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Guest post by H.P. Newquist

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.

Chocolate and Valentine’s Day. They’re almost synonymous, aren’t they? They weren’t always linked, but “The Book Of Chocolate” explores the origins of this now-pervasive pairing.

Chocolate was a bitter drink prized by Mayans and Aztecs for its health benefits, and cocoa beans were used as currency in Central America long before Columbus showed up. When it evolved into an actual treat in Europe during the mid-1800s, chocolate became an expensive and rare food, regarded as something reserved for the rich and the royal. On those occasions when it was given as a gift by commoners, it meant that someone had made a financial sacrifice to buy it—and thus was showing a great deal of affection. Valentine’s Day was the day on which this affection was made most public.

As for all those heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolates, we can thank Richard Cadbury—of the famous Cadbury chocolate company—for indulging his artistic side in the 1860s and painting boxes to hold his family’s chocolates during special occasions. There is more on that particular history in the book.

Science plays an important role in the pairing of chocolate and Valentine’s Day. The chemical elements of chocolate that affect the brain may have unconsciously led people to equate chocolate with love. They affect the same parts of the brain that cause feelings of happiness and joy. Chocolate, oddly enough, is one of the most complex chemical combinations known to science. As of the most recent research, there are over six hundred chemical compounds in raw chocolate, ranging from theobromine to caffeine. In fact, there may be over a thousand chemical compounds; scientists are regularly finding more. The reason that we don’t know the exact number is because the chemistry of chocolate changes at every single stage of its production. Cocoa beans change their composition as they ferment; nibs change from heat during roasting; cocoa butter changes when it’s separated from the mass. It changes again many times when other ingredients and their own unique chemistries are added to the mix: sugar, milk, spices, fruits, and anything else that makes up the final product. Cocoa beans are so complex that scientists haven’t been able to come up with a substitute for them (like they have for sugar).

This latter point is what makes the story of chocolate a perfect springboard for science. All books are, of course, stories of one kind or another. And I’ve found that truly unique and interesting stories are often excellent vehicles for “stealth science.”

Chocolate: An Example of Stealth Science

Stealth science is a method of introducing readers to science without them thinking it is science, or without scaring them off by labeling it as science. In essence, readers are unaware that they’re learning any science. In each of my books, I weave stealth science into the theme of the story. For instance, in The Book Of Chocolate, one of the most fascinating elements of growing cocoa starts with a midge. The midge is a fly so small you can barely see it: a full-grown midge is barely 1/32 of an inch long. In order to stay airborne during flight, the midge’s wings must beat one thousand times per second. To understand how fast that is, you can blink your eyes five times a second if you’re incredibly quick about it. For each blink, a midge’s wings beat two hundred times.

This is a fascinating set of facts rooted in the realm of science (in this case, zoology). And yet, the reader isn’t told that this is a quick science lesson. It is a natural—and just as important, engaging—part of the story of chocolate. The science is extracted from everyday objects, environments, or situations.

In addition, I think science books and lessons best serve children (and adults) by being stories written from the outside in—a method of presenting stealth science, as it were. Too much of how we try to engage people in the sciences starts at the level of the atom or the seed—both of which are literally and figuratively invisible in our daily lives. Our normal observations about the world begin from the opposite perspective. For instance, people look at an orange, and they see the entire sphere before they see the seed. Kids peel the skin off an orange, break open the wedges, and suck out the juice before encountering the seed. The same is true of experiencing the internal workings of a car engine or a clock. In the realm of mechanisms, you learn by looking at the whole and then stripping it down, not by starting with an abstraction that is then created from seemingly disparate parts.

I use this approach in all my writing—for example, “The Great Brain Book” and “The Book Of Blood.” Kids are familiar with skulls and the entire brain, so I explored the brain’s anatomy by delving through the skin, the skull, the layers, and lobes of the brain until we got to synapses and axons and dendrites. With “Blood,” I began with the imagery and myth of blood in various cultures and our experience seeing it from cut fingers and loose teeth. That’s the fascinating “outside” element of blood that leads stealthily down into the spleen, bone marrow, corpuscles, and platelets.

This approach works well outside of books. I applied the technique to a traveling guitar exhibit, where people learn about electromagnetism, sound waves, decibels, pattern recognition, and other science-related elements by interacting with the guitar, the world’s most popular instrument. (The exhibit is in St. Louis at the Science Center, so stop by if you’re interested.)

