first place. The American Association for the Advancement of Science offers a basic classification activity that you can use to engage your students in this essential content. At the end of the lesson, you’ll find links to extensions that will help you dive deeper or begin at a more advanced level.

To explore (scientifically) is human. One more note for this month: Science and STEM stories have the potential to positively impact the whole child, modeling, for example, inquisitiveness and tenacity. Science is a human adventure. Feeling the shiver of curiosity, digging for answers, facing challenges and disappointments, and celebrating success are all part of the experience.

Ask students to share their own stories that parallel the scientific tales of exploration in these books. Possible prompts include:

  • When have you had a question you really wanted to answer?  How did you figure it out?
  • When have you found yourself  inventing or adapt an object so you could do something you wanted to do? (Something as simple as using a paperclip to replace a button counts as an example.) 
  • When have you ever felt stuck? How did you get past that?
  • Tell us about a time when you reached a milestone that you worked hard to attain.

After students share their tales, turn to books on this month’s list in search of the scientists’ similar experiences.

Share your own exploration! As you venture into your own new territory with these books and the theme of STEM exploration, please don’t leave us in the dust. Drop us a line in the comments section below! Think of it as an entry in a communal adventure log!

  • How else do you help students experience reading and doing as exploration?
  • Do you prefer to focus on exploration as a one-time theme or sprinkle it throughout the year? Why?
  • What other books do you use to help introduce exploration as an important aspect of science? How?
  • What ideas worked well—or not so well—with your students?

 

portrait of author Carolyn Cinami DeCristofanoWhen she’s not exploring the topic of her next nonfiction book for kids, author, STEM education specialist, and President of Blue Heron STEM Education Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano, M.Ed., helps students and teachers explore science and STEM fields with dynamic, hands-on author visits, professional development programs, and curricula that are customized to meet their needs and interests.

*Disclosure: As one of original authors and a consultant for Engineering is Elementary, I have professional ties to that program. However, I do not receive sales commissions or royalties.