Posts Tagged homeschoolers

STEM Tuesday — Natural Disasters — Author Interview with Amy Cherrix

Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview & Book Giveaway, a repeating feature for the fourth Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!

Today we’re interviewing Amy Cherrix, author of EYE OF THE STORM: NASA, Drones, and the Race to Crack the Hurricane Code.

Mary Kay Carson: Tell us a bit about Eye of the Storm and how you came to write it.

Download a Discussion & Activity Guide for the book.

Amy Cherrix: Eye of the Storm is the story of an elite group of NASA meteorologists and the Hurricane Severe Storm Sentinel mission (HS3). These scientists and engineers re-purposed military drones to conduct high-altitude hurricane research. This Global Hawk drone was built for use in dry climates. Global Hawk is so delicate, it cannot take off during so much as a light rain shower, yet it can fly safely high above hurricanes–the most violent storms in nature’s arsenal. How’s that for irony? The drone is loaded with remote control science instruments that measure humidity, air pressure, temperature, and more. The Global Hawk’s pilot flies the aircraft using a computer mouse and keyboard from a control room on the ground that is hundreds, or thousands, of miles away from the aircraft.

I stumbled onto this incredible story while engaging in my favorite Saturday morning activity. I love to pour a big cup of coffee and surf the NASA.gov website (an activity I highly recommend to science enthusiasts and story writers). When I read about the HS3 mission, I knew I had a great book idea on my hands. I sent emails to the mission’s principal investigators and within an hour, replies from NASA were pouring into my inbox. NASA is a public agency and its scientists love to share their work. I accepted a generous invitation from the mission’s principal investigator, Dr. Scott Braun, and visited NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the coast of Virginia to observe the mission. I interviewed drone pilots, engineers, meteorologists, and mechanics. Every single person was deeply invested in the mission’s success. It was inspiring.

MKC: Anything you’d like to share about the time you spent with researchers while writing this book?

Amy: The scariest part of writing this book was not knowing if the team would have a hurricane to study while I was visiting Wallops Flight Facility. What would I write about if nothing happened while I was there? But sometimes, things just work out for the best.  Hurricane Edouard formed soon after my arrival and was the best storm the HS3 team had studied to date! It was an ideal sample, staying far out to sea, not threatening land, and it spun for days. They were thrilled and it was an unexpected honor to be present at such a high-point of the mission.

MKC: Why do you choose to write STEM books?

Amy: I write STEM stories because I have always been insatiably curious about science and the natural world. When human beings try to overcome the forces of nature—whether it’s gravity, or the weather—challenges abound. Scientists confront these impossible challenges everyday. That’s their job. I’m fascinated by that kind of determination, patience, and persistence.

Amy Cherrix is the acclaimed author of In the Shadow of the Moon: America, Russia, and the Hidden History of the Space Race, as well as two middle-grade nonfiction books in the award-winning Scientists in the Field series: Backyard Bears: Conservation, Habitat Changes, and the Rise of Urban Wildlife and Eye of the Storm. Her newest STEM picture book is Animal Architects (9/7/21), from Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster. www.amycherrix.com

MKC: For readers who loved The Eye of the Storm, what other middle-grade books would you suggest?

Amy: I highly recommend every book in Houghton Mifflin’s Scientists in the Field series, of which Eye of the Storm, is a part. There’s something for everyone; thrilling stories about science in the fields of geology, biology, seismology, meteorology, genetics; just about any branch of science you can imagine. These books show young readers that science is much more than a white coat and a laboratory. Science is adventure!

MKC: Could you share where you are right now on a current project and how you’re approaching it?

Amy: I’m working on a new STEM picture book series for Beach Lane Books called Amazing Animals. I just finished the first book in the series that publishes on September 7, 2021 called Animal Architects, illustrated by Chris Sasaki. Many animals, both on land and in the sea, build amazing structures to help them trap food, attract mates, or hide from predators. From undersea cities of coral, to a mother penguin’s palace of pebbles, the natural world is a construction zone. I spent months reading books, watching nature videos, taking notes, and studying photographs to collect their stories. The second book, Animal Superpowers, publishes in fall 2022. I approached Animal Architects with a spirit of wonder. I wanted to inspire readers’ curiosity. To do that, I created a list of the various structures animals and insects build. Then I imagined what questions young readers might ask of nature’s builders. The answers I found surprised me at every turn. For example, before writing this book, I’d never given termites a second thought. But I learned that some species of termites build giant, naturally air-conditioned towers. How cool is that? These tiny insects work together as a colony to build a home that helps them survive as a group. We can learn a lot from nature. I hope this new series inspires young readers to ask their own questions about the natural world, and consider what actions they can take to protect our planet and its creatures.