Stealth science gets children and adults involved even if they have no idea they are subliminally learning. And it can be applied everywhere, every day: flowers, food, sports, clouds, buildings, computers; every single thing. If I’ve gotten a reader to think about the chemistry of chocolate—or about the culture of the Maya and Aztecs—when they’ve come ostensibly to learn about candy and cakes, then I’ve accomplished something.


HP Newquist is an author who has written about everything from technology to music. His most recent books are From Here To There (Viking/Smithsonian) and The Book Of Chocolate (Viking). He has won numerous awards for his work from science, academic, and library associations. Notably, of the 21 books given the Best STEM Award by the NSTA and CBC in 2018, two were written by Newquist. When not writing, he serves as director of The National GUITAR Museum and gives talks on artificial intelligence. Learn more about him at http://newquist.net/

A sweet romance isn’t what I set out to write. Instead, The Blue Planets World series, is science fiction for teens. And yet, as I plotted the story and created characters, I realized that a sweet romance would definitely add interesting emotional layers. Reluctantly, I decided to plot out this sweet romance.

Boy Meets Girl/Girl Meets Boy

A character’s entrance sets the tone for a story, so I decided to make the boy meets girl/girl meets boy scene into a big one. In Book 1, SLEEPERS, the meeting takes place in a coffee shop on Bainbridge Island (in Puget Sound, just off Seattle) where Em works as a barrista. Jake is new in town and sampling all the coffee shops. When he walks in, there’s a scene where he gets a good first-look at her and is smitten. She’s indifferent at first—of course.

To keep the scene from focusing too much on the romance subplot, the main plot takes a big shift in the coffee shop, too, when the antagonist Captain Hill walks in with his father. Jake eavesdrops on them until Em accidentally spills coffee on the Captain. He roars at her and Jake comes to her defense, thus revealing himself to the Captain. Using Jake’s interest in Em is the motivation to reveal himself. Here, the subplot provides motivation.

Using Tropes

In writing worlds, we often talk about the tropes of a genre. Tropes are literary devices such as metaphor, irony, synecdoche and so on. But in the sense used here, a trope is a general plot or character element that often occurs in a certain genre of novels. For example, fairy tales often end with “Happily Ever After.”

One tool I like it the website TVTropes.com, which lists many literary tropes and gives examples from television, movies, books, comics, and much more. Be careful! You’ll go down a rabbit hole when you start following the options for exploring a trope or genre.

If you look up Romance tropes you’ll also be directed to Chivalric Romance which then lists 66 sub-tropes, each with a page of explanation with its own set of links. There’s the Rags to Riches trope or the Trial by Combat trope

Sweets for a sweet romance.
Sweet Romances are appropriate for young YA, even if it’s Sci-Fi.

In other words, the tropes stimulate ideas. They give an easy set of options for the next plot step in a novel. There are so many tropes available that each story demands a unique set of tropes. I never worry about repeating someone else’s story because there are so many choices.

I found several options for sweet romance that I used in the story. The Almost Kiss is a good emotional moment where characters are about to kiss but something interrupts them. Long after, there could be a Relationship Upgrade https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RelationshipUpgrade when Jake and Em admit that they are a couple.

It might seem slightly mechanical to look at tropes like this, but I see it as freeing me to be more creative. Within the trope, how can I make the moment unique and memorable in my story.

Sweet Romance Takes Time

One nice thing about the choice of a sweet romance is that the pace of the relationship is slower. Em is introduced early in SLEEPERS, Book 1, but Book 2 follows Em closely as she takes center stage with her own family revelations because she’s adopted and discovers her real parents. TVTropes.com has multiple tropes on adoption, which again came in handy.

Since I knew this would be a trilogy of novels, I spaced out the relationship’s important moments. That also gave me opportunities to mesh together the main plot and the subplot. Writing teachers often say that the subplots must all be wrapped up before the final climax scene—except the romance. It’s common for the love interest to have a final scene so that the emotional resonance returns to the sweet romance.

The Blue Planets World Series is a YA sci fi saga. But for those who want to find it, there’s also a sweet romance subplot that enriches the story. Check out Book 1, SLEEPERS!

