Category Archives: nonfiction

STEM Tuesday Wild and Wacky Science — In the Classroom

This month’s STEM Tuesday Theme: Wild and Wacky Science has the potential to lead readers in all directions! What a fun Book List the STEM Tuesday Team found for us this month.

Here are a few ways to use this month’s books in the classroom, extending learning beyond simply reading. Enjoy these suggestions, and as always, we welcome your additional suggestions in the comments below!

Follow a Friend on Facebook! 

After reading Unstoppable: True Stories of Amazing Bionic Animals by Nancy Furstinger, you’ll want to adopt one of these furry heroes! Since convincing parents to get new pets of any kind can be a monumental task, it might be easier for your class to befriend a furrrball on Facebook. Here are links to the Facebook pages of several of Furstinger’s friends.

Chris P Bacon, Pig on Wheels @CPBaconWheels

Brutus the Rottweiler @betterpawsforbrutus

Molly the Three-Legged Pony @mollythe3leggedpony

Vincent the Cat @walkingvincentcat

Albie, Felix, and Fawn, Woodstock Farm Sanctuary @woodstockfarm

 Chart Your Allergies! 

First, read Itch! Everything You Didn’t Want to Know About What Makes You Scratch by Anita Sanchez.

Then, practice data-collecting, chart-making, graphing, and data analysis skills by doing a classroom allergy assessment.  Start by asking students to create their own survey. What questions will you need to ask to find out who is allergic to what? Create the survey together, complete the surveys, and gather the data. Next, chart or graph (or both!) the results for a visual and numeric display of what gets under your skin. Who’s is inclined to itch when the cat comes in? Do menacing mosquitoes munch on many or just a few of the members of your class?

Dig Deeper!  Get the DNA 411!

In Forgotten Bones, Uncovering of a Slave Cemetery, Lois Miner Huey takes readers on a fascinating journey that begins with the discovery of and leads to an amazing amount of information about the thirteen slaves buried on what was once the Schuyler Family Farm near Albany, New York.

Much of what the scientists on the scene and in the lab near Albany were able to determine about the slaves was came the DNA samples from seven of the adult skeletons.  But what do you really know about DNA? Plan ahead for National DNA Day, April 25th, by checking out this website for several great DNA-related activities to do with kids. 

Make a Book Trailer.  Some of this month’s book picks have cool book trailers available on You Tube.  Watch these one-minute advertisements for wild and wacky nonfiction and make your own book trailer. There’s a lot to be said about getting the most out of just sixty seconds of screen time! Can you make a trailer that is certain to send readers running to the library to check out the book you’ve read? Here’s a link to a helpful tutorial to show How to Make a Book Trailer in iMovie.

   

This week’s STEM Tuesday post was prepared by

Michelle Houts delights in the wild and wacky side of finding fun facts for young readers. She writes both fiction and nonfiction and often finds the nonfiction harder to believe than the fiction. Find her on Instagram and Twitter @mhoutswrites and on the web at www.michellehouts.com.

STEM Tuesday Wild and Wacky Science — Books List

This month’s theme of Wild and Wacky Science! is pretty broad, so we’ve included a wide variety of books that include humor, gross facts, bones, poop, unusual explorations, and some far-out science. It’s a great list for introducing science to reluctant readers and a wonderful gateway to many STEM topics. As always, we welcome your suggestions in the comments section below.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgHow Rude! Real Bugs Who Won’t Mind Their Manners by Heather Montgomery
Hilarious, informative, and gross, this title features a great mix of science and humor. Where else can you find bugs that throw their poop?

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgPoison: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murdreous Medicines by Sarah Albee
The author of Poop Happened has a new title out that combines history and science. Poison brings to light medical mishaps and mysterious deaths.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgSuperman Science: The Real-World Science Behind Superman’s Powers by Agnieszka Biskup and Tammy Enz
Investigate the science of Superman in this Capstone Young Readers series that delves into flight, sight, and strength. A perfect way to combine STEM and super heroes.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgForgotten Bones: Uncovering a Slave Cemetery by Lois Huey
Archeologist/author Lois Huey tells the story of the discovery of a slave cemetery. Readers will uncover the science of archeology and the tools they use to solve mysteries buried beneath the soil.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgTwo Truths and a Lie by Ammi-Joan Maquette and Laurie Ann Thompson
From It’s Alive! to Histories and Mysteries, readers of this series will find unbelievable facts and some fake stories to tease their interest.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThe Secret of Scorpion-Eating Meerkats…And More!  by Ana Maria Rodriguez
Meerkats, hyenas, capuchin monkeys, and horses come to life in this curious title as readers explore their adaptations for survival.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgUnstoppable: True Stories of Amazing Bionic Animals by Nancy Furstinger
If a human can benefit from having a prosthetic leg or arm, why can’t a dog or another animal? This book introduces readers into the medical marvels that have been created for animals and how the quest for solutions also inspires help for humans.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgTracking Trash:  Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion by Loree Griffin Burns and Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by Patricia Newman.
These books describe how trash moves through the Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgocean and what happens when it gets there. Two great reads for budding marine biologists.

