Posts Tagged homeschool

STEM Tuesday — Renewable Energy — Writing Tips & Resources

Renewable Creative Energy

STEM Tuesday friends, I was creatively tired. Drained. The well was dry. Etc., etc., etc. It’s been a wild couple of months in which I feel I’ve been running full tilt on a treadmill not going anywhere. The battery was drained. 

There’s a definition of energy derived from Aristotle and his concept of enérgeia.

Energy is a condition that allows the capacity to do work.

I needed some renewable energy. I need the capacity to do my work.

Energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be transformed from one form to another.

This little nugget is the Law of Conservation of Energy. 

Ah, but since energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed from one form to another, I couldn’t just wave a magic wand and create the “Best STEM Tuesday Post of All Time” I dreamt of making. 

I needed some renewable energy. But how? There’s no Creative Energy section in any of my local stores, there were a few TikToks that were of no help at all, and, unbelievably, Amazon doesn’t list anything relevant to my problem. 

I was at a loss.

In utter creative despair, I snapped the laptop lid closed, fell to my knees, and reached, like Tim Robbins after his escape in The Shawshank Redemption, to the creative spirits of the universe in a plea for help. Sadly, the creative spirits of the universe did not answer. So I got off the office floor, went outside to fill the bird feeders, and then took the dog for a walk. Signs of early spring were everywhere. Birds, buds, and lilacs. Daffodils, tulips, and a soft breeze. 

The creative battery notched a level up. 

I felt a thaw in the ice floe jamming my creative brain (For a little brain science, here’s a link to my post, Creative Braining). I had an urge to go to the library. I picked up my two grandsons (5 and 3 years old, respectively) and we descended with great enthusiasm to the children’s floor in the basement of our library. Their energy was contagious. I scoured the shelves and found a half dozen awesome picture books to use for illustrator studies. 

With great excitement, we hauled our stacks of books from the library and to the truck to take home. I was fired up to return to my office, read the books I’d checked out, and then add sticky notes to mark the illustrations I wanted to draw for illustrator studies.

With little effort, the creative battery reached an almost full charge. Turns out, all I needed was to take a step back from the work and redirect to a renewable creative energy source. Nature and libraries. Two great sources of renewable creative energy. Bingo!

Energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be transformed from one form to another.

The Law of Conservation of Energy. 

It means energy comes at a price, even the forms of renewable energy listed in this month’s fabulous STEM Tuesday Renewable Energy book list. The trick for humanity at this critical point in environmental history is to transition to creating energy that minimizes the negative impact on the environment while still providing the energy to fuel our lifestyles.

We all know it’s important to develop renewable energy strategies for the environment. It’s also vital to develop strategies to renew creative energy. Find what works and when that doesn’t work, try something different. Expand the lens that feeds your creative brain. Be curious. 

As for that Best STEM Tuesday Post of All Time? You might have to wait on that one for a while longer. 


Bellatheblond, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


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 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 X under the guise of @coachhays64 and on Instagram at @mikehays64.


The O.O.L.F Files

This month’s version of the O.O.L.F.(Out of Left Field) Files explores a spectrum of renewable energy information. From DIY to corporate plans to how the word “energy” came to be, you can check it all out at the links below.

Renewable Energy (Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy)

Microsoft’s Emissions and Water Use Shoot Up As It Goes All In on AI (via Futurism)

What is renewable energy? (

The renewable energy movement must have corporate involvement. This may take time and involve the consumer holding them accountable for their promises and PR on renewable energy.

Natural Resource Distribution Video for Kids (GenerationGenius) 

DIY Renewable Energy

The History of the Word “Energy” (Energy Fundamentals from the University of Leipzig)


Florian Gerlach (Nawaro), CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons



Middle Grade Voice: Speaking the Joyous/Painful/Ironic/Perfect Truth

Happy almost-summer to everyone! I love writing May posts for From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors because it calls to mind the excitement and fulfillment of the end of the school year. For teachers, parents, students, public or school librarians, and MG writers alike, the advent of summer is a time heady with the potential adventure, change, and insights of the coming months. New, thrilling stories are practically a guarantee. Whether you read them, write them, offer them to readers, or watch them inspire your own kids on breezy summer days, middle grade works can add a lot to  your summer season.

We often discuss on this site how various elements of a story impact readers in different ways. For example, a historical setting teaches readers about an era or event. Sci-fi and fantasy genre scenarios engage the imagination in a rigorous workout. A coming-of-age theme offers a hook almost all readers can relate to. Another important, impactful fiction factor is voice.

Voice is an element of fiction that can impact readers in several ways. So much more than point of view or perspective, a character’s voice ticks many boxes: It indirectly characterizes. It engages readers and controls the mood and pace. And it delivers thematic messages about life in ways that connect to our experiences and emotions—in other words, the truth.

Strong voice is particularly effective in MG fiction. There’s this interesting paradox that occurs with MG characters in “voicey” works: Though their world view may be limited by young age and lack of independence and experience, MG characters are often highly effective at revealing the truth. They might comment as an afterthought or make a passing observance… and ironically, that offhand remark is both significant and revelatory. Or, they share a just-learned lesson in their coming-of-age, but as it is communicated by their voice, additional ideas and truths are conveyed.

Summer, with its reduced emphasis on structured lessons, is the perfect time to think about this somewhat nebulous story trait. Gathered below are some examples of voice in MG fiction, a few writing projects for students experimenting with voice in their own writing, and (for writers of MG) a brief list of tips for “turning up” your story’s voice.

Middle Grade Voice Examples

Strong voice can seem like a you-know-it-when-you-read-it element. For practice in recognizing voice, study some examples before assigning yourself a search-and-find mission in some favorite and some brand-new titles. Here are a few handy examples of MG voice:

  • Jessica Vitalis’s self-assured protagonist Fud in Coyote Queen:

“That doesn’t mean I sat around crying about how things were, because I didn’t. And I certainly didn’t think twice about magic. I was too practical for that.”

  • Jennifer L. Holm’s witty main character Beans in Full of Beans:

“When someone says they’re gonna help you, they’re just waiting to stick their hand in your pocket and take your last penny. I should know. I got relatives.”

  • Any characters from Christopher Paul Curtis. Here’s Elijah speaking certain truth in Elijah of Buxton

“But classroom learning just don’t work the same as when something happens to you personal.”

Voice Activities in the Classroom

As the school year winds down, consider having your MG students experiment with the concept of voice in their own writing. You might begin by having readers search for examples in novels they read throughout the year. Introduce the idea of voice with some focusing questions: What line or lines have vocabulary, word choice, and phrasing that tell you right away what kind of a person this character is? What line would be spoken only by this protagonist? Where is a question or an exclamatory remark that highlights the voice?

With some examples at their side, students can then try their hand at voice by writing a real-time scene from the viewpoint of a selected, existing protagonist.  Writers already may be savvy with writing from a character’s perspective; try to direct their focus on the voice of the character through word choice, vocabulary, cadence, pace, and sentence length. For a scenario that also boosts excitement for the end of the school year, students might place their protagonist in a “summer vacation” scenario.

How Writers of MG Achieve Voice

These are some common strategies for practicing and assessing voice in your MG writing.

  • While middle grade characters certainly keep secrets and remain private about some things, they typically are more open with emotion than teen characters.
  • Defy stereotypes. Offer your characters traits that conflict with common assumptions.
  • Focus on the foundational blocks of a good story: themes, plot, detail, description, characterization. Voice is the conveyance system that communicates the story to the reader in the most effective, most “hearable” way.
  • Don’t allow the writer’s goals for sharing pithy truths to become the character’s goals. The character’s goal is to pursue their objective and resolve their conflict.
  • Stick with on-level vocabulary choices.
  • Who are your beta readers? Have a few middle graders in the mix to comment on MG characters’ believability.

Thanks for reading, and have a story-filled summer!

STEM Tuesday — Renewable Energy — In the Classroom


How will renewable energy be part of our future? These books explore different sources of renewable energy and how they are being used today and in the future. The possibilities are endless for energy-filled classroom discussions and activities!

Energy Lab for Kids: 40 Exciting Experiments to Explore, Create, Harness, and Unleash Energy by Emily Hawbaker, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

Energy lab for kids: 40 exciting experiments to explore, create, harness, and unleash energy

by Emily Hawbacker

Do you want to know about the different types of energy and how they help us in our everyday lives? Potential, kinetic, chemical, radiant and thermal energy: they affect us daily. This book provides activities that explore the different components of energy: from what it is, to how it’s discovered and used, and how we can save it. If you like hands-on fun, this is the book for you!


Classroom Activity

How much energy do you use? Ask students to track their energy use for 24 hours. Have them write down the activity, type of energy used, time spent using energy, and where they used it. Using this information, have students answer the following questions:

  1. How many minutes of energy did you use in total?
  2. What activities used the most energy?
  3. What surprises you about your energy use?
  4. Why is it important to understand your energy use?

Have students brainstorm three ways they can conserve energy in their daily life. What changes will they have to make? How easy will it be to implement these changes?


See related product detailThe Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Young Reader’s Edition

written by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, illustrated by Anna Hymas

An exciting memoir of a boy living in a drought-stricken village in Malawi, who builds a windmill from scrap, with the help of science books at the school library, and brings electricity to his home to pump water for crops.


Classroom Activity

After reading about William Kamkwamba’s windmill, students can harness their creativity to design and built wind-powered cars. A basic wind car design has a base, wheels, and a sail. Have students sketch a design for their wind car. Next, students can brainstorm easy-to-find materials they can use to build their cars. What will they use to build the base? The wheels? The sail? Have students gather the materials and attempt to build their design. What adjustments, if any, do they need to make to the initial design? Once the cars are built, test how well they capture wind power. Which designs perform the best? Why?


Green Energy

by Jasmine Ting

Have you ever considered the energy we use to power our lives? Our houses, our tablets, our handheld games and phones all require it. That won’t stop anytime soon. What scientists want to do is find sustainable energy that will lead us to a green future. This book explains what green energy is, the types of green energy available to us, and how each is put to work for us through technological innovations.



Classroom Activity

What types of renewable energy are being used in your community? Have students form small groups to research renewable energy use. How could renewable energy sources replace fossil fuels in the community? What types of renewable energy would be the easiest to implement? What types would be the most difficult? How and where would the renewable energy be used? Have each group prepare a presentation that highlights their renewable energy recommendations for the community.


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. Find her at, on Facebook @carlamooneyauthor, or on Twitter @carlawrites.