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.

Do you remember that kid who claimed bragging rights for knowing stuff? Let’s call him “Encyclopedia Eddie.” He annoyed me, to be honest. But I also secretly wanted to know as much as he did. He was the kid I had in mind when I started working on John Deere, That’s Who!.

From my experience writing an earlier book about tractors, I knew that most people who have seen the name “John Deere” on those ubiquitous green-and-yellow tractors and lawn mowers conclude that John Deere must have invented the tractor.

Wrong, friends. John Deere died about 30 years before the first tractor. And that fact alone would have been bragging rights for Eddie. But it wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to find out what John Deere actually did to make him famous. My line of inquiry had nothing to do with STEM—and everything, in the end.

My research for the book included reading books, scouring 1800s newspapers, viewing online archives, interviewing experts (including farmers and the archivist at the John Deere headquarters), and visiting the John Deere museums in Moline and Grand Detour, Illinois. I learned that John Deere was a pretty good blacksmith, which the little town of Grand Detour needed, especially since its location on the prairie meant that the farmers were banging up their heavy plows on the tall-grass roots all the time. BOOM. John had a problem to solve for his customers! John did hands-on research and figured out that steel would probably work better than iron. He brainstormed solutions, chose a design that might resolve the problem, built a prototype, tested it, and kept tinkering with it to make it better and better. His plow eventually changed America and his company went on to become one of the best-known farm-implement and equipment manufacturers in the world.

Now my job was to write that up, and make it interesting and engaging for young readers, including Encyclopedia Eddie. It had to a have a fun-factor. But what?

I tried lyrical prose à la Jacqueline Briggs-Martin’s Snowflake Bentley. My draft? Utterly boring.

Next, I revised the content into a series of poems, recalling Joyce Sidman’s Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold. Hers? Beautiful. Mine? Meh.

Then I played with the rhythm, repetition, tone, and voice, using The Extraordinary Mark Twain, According to Susy by Barbara Kerley and Just Behave, Pablo Picasso! by Jonah Winter for inspiration, among other outstanding biographies. Soon, I found my own way into John Deere’s story and things became more fun, for me and for readers.

After the book came out, a teacher emailed me to ask if John had used the Engineering Design Process. My first reaction was: His plow was developed in 1837—way before some fancy-pants innovation technique. Then I looked up “engineering design process.” Turns out, John nailed it!

So, when I say that the book had nothing to do with STEM, I mean that I didn’t set out to write a STEM book. I wanted to write the surprising story of one of America’s game-changers in an interesting and engaging way. Tim Zeltner’s beautiful artwork complements the effort and captivates readers, particularly visual learners. Together, I think we organically and authentically created a STEM picture-book biography—and that’s why it works.

When young readers discover a picture-book biography about a scientist, inventor, engineer, mathematician, or artist they know nothing about—or think they know everything about—magic can happen. Educators, librarians, parents: please, read the books aloud. Share the back matter. Then deconstruct the book together:

• Can you find technical information tucked into the story? What did you learn?

• Ask why this person mattered then, and why this person matters now.

• Discuss how the illustrations help tell the story (or not).

• Look for patterns in the illustrations and text.

• Ask how does this story change how you think about that time period, place, culture, etc.?

• What would you tell a younger reader about this book? About this person?

STEM/STEAM picture-book biographies can help stretch readers’ imaginations while conveying truths about our world, past and present. These books offer accessible ways to see how one person (or a group) can make a difference or lead to changes. Picture-book biographies can inspire more inquiry and reinforce STEM learning. They can even be fun to read, for Encyclopedia Eddie and the rest of us. 

I’m looking forward to talking more about picture-book biographies and other STEM books at the 2019 NSTA Convention’s Linking Literacy event on April 12-13, in St. Louis. And I’ll have a sneak peek there of my next book, Samuel Morse, That’s Who!

Who’s ready for some STEM-book fun? We are, that’s who!


Tracy Nelson Maurer has written more than 100 nonfiction books for children, including the award-winning John Deere, That’s Who! (Henry Holt) and Noah Webster’s Fighting Words (Millbrook). Her next book, Samuel Morse, That’s Who! (Henry Holt), launches June 25, 2019; it’s already a Jr. Library Guild Selection. She loves the writing process and talking about books. Come join the discussion!