 

 

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

The Big Book of GROSS Stuff by Bart King
This book, published in 2010, is one to pull off the shelf of your local library. Readers who love grossology will enjoy practical knowledge about boogers, belches, diseases, sneezes, and demon cheeses. Remember to take the Gross Quiz!

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgItch! Everything You Didn’t Want To Know About What Makes You Scratch by Anita Sanchez
This book releases March 13th and describes all the icky, pinchy, and slimy things that make you itch. Watch for it!

 

And two great fiction pairings this month:

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgHow to Outswim a Shark without a Snorkel by Jess Keating
Sharks, crocodiles, and humor are combined in this terrific middle grade zoology-inspired title.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgHow to Avoid Extinction by Paul Acampora
Death, food, and dinosaur fossils help make this book a memorable read.

 

 

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 Crafts and Resources
  • Week 4:  STEM Tuesday Author Interviews and Giveaways

STEM Tuesday Exploration— Crafts and Resources

How-To

From how to trouble shoot your printer to how to complete your tax forms, we all use procedural texts every day. Some procedural writing is boring, rigid, and downright miserable. Ugh. But it doesn’t have to be.

Discovering a brand new, fuzzy, four-legged species, exploring a volcano on the barren desert called Mars, escaping quicksand — scientific exploration is full of procedures packed with fun!

You’d think writing down the steps to a process would be easy, but – as any educator who has survived the first week of school knows – teaching “how to” is a bit more challenging than teaching “what.”

You pick: teach someone what the Large Hadron Collider is (a machine for speeding up particles so scientists can study them) or how it works (umm . . .).

See, it can be kind of intimidating. You have to really know what you are talking about. No wonder young (and old) writers struggle. Even writing about something a little easier, like dissecting a roadkill skunk, requires lots of decisions. Hard decisions about who the audience is, what to include, and how to present the information.

Never fear, STEM Tuesday is here.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThis month’s book list includes fantastic examples of writing about processes. Consider a multi-step, safety-critical process like blasting off to Mars presented by Pascal Lee in Mission: Mars (page 14). Some of the techniques used include: simplified numbered steps, sequential art, and detail-rich explanations. Lee re-uses these techniques on page 24 for the steps of landing on Mars.

Some questions for close reading:

  • How does the use of numbered steps add to procedural writing?
  • What aspects of page design help the reader?
  • Why might an author repeat techniques in order to explain additional processes in one text?
  • Is the author’s purpose primarily description or exposition? What leads you to that conclusion?

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThe passages in Mission can be compared with more familiar approaches to procedural writing such as a fun submersible-building activity in Jennifer Swanson’s Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact (page 24) and/or a passage on how to pull a leech off your skin in Not for Parents: How to be A World Explorer (page 14).

Some questions for close reading:

  • What common elements of procedural writing do these authors use?
  • How are illustrations used in these examples?
  • What words, techniques, or signals indicate that these texts are instructional as opposed to descriptive? (For ideas, compare to pages 14 and 24 of Mission: Mars.)

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgFor a different take, check out a graphic novel. Starting on page 39 of Smash! Exploring the Mysteries of the Universe with the Large Hadron Collider, author Sara Latta and illustrator Jeff Weigel present their version of how the Large Hadron Collider works (see, it is possible). Their trick for turning the super technical into something readable while avoiding snores? Sequential art, characters who themselves need thorough explanations, and labeled diagrams. Breaking the complex process down into chunked steps, spread over several pages, didn’t hurt either.

Some questions for close reading:

  • What common elements of procedural writing are found in this text?
  • How does this passage differ from more traditional procedural writing?
  • How does this explanation compare to that of another complex sequence, such as that on page 14 in Mission: Mars.

Try it Yourself

  • Study an example of procedural writing. Identify a technique used by the author. Re-write the passage using a different technique. For example, convert the passage on leech removal into graphic novel form or write it without numbered steps.
  • Re-write a piece of procedural writing with a different point of view. Does that change the impact of the passage?
  • Write the steps for a familiar activity (eating pizza, shooting a basketball, cleaning up dog poop). The first time, write it in 5 steps. Re-write, providing only 3 steps. Re-write again with 10 steps. What’s different? Which was hardest? What audience might need each version? Which do you prefer?

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. www.HeatherLMontgomery.com


THE O.O.L.F. FILES

This month, The Out Of Left Field (O.O.L.F.) Files look at some not-so-ordinary ways STEM skills aid in exploration and expanding our knowledge base.

In addition to generating new knowledge, mind-blowing discoveries, and amazing high tech innovations, exploration can cause damage. One concern: pee and poop. From designing a space suit to handle six-days of pee to turning poop into plastic, people are getting creative to solve this problem.

  • Invisible Universe Revealed: A NOVA episode on the Hubble Telescope, its use in exploring the universe, and how an observation at home became a solution to fix Hubble’s “poor eyesight”.
  • Data Exploration: The digital revolution has allowed massive amounts of information to be collected, stored, and shared. Below are a few examples of how this data allows deeper exploration of the world around us.
    • Sabermetrics: The science and analysis of baseball data has changed the game of baseball forever.
    • Bioinformatics: The accumulation AND sharing of genomic sequences from all types of life have revolutionized life science.
    • FiveThirtyEight.com is a data-driven outlet that studies news, politics, sports, and society. (Their real-time election analysis & discussion is fabulous.)