GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, St. Louis, MO April 12, 2019, 1-4 pm.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 23 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 15-April 9.

See the full author list at GUEST POSTS BY SCIENCE AUTHORS and the date on which they will post.

Guest post by Carla Billups

Books have always been at the top of my list of favorite things growing up and as an adult. When I started teaching elementary education about thirty years ago, I was reintroduced to children’s literature and realized how much of an impact it had on my life. When I started reading a lot science trade books, I realized there were so many stories and information to tell that deal with science both fictional and non-fictional. Many of my students who showed no interest in novels enjoyed science trade books, and when students are interested, they read more.

As luck would have it while attending a welcome back to school event at our state arboretum, I met Dawn Cusick, a science trade book author. She and I live in the same area and are both educators so I took a chance to ask her about the process of writing science trade books. There were several ideas I shared with her and she agreed to to meet with me.

Fungus among us

We started working on different ideas, doing a lot of research and she asked me to help her with the book about fungus. In doing the research for The Fungus Among Us, the Good, the Bad and the Downright Scary, the information we were able to find was more abundant that we could ever have imagined, more than we could put into the book. One of the topics really peaked my interest is in the idea that fungus could possibly be an answer to some of the ecological issues that we are facing, most pointedly about plastics. Researchers and designers all over are looking at ways certain types of fungus can replace plastic or even break down plastics.

Ecovative Design is a company that develops alternative packaging and products made with mycelium and organic agricultural byproducts instead of plastic. When the user is finished with the product, instead of becoming trash, the product can be put on the ground and it will biodegrade. Ecovative Designs also has kits for educators to purchase so students can design something that can replace plastic. Once the mycelium is activated, it begins to grow, and can be molded into the student’s design, set aside and when the mold has filled in, it’s baked to stop the growing process. It’s a great engineering and design challenge for students, thinking of something that is plastic that they want to change to a more earth friendly product.

Because most fungus is not easily visible to our eyes, it’s not often noticed in the way it deserves to be. Increasing research is looking for ways to expand the use in so many innovative ways from building and recycling batteries to helping to save honey bees. It is a field that continues to grow. It will be amazing what the possibilities can bring.


Carla Billups taught science for for many years before becoming the Elementary STEM Coach for Buncombe County Schools in Western North Carolina. She has been on the faculty of the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy, where she worked with teachers from all over the country for fourteen years. She spends much of her time writing engineering and design curriculum for all subject areas. The Fungus Among Us, The Good, The Bad, and the Downright Scary is her first book and she was so happy that award winning author, Dawn Cusick invited her to collaborate on this book. She now has the writing bug and is looking forward to writing her next book. She lives in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina with her three cats and dog who inspire her every day! For more information, see Dawn Cusick’s website.

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