Learn more at www.TracyMaurerWriter.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter (@ReadTracyMaurer).

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 Shana Keller

Tinkering? Forget it. If a toy broke, my mom threw it out. No matter how badly my siblings and I wanted to take our old Etch-a-Sketch apart—our gadgets and gizmos ended up in the trash. Always. What are you going to do with it? It’s broken! Don’t make a mess! —these were the common reactions to our requests.

It’s no wonder I grew up with the impression that ‘science’ was something other people did in a cold lab with petri dishes, or in a hidden office somewhere behind government walls and granite mountains. Over the years, the ‘science’ I was interested in, what I now know as reverse-engineering, was slowly pushed out of my reach.

So, when Ticktock Banneker’s Clock was nominated as a Best STEM book by the Children’s Book Council in 2017, my wonder came back in unexpected ways. I was excited to hear from teachers about their excitement to use my book, especially when I think back on how badly I wanted to build things and take them apart.

Thanks to the STEM/STEAM movement, there is a shift in how educators and parents view the world of science. The shift, even for myself and as a parent, is in realizing and remembering children have a “natural sense of wonder” and that it’s important to let them explore.

Parents and educators are seeing the value in what were once deemed silly games and hobbies. Games like twenty questions. Hobbies like collecting cicada exoskeletons, cloud counting, or, for lack of a better term, specie spying. I spent entire afternoons on a curb watching roly-polys roll, completely unaware my observations of these pill millipedes were scientific.

Rachel Carson, a renowned scientist said, “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”

As educators and parents, our biggest job is to share that wonder with them. To let them take apart their toys, to let them take pictures and draw sketches of what interests them, to encourage their observations and play. How fun would it be to show up in class and your teacher tells you, “Today, we’re dissecting toys.” Well, it’s happening.

These days, there are Maker Spaces and what I think of as Tinker Spots, found not only in schools, but libraries and children’s museums across the country. Last year, I had the honor of participating in a design challenge program that supported the Maker Movement in Pittsburgh. Those young inventors amazed me, not only with their products, but their fearless attitude towards science.

Science may have intimidated me as a child, but writing about it now, and in a way that inspires children to take their own actions, is simply amazing. I’ve seen how picture books can be used as launch pad to help children sift through their wonders. Take a look at the photo of a clock a young middle-schooler from south Florida created after reading Ticktock Banneker’s Clock!

There is no question that picture books can be used as a tool of research (but don’t call it that) to assist children when their natural curiosity takes over—even when and especially if they don’t have an adult that supports their interests.

To further this discussion, I will be a part of the Linking Literacy conversation at the NSTA National Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, April 12-13.  I look forward to meeting with educators, discussing ideas, and signing books!


Shana Keller writes books for children and young inventors. Entrenched in the world of STEM/STEAM, she is happy to share her experience filing a patent for her own invention. She serves on the Advisory Board for the Carter Center for K-12 Black History Education founded by Dr. LaGarrett J. King. In addition to Ticktock Banneker’s Clock (Sleeping Bear Press, 2017), Shana has two forth-coming picture book titles by Sleeping Bear Press. For more information, please visit her online at www.shanakeller.com.  

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 Anita Sanchez

When I was in third grade, I had a goal. A goal I pursued with single-minded enthusiasm, dedication, and energy. I was determined to get into Narnia.

I’d been enraptured by reading The Chronicles of Narnia, but reading about it wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to go to that magical land, smell the flowers, talk with unicorns, run my hands through Aslan’s mane. I wanted to have a real, hands-on experience, dragons and all. I spent a lot of time that summer prowling the back of my grandparents’ old wardrobe, tapping on the back wall.

Today, as an educator and writer, my goal has not fundamentally changed. I still want to experience things directly, hands-on, not through a computer screen, or even through the pages of a book. And that’s what I want for my readers, too: close-up, hands-on learning that engages all the senses. Ironically, I write in the hope that kids will stop reading my books—that they will get up and go outdoors, drawn by an irresistible curiosity to see for themselves what I’m writing about.

