Posts Tagged science

STEM Tuesday– Award-winning STEM/STEAM Books– Book List

As the year comes to a close, we wanted to celebrate some of the incredible STEM books that have been published in the past few years. All of the books in this month’s list have been recognized through state or national-level awards. We know you’ll love them, too! 

book cover for "Animal Allies: 15 Amazing Women in Wildlife Research"Amazing Allies: 15 Amazing Women in Wildlife Research

by Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan (NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students, Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection Award)

This book chronicles 15 remarkable women who work in the field of wildlife research. They’re pioneers and work tirelessly on issues that intersect with biodiversity, species conservation, biology, and more. Some of the female scientists featured include Corina Newsome, who saves seaside sparrows, and Michelle LaRue, who uses satellites to study Antarctic birds.

Book cover for "It Takes Guts"It Takes Guts: How Your Body Turns Food Into Fuel (and Poop)

written by Dr. Jennifer Gard, illustrated by Belle Wuthrich (AAAS/Subaru Prize for Excellence in Science)

Based on the basic premise that everyone eats and poops, scientist Dr. Jennifer Gardy weaves a funny and informative book about the digestive system and microbiome. Topics include how food is processed by the body, how it turns into energy, and the role of helpful bacteria. It’s packed with engaging illustrations and even investigates the science behind burps, barfs, and farts.

 

Book cover of "The Secret Science of Sports"The Secret Science of Sports: The Math, Physics, and Mechanical Engineering Behind Every Grand Slam, Triple Axel, and Penalty Kick 

by Jennifer Swanson (2023 Eureka! Honor Award)

From muscle mass to carbon nanotubes, this fascinating book demonstrates how each of the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and math) can help athletes maximize their performance. Drawing on examples from tennis, soccer, swimming, field hockey, basketball, and more, Jennifer Swanson breaks down complicated scientific theories and provides practical tips for playing sports. The books’ activities are meant to engage readers’ minds and bodies as they learn to calculate batting averages and perfect their jump shots.

cover image of "Antarctica: The Melting Continent"

Antarctica: The Melting Continent 

written by Karen Romano Young, illustrated by Angela Hsieh (NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students; the New York Public Library Best Book for Kids; The Children’s Book Council Hot of the Press selection, and The Children’s Book Council 2022 Showcase selection)

Karen Roman Young investigates the vast and mysterious world of Antarctica. The book features animals such as emperor penguins, killer whales, and elephant seals. It also takes a look at how this continent is changing and what that means for our planet.

cover image of "Animal Sidekicks"

Animal Sidekicks: Amazing Stories of Symbiosis in Animals and Plants

written by Macken Murphy and Neon Squid, illustrated by Dragan Kordic (NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students

This book takes a look at bizarre symbiotic relationships in the animal kingdom. Macken Murphy, host of the popular animal podcast Species, features such relationships as  crabs that wear sea urchins as hats, bats that go to bed inside plants, and fish that clean shark teeth. Young readers will enjoy the strange, engaging, and educational information.

cover image of "Infinity: Figuring Out Forever"

Infinity: Figuring out Forever 

by Sarah C. Campbell (author and photographer) and Richard P. Campbell (photographer) (Cook Prize Silver Medalist; Bank Street Best Book of the Year; Eureka! Nonfiction Silver Honor Award (California Reading Association); Texas Library Association Texas Topaz Nonfiction Reading List)

Many middle-grade readers are fascinated by the concept of infinity, and this book delivers simple but clear explanations and thought experiments about what infinity is …and what it isn’t. Striking photos help to make the philosophical idea of endlessness more concrete. 

cover image of "Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults"

Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

written by Robin Wall Kimmerer and Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Nicole Neidhardt (NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students)

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a renowned scientist, botanist, and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She demonstrates how all living things―from strawberries and witch hazel to water lilies and lichen―provide us with gifts and lessons every day. The book is packed with scientific information and Indigenous wisdom.

cover image for "Counting in Dog Years"

Counting in Dog Years and Other Sassy Math Poems

written by Betsy Franco, illustrated by Priscilla Tey (NCTE Notable Books in Poetry)

With snappy rhyming poems on every page, Betsy Franco’s collection brings math concepts to life in relatable ways. Arithmetic operations, fractions, and geometry abound through the lens of dirty socks, birthday cakes, and hopscotch. Young readers will appreciate the rollicking humor and colorful illustrations, while older kids will be racing to keep up with the calculations.

 

Cover image for "Salmon: Swimming for Survival"

Salmon: Swimming for Survival

by Rowena Rae (NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book)

In this deeply researched chapter book, Rowena Rae explores the life cycle, habitats, biology, and cultural importance of both Atlantic and Pacific salmon. Pop-outs in each chapter profile kids and adults around the world who support salmon conservation in unique ways, from citizen science projects to wildlife photography to museum education programs. Their love for these fascinating fish is contagious, and readers will be inspired to take action and protect wild salmon from the many threats to their survival.

cover image of "Outdoor School: rock, Fossil, and Shell Hunting"

Outdoor School: Rocks, Fossils, and Shell Hunting: The Definitive Interactive Nature Guide

by Jennifer Swanson (Kirkus BEST Books)

Part of the “Outdoor School” field guide series, Jennifer Swanson’s book is perfect for aspiring geologists and paleontologists! It combines scientific facts, in-depth explanations, and immersive activities to strengthen readers’ curiosity and connection to nature. From finding fossils to snorkeling for shells, this guide is full of tips and tricks for young explorers.

