Posts Tagged Jen Swanson

STEM Tuesday– Mixing Science and Poetry/Verse — Special NSTA Conference Edition

Yes. It’s April–National Poetry Month. Yes. It’s STEM Tuesday, and our theme this month is STEM in verse. Yes, our book list for the month includes books with poetry in them that are devoted to STEM themes.

But April is also the time when the National Science Teachers Association holds its annual conference, and the usual STEM Tuesday post in line for this week is all about connecting STEM books to the classroom. This year NSTA did something bold and exciting that is begging for recognition on this particular post, so that’s what this week is all about.

With J. Carrie Launius coordinating, NSTA invited a slew of nonfiction authors who write on STEM themes to participate in a 5-hour Linking Literacy event over two days–including 5 panel discussions, an opportunity for science educators and authors to mingle, and a book signing. Wow! As you can imagine, it was an opportunity to revel in creativity, caring, and collegiality. After a kick-off panel discussion featuring Steve Light, Melissa Stewart, Jennifer Swanson, Tracy Nelson Maurer, Shanda McCloskey and presiders Jacqueline Barber and E. Wendy Saul, four break-out panels delved into various themes.

There was a lot happening, often simultaneously. As I was a panelist and mixing-and-mingling author, I’m quite sure I missed a bunch, but still, I hope to share some of the take-aways from the conversations that took place informally and in some of the panels. I’ve tried to stick to the topics that most directly connect to bringing STEM books into the classroom.

STEM-themed biographies and scientist stories are for everyone. Laurie Wallmark, biographer of women in STEM, reminded us that while it is great to share books about women, people of color, or other underrepresented groups in STEM with girls or kids of color only, it’s even better—and vitally important—that we share these stories with all children (and adults). It’s also key to break out of biographies and include stories for middle grade readers of scientists doing science. Need some examples? How about Patricia Newman’s Eavesdropping on Elephants or Mary Kay Carson’s The Tornado Scientist?

Cross-disciplinary content is a natural part of many STEM books, especially those that feature topics that lure children in. Cheryl Bardoe, who writes picture bookCheryl Bardoe speaking with mic in hand biographies, pointed out that individual STEM thinkers are specific to their place, time, and social contexts. Meanwhile, books about technology, including, for example, my Running on Sunshine or Jennifer Swanson’s Super Gear, root conceptual information in strong, motivating contexts. (It was wonderful to chat with teachers who appreciate the connections between their curriculum about “the sun” and solar energy technologies. This is just the type of connection-making that the NGSS emphasizes.)

 

The rich visual imagery in STEM books can help readers connect to content and spark their interest and imagination. Of course, this is true of the illustrations in picture books, such as Steve Light’s Swap! But there’s more to look for. Keep your eyes peeled for  primary source materials in picture books, such as photographs related to a remarkable discovery in Darcy Pattison’s Pollen. Keep in mind–as Jen Swanson pointed out–there’s also powerful imagery in books for middle grade readers.

 

It’s important to consider the whole range of roles that various STEM books can play in education.

E. Wendy Saul and Jacqueline Barber’s thoughtful questions and insightful reflections helped us consider some of these roles. Some books are great at fostering curiosity before a classroom unit on a given topic, while others are perfect resources to bring in after children have had a chance to try to make sense of their first-hand experiences and are looking for factual resources. STEM reading can inspire children to see themselves as competent STEM learners and future STEM professionals. Putting the right book in the  hands of a particular child may be a pivotal moment in that child’s life, honoring and responding to  his or her curiosity, interest, or moment of need.

 

Books and experience go hand-in-hand.

Educators check out simulated canine vision with Jodi Wheeler-Toppen (center). They hold blue viewmasters to their eyes and peer at slides that are mounted on wheels and inserted into the viewmaster.

Educators check out simulated canine vision with Jodi Wheeler-Toppen (center).

Weaving my way through the tables during Linking Literacy’s informal time, I was struck by the many ways we authors link our books to opportunities for readers to experience the world. Of course, we generally provide teachers’ guides, but we also offer dynamic activities and interesting artifacts. I saw evidence of the added value of visiting with an author. For example, I showed visitors how I simulate stars orbiting mystery objects and how that relates to finding black holes. In addition, to extend the content of Dog Science Unleashed, Jodi Wheeler-Toppen provides customized Viewmasters that offer comparisons of human and canine vision. Meanwhile, Heather Montgomery shows off a fox pelt (among other artifacts) that she prepared as part of her research for Something Rotten. Truly, STEM authors can bring their own brand of multi-dimensional learning experiences and inspiration to the NGSS’s emphasis on 3D learning.

