Category Archives: Curriculum Tie-in

STEM TUESDAY: Zoology – Craft & Resources

Reading Like a Writer

I am a student of nonfiction. If you hope to write nonfiction well, you have to be. When studying a book, I prefer to read it three times:

That first read is for pure enjoyment: letting the writing wash right through me and learning cool facts – did you know that venom is used to control diabetes!?!

On the second read I focus on the craft and writing techniques I can learn from.

By the third read I’m looking for specific examples of a technique that caught my eye on the second read, like how the author used sidebars to include material that is supportive but not critical to the main text.

This approach is not much different from my scientific approach to observation. When I recently came across two beetles wrestling, I first watched from above, impressed by their phenomenal horns and robotic legs; then I knelt to get a closer view and wondered why the smaller one was winning; finally, I held each one in my hand to use a magnifier. When I felt the little one’s extra spiky legs grip my finger, my questions were answered.

Want to read like a writer?

Focus on one element at a time. Reading the STEM books the first time, I noticed that many included dialog.

I wondered: Why does an author use dialog in a nonfiction book?

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To get a closer view, I focused in on Sy Montgomery’s Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot.

 

  • Chapter 4, page 21, starts with a direct quote, “Codfish Base from Lisa’s nest.”

That quote caught my eye and had me asking questions: What is “Codfish Base?” Who who is Lisa? Why does she have a nest? It’s a fantastic hook and has me diving into the chapter.

  • Chapter 5 includes dialog at the beginning as well, from page 29:

    “There’s a penguin in the freezer,” she announces.”

    “Really?” asks a volunteer. “What kind?”

I wondered: Who says that? Where is it “normal” to have a penguin in the fridge? If that doesn’t have you wanting to get to know these characters, I don’t know what will!

  • The dialog on pages 44-45 is entirely different. It is a tragic scene – the death of a kakapo chick.

I wondered: Why did the author choose to use dialog to show this particular scene? For me, the words of the characters played out the scene so well that I was reacting emotionally right along with the characters.

Compare how other authors use dialog. Just like with the beetles, my next step was to put texts from two different authors under my magnifying glass.

I asked myself: What are the most effective ways to use and frame quotes?

  • Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgFirst I read the “Wild Rhinos” section on page 8 of Emi and the Rhino Scientist which uses snippets of quotations embedded within a paragraph:

How do you describe a rhino?

You’d probably start with size. “Rhinos are really big animals,” says Terri. Only elephants are bigger land animals. Their wide bodies are propped up on short, thick legs that end in three-toed hooves. Rhinos have thick necks with giant heads and one or two horns. A rhinon may look like a slow-moving tank as it lunmbers around, but don’t be fooled. “Rhinos can move quickly,” says Terri. They can whip around in an instant and run as fast as deer. Rhinos share speed with their close relative the horse.

I noticed how Mary Kay Carson has used dialog but the paragraph is also chock full of other information. What impact do the quotes impart? Why did Carson use quotes here instead of pure expository?

  • Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgI compared Carson’s technique to other texts which make use of quotes in a similar manner. An example is the passage about bearded lizard venom on page 92 of Caitlin O’Connell’s Bridge to the Wild.

I listed ways in which O’Connell’s and Carson’s use of quotes were similar.

  • Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgI contrasted those texts with a different framing, a full scene played out using primarily dialog. An example can be found on page 55 of Pamela Turner’s Gorilla Doctors: Saving Endangered Great Apes.

I asked myself: How did the framing of the dialog change the impact? In what ways were the techniques similar? Different?

What did I learn? When an author uses direct quotes from an expert, the quote often provides information and lends authority to the text, but quotes can also work to generate curiosity, create rounded characters, add humor, etc. and, how an author frames those quotes can dramatically change their impact.

Try it Yourself!

After reading and analyzing other writers’ use of dialog, try it yourself.

