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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Science

Feeding the Naturally Curious Brain

Science Encyclopedia“You’ll discover mouthless worms and walking ferns … ” (pg. 13) And with those words, I’m charged up for the hunt. Along the way, I can’t help being distracted by a satisfying amount of irresistible information in National Geographic’s Science Encyclopedia.

If you learn best visually, there is a surfeit of images to stimulate a curious mind. If you learn best verbally, then this book is chock full of words arranged in the most interesting ways. And the photos! This is National Geographic, after all.

The book is so visual that information leaps into the reader’s brain. Colorful text boxes help the eye and mind focus.

You’ll find page-long introductions to the various sections on matter, energy, forces and machines, electronics, the universe, life on Earth, planet Earth, and the human body. The way I approach these is to look at all of the photos in the section, read the text boxes, and then go back to read the introductions because by that time I would need to know everything on this subject.

Each double-page spread (and sometimes a single page) includes “Try This!” for practical, do-at-home-with-supplies-on-hand experiments, “Personality Plus” featuring a small, true, biographical tidbit about someone important in that field, “LOL!” a riddle pertaining to the subject (!), and a “Geek Out!” fact with which you can amaze your friends and draw new friends into your geek circle.

One set of pages features a timeline: Amazing Science! Milestones, Atom Smashing. The earliest entry from 1897 is “Englishman J.J. Thompson discovers the first subatomic particle, the electron, using a gas-filled tube that creates a glowing beam.” The latest entry is “2012-2015, in which the Large Hadron Collector “accelerates protons to just below the speed of light and smashes them together.” (pgs 22-23)

The way the pages of this timeline are laid out helps the reader focus and absorb information. It’s not a straight line with words on tick-points. Oh, no! It’s a vibrant, image-filled, double-paged spread of completely cool tidbits. A timeline to get excited about!

Everything about this book is a launchpad for further investigation.

I grew up believing that I didn’t like science. What a nut! How can you not like this stuff?

The Science Encyclopedia is such an exciting presentation of information that it belongs in every household, whether or not there are children in said house.

Don’t have any children? Buy yourself a copy of this book.

Then, buy a copy for each elementary school and middle school where you live. This book is that good. You’ll be charging up the curiosity of young minds for years to come.

Science Encyclopedia:
Atom Smashing, Food Chemistry, Animals, Space, and More

National Geographic. 2016
ISBN 978-1426325427, $24.99

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Everything You Need to Ace Five Subjects

bk_everything_series_300pxI’ve had this TBR pile of five very attractive, come-hither-looking books begging to be recommended for weeks now. The spines are bright primary colors so I know that even when I shelve them they will be calling to me. And I think they’ll be calling to your students as well.

I open what are for me the two scariest volumes (eat your vegetables first—oops, as an adult, I find I LOVE vegetables), Everything You Need to Know to Ace Science in One Fat Notebook: Notes Borrowed from the Smartest Kid in Class (Double-Checked by Award-Winning Teacher) and Everything You Need to Ace Math in One Big Fat Notebook: Notes Borrowed from the Smartest Kid in Class (Double-Checked by Award-Winning Teacher). Did you catch that? Borrowed from the “Smartest Kid” in the class.

When I was a kid I had encyclopedias from the grocery store of the highly visual, dipping-in-and-out variety. I could sit for hours, flipping pages, looking at something that caught my eye, devouring information.

These books remind me of those encyclopedias although they’re more focused on a subject area.

If you have kids who suck up facts and information like a vacuum cleaner, these are the books for them. They’re also self-challenging. Each chapter ends with a list of questions which you can respond to before you turn the page to find the supplied answers.

bk_everything_science_200pxSo, in the Science book, my eyes light immediately on Chapter 5: Outer Space, the Universe, and the Solar System, with subsections of The Solar System and Space Exploration (which every self-respecting Star Wars nerd needs to study), The Sun-Earth-Moon System, and The Origin of the Universe and Our Solar System.

In all of the books, important names and places are bolded in blue, vocabulary words are highlighted in yellow, definitions are highlighted in yellow, and stick figures provide the entertainment.

Looking further, I discover the first chapters in the Science book are about thinking like a scientist and designing an experiment. I need a LOT of help with those activities, so I’m glad to be put at ease.

It’s a bright and colorful book, with great eye-appeal. Even for the most reluctantly curious mind, these books hold a great deal of promise.

Everything I Need to Ace Math

In the Math book, we explore ratios, proportions, equations, probability, and more. Although my brain bawks at looking at this stuff, I find my eye resting longer and longer on some of the highly visual information, wanting to understand it better. The book is working its magic.

Everything You Need to Know American History

Volumes on American History, English Language Arts, and World History similarly offer an overview of many topics within their disciplines. The American History notebook begins with “The First People in America EVER” and ends with the George W. Bush administration, with many stops along the way for famous and not-so-famous parts of America’s history.

English Language Arts explores everything from language and syntax to how to read fiction and nonfiction, including poetry, explicit evidence, and using multiple sources to strengthen your writing.

World History covers 3500 BC to present times in 502 pages, lighting on ancient African civilizations, the Song Dynasty in China, 1830s revolutions in Europe, and so much more.

Everything You Need to Ace English Language ArtsNone of the information is exhaustive. In fact, it’s quite light. Toe-dipping is an apt description. But the information is enough to intrigue the reader and lead them on to other resources.

There are no bibliographies or sources or suggestions for further reading in the books. I can see where that would have been a monumental task. I suppose I’m going to have to look it up myself. Oh, maybe that’s part of the experience? I’m guessing it is.

Highly recommended for grades 6 through 9 (the covers say “The Complete Middle School Study Guide”) and especially for your home library. I think this would be a perfect starting place for choosing a research topic or entertaining yourself with reading an expository text. I envision whiling away many hours looking through these books. Good job, Workman and production team.

 

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Skinny Dip with Pamela S. Turner

For this interview, we visit with Pamela S. Turner, children’s book author with two new books out in 2016, Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune and Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World’s Brightest Bird:

Pamela S. TurnerWhich celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

Sir Richard Francis Burton, the Victorian anthropologist, translator, linguist, and African explorer. I’ve had a huge crush on him ever since I read The White Nile.  

Most cherished childhood memory? 

Getting my first library card at age four. Mom said I couldn’t get one until I could write my own name, so I learned in a flash.  

Sir Richard Francis Burton

Richard Francis Burton by Rischgitz, 1864

Tea? Coffee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

Why isn’t “margarita” one of the options here?

Your favorite candy as a kid …

Abba-Zabba … or maybe Bit O’ Honey … or maybe Big Hunk … no, wait! Cotton candy. I still love cotton candy. I have the taste buds of a three-year-old.  

Is Pluto a planet?

No. But Pluto being demoted from planethood is a wonderful lesson in how science works. In science data matter, not tradition.

Cotton CandyBest tip for living a contented life?

I think Buddhists have the best motto of all: “compassion for all sentient creatures.”

Your hope for the world?

That we will find a way to live within our ecological means and not muck everything up for ourselves and for all other sentient creatures.

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Books Like This Are Convincing

Lives of the ScientistsI’m more comfortable with magic than I am with science. Married to a science guy, I work harder to be interested in science. It gives us something to talk about. When I find narrative nonfiction that tells a compelling story, I’m thankful … and intrigued. I’m particularly happy to find books that feature lesser-known aspects of science, thereby taunting my curiosity.

Do you know the Lives of … series, written by Kathleen Krull and illustrated with disproportionately big heads by Kathryn Hewitt? First published in 2013 and now in paperback for less than $10, I had a ball reading Lives of the Scientists: Experiments, Explosions (and What the Neighbors Thought). It reminds me of People magazine in tone, leaning toward gossipy aspects of these most curious of people past and present but balanced by the right amount of tantalizing information about their work (for many of them, their obsession). And you may not have heard of many of these people.

For instance, William and Caroline Herschel, brother and sister, earned their living as musicians until they had sold enough of their handmade telescopes (they used horse dung for the molds!) and their catalog of newly discovered heavenly bodies attracted the attention of England’s King George III, who paid them both a salary.

The gossipy part? Apparently William was a bossy guy who didn’t have his sister’s well-being at the top of his priority list. During a long night of astronomic observation, Caroline’s leg was impaled on a hook but he couldn’t hear her cries of pain. He was concentrating hard!

After each profile, there are “extra credit” points that didn’t fit into the narrative but they’re awfully interesting.

Don’t you love this tidbit about Grace Murray Hopper, computer scientist? “When Grace Murray Hopper was seven, she took her alarm clock apart to see how it worked. Her parents were impressed—until she took apart seven more. They limited her to dismantling one clock at a time, but they fully supported her education.”

Rachel Carson, Lives of the Scientists, illustration copyright Kathryn Hewitt

Rachel Carson, Lives of the Scientists, illustration copyright Kathryn Hewitt

Do you know the work of Chien-Shiung Wu, Zhang Heng, and Edwin Hubble? There are more familiar scientists as well, people like Jane Goodall, Albert Einstein, Rachel Carson, and George Washington Carver.

This book supports curiosity, investigation, and the pursuing of dreams … your kids will enjoy these three- to four-page biographies even if they’re more inclined to magic than science.

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There’s Nothing to Dooooooooo

by Vicki Palmquist

By this point in the summer when I was young, the charm of being out of school had worn off, I’d played every game on my grandma’s shelves, and I’d had a few fights with my friends in the neighborhood, so I’d retreated to reading as many books as I could, consuming stories like Ms. Pacman swallowing energy pellets.

When your kids claim that there’s nothing to do, here are a few suggestions for books that inspire doing things, thinking about things, and investigating more.

How Come? Every Kid's Science Questions ExplainedAs I was growing up, I believed that I didn’t like science or math. Turns out it was textbooks and worksheets and tests I didn’t much care for. Give me a paragraph like these two:

“One very big number was named by nine-year-old Milton Sirotta in 1938.

“Milton’s mathematician uncle, Edward Kasner, asked his nephew what he would call the number one followed by a hundred zeroes. Milton decided it was a googol.”

And the number naming doesn’t stop there. This tidbit is part of a chapter called “What is the last number in the universe”” found in How Come? Every Kid’s Science Questions Explained (Workman, 2014), written by Kathy Wollard and illustrated by Debra Solomon with wonderfully comic and lively depictions of the concepts in the text.

Other chapters address must-know topics such as “How does a finger on a straw keep liquid in?” and “Are ants really stronger than humans?” and “Why do the leaves change color in the fall?”

I probably don’t need to point out that kids aren’t the only ones who will find this book fascinating. Read a few chapters to yourself at night and you’ll be able to answer those endlessly curious children who pull on your sleeve.

PhotoplayFor the visually curious, and I believe that means Every Child, you’ll be inspired by Photoplay! Doodle. Design. Draw. by M.J. Bronstein (Chronicle, 2014).

Ms. Bronstein provides examples and workspace for kids to draw on existing photos (printed in the book), telling a story with those drawings or even writing a story. The book can be used in quite a few different ways … and then you can take your own photos and print them out for kids to continue having fun and using their imaginations.

Who Done It?A book that takes some investigation and one that looks like a book for very young children is actually a sophisticated guessing game. The humans and critters line up on Olivier Tallec’s game pages in Who Done It? (Chronicle, forthcoming in 2015).

A simple question such as “Who played with that mean cat?” requires looking into. Can you spot the most likely suspect?

For kids who are learning about facial expressions, body language, and taking one’s time to reason through a puzzle, this is an ideal book that will engender good discussions or occupy a few of those “there’s nothing to doooooo” hours of summer.

Who Done It?

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Teaching K-2 Science with Confidence

Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction and Nonfiction Books to Teach Life Science, K-2
Melissa Stewart and Nancy Chesley
Stenhouse Books, 2014

Authentic science always begins with a question, with a fleeting thought, with a curious person. That curious person has an idea, wonders if it is valid, and then tries to find out. Because wondering is at the heart of discovery, each Perfect Pairs lesson starts with a Wonder Statement that we’ve carefully crafted to address one Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectation. It is followed by a Learning Goal, which clearly specifies the new knowledge and essential understanding students will gain from the lesson. Together, the Wonder Statement, Learning Goal, and fiction-nonfiction book pair launch students into a fun and meaningful investigative process. (Perfect Pairs, pg. 8)

Perfect PairsMelissa Stewart, you and educator Nancy Chesley created Perfect Pairs for teachers because you felt that children’s literature could be a fun and effective starting point for teaching life science to students in grades K-2.

In your introduction, you state that “many elementary teachers do not have a strong science background. Some even report being intimidated by their school’s science curriculum and feel ill-equipped to teach basic science concepts. Building science lessons around children’s books enables many elementary educators to approach science instruction with greater confidence.”

Why does this matter to you?

Because students can tell when their teachers are comfortable and confident, and when they’re having fun. If a teacher has a positive attitude, his or her students are more likely to stay engaged and embrace the content.

So many adults are turned off by or even afraid of science. They say, “Oh, that’s hard. That’s not for me.” But science is just the study of how our wonderful world works. It affects everything we do every day. I hope that Perfect Pairs will help teachers and students to see that.

What type of science education did you receive that propels you to provide this aid to educators?

I do have a degree in biology, but my science education really began at home with my parents. My dad was an engineer and my mom worked in a medical laboratory. From a very young age, they helped me see that science is part of our lives every day.

As a children’s book author, my goal is to share the beauty and wonder of the natural world with young readers. Perfect Pairs is an extension of that mission. Nancy and I have created a resource to help teachers bring that message to their students.

For each lesson, where did you start making your choices, with the topic, the fiction book, or the nonfiction book?

We began with the NGSS Performance Expectations, which outline the concepts and skills students are expected to master at each grade level.  Each PE has three parts—a disciplinary core idea (the content), a practice (behaviors young scientists should engage in, such as asking questions, developing models, planning and carrying out investigations, constructing explanations, etc.), and a cross-cutting concept (pattern, cause and effect, structure and function, etc.) that bridges all areas of science and engineering. Here’s a sample PE for kindergarten: “Use observations to describe [practice] patterns [crosscutting concept] of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive. [DCI]

Just Like My Papa and Bluebirds Do ItNext, we searched for fiction and nonfiction books that could be used to help students gain an understanding of the target PE. The books became the heart of a carefully scaffolded lesson that fully addressed the PE.

In Lesson 1.7,How Young Animals Are Like Their Parents,” you paired Toni Buzzeo’s fiction title Just Like My Papa with Pamela F. Kirby’s nonfiction title, What Bluebirds Do. For this lesson, the Wonder Statement is “I wonder how young animals are like their parents.” Your lesson focuses on Inheritance of Traits and Variation of Traits, looking at similarities and differences.

With each lesson, you provide tips for lesson preparation, engaging students, exploring with students, and encouraging students to draw conclusions. What process is this establishing for teachers?

We hope that our three-step investigative process (engaging students, exploring with students, and encouraging students to draw conclusions) is something that teachers will internalize and adopt as they develop more science lessons in the future. The first step focuses on whetting students’ appetites with a fun activity or game. During the second step, teachers read the books aloud and work with students to extract and organize key content from the fiction and nonfiction texts. Then, during the final step, students synthesize the information from the books and     do a fun minds-on activity that involves the NGSS practice associated with the PE. The practices are important because research shows that children learn better when they actually “do” science.

This Wonder Journal entry shows what a student thinks a young bluebird might look like, pg 149.

This Wonder Journal entry shows what a student thinks a young bluebird might look like, pg 149.

In many cases, you’ve not only provided questions that teachers can ask their students, but you’ve included the answers.  Is this the only possible answer to the question?  

In many cases, we’ve included answers to help the teacher learn the science before working with his or her class. Many elementary teachers have a limited science background and need the support we’ve provided.

Our answers may not be the only ones that students suggest, but they are the ones teachers should guide their class to consider because they develop student thinking in the right direction for the concepts we are targeting in that particular lesson.

Establishing a STEM bookshelf in your classroom is one way to promote reading these books as a special experience.

Establishing a STEM bookshelf in your classroom is one way to promote reading these books as a special experience.

I appreciate the photos and examples and kids’ drawings you’ve included throughout the book. How did you go about collecting these visuals?

Nancy tested all the lessons in the book at Pownal Elementary School in Maine. She took the photographs as she was working with the students, and the student work in the book was created by those children. I love the photos because you can tell that the children are really enjoying themselves.

Students play the seed-plant Concentration game, pg. 225

Students play the seed-plant Concentration game, pg. 225

You provide more than 70 reproducibles to accompany the lessons in your book, from Wonder Journal Labels to Readers’ Theater Script to sample Data Tables to drawing templates. How did you decide which items to provide to teachers using your book?

Writing can be a challenge for K-2 students. We created the Wonder Journal Labels to minimize the amount of writing the children would have to do. The goal of the other reproducibles was to help teachers as much as possible and reduce their prep time. It was important to us to create lessons that were easy and inexpensive to implement.

Lesson 1.7 Wonder Journal Labels, pg. 299

Lesson 1.7 Wonder Journal Labels, pg. 299

To Melissa and Nancy, I express my gratitude for thoughtfully preparing this guide, Perfect Pairs, that will make science lessons an approachable part of lesson planning. Thank you!

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Hands-on History for Spatial Learners

Making HistoryWhen I was in elementary school, I was never more excited than when the teacher told us we could make a diorama or a miniature scene of a pioneer settlement. The concept, planning, and building were thrilling for me. Even though my finished work seldom approached the dazzling display I could see in my head, I learned a great deal about history, engineering, science, and cardboard from my forays into building a small world in three dimensions.

We know that some kids learn best this way. They are not only hands-on, but they are spatial and visual learners, people who learn best by seeing and doing.

If you know children like this, they’ll be delighted with Making History: Have a Blast with 15 Crafts (written by Wendy Freshman and Kristin Jansson), published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press.

With a short historical lesson, thorough supplies list, excellent photographs, and step-by-step instructions that include a call-out for adult involvement (using scissors or a hot glue gun) your favorite kids can make a Makak Generation Basket or an Ice House (model) or a Día de Los Muertos Nichos (a small shadowbox with skeletons depicted on them for the Day honoring the Dead).

metal repousse pendant

Introducing a Metal Foil Repoussé Pendant, the authors share that Alice and Florence LeDuc formed Hastings Needlework in 1888 to create and sell embroidered household items that were treasured by many as artwork. Bought by influential families and featured on magazine covers, their needlework was known worldwide. The Minnesota Historical Society has more than 800 of their patterns in its archives.

With metal foil, a foam sheet, and household supplies such as a pencil, pen, and scissors, your students can make a necklace or box ornament from a Hastings Needlework pattern, included in the book and thoughtfully supplied online.

Paul Bunyan Action FigureFor your visual and spatial learners, building a Twister Tornado (did you know that the Mayo Clinic was founded as the result of a tornado?) or a Paul Bunyan Action Figure is a sneaky but effective way to make learning memorable and engaging.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Literary Madeleine: The Horse

by Marsha Qualey

The Horse coverThe Horse: A Celebration of Horses in Art
Rachel Barnes and Simon Barnes
Quercus Publishing 2008

“We paint what matters to us…”

“Horses have always been part pf the human imagination”

                                           —from the introduction

While preparing for this month’s Bookology I read and looked at many books about horses, and this is the one that was totally (totes!) unexpected. I was wowed. Even better, after an initial perusal I felt compelled to page through it again and again, studying the text and savoring the images.

Cave Painting

Spotted Horse Cave Painting
Lascaux, France
Click to enlarge.

In art, paintings over a certain size are classified as “monumental.” This is a monumental book, 17’’ (h) x 14” (w). Accordingly, the reproductions—many on double page spreads—are much larger than any that could be viewed on a computer screen; further, the paper and image quality successfully convey the tactile element of the artwork.

The price tag is also monumental; that along with the size would make this book a questionable one to add to a school library or a personal collection, but its impact as a classroom or living room visitor is easy to imagine.

Horses, Basilica San Marco

The Horses of Saint Mark,
St. Mark’s Basilica
Venice, Italy
Click to enlarge.

History? You bet. The book is organized chronologically, from the cave painters to Picasso. How did the human relationship to horses change? Why? How did those changes show up in our art?

Science? You bet. The green patina on the bronze horses at Saint Mark’s in Venice is enough to trigger many conversations about basic chemistry and pollution.

The Piebald Horse

The Piebald Horse 1650-4 The Getty Center
Los Angeles, California USA
Click to enlarge.

Language arts? You bet. Begin with Paulus Potter’s painting, “The Piebald Horse.” Piebald. This veteran writing teacher smiles at the idea of using the word as a prompt for any number of writing exercises.

Of course, there would be some classroom cautions should the book be shared that way. Because the focus is on Western art, the early sections include a fair amount of Christian imagery. And—yet again—most of the (known) artists are white men.

The Horse Fair

The Horse Fair, 1853-5 Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, New York USA Click to enlarge.

The exceptions to the white-guys trope are fabulous, though, and they should be added to any list of report-worthy individuals:

Rosa Bonheur (The Horse Fair, left): “In order to make studies at the horse sale in Paris she obtained police permission to dress up as a man, so she could move more easily around the crowd” (p.123). 

Bronco Busting

Bronco Busting c.1925-35 Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC USA Click to enlarge.

Velino Shije Herrera (Bronco Busting, right): “Herrera was born in Zia Pueblo in New Mexico. He became recognized for his quotidian scenes of the Pueblo Indian Life … this work is signed with his Native American name Ma Pe Wi” (p. 184).

One final warning: this is not a lap book. To savor it you will need a table and time.

 

 

 

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Gravity

Gravity

What is gravity? I have a notion (after many years of school) that it keeps my feet touching the ground. When I jump into the air, I am defying gravity. What is Gravity? A book. Written and illustrated by Jason Chin, who previously gifted us with Redwoods and Coral Island and Galapagos. He has a […]

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The Fourteenth Goldfish

The versatile Jennifer L. Holm pens a fantasy this time around, but it’s a story suffused with humor and science, deftly asking a mind-blowing question: is it a good thing to grow old? So what happens when a 13-year-old boy shows up on your doorstep, arguing with your mom, who invites him in, and it […]

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Books Plus: The Goods by McSweeney’s

The Goods by McSweeney’s: Games and Activities for Big Kids, Little Kids, and Medium-Size Kids edited by Mac Barnett and Brian McMullen featuring Adam Rex, Jon Scieszka, and more Big Picture Press, an imprint of Candlewick Press, 2013 For your holiday gift-giving consideration … An oversized book filled with every imaginable distraction, this should be […]

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Cooking up a bookstorm

One of my favorite genres of reading is cookbooks. It all began when I was ten, the Christmas of 1963. My mother gave me Betty Crocker’s Cook Book for Boys and Girls, originally published in 1957 by Golden Books, illustrated by Gloria Kamen, and written by, well, Betty Crocker, of course! A lot of cooking […]

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Celebrating Earth Day

How did you celebrate? How about your classroom? Your library? Your family? We went to Joyce Sidman‘s publication party for Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors (Houghton Mifflin), illustrated with linoleum block prints by Becky Prange, who lives in Ely, Minnesota, and was trained as a scientific illustrator. When Joyce explained how Becky created the amazing timeline […]

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