 

The STEM stories we share are a powerful aspect of creating a culture that honors STEM literacy. Do you have a story to share—some way in which you have used a STEM book in a middle grade classroom or out-of school setting? Let us know; leave a comment below. And keep your eyes open for NSTA ’20 (in Boston). Hopefully, Linking Literacy will be a recurring and integral component of future conferences!

Six of the STEM Tuesday crew at NSTA19!

 

 

 

 

STEM Tuesday All About Conservation– Book List

Scientists have said that we are experiencing the 6th great mass extinction in the history of our planet. WOW, that’s scary, especially for kids! But, thankfully, we have many people of all backgrounds, from scientists to kids in elementary schools, focusing attention to conservation. So, this month we not only celebrate Earth Day, but books that highlight  the science of conservation and how readers can help preserve our environment.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgWhale Quest: Working Together to Save Endangered Species by Karen Romano Young
Young readers will discover how threats to whale populations are being addressed by cetologists, researchers, and citizen scientists.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThe Park Scientists: Gila Monsters, Geysers, and Grizzly Bears in America’s Own Backyard by Mary Kay Carson
In this Scientists in the Field title readers will meet the scientists who call the National Parks their laboratory as they study grizzly bears, cactus, and fireflies.

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Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and Zoo Scientists to the Rescue by Patricia Newman and Annie Crawley
This author/photographer duo’s titles bring conservation to life for young readers. Plastic, Ahoy! [Green Earth Book Award] investigates ocean conservation and the serious problem of plastic waste. Zoo Scientists to the Rescue introduces readers to the behind-the-scenes conservation that is going on in our nation’s zoos.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgEyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Heaedlines by Paul Fleischman
Newbery Medal author Paul Fleischman takes readers behind the environmental headlines in this title to explain the concepts that drive events and attitudes about the environment–politics, money, denial, history, psychology, activism. It’s all here in an easy-to-understand format that Fleischman hopes will spur readers to act .

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgBack from the Brink: Saving Animals From Extinction by Nancy Castaldo
In her latest title, Castaldo demonstrates through stories of seven species that we all can join together to make a difference and rescue wildlife from the brink of extinction.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgUltimate Oceanpedia: The Most Complete Ocean Resource Ever  by Christine Wilson
As the title suggests, this book is chock full of information for any budding marine biologist. Readers will travel through all parts of the ocean to understand how it affects our world.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgGeoengineering Earths Climate: Re-setting the Thermostat by Jennifer Swanson Even if we all agree that the Earth is warming, we probably won’t all agree on what might fix it. This book offers readers a solution.

 

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Bee conservation books, including The Hive Scientists: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe by Loree Griffin Burns and The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees: A Scientific Mystery by Sandra Markle
These two titles offer insight into pollinator conservation, which is so important to our plants and our food security.

And for good measure we’ve tossed in a couple of great eco-fiction titles too!

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgForest World by Margarita Engle
A beautiful verse novel from Poet Laureate Margarita Engle about a Cuban-American boy’s first trip to Cuba. He meets a sister he doesn’t know he has. The two children create a fake butterfly to their cryptozoologist mother will come to visit, but their message is intercepted by poachers. Engle creates a wonderful story of family and they jungle they love.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgSaving Wonder by Mary Knight
Set in the Appalachian Mountains, Saving Wonder tells the story of Curley Hines, who must speak out against Big Coal to save his mountain. Green Earth Book Award

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgEndangered by Eliot Schrefer
A compelling tale of a young girl who must save herself and bonobos from a violent coup. Schrefer introduces readers to a wonderful ape sanctuary  in the Congo threatened by revolutionaries.

 

As always we welcome your additional book suggestions and comments about how you are using these books with children. To date, we’ve featured books on the following themes:  zoology, science in fiction, exploration, wild and wacky science, and field work. Click on our STEM Tuesday link to read these past posts.

STEM Tuesday book lists prepared by:

Nancy Castaldo has written books about our planet for over 20 years including her 2016 title, THE STORY OF SEEDS: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less To Eat Around The World, which earned the Green Earth Book Award and other honors. Nancy’s research has taken her all over the world from the Galapagos to Russia. She enjoys sharing her adventures, research, and writing tips. She strives to inform, inspire, and educate her readers. Nancy also serves as the Regional Advisor of the Eastern NY SCBWI region. 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. The recipient of  a Sibert Honor Award for Sea Otter Heroes and the Green Earth Book Award for Plastic, Ahoy!, 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 her writing skills give a voice to our beleaguered environment. Visit her at www.patriciamnewman.com.

Check back every Tuesday of every month:

  • Week 1:  STEM Tuesday Themed Book Lists
  • Week 2:  STEM Tuesday in the Classroom
  • Week 3:  STEM Tuesday Crafts and Resources
  • Week 4:  STEM Tuesday Author Interviews and Giveaways

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Summer Reads = Summer Fun!

Summer is a time when I feel energized and creative, basking in the longer daylight hours and a different kind of vibe, even though I work at home and the actual calendar doesn’t change that much around here.

If your kid is the kind who likes to make and do in summer, as mine was (she’s grown now, but this is how I remember her middle grade summers, and my own), here is a post to scratch your kiddos’ summer activity itch. Of course, you might like to join in the fun, too.

I have to say right up front that this was not my (fantastic!) idea – here’s a big shout out to our own Annabelle Fisher for the inspiration, and to many of our members for chiming in with great ideas to share with you.

Like to cook? These reads might also make you hungry to make food.

Lisa Schroeder’s cupcake books, including It’s Raining Cupcakes, might inspire you to make some…

The Truth About Twinkie Pie, by Kat Yeh, is full of recipes.

A Tangle of Knots, by Lisa Graff, is also filled with things I want to cook. 

Pixie Piper and the Matter of the Batter, by our own Annabelle Fisher (including a recipe for magical “reversing cake” and other fun things!).

How about writing to authors?

Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary gave adult me the push to write a favorite author, actually.

Love that Dog, by Sharon Creech is another that inspires action in the form of writing.

Want to play with paper engineering?

Origami Yoda and Tom Angleberger’s other Origami books result in lots of paper play.

Richard Merrill’s Fantastic Press-Out Flying Birds  is a blast (I’m giving this one an extra shout-out – this fellow SCBWI member and Dover Publications author is also my big brother!).

Books about science and nature and those that get us out of doors can also spark inspiration for projects and action.

Mixed Up Files member Jacqueline Houtman pointed me to Elaine Vickers’ blog, which features a ton of great activities for middle graders. Jacqueline’s own book, The Reinvention of Edison Thomas was featured there, and reading this book about a science geek might prompt a visit to find something to do, too.

Nature sketching and birdwatching are featured in The Someday Birds, by Sally Pia.

One Mixed Up Files member described Laurel Snyder’s Orphan Island as being ”sort of about a group of kids camping on their very own island.”

The Phineas MacGuire books by Francis O’Roark Dowell feature science activities in the back matter, and a website to visit for more at: http://gophineas.com/. My students loved our read aloud of Phineas in the library.

Roseanne Parry, still another Mixed Up Files member, wrote Turn of the Tide, which features geocaching.

And Explore Forces and Motion, by Jen Swanson (still another Mixed Up Filer), includes 25 fun activities for kids to do with science.

Community service as summertime action?

Our own Michele Weber Hurwitz says, “My book, The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days, doesn’t exactly feature a craft project, but the main character, Nina, does a project involving 65 good things she does for her neighbors and family, one for each day of her summer vacation. It’s been a popular summer read for students who then do a community service project when they return to school.

Lisa Graff’s The Great Treehouse War Is about a bunch of kids who stage a sit-in, and then some…

Plus, there are always mysteries to solve and other fun things to do!

I’m intrigued by Annabelle Fisher’s recommendation of The Puzzler’s Mansion, by Eric Berlin, which she describes as having brainteasers and interactive puzzles in it.

Chasing Vermeer and the others in Blue Balliet’s architectural mystery series feature tangrams and puzzles to solve. I had several students who made their own tangrams after reading these books.

Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics, by Chris Grabenstein, is another that is jam-packed with stuff to do and try.

A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd is filled with oodles of stuff to do, too…

What books inspire you to dive in and then get out to have some fun in summer?