Tag Archives: zoology

STEM TUESDAY: Zoology – Interview with Author Patricia Newman and Giveaway

Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview & Book Giveaway, a repeating feature for the fourth Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math! 

 

Our inaugural interview is with author Patricia Newman who wrote this month’s featured book, Zoo Scientists to the Rescue.

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.

Zoo Scientists to the Rescue is photo-illustrated by Annie Crawley. Newman (center) and Crawley (left) traveled to the zoos featured in the book, including Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo where Maku the black rhino (right) resides.

Mary Kay Carson: Tell us a bit about Zoo Scientists to the Rescue and how you came to write it.

Patricia Newman: Zoo Scientists to the Rescue began as a comment from my niece, Mia, whose fifth-grade class was tasked with writing a persuasive essay about zoos, either for or against. The trouble was the teacher gave her students almost all anti-zoo material, so guess which way their essays leaned? I’ve been involved with zoos most of my adult life and I raised a zookeeper, so I knew there was more to the story than the material my niece had received. In Zoo Scientists to the Rescue I had several goals:  share some of the ground-breaking research that zoo scientists are doing to save endangered species, inspire kids to help them, and excite kids about a possible career in science.

MKC: It sounds like you spent some quality time behind-the-scenes at zoos with the featured scientists. Do you have a favorite moment or happening you’d like to share?

PN: Photographer Annie Crawley and I visited the three zoos in the book’s pages—Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs. We spent some fabulous time behind-the-scenes with both the scientists and the animals. We got up close and personal with Maku the rhino—close enough that he charged Annie while shooting his portrait for the cover. We also drove through a blizzard to meet with the black-footed ferret scientists. At the zoo, we donned booties and surgical caps to visit the BFF breeding area. And we waded through drifts several feet deep to observe BFFs at boot camp–a training facility to get them ready for release into the wild. Through it all, my audio recorder whirred and Annie’s shutter clicked. Annie is also a brilliant filmmaker, and had the presence of mind to shoot video while we conducted our research. In addition to our trailer, videos featuring our interviews with Jeff Baughman at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s BFF breeding center and Rachel Santymire’s lab at the Lincoln Park Zoo are now available on YouTube. Annie and I love the way these resources broaden the reading experience.

MKC: Why do you choose to write STEM books? 

PN: When I was a kid, my best learning happened when I could make connections to the world. I graduated with a B.S. from Cornell University in the social sciences, but my writing focuses more on environmental nonfiction. I think the thing that attracts me to science is the process of discovery. The scientists I interview have fascinating stories that I hope will inspire kids to think science is cool or encourage their parents to buy deforestation-free palm oil products to protect orangutans or instigate a Ditch the Straw Campaign in their community to reduce single-use plastic. While every author wants to tell a great story, I also want to empower kids to make a difference.

MKC: For readers who loved Zoo Scientists to the Rescue, what other middle-grade books would you suggest—nonfiction and/or fiction?

PN: For fiction, I love Carl Hiaasen’s Hoot and Eliot Schrefer’s ape quartet (of which three have been published) Endangered, Threatened, and Rescued. For nonfiction, I love Sandra Markle’s The Great Monkey Rescue: Saving the Golden Lion Tamarins and Cindy Trumbore and Susan Roth’s Parrots Over Puerto Rico.

MKC: Could you give us a peek into your process by sharing where you are right now on a current project and how you’re tackling it?

PN: My newest STEM title will release in the fall of 2018. Called Eavesdropping on Elephants: How Listening Helps Conservation, the book follows scientists from Cornell University’s Elephant Listening Project as they listen to the forest elephants of central Africa. Forest elephants are different from the more familiar African savanna elephants and Asian elephants and the dense vegetation of their rainforest home makes them nearly impossible to follow. But these scientists have opened a whole new world on the study—and conservation—of this endangered species. My editor and I have just finished the first revision pass—I call it the reorganization phase. We move entire paragraphs from the end to the beginning, we check to be sure concepts are developed throughout the manuscript and don’t just pop up in isolated places, and we clarify some complex scientific concepts for young readers. In this book, it’s the physics of sound. The next pass will involve more line edits and polishing. And there’s a multi-media surprise in store for readers of this book. But I won’t say more than that!

More about Zoo Scientists to the Rescue:

Win a copy of Zoo Scientists to the Rescue! Enter the giveaway by leaving a comment below. The randomly-chosen winner will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (within the U.S. only) to receive the book. Good luck!

Your host this week is Mary Kay Carson, author of Mission to Pluto and other nonfiction books for kids.

 

STEM TUESDAY: Zoology – In the Classroom

 

Welcome to the Second STEM Tuesday of the Month!
This inaugural post offers some really wild ideas for connecting zoology books, activities, and kids. With this month’s selections and ideas, your students can spy on animals, find connections to scientists (and each other), and spread enthusiasm for zoology as they model a disease outbreak.

Cover of Beastly Brains: Exploring How Animals Think, Talk, and FeelHelp kids channel their inner Jane Goodall. Budding zoologists will soon be organizing and interpreting their observations like the pros when they read Nancy Castaldo’s Beastly Brains: Exploring How Animals Think, Talk, and Feel and hit the schoolyard to conduct scientific observations of animal behavior.

This book provides a comprehensive synopsis of science’s attempt to answer some fascinating questions, such as: What types of feelings, if any, do non-human animals have? Do they plan, anticipate, and think about themselves? How can we know? With the help of the Beastly Brains teacher guide (pages 16-19), segue into some serious fun: watching animals, the zoological way, and try to answer some of those questions. The guide includes instructions and a downloadable template for an observation record (ethogram).

After you cover the basics, practice with your students in the schoolyard or classroom animal center. Then set them loose on self-selected observations (AKA homework)—at a local park, home-based bird-feeder, or even the grocery store. (After all, humans are animals, too!).

Ask critical questions about the experience, such as:

  • Is there anything about this situation that might interfere with the animals’ typical behavior? (For example, captivity or the presence of an observer can influence animals’ behavior.)
  • What do students think might be going on inside the observed animals’ heads?
  • How sure can students be about their inferences?

Drawing from the book’s content, consider the challenges zoologists face as they try to make sure their own interpretations are correct. For another perspective and a simplified version of an ethogram activity, check out Pages 93-94 of the next book in this week’s feature…

IMage of cover of Zoology for Kids: Understanding and Working with Animals, with 21 ActivitiesPlay out a musical chairs-style model of habitat loss. A simplified ethogram activity is one of 21 experiences in Zoology for Kids: Understanding and Working with Animals by Josh and Bethany Hestermann. Providing a broader introduction to zoology than Beastly Brains, this book also offers a wide range of activities, including ecology-based crafts and games.

The Resource Game (p. 106) is worth a special look. Like many of the books on this month’s STEM Tuesday list, Zoology for Kids tackles habitat loss and the need for conservation to support the diversity of animal life on our planet. The Resource Game brings this issue to a concrete level for readers and helps students focus on animals’ needs for water, food, and space. The game may remind you of musical chairs—with a twist—as “animal” players seek out new resources when their own habitats are disrupted.

 

Image of cover of Zoology: Cool Women Who Work with AnimalsBreak the ice before kids “meet” zoologists. While several of this STEM Tuesday’s books introduce readers to animal scientists, Zoology: Cool Women Who Work With Animals, written by STEM Tuesday founder Jennifer Swanson, focuses on several female zoologists. Readers follow these scientists’ varied journeys to this field. With targeted questions, the book also encourages readers to identify with each scientist.

A fun activity called  That’s Me!  is a social ice-breaker often used to foster an inclusive classroom environment. With a tweak or two, it can support Cool Women’s connection-building between readers and featured scientists.
During the game, a leader makes a statement. Listeners decide if the statement describes themselves. Everyone who thinks so pops out of his or her chair and calls, “That’s me!”

Tweak the game for this book with statements that are true of the featured scientists. Aim to select facts that will be true of many of your students. You might start with the following ideas: “If I could, I’d have tons of pets.” “I’m not really sure what I want as my future career.” “I’ve taken care of a particular animal for most of my life.” “I sometimes have a lot of questions.” You can also turn some of the book’s highlighted Essential Questions into That’s Me statements.

Image of cover of Gorilla Doctors: Saving Endangered Great ApesCatch the zoology bug! Model a disease outbreak. Author Pamela S. Turner’s vivid storytelling about a mountain gorilla veterinarian who pays “nest” calls is sure to make Gorilla Doctors a hit with students. Among other topics, readers will learn about threats to gorillas’ survival, including the fact that well-meaning humans–who might not be ill–can pass potentially fatal germs on to our genetic cousins. This is a perfect opportunity to try an infectious disease modeling activity, described by a teacher in a 7-minute Teaching Channel video.

Carrying cups of a white liquid (milk), students “harmlessly” interact—only to find out later that  “germs” have spread from one individual to many. (You have spiked one of the cups with an additive that will change colors with the addition of a readily available solution.)

Want to take this further? Challenge students to consider this experience specifically as a model for the spread of disease between humans and gorillas. What is well represented and not so well represented in this activity? What specific changes could we make in order to improve the model of what is described in the book?

Wolf HowlingPlease join the pack! (It’s your turn to howl.)
Humans are social animals, right? We need each other and we share resources. So, please: Contribute to this blog community! We hope this will be a dynamic space for all of us as adult learners exploring this exciting territory–connecting middle grade readers with STEM books and their important themes.

  • Which ideas seem most intriguing to you?
  • What follow-up suggestions do you have?
  • What works really well with your readers and STEM learners?
  • What else is on your mind?

Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano is often spotted in her semi-wild habitat of Southeastern Massachusettts writing science/STEM books for kids, arranging her author visits, and working as a STEM curriculum and professional development consultant for authors, schools, museums, and anyone else who gives a hoot about science ed. Follow her on Facebook or contact her through her website http://carolyndecristofano.com.