Win a FREE copy of EYE OF THE STORM!

Enter the giveaway by leaving a comment below. The randomly-chosen winner will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (within the U.S. only) to receive the book.

Good luck!

Your host is Mary Kay Carson, author of Wildlife Ranger Action Guide, The Tornado ScientistAlexander Graham Bell for Kids, Mission to Pluto, and other nonfiction books for kids. @marykaycarson

STEM Tuesday — STEM Activity Books– Book List

Summer is still here and you might be running out of activities for the young people in your life. Whether you are looking for projects to tie-in with your homeschooling curriculum or just want a fun STEM project to pass the time on a hot summer day, these titles will inspire you.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Darwin and Evolution for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities by Kristan Lawson

Try your hand at a Darwin-inspired activity with this book by Kristan Lawson. It’s a great title to pair-up with Deborah Heiligman’s Charles and Emma.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities by Kerrie Logan Hollihan

Activities are a great way to learn the principles of physics. Read this one with a snack of apple slices.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Awesome Snake Science! 40 Activities for Learning About Snakes by Cindy Blobaum

Snakes might seem threatening, but Blobaum has some activities that will introduce readers to these fascinating creatures. A great pairing for Kate Messner’s Tracking Pythons: The Quest to Catch an Invasive Predator and Save an Ecosystem.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Rainforests and Deserts both by Nancy Castaldo

If the pandemic has changed your summer travel plans, discover some new places in the US and abroad with these two titles by Nancy Castaldo that include, STEM activities, folktales, and recipes.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Destroy This Book in the Name of Science by Mike Barfield

The Brainiac and Galileo editions of this series are meant to be literally pulled apart.

 

 

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Smithsonian: STEM Lab by Jack Challoner

Readers will find 25 activities to excite their imaginations. Great illustrations accompany each activity.

 

 

 

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Calling All Minds: How To Think and Create Like an Inventor by Temple Grandin

Learn from a master inventor through personal stories, acts, and inventions. Readers will come away inspired!

 

 

 

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Recycled Science: Bring Out Your Science Genius with Soda Bottles, Potato Chip Bags, and More Unexpected Stuff by Tammy Enz and Jodi Wheeler-Toppen

Readers see how to recycle stuff around their homes and then use it for science projects and experiments. Entertaining and informative.

 

 

 

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Albert Einstein and Relativity for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities and Thought Experiments by Jerome Pohlen

Learn all about one of the greatest inventors in history through text and 21 activities to try at home.

 

 

 

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

Your cell phone may be lightyears away from Bell’s first phone, but his invention changed our lives forever. Find out more and try the great activities in the book.

 

 

Extreme Garage Science for Kids! by James and Joanna Orgill

 

If you followed the author’s You Tube channel, you’ll love the activities and projects in this book. Readers can try their hand at drawing on water, removing the iron from their Cheerios, and even more.

 

 

 

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Everything You Need to Ace Chemistry in One Big Fat Notebook

The title says it all. Inside this book is what students need to rock that chemistry class.

 

 

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Also by Jennifer Swanson — Explore Forces and Motion! With 25 Great Projects and Bridges With 25 Science Projects for Kids 

Get ready for some hands-on physics with these two titles from Nomad’s Explore Your World series.

 

 

STEM Tuesday book lists prepared by

Nancy Castaldo has written books about our planet for over 20 years including, THE STORY OF SEEDS, which earned the Green Earth Book Award, Junior Library Guild Selection, and other honors. Nancy’s research has taken her all over the world from the Galapagos to Russia.  She strives to inform, inspire, and empower her readers. Nancy also serves as Regional Advisor Emeritus of the Eastern NY SCBWI region. Her 2018 multi-starred title is BACK FROM THE BRINK: Saving Animals from Extinction. Visit her at www.nancycastaldo.com. 

Patricia Newman writes middle-grade nonfiction that empowers young readers to act on behalf of the environment and their communities. The Sibert Honor author of Sea Otter Heroes, Newman has also received an NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book Award for Eavesdropping on Elephants, a Green Earth Book Award for Plastic, Ahoy!, and a Eureka! Gold Medal from the California Reading Association for Zoo Scientists to the Rescue. Her books have received starred reviews, been honored as Junior Library Guild Selections, and included on Bank Street College’s Best Books lists. During author visits, she demonstrates how young readers can use writing to be the voice of change. Visit her at www.patriciamnewman.com. Stay tuned for her upcoming Planet Ocean – spring 2021.

 

STEM Tuesday– SHARKS!– Interview with Author Lisa Bullard

Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview & Book Giveaway, a repeating feature for the fourth Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!

Today we’re interviewing Lisa Bullard, author of We Need Sharks (The Animals Files). It’s a fascinating look into the mysterious life of sharks, the important role they play in Earth’s ecosystem and the conservation efforts underway to prevent their extinction.

***

Christine Taylor-Butler: Lisa, you are the prolific author of more than 100 books for children. In your bio, you suggest you found your calling when, as a 5th grade student, you sent a letter to the local  newspaper about the plight of baby seals. What concerned you about the seals and how did it feel to see your name in print for the first time?

Lisa Bullard: Thanks so much for asking me to share my “origin story” as a published writer! The day that letter was published really was a life-changing day for me. Looking back, I don’t remember any of the details about why I wrote it—maybe it was a school assignment, or a suggestion from my mom, who was a huge animal lover? But what I do clearly remember is the huge feeling of pride that came with seeing my name in print and knowing that people all over town would read the words I’d written. I decided that day that I wanted to be an author when I grew up. I’d been writing since I could first sort the letters of the alphabet into actual words—I wrote stories, poems, songs, comic strips; I even attempted a mystery novel. But what changed for me with that 5th-grade publication was the understanding that writing isn’t just something we do to entertain ourselves. Writers also have readers! And writing as a career choice means we get to use words to persuade people to take action, or to learn something new, or to enjoy a good story.

As soon as I got home from school that day, I decided to practice being a “real” writer. In my 5th-grade brain, that translated to me deciding I needed a glorious signature full of swoops and swirls and curlicues. I was sure that when I became famous, I’d need a very distinct autograph. But as I now tell kids during my school visits, if your plan is to someday sign your name over and over, don’t make it complicated: instead, make it as simple as possible! It always takes me longer than it should to sign my books at events because my signature is way too fancy. Of course, as a grownup writer of very modest name recognition, I also find it funny that rather than practicing my story-writing to prepare for my writing career, my 5th-grade self instead decided to practice “being famous.”

CTB: You started your career as Marketing Director in publishing. Was it a tough transition to switch to the other side of the aisle and become a full-time author?

Lisa: A lot of what happens during the publishing process is mysterious to authors. I’ve also discovered that many writers are daunted by having to market their books. So I feel really fortunate to have an insider’s perspective on those things from my publishing career. There was an adjustment period, however. I was still working in publishing while my first couple of books were going through the publishing process (at a different publisher). Some authors are very demanding (just like there are demanding people in every profession, I’m sure). So when I first shared the news that I was going to have a book published, some of my coworkers looked a bit horrified, warning me not to become a “diva.” Hopefully I succeeded in avoiding that when I transitioned over to writing full-time.

CTB: So let’s talk sharks! My first introduction to them was in the movie, Jaws. After that I was scared to go back into the ocean. But your book, We Need Sharks, shows their importance to Earth’s ecosystem. What lead you to write about them?

Lisa: My books have come about in different ways. In some cases, I’ve dreamed up a concept, written a manuscript based on that, and been fortunate enough to sell it to a publisher. As an example, that’s how my mystery novel Turn Left at the Cow came about. But in the case of many of my nonfiction books, including We Need Sharks, the process has been different: they were work-for-hire projects assigned by educational publishers. That means that I have a working relationship as a freelance writer with publishers or packagers who focus on the kinds of books that are especially popular in school libraries. They identify a need in their marketplace, and then approach writers with a concept for a book or series based on that need. If I agree to take on the project, then my job is to write the book based on their guidelines, which specify details such as the key idea, reading level, word count, back matter, and kind of research expected. The process is different than when I come up with the concept myself, but I’ve discovered it can be really satisfying. It’s almost like putting a puzzle together, having to figure out how to meet all the guideline demands while still creating a book I hope kids will love to read.

“Walking Catfish”
Image by: Pam Fuller, USGS

The good news is that this process feeds my personally inspired book projects as well. I always learn so many fascinating things about the subjects I write about, and those facts often lead to new writing projects! In fact, a big inspiration for Turn Left at the Cow was an animal called the walking catfish. I stumbled across it while researching a nonfiction series. This strange creature manages to survive out of water, and it provided a fantastic metaphor for my fictional character, a kid who feels very much like a “fish out of water.”

CTB: Was there anything that surprised you while researching your book?

Lisa: Probably the biggest surprise for me in writing We Need Sharks was something I hadn’t thought about prior to writing this book, and that’s how tough it is for scientists to research ocean animals. They’re difficult to study for reasons that are now obvious to me. That’s why oceans remain a frontier of science.

Image by Terry Goss / CC BY-SA

CTB: You suggest that some shark species are “top predators” which means other animals don’t hunt them. The exception is human beings, is that right?

Lisa: Even great white sharks, the fearsome creature that epitomizes sharks for many people, are sometimes preyed upon by orcas. But generally, yes, sharks are much more likely to be the predator than the prey—with the notable exception of their interactions with humans, when sharks are much more often the prey.

CTB: Now the United Nations is working with countries to create shark sanctuaries to protect them from extinction. Are those measures working?

Excerpt from We Need Sharks

Lisa: Shark sanctuaries are just one of the measures people are taking to protect sharks. For example, there has also been important progress in educating people about and regulating against the practice of shark finning. But as I mentioned above, ocean animals are difficult to study in the wild, and that makes it hard for scientists to measure current shark populations—which means we don’t know the whole story about whether preservation measures are working.

CTB: Were you able to consult with experts when researching the book?

Lisa: Talking to subject experts has provided some of my most interesting research moments over the years. For example, I was able to talk with a crane operator when I was researching a book about construction cranes, and he gave me the best quote ever: he said that the crane operator is known to the rest of the construction workers as the “king of the sandbox.”

But as was the case with We Need Sharks, work-for-hire deadlines are often very tight, and there’s simply not enough time built into the process to track down interview subjects and conduct interviews. In those cases I make sure that the research materials I use are sources created by experts, such as museums, universities, and research institutions. Fortunately in some cases, editors have subject experts review my manuscripts to make sure that I’ve gotten the facts right. I’m always grateful when that’s the case, as it was for We Need Sharks.

CTB: I often tell students that our jobs as writers are very similar to their work on homework assignments. You open the book with such a  powerful paragraph to pull the reader in. What would you like children/students to know about writing engaging nonfiction?

Excerpt: We Need Sharks

Lisa: Because the books I write are often for very young readers, many of them are also very short. That means that there just isn’t room for me to fit in all of the facts I learn through my research about the topic. So I’ve come up with two basic rules to determine what information to include. First, I figure out what I think a reader must know to gain a true basic understanding of the topic. Then I decide on a couple of “fun facts” to include—the kind of things that aren’t the most critical pieces of information, but that are real attention-grabbers. These high-interest facts move readers into “discovery mode,” where they’re excited to learn. I hope that combination helps readers absorb all the information I’m presenting and be motivated to learn even more. So for all the student authors out there, I believe our job as writers is to inspire readers to actively wonder about the world!

This also means that my friends and family are used to me testing random facts in the middle of dinner to see if those facts are, indeed, attention-grabbing; like “Did you know stock car drivers have to climb in through the window because there are no doors?” Or, “Did you know that scorpions glow a neon-aqua color under ultraviolet light?”

CTB: What’s up next for you? Any books on the horizon we should be looking out for?

Lisa: Thanks for asking! I know that in some cases my publishers have had to delay titles because of COVID-19, but I believe Saving Mountain Gorillas will come out within the next few months, and that’s for the same age group as We Need Sharks. I also have some books for beginning nonfiction readers slated to come out this summer: Crayola ® Desert Colors, Crayola ® Woodland Colors, and Crayola ® Tundra Colors.

CTB: Lisa, thanks for being such a great guest on STEM Tuesday and for providing pearls of wisdom for writers of all ages wanting to peek behind the curtain of our industry.

Thanks for talking with me, Christine, and thanks, everyone, for sharing today’s Writing Road Trip with me! I hope that you’ll be inspired to keep reading, keep writing, and keep wondering!

Win a FREE copy of We Need Sharks

Enter the giveaway by leaving a comment below. The randomly-chosen winner will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (within the U.S. only) to receive the book.
Good luck!

Photo credit: Katherine Warde

Lisa Bullard is the author of more than 100 books for children including nonfiction, fiction, and writing guides. Recent books include We Need Bees, Tides, and the Go Green series. Her book Turn Left at the Cow was nominated for a number of state reader awards and was chosen as a Junior Library Guild selection. To learn more visit Lisa at https://www.lisabullard.com and follow her on Facebook.

 

Christine Taylor-Butler

Your host is Christine Taylor-Butler, MIT nerd and author of Bathroom Science, Sacred Mountain: Everest, Genetics, and many other nonfiction books for kids. She is also the author of the STEM inspired middle grade sci-fi series The Lost Tribes. Follow @ChristineTB on Twitter and/or @ChristineTaylorButler on Instagram