 

cover image for "Funky Fungi"

Funky Fungi: 30 Activities for Exploring Molds, Mushrooms, Lichens, and More

by Alisha Gabriel and Sue Heavenrich (2023 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books in the Children’s Science Activity Book category)

Fungi are everywhere: in our food, in the soil, and even in the air we breathe. This book provides a kid-friendly introduction to the wild world of mushrooms and molds. Packed full of craft projects, outdoor adventures, and even a recipe for corn mushroom tacos, this book puts the “fun” in fungus!


This month’s STEM Tuesday book list was prepared by:

Author Lydia Lukidis

 

Lydia Lukidis is the author of 50+ trade and educational books for children. Her titles include DANCING THROUGH SPACE: Dr. Mae Jemison Soars to New Heights (Albert Whitman, 2024), DEEP, DEEP, DOWN: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench (Capstone, 2023) and THE BROKEN BEES’ NEST (Kane Press, 2019) which was nominated for a Cybils Award. A science enthusiast from a young age, she now incorporates her studies in science and her everlasting curiosity into her books. Another passion of hers is fostering a love for children’s literacy through the writing workshops she regularly offers in elementary schools across Quebec with the Culture in the Schools program. For more information, please visit www.lydialukidis.com.

author Callie Dean

 

Callie Dean is a researcher, writer, and musician living in Shreveport, LA. She writes stories that spark curiosity and encourage kids to explore their world. For more information, please visit https://calliebdean.com.

STEM Tuesday: Snow and Ice– Interview with Author Cindy Blobaum

    We are delighted to interview author Cindy Blobaum for our Ice and Snow theme this month!

Cindy is the author of:

 

Ice Age by Cindy Blobaum

Explore the Ice Age! With 25 Great Projects

Illustrated by Bryan Stone
Brrr–does it feel cold? Get out your gloves and get ready to experience the Ice Age! In Explore the Ice Age! With 25 Great Projects, readers ages 7 to 10 discover what an ice age consists of, why we have them, and what effect an ice age has on living organisms and ecosystems. The book pays particular attention to the most recent Ice Age, which is the only one humans were around to witness.

Cindy digging up mammoth

Cindy holding a mammoth bone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cindy digging up a mammoth bone, and then holding one! 

 

 

Cindy, thanks for being on our blog. How fun was it to write a book about the Ice Age? 

I’m one of the few people I know who absolutely LOVES winter.  In fact, I drive almost everyone crazy because I sing every time it starts to snow J . The cold weather gives me the opportunity to create snow “somethings” (not usually a snowman), make snow ice cream and go ice skating (outdoors), snow shoeing and skiing.  So writing a book that revolves pretty much around winter-style activities was a blast for me.

 

Your book is packed full of awesome projects– did you come up with them yourself?

Many of the projects tapped into my experiences as a naturalist (field trip lady). I had the good fortune to take part in a mammoth dig (excavating several mammoth skeletons), I constantly use ice cube glacier models in my geology programs to explain local topology, and teaching people how to throw spears using atl atl’s was a constant part of fall programs for many years. Other projects that explained important concepts are ones that I adapted from other programs. When I started working on Explore the Ice Age, I had a notebook full of ideas and connections, which expanded as I got going.

 

Did you research them? If so, where can people find cool activities for kids?

Each activity I include is thoroughly researched and tested – with my children and neighbor kids often helping out. Research is one of my favorite parts of writing! The research can include checking books, online resources, primary source materials and of course, asking real experts.  I learn so much that it can be difficult to select what to include and what I have to leave out. For example, I lived in Iowa when I was writing Explore the Ice Age.  When I was working on the mammoth dig, I met an expert on giant sloths. He had created a website with a wealth of information that could be enough for its own book! https://slothcentral.com/

As for finding cool activities for kids, there are multiple ways to approach the search. Activity books are an obvious choice, and don’t pass up the old ones!  I have “discovered” many awesome projects that are so old that many people have never seen them, but they are still cool, fun and relevant! Online searches are great, especially if you have the time to actually use “the web” – as in follow many of the multiple possibilities that pop up, especially if you scroll past the first page of results. I also let my mind wander, choosing a word, like “lever” or “insulation” and seeing what I can find that way. And don’t be afraid to adapt activities – try doing them using different materials or in new ways.

 

Can you give us a sneak peek of one or two of the activities? 

 

An easy and very effective activity to start RIGHT NOW is Sun Stretch! The purpose of the activity is to measure how much the tilt of the sun changes from season to season.  If you are living in the Northern Hemisphere, use a south facing window. (Use a north facing window if you live in the Southern Hemisphere.)

Write today’s date on a piece of masking tape or similar substance. Right around noon, place the piece of tape on the floor or wall where you see the sunlight end.  At least once a month, do the same thing – putting a new dated piece of tape where you see the sunlight end. The farther you live from the equator, the more change you will see!

Bundled Bottles is an activity that clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of the insulation found on some animal’s bodies. The equipment is zippered baggies, shortening, socks (the thicker, the better), plastic water bottles and a freezer.  After creating a coat that mimics a warm-blooded animal’s body, you measure how long it can keep hot water from freezing.

 

Can you give any tips to writers who want to break into nonfiction children’s books? Should they start with educational publishers like you have done? 

At a writing conference, I remember a publisher commenting that although children’s fiction titles usually steal the spotlight, young readers eagerly seek out nonfiction to feed their desire to know more and understand how things work. That is who I write for and why I write. The fact that many formal and informal educators (staff/volunteers at museums, nature centers, summer camps, home schoolers) use my books gives me a definite thrill.

Just like you have to do your research for your subject matter, it is also imperative to research potential publishers. Due to my writing style and content, it makes the most sense to work with publishers who know/understand/work with that format, which is mostly educational publishers. If your writing is more narrative, look for publishers who feature that style of titles. Two other nonfiction styles (this list is not exhaustive) are short facts/records/lists and curriculum/activity sheets. Each one has a separate but sometimes overlapping audience and publisher. .

 

What are you working on now? 

I recently updated Explore Gravity (Nomad Press), expanding it for older readers (ages 9 – 12). I am also working on updating Geology Rocks to get it back in print with Chicago Review Press. With my new full time position, quite honestly, it would be very difficult to start a project right now – although as always, I have a notebook and file folder full of ideas!

 

Thanks for being on our blog, Cindy, and sharing all of this great info on your book and STEM!

You can discover more about Cindy HERE 

 

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Jennifer Swanson authorJennifer Swanson is the award-winning  author of 45+ books for kids, mostly about STEM, and also the creator and cohost of the Solve It for Kids podcast.  You can hear her recommendations for the best STEM books for kids in 2023 on NPR’s Science Friday, here!

 

STEM Tuesday: Snow and Ice– Writing Tips & Resources

 

Accordions and Information

The five-paragraph essay. Love it or hate it, it’s a thing. One of the reasons it is so hard to teach? Young writers rarely see pure examples in their pleasure reading. Still, this formulaic approach can help young writers learn to organize their thinking and writing.

So, how do we teach them to use this tool?

Step By Step

My favorite is the accordion method. Start by printing each of the sentences below on a separate sheet of colored paper.

Green paper:

  • Bugs have wicked cool mouthparts.
  • These mouthparts allow insects to chow down on their favorite food.

Yellow paper:

  • Some bugs have hypodermic needles for mouths.
  • A few insects use sponges for mouths.
  • And, others have strong grinding jaws.

Post those in random order on the board or wall. Challenge students to physically re-arrange them into a logical paragraph. This can be done together on the board or students can copy onto sticky notes and work individually on their desks.

Now, on the board, lay the sentences out with the yellow ones indented to look like an outline. Introduce the color scheme and provide examples from texts they are familiar with (textbooks, student writing, etc.):

Green = General topic

Yellow = Reason, detail or fact

Red = Example or explanation

Accordion it!

Next, demonstrate how a paragraph, like an accordion, can be lengthened if we add additional information. Show the new sentences below and have students move these examples into place on the outline.

Red paper:

  • The assassin bug stabs its sharp proboscis through the exoskeleton of other insects.
  • The house fly uses its labella to sop up spit-soaked food.
  • The mandibles of a cockroach crush with a force five times stronger than human jaws.

Rewrite on the board in standard paragraph form.

Once students are comfortable with the color scheme, challenge them to use highlighter markers to color-code pre-written paragraphs. You can write your own or use examples from textbooks or STEM Tuesday’s reading list. For example, Page 30 of What was the Ice Age:

“To have enough energy, Megatherium needed to eat a lot! It ate grasses, buts, and fruits. It dug roots out of the ground with its sharp claws. It stood on its hind legs to pull leaves from the highest branches. Some scientists think Megatherium might have even eaten meat.”

Once they are ready, have students use this color-coded sticky notes to create a paragraph about their favorite animal.  For some fun, let students swap yellow and red notes to create silly paragraphs.

Extension

To extend the lesson, demonstrate how a single paragraph can be lengthened like an accordion into a 5 paragraph essay, a section of a longer work, or an entire book. For example, in Ice: Chilling Stories from a Disappearing World students can study the introduction as one accordion and the entire book as another.

Finally, have students examine nonfiction trade books, magazines, and a variety of informational texts. Are super-structured paragraphs common? Discuss why and why not. Are they more common in one type of informational text? Is the formula more common in the over all text than as paragraphs? Do students prefer them or not?

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Prepared by:

Heather L. Montgomery writes books for kids who are wild about animals. She is author of 17 nonfiction books for kids, including What’s In Your Pocket? Collecting Nature’s Treasures and the upcoming Sick! The Twists and Turns Behind Animal Germs.

www.HeatherLMontgomery.com