  1. Audio record a conversation.
  2. Write a text using quotes from that conversation.
  3. Write a different text using the quotes in a different manner.
  4. Compare the impact of the two texts. Compare to a friend’s draft.

Many people don’t think about the craft of nonfiction, but I learn heaps when I study works of gifted writers who carefully craft their text. Happy reading! Happy Writing!

What other STEM texts have great examples of dialog techniques? Share in the comments below!

Heather L. Montgomery writes for kids who are WILD about animals. She reads and writes while high in a tree, standing in a stream, or perched on a mountaintop boulder. Visit her at: www.HeatherLMontgomery.com

 

 


The O.O.L.F. Files

One way to really understand STEM is to illustrate the subject of interest. Our Out of Left Field (O.O.L.F.) STEM Tuesday topic this month is science illustration. Visual science allows accurate interpretation of an object by combining knowledge of the subject, visual and tactile study of the subject, and artistic skill. Learn more about science illustration and careers, see some cool examples, and even explore a free online course at the links below.

Links:


 

 

STEM TUESDAY: Zoology – Book List

Welcome to the STEM Tuesday launch! In this first week of November, we’re happy to be here to share some terrific books for your STEM bookshelf . This month our books focus on ZOOLOGY.

Zoo Scientists to the Rescue by Patricia Newman and Annie Crawley – Readers are taken behind the scenes at three zoos to see how they, not only care for their animals, but also provide valuable research and work to save endangered species. Junior Library Guild  (Check back on week 4 for an interview with the authors!)

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Kakapo Rescue by Sy Montgomery – In this Scientists in the Field title, readers will travel to a remote New Zealand island to learn about how scientists are struggling to restore the population of these flightless parrots.  **** Four starred reviews! (Activities to download)

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgEmi and the Rhino Scientist by Mary Kay Carson –  Mary Kay Carson deftly describes the work scientist Terri Roth is doing to save Sumatran rhinos from extinction in this Scientists in the Field title. *Kirkus

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org The Great Monkey Rescue: Saving the Golden Lion Tamarins by Sandra Markle –  Sandra Markle uncovers the ways scientists and conservationists are working to save golden lion tamarins in zoos and in the wild.  Junior Library Guild

 

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Beastly Brains: Exploring How Animals Think, Talk, and Feel by Nancy F. Castaldo – Humans are not alone in our ability to think about ourselves, make plans,  or even participate in deception. You’ll think differently about the animals on this planet after reading this book. * Booklist  (Download the curriculum guide)

 

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Zoology: Cool Women Who Work With Animals by Jennifer Swanson – Meet three women in the field of zoology who are making an impact and inspiring the next generation of zoologists.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Bridge to the Wild: Behind the Scenes at the Zoo by Caitlin O’Connell and Timothy Rodwell – Spend five days behind-the-scenes at Zoo Atlanta and meet a menagerie of magnificent animals—pandas, elephants, gorillas, meerkats, flamingos and more.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Learn to Draw Zoo Animals by Robbin Cuddy – Add a bit of art to your STEM instruction with this book that offers a comprehensive  step-by-step drawing experience, as well as full-color photographs, fun facts, trivia, quizzes, and much more.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Zoology for Kids: Understanding and Working with Animals, with 21 Activities by Josh Hestermann, Bethanie Hestermann – The next generation of zoologists will discover the animal kingdom through clear, entertaining information and anecdotes, lush color photos, hands-on activities, and peer-reviewed research.

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 2017 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 with 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 the Green Earth Book Award and a finalist for the AAAS/Subaru Science Books and Films Award, 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 Craft and Resources
  • Week 4:  STEM Tuesday Author Interviews and Giveaways

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STEM Tuesday– Pre Launch Giveaway BOOK Blast!

 

Hello STEM Tuesday enthusiasts!

We know you are all anticipating our first post for next week. Our topic this month is ZOOLOGY!   We have some fabulous books that we are highlighting. It will be SO exciting!

See last week’s post HERE   for all the details if you missed it.

But since it’s difficult to wait, we thought we’d get you all in the STEM mood by offering some great  book giveaways, generously given by our very own authors on the STEM Tuesdays team.

If you want to enter to win, simply write a comment below telling us why you think STEM ROCKS!  or maybe a STEM topic you would like to see covered, a STEM book that you really love, or maybe  just give us a thumbs up because you are a STEM enthusiast, too.

 

Enough talk, let’s get to the PRIZES :

Multiple winners! Each one wins  ONE  of these amazing books!! 


by Nancy Castaldo 

Beastly Brains (HMH BFYR)      In Beastly Brains, Castaldo delves into the minds of animals and explores animal empathy, communication, tool use, and social societies through interviews and historical anecdotes. Researchers from Charles Darwin to Jane Goodall have spent years analyzing the minds of animals, and today’s science is revolutionizing old theories and uncovering surprising similarities to our own minds. Humans are not alone in our ability to think about ourselves, make plans, help each other, or even participate in deception. You’ll think differently about the animals on this planet—maybe it’s their world and we’re just living in it!

 

    by Mary Kay Carson 

The Bat Scientists (HMH BFYR)    Dr. Merlin Tuttle and his colleagues at Bat Conservation International aren’t scared of bats. These bat crusaders are fascinated by them, with good reason. Bats fly the night skies in nearly every part of the world, but they are the least studied of all mammals. As the major predator of night-flying insects, bats eat many pests. Unfortunately bats are facing many problems, including a terrifying new disease. White-nose Syndrome is infecting and killing millions of hibernating bats in North America. But Dr. Tuttle, with the help of his fellow bat scientists are in the trenches—and caves—on the front line of the fight to save their beloved bats.

 

   by Amber J. Keyser 

Anatomy of a Pandemic (Capstone Press)     Sickness is a fact of everyday life. But when sickness spreads from person to person rapidly, a deadly pandemic could result. Find out the causes behind major pandemics of history such as the Spanish flu and the Bubonic plague. Then go behind the scenes to meet the people who are working hard every day to stop pandemics before they start.

 

 by  Jennifer Swanson

Everything Robotics (NGKids)   They fix spacecraft, dance, tell jokes, and even clean your carpet! From the tiniest robo-bees to gigantic factory machines, robotics is all around you. This technology isn’t just for science-fiction anymore — it’s real and more relevant than ever. With stunning visuals and energetic, impactful design, readers won’t stop until they’ve learned everything there is to know about robotics.

 

   by Michelle Houts 

Lucy’s Lab: Nuts About Science (Sky Pony Press)   On Lucy’s first day of second grade, she’s excited to meet her new teacher, Miss Flippo, and find out everything’s she’s going to learn about this year in school. And when Miss Flippo tells the class that they’re going to have their very own science lab, complete with lab coats and goggles, Lucy can’t wait to start exploring…Lucy discovers that science is everywhere you look, and a lab can be anywhere you look.

 

  by Heather Montgomery 

How Rude! (Scholastic Nonfiction)    Some bugs litter. Some pass gas. Some bugs throw their poop! Discover ten of the rudest, crudest bugs around. Full of scientific facts, humor and just the right amount of yuck, How Rude! will make you scream “gross!” Featuring a countdown of the top 10 bad bugs who just won’t mind their manners. One part illustration and one part photography, How Rude! is hilarious, informative, and seriously gross!

 

  by Carolyn DeCristofano 

A Black Hole is NOT a Hole  (Charlesbridge) What is a black hole? Where do they come from? How were they discovered? Can we visit one? Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano takes readers on a ride through the galaxies (ours, and others), answering these questions and many more about the phenomenon known as a black hole.

 

Finally, We want to hear from YOU! If you have an idea for a STEM topic of the month, a book that you’d like considered for our lists, have an idea that you’d like us to explore, or just want to drop us a line encouraging us in our endeavors, feel free to email us at stemmuf@gmail.com .