Posts Tagged NSTA

STEM Tuesday– The Human Body — Interview with Author Sara Latta

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


photgraph of author Sara LattaToday we’re interviewing Sara Latta, author of Body 2.0: The Engineering Revolution in Medicine, among several other titles. The book features modern biomedical engineering challenges, some of the STEM professionals who do it, and people who have benefited from it. (Check out the Kirkus review here! If you subscribe to SLJ or Booklist, you can see additional reviews at those sites.)

Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano: What’s the book about—and what was most important to you in deciding to write it?

Image of book cover of Body 2.0 by Sara LattaSara Latta: Thanks for having me on your blog! Body 2.0 explores the ways in which engineering, science, and medicine are coming together to make some remarkable advances in the fields of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, neuroscience, microbiology, and synthetic biology. I begin the book with a brief history of biomedical engineering—arguably the first known example of which was a wooden toe found on an ancient Egyptian mummy—but primarily the book focuses on cutting-edge research and the scientists at the forefront of the research. That was important to me; much of the work I write about hasn’t even reached clinical trials. I wanted to show readers that they could jump into this research at a very exciting time.


CCD: Did anything about your sense of what was most important change as you developed the manuscript?

SL: I don’t know if it was most important, but at some point during the interviewing process I came to the realization that telling the story of the ways in which the scientists and engineers came to this point in their research would be really interesting to my readers. Several of them said they initially wanted to be medical doctors because they wanted to help people, but they didn’t have the stomach for it. One was an athlete who was inspired by his own injury; another transferred her love of Sherlock Holmes and detective work to scientific sleuthing. So I decided I had to create a separate section telling their stories.

CCD: What in the book most fascinated or surprised you?

 SL: Well, there was a lot! I’d been fascinated by brain-computer interfaces for several years, and even tried writing a sci-fi YA thriller using that technology a while back (it’s still in a folder on my computer). It’s really astounding how quickly work in the field—and other fields in the book as well—has progressed. I think that the work in synthetic biology holds enormous promise, not just in biomedical engineering but in other fields as well. The New York Times recently published an article about using photosynthetic bacteria to make concrete that is alive and can even reproduce.

CCD: I’d like to ask you a bit about your decisions about addressing ethics in Body 2.0. If I counted correctly, you spotlight three particular areas where scientific investigation and technological advancements raise important issues. Can you say a bit about your decision-making process about how much and what to spotlight, and your lasting impressions of the ethics related to this field?

SL: I told my editor going in to this project that I wanted to highlight some important ethical issues that some of this work raises, and she said “yes, absolutely.” It’s important to think about unintended consequences. I use the example that the discovery of petroleum as a cheap and plentiful source of fuel in the 19th century revolutionized the ways we lived, worked and traveled—and now we are paying the price with a global climate crisis. So I asked the question, what does it mean to be a human being when your brain is in a symbiotic relationship with a computer? Will these new technologies be available only to those who can afford them? One of the pioneers of gene editing recounted being jolted awake by a dream in which Adolf Hitler expressed interest in her work. It made her realize that “the ability to refashion the human genome was a truly incredible power, one that could be devastating if it fell into the wrong hands.”

CCD: As an author, what did you find most challenging about completing this book?

SL: Organizing all of the interviews and research I did for the book! I relied heavily on Scrivener and Evernote to bring it all together.

CCD: Can you say something about how you hope this book might impact readers?

SL: Biomedical engineering is all about improving the quality of life for people with diseases or injuries, whether it’s helping a person with quadriplegia become more independent or growing a bladder for a kid with spina bifida. I hoped to inspire idealistic young people interested in science, medicine, or engineering, who are also interested in making a positive difference in the world.


Win a FREE copy of Body 2.0: The Engineering Revolution in Medicine!

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 Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano, author of National Geographic Kids Ultimate Space Atlas, Running on Sunshine, andA Black Hole is NOT a Hole, among several nonfiction books for kids. As a STEM Education Consultant and co-founder of two STEM education organizations, STEM Education Insights and Blue Heron STEM Education, she develops STEM curricula, supports STEM education research, and provides professional development for teachers. Along with several STEM Tuesday contributors and other great authors, she’ll be participating in NSTA’s Science and Literacy event in Boston this spring. She’ll also be co-presenting with author Cheryl Bardoe.  Grab a sneak peek now, but better yet, stop by and say hello!



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 — NSTA Linking Literacy Special Edition & Contest Winners


Hello STEM Tuesday Readers! I am delighted to welcome Carrie Launius to the STEM Tuesday blog. Carrie is one of the teachers that is spearheading the brand new Linking Literacy Event at the National NSTA event this year in St. Louis, MO. This is a brand new event offered at the National Science Teacher Association conference that allows teachers and trade authors to mix, mingle, and learn from each other.


I thought it might be fun to ask Carrie a few questions about how the Linking Literacy event was designed.


Hi Carrie. Thanks for joining us. What gave you the idea to create the Linking Literacy event at NSTA?

I have been in education for a long time as a classroom teacher, science coordinator, and an assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. I have been in districts that are very successful and other districts that struggle. Having this background and having the opportunity to work closely with E. Wendy Saul, Ph.D., truly to “guru” of literacy and science, I believe the integration of literacy is valuable in all content areas. We often hear teachers say math and science go together while ELA and social studies go together. I think all contents support each other. We do not live our lives in silos nor do students live in them. I have had enormous success, especially with lower socio-economic students enriching science using high-quality trade books. With Dr. Christine Royce president of NSTA (Christine is a huge proponent of literacy integration and writes a monthly column “Teaching with Tradebooks” for NSTA), I approached her and asked if I could try to bring authors to the conference to talk about their books and how science trade books enhance science instruction. She 100 % supported the idea. She not only supported me, she worked closely with me to make the event happen.