I’m a writer of science books for children, but my other job is being an environmental educator, working at nature centers and schools. I take students outdoors for science classes–students of all ages, from preschool to college. The tools of my trade are insect nets, hand lenses, feathers, mammal bones, and birds’ nests. During my classes we wade in streams, turn over rotting logs, watch chickadees, observe tadpoles. We get wet, scratched, mosquito-bitten, and muddy.

Over the years, I’ve noticed, it’s gotten harder and harder to persuade my students to leave the blacktop behind. Many children today have a disconnect with nature that is truly scary. Just the other day I led a group of suburban kids on a nature walk.

“Wow!” said one little boy, picking up something small and round. “I never thought I’d see one of these in real life.”

He was referring to an acorn. He’d seen one on TV, in the movie Ice Age, but hadn’t realized that acorns really existed.

Kids love to experience nature in books, on TV, or in the safe and virtual reality of a computer screen. They especially love the most dramatic parts of the natural world: sharks, tornadoes, piranhas, volcanoes. But few kids will ever witness a real volcanic eruption or swim with an actual great white—they’ll never experience these things directly. In my books I write about the adventures waiting to be had nearby, about the enchantment of finding earthworms and slugs, stomping through mud puddles and picking dandelions—things that kids might be able to find even in the most urban of schoolyards. My books are set close to home to open the possibilities of real-life nature exploration in every child’s environment.

My book Rotten! Vultures, Beetles, Slime, and Natu0re’s Other Decomposers (HMHKids, 2019)deals with the weird topic of decomposition. In researching it, I wanted to look for examples that kids could experience for themselves—opportunities to observe, touch, and yes, smell things in the act of decomposing. I didn’t have to look very far–decomposition begins when a kid takes a bite of hot dog, and small bits start decomposing between their teeth. Decomposition isn’t something that occurs only in the wilderness; things decompose every day in the refrigerator (mystery meat and green-furred cheese), in the lunchroom trash can, and on the playground.

In my books I often include activities to help students conduct their own experiments. In Rotten I added many sidebars titled: “Rot It Yourself.” I wanted to show my readers how to participate in science by adopting an earthworm, dissecting a rotting log, building a compost pile, or measuring rates of decomposition of buried paper vs. plastic in the back yard.

Perhaps the greatest learning experience when kids figure out how their own bodies work. In my book Itch: Everything You Didn’t Want to Know About What Makes You Scratch (HMHKids, 2018) I introduce young readers to something they don’t think about a lot–their own skin. The book explains how this marvelous organ works to protect them, why it gets itchy, and how it heals. It also explores the life cycles of some of the common itch-causing culprits like mosquitoes and poison ivy, and my hope is that the book will make kids less fearful of going outdoors.

I hope my books will help young scientists begin the process of asking questions and discovering their own answers. Finding ways to observe, touch, smell, and listen to the real world can help children have experiences more magical than any to be found in Narnia.


As a science writer, Anita Sanchez is especially fascinated by plants and animals that no one loves. Her books are intended to get kids excited about science and the wonders of the natural world. As an environmental educator for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, she developed curricula for environmental science programs serving thousands of students. Many years of field work and teaching outdoor classes have given her firsthand experience in introducing students to the terrors and joys of nature. She is the award-winning author of many books on environmental science for children and adults.   Anitasanchez.com

Excerpt from MY STEAM NOTEBOOK

“One item which seems quite naturally to be inseparable from you in your work is your notebook. Many years ago, during my Congo wanderings, I was given a ring file pocketbook, which has been a treasured and useful memento of that country for more than three decades. . .Jack Vincent, British ornithologist

Scientists tend to be fanatical about their notebooks. For those who get into the habit of recording in a notebook, it becomes a confidante. It includes their thoughts, actions, evaluations, dreams, speculations, observations, tedious lists of specimens, and much more. It’s fitting that young scientists turn to these historical journals for clues on what to include in their own science notebooks.

Observing Historical Science Notebooks

To write this book, I looked at hundreds of different notebooks from a variety of American scientists. Most came from the Smithsonian Field Book project and the National Library of Medicine. Notebooks from biologists and doctors are different. Throw in the notebooks from the Silicon Valley engineers housed at the Computer History Museum, and scientists’ notebooks expressed many different goals and approaches. Some emphasized one step of the scientific process more than another. Each notebook looks different because scientists were trying to accomplish different goals. Even the shapes of the physical books varied.

My STEAM Notebook: Helