Full S.T.E.A.M. Ahead — Making Nonfiction Fun!

I have a confession.  I am a science geek. As a kid, instead of playing tag or football, I  was in my garage with the members of my science club. My friends and I spent our days identifying plant species, collecting rocks, and even looking for microscopic animals in drops of river water. While that may not sound strange, the following probably does:  the most prized possession of our club was the skull of a dead cow. It sat in a special box on top of the milk crate containing our rocks. It was awesome! Unfortunately, when we moved, my mom wouldn’t let me keep it. (Can’t imagine why…)

So what’s the point of telling you this? For us, science was something to be explored, to learn about, and most importantly a way to have FUN!

 

Unfortunately, many of us see science as dull and boring, something that you read from an out-dated text book.  Come on, how many of you didn’t like science in school? Raise your hand.

Did a lot of hands go up?  That’s too bad, because science ROCKS!  (No pun intended)

As a middle-school science teacher, I try to impress on my students that science is all around us., we just need to be aware of it. Consider this: When you go for a walk at night, why are there frogs all over the sidewalk? Or why you can see planets among the stars during certain times of the year?  Why do dogs bark? How do magnets stick together?


Answers to these questions and many more can be found in a nonfiction book. Gone are the days of boring texts that contain page after page of ho-hum concepts. Today’s nonfiction is full of information that is presented with unique ideas in a fascinating and electrifying way.

 

 

But where do you find these books? Go to your local library. Pull a book off the nonfiction shelf and open it up. It’s probably filled with pictures and exciting words that jump off the page. The goal is to make science come alive for the readers – of any age.

Here are a few more examples:

 

                                    

 

These books are gaining such popularity, that they’ve been given their own catchy term. They are called STEM books (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).  The term STEM has been used not only to describe books, but STEM programs that also teach kids about these topics in a fun way. These uniquely interactive programs have sprung up all over the country.

STEM programs aren’t the only way to get your kids involved, however, a lot of STEM books have a “hands on” section with suggestions to try or even mini-experiments they can do. Maybe you want to build a bridge and see how stable it is. Or perhaps you wish to freeze water in a cup and learn how ice, unlike most solids, is actually less dense when it’s frozen. Kids love interacting with STEM topics. Some student even learn better when they can see what’s going on, instead of just reading about it. It allows them to get into the middle of science and figure it out. Science is not a spectator sport!!


For other ways to find some great nonfiction books, check out some of these fantastic blogs:

 

INK- Interesting NonFiction for Kids

STEM Friday Blog  or      Nonfiction Monday    both created  by Author Anastasia Suen

 

The excitement surrounding this topic continues to grow. Recently educators have been lobbying to change STEM to STEAM. STEAM encompasses regular STEM topics but also adds Art and Design books to the acronym. Advocates of this change insist that Art and Design concepts are critical to making STEM topics fun and interesting.

Check out these links to see the S.T.E.A.M. discussion unfold:

STEM or STEAM?

 STEM to STEAM

 

Regardless of whether you support STEM or STEAM, we can all agree that these books are much needed in the classroom and beyond. After all, they provide a way to inspire kids to expand their horizons and notice the world around them.

And just a small hint for aspiring authors out there, STEM and STEAM books are in great demand by teachers and librarians. If you love these topics and feel you can present them in a unique way, you might want to consider writing nonfiction. It’s fun!

Finally, thanks for letting me share my science “geek-ness” with you.  I hope it will encourage all you readers out there to pick up a STEM/STEAM book soon. Who knows, maybe one day, you might find yourself hosting your own science club in your garage. (Although maybe you want to skip the cow skull…)

 

 

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Jennifer Swanson is the author of seven STEM books and a self-professed science geek. When not writing or hanging out with her family, you will find her at the beach collecting shells.  (And yes, she keeps them in her garage.) You can learn more about Jennifer at www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com.

 

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