Posts Tagged STEM Tuesday

STEM Tuesday — The Living Seas– Writing Tips & Resources

STEM Tuesday



Ah, the world of scientific understanding. It’s exciting. It’s fascinating. It’s ever-changing. And with that comes some challenges for the science writer. How’s a writer supposed to commit to providing the “truth” about a topic when the scientific understanding is likely to change in the future?

And if you are writing about the ocean—a topic in which our knowledge gets updated on an almost daily basis—you could see that as a dark abyss, a sea of knowledge your little flashlight could never hope to illuminate fully. Or, you could see it as an opportunity . . . after all, ocean exploration is the perfect metaphor for open-ended inquiry.

Looking at this month’s Living Sea book list we can scavenge strategies used by science writers to navigate the uncharted waters of scientific understanding.

  • Showcase the nature of science and engineering practices
  • Focus on enduring concepts, skills, and/or messages
  • Provide hope for the future and inspiration for the future professionals

The Next Wave: The Quest to Harness the Power of the Oceans, by Elizabeth Rusch

When we present discovery and design as a timeline, it illustrates a trajectory, helping readers visualize future possibilities for science, engineering, and themselves. For example, Rusch follows individuals Mike Morrow and Mike Delos-Reyes from childhood (component-collecting with a screw driver or building a guitar from a badminton racket), to high school (Most likely to become Mad Scientist) to professional engineers (lighting Christmas tree lights with their prototype). Young readers can “see” the future through their path.

Rusch interweaves their story with that of others, conveying the variety of different possible solutions to an engineering problem, an enduring message all young readers need. In the book’s conclusion, Rusch provides literary snapshots of where the projects stand in their process. A look at a few lines indicates the hope she leaves readers with:

“When OPT gets the green light …”

“The Mikes have set their sights…”

“Columbia Power Technologies hopes to roll out…”
This is how a writer maximizes on the opportunities presented by ocean exploration!


Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion, by Loree Griffin Burns

In this book, Burns focuses squarely on the efforts of one scientist. She helps us see Dr. Curtis Ebbeseyer as an individual, to witness how his curiosity enhanced his career, and how his seemingly simple methods (tracking floating rubber duckies across the ocean) brought new understandings to light.

This Scientist in the Field approach provided opportunities to teach broad skills. Complementing engaging text with large maps of ocean currents, Tracking Trash encourages visual literacy and specific map-reading skills. Burns included sidebars on how readers can get involved themselves. And, presenting data graphically allows readers to practice chart-reading skills.

Anchoring the reader in the experiences of one individual also enabled Burns to illustrate the collaborative nature of science—from working with other professional researchers to engaging community scientists, Curtis’s story provides models for young readers.


Astronaut, Aquanaut, by Jennifer Swanson

An author’s unique approach to a topic can open reader’s minds to new possibilities. In this book, Swanson’s comparison of two professions opens the door to teaching enduring concepts and skills over and over again. For example, she models compare and contrast with “Differences” and “Similarities” sidebars. She asks questions about ethics “Should we have colonies on Mars?” She uses these high interest topics to teach concepts such as gravity, skills such as creating a model, and messages such as teamwork.

When Swanson discusses deep sea vents on page 71, the focus isn’t on the fun facts, it is on nature of discovery and how that changed scientists’ perspective on Earth’s crust. She concludes with “Makes you wonder how many other amazing discoveries lie beneath the deep.” It shows readers the nature of science and it inspires future scientists!

A few other tips gleaned from books on this month’s list:

  • In illustrations, avoid dated objects or use intentionally dated illustrations to convey progress through time.
  • Highlighting multiple projects increases the chance that a project from the book will be ongoing or completed once the book is published.
  • Use a different device (such as a diagram in a photo-driven book) to represent the imagined future of a project.

In what scientific subjects do you see the potential for new knowledge? Whip out your writer’s notebook and brainstorm strategies to capitalize on that brain-stretching potential!


Heather L. Montgomery inspires young readers to make their own discoveries! She concludes her recent title, Little Monsters of the Ocean: Metamorphosis Under the Waves, with a story of a six-year-old who discovered four new larval species! Learn more at

STEM Tuesday — The Living Seas– In the Classroom

STEM Tuesday


This month’s theme is all about the OCEAN! Not only are Earth’s oceans massive, what happens there impacts everything else on Earth. Here are a few of this month’s books that help explore the oceans.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean
by Patricia Newman; photographs by Annie Crawley

Readers will discover how closely THEY are connected to the ocean, regardless of where they live.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit
Into the Deep: An Exploration of Our Oceans
by Wolfgang Dreyer; illustrated by Annika Siems

Discover the latest scientific research through a ride on a submarine.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit
Secrets of the Sea by Kate Baker

Explore rocky pools, shoreline, and the deepest depths of the ocean.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit
Oceanology: The Secrets of the Sea Revealed by DK/Smithsonian  

An informative and beautiful introduction into the ocean ecosystem.

So where do you start exploring something that is so big and overflowing with life? (You’re sure to never run out of things to explore!)

Just How Big Is It?

Oceans cover over 2/3 of the Earth. It’s hard to fathom just how big the oceans are. Here are some activities that can help our brains process this.

There is a really great video from the Smithsonian called “Just How Big Is The Ocean?”  (While you’re there, check out ideas for lessons relating to the ocean:

Print out a world map. Color the oceans blue. Color land masses another color. (To practice even more geography, color each continent a different color.) Here are a few to check out:

The oceans don’t just spread out, though. They also go deep. The Smithsonian Ocean website has a great visual showing just how deep the ocean goes:

Compare the depths of the ocean to things that are familiar. How many school busses could you stack? How do skyscrapers compare to the ocean depths? (Check out skyscraper heights here: What other items can you use to compare?


Get Visual

Another way to think about how much of Earth is covered in oceans is to create visual representations of the different numbers related to the ocean. Brainstorm some ways to represent the different numbers. Not sure what to do? Get inspired by the book Dinosaurs by the Numbers by Steve Jenkins ( – an entire book devoted to infographics.

To see some visuals related to how climate change is impacting the oceans, check out this site: There are several buttons on the Climate Dashboard that show statistics related to the oceans.


Explore What’s In the Ocean

More things live in the ocean than live on land. Scientists are still discovering new creatures that live in the seas. There are lots of places online where you can explore what’s being seen below the waves.

One of my favorite places to explore the oceans from home is through the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. You can browse photos ( and videos ( on their website.

You can also see videos they’ve posted on YouTube. Discover MBARI scientists’ Top 10 Deep-Sea Animals ( or MBARI Top 10: A treasure trove of bizarre, interesting, and wondrous encounters in 2019 ( They have loads of playlists to choose from, too, including Deep-Ocean Soundscapes and Weird and Wonderful. (

There are lots of things to explore through the Smithsonian Oceans site. Here is a page that’s loaded with things to explore about Ocean Life:

NOAA’s Ocean Service also has lots to explore – most of them closer to home.

Check out an aquarium – either in person or online. Here are a few of the big ones in the U.S.

The National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD:

The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, IL:

Monterey Bay Aquarium in CA:

Get some practice doing research and writing reports. Pick an animal that you find while browsing. Dig into what information you can find about them. Report about the animal by creating a poster, putting together a slide show, or writing it up ( Be sure to include the research sources and properly credit any images used.


Follow the Challenger

If you’ve watched the first video mentioned or just done some research about the oceans, you’ve probably noticed that the deepest part of the ocean is named Challenger Deep. This is named for the first oceanographic expedition, conducted in the 1870s by scientists aboard the HMS Challenger.

There are whole websites dedicated to the HMS Challenger expedition. Many of the samples taken during that voyage are still held at scientific institutions around the world.

Here are a few sites for exploring the Challenger and how what it did compares to research today.

The samples taken during the Challenger voyage are helping scientists study climate change today.


Make a Difference

Now that you’ve explored the oceans a bit, hopefully you think they’re a resource worth saving. Everyone can make a difference when it comes to saving the oceans, no matter how far from the ocean they live.

Here are some resources in addition to the books on the book list:

Come up with 3 concrete things you can do to help the oceans. Think of what you will change and how you will measure it. Track what you’ve done for a few weeks.


Hopefully you continue to have fun exploring the oceans. And please be sure to do what you can to help the oceans out. Without life in the oceans, there will be no life on land.


Janet Slingerland loves learning about science, history, nature, and (well) everything, which she then turns into a book. She is currently researching an animal that lives on the floor of the ocean. To find out more about Janet and her books, check out her website:

STEM Tuesday — The Living Seas– Book List

STEM Tuesday

Dive beneath the waves with us this week as we explore our world ocean. Did you know our planet is 70% ocean and only 30% land? Yet the ocean is less explored than outer space. Use these books to explore the wild, the weird, and the wonderful about our blue planet.

Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean by Patricia Newman; photographs by Annie Crawley

Readers will discover how closely THEY are connected to the ocean, regardless of where they live. Be sure to explore the dazzling QR code videos! Jeff Bridges, Academy Award winner and environmentalist, call this book a “must read.”

Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact by Jennifer Swanson

Discover how scientists prepare for exploring deep-space and deep-sea.

Plasticus Maritimus: An Invasive Species by Ana Pego; illustrated by Isabel Minhos Martins and Bernado P. Carvalho

Readers will explore plastic pollution in the ocean inspired by biologist Ana Pego’s life’s work.

Beneath the Waves: Celebrating the Ocean Through Pictures, Poems, and Stories by Stephanie Warren Drimmer

Enjoy amazing animal profiles, poetry, photography, and lots of great facts.

The Next Wave: The Quest to Harness the Power of the Oceans by Elizabeth Rusch

Readers will meet the scientists and engineers working to tarnish our oceans for renewable energy.

Into the Deep: An Exploration of Our Oceans by Wolfgang Dreyer; illustrated by Annika Siems

Discover the latest scientific research through a ride on a submarine. 

Secrets of the Sea by Kate Baker  

Explore rocky pools, shoreline, and the deepest depths of the ocean. 

Oceanology: The Secrets of the Sea Revealed by DK/Smithsonian  

An informative and beautiful introduction into the ocean ecosystem.

Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion by Loree Griffen Burns

This Scientists in the Field title explores the exploration of ocean trash.

Explore the Salish Sea: A Nature Guide for Kids by Joseph K. Gados and Audrey DeLella Benedict

This title explores the creatures that call the Salish Sea home, from the rhinoceros auklet to the giant Pacific octopus. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is thumbnail-150x113.jpg

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 served as Regional Advisor Emeritus of the Eastern NY SCBWI region. Her 2020 international title about farm and food is THE FARM THAT FEEDS US: A Year In The Life Of An Organic Farm. Visit her at 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Patricia-Newman-150x150.jpg

Patricia Newman writes middle-grade nonfiction that empowers young readers to act on behalf of the environment and their communities. Academy Award winner and environmentalist Jeff Bridges calls Planet Ocean a “must read.” Newman, a Sibert Honor author of Sea Otter Heroes, 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