Why is using trade children’s books about STEAM/STEM a great way to do this?

Margaret Anastas says, ” A good picture book tells a compelling story.” Using high-quality trade books opens the world of possibilities. Today, we are teaching students for careers that have not even been thought of, so why not allow them the opportunity to use both convergent and divergent thinking and the opportunity to wonder, hope and dream? Where else besides a book can one really understand the thinking stance of a character? Television and movies don’t do this. Students use so many skills while reading nonfiction books way beyond learning to read. Good nonfiction trade books push readers to think in a new way, to imagine what they have never been able to before and helps them make sense of the crazy world around them.


You are also the one who helped to create the NSTA’s Best STEM book award. What was the drive to do that? How is it different from the Outstanding Trade Science Book Award that NSTA gives?

At one time I was working with Dr. Saul and writing for a non-profit, Springboard to Learning. My task was to create a STEM-based curriculum. As I always do with any writing, I look for books to enhance the curriculum. I tried to find books that were STEM-like. What I quickly found was that people called books “STEM Books” but I could see no rhyme or reason to why. Descriptions of books would say, “Great STEM Book!” So I decided to do research to find out just what that meant, I quickly found out it meant nothing. So I called the editor of NSTA, at that time, David Beacom and said, “You really need to have a Best STEM book Award. What you are calling STEM is not STEM!” He took me up on the idea and told me to start researching. I reached out to three colleagues – all amazing educator and fellow book enthusiasts, Wendy Saul, Christine Royce, and Juliana Texley. We spent many hours thinking about what exactly was a STEM book. Christine came up with the idea to look at what is NOT a STEM book. Wendy coined the phrase, “Inviting readers to examine someone’s thinking stance.” Juliana was NSTA president at that time. She pulled together other groups to look at what I wrote, then shared with my “posse” then with the group. We came up with clear criteria and we started the award.
OSTB and BSB are very different. Content, content, content, is what makes an OSTB book great. Thinking is what makes a BSB great. Identifying a STEM book is much more subtle. While the criteria for OSTB is very black and white, BSB is truly gray. BSB does not have to be nonfiction, it does not have to have perfect pictures but it does need to show innovation, inventing, creating or change.


Do you see Linking Literacy events at future NSTA Events?

It is my hope that Linking Literacy will become a part of NSTA Conferences. I hope every author takes a Sharpie and saves the dates April 2 -5, 2020, Boston. Linking Literacy is to support teachers, but more importantly to support kids. I have already asked (begged) Wendy, Christine, and Juliana to consider staying on this journey with me and working to create more experiences by growing the event in Boston and beyond.


Anything else you want to add?

I would be remiss if I did not tell you how amazing and supportive NSTA staff has been in making this happen. They have allowed us to bend the rules just to make a difference for teachers. Delores, Dayna, Jason, Kim and Kim- thanks for all you do!

If you haven’t considered going to the NSTA event, you should! It’s going to be EPIC.  Click Here for  information about the National Science Teacher Association conference and how to register for it. 

Besides, if you decide to go, you will be able to meet a few of the STEM Tuesday bloggers who are featured authors there:

Heather Montgomery, Jodi Wheeler-Toppen, Patricia Newman, Carolyn DeCristofano, Mary Kay Carson,  and me (Jennifer Swanson)


And now, the winners of the STEM Tuesday Search Party Contest…. (drum roll please….)


(A HUGE “Thank You” to all who entered and deep gratitude to the wonderful STEM authors who donated books!)

Amy M. O’Quinn (Winner – Nancy Furstinger)




Sarah Albee (Winner – Anitha Kuppuswamy)





Natascha Biebow  (Winner – Summer Tobald)





Nikole Brooks Bethea (Winner – Eric)

SUPER SCIENCE FEATS (4-book Series from Pogo Books published by Jump!)






Donna Janell Bowman (Winner – Suzanne Larsen)

STEP RIGHT UP: HOW DOC AND JIM KEY TAUGHT THE WORLD ABOUT KINDNESS, illustrated by Daniel Minter (Lee and Low, 2016)

ABRAHAM LINCOLN’S DUELING WORDS, illustrated by S.D. Schindler (Peachtree, 2018)




Susan M Latta (Winner – Beth)





Janet Slingerland(Winner – Joan Swanson)





Miranda Paul (Winner – Rani)

Donating TWO prize packages:

Book Set #1 (plus a set of water stickers and a set of new baby stickers!)


NINE MONTHS (Advance F&G copy only) 



Book set #2 (plus a few bookmarks!)



Kate Narita (Winner – Heather Macchi)

100 BUGS!



Laurie Wallmark (Winner – T Dionne)

(Author of Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life, Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code, and Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine)

  • A classroom prize pack of:
    * bookmarks
    * stickers
    * STEM-related word searches
    * pencils

Dianne White (Winner – Rebecca Smith)

WHO EATS ORANGE?, illustrated by Robin Page (Beach Lane/S&S, 2018)



(The STEM TUESDAY Mary Kay & Jen Bundle Winner – Mandy Davis)

Mary Kay Carson




Jennifer Swanson

A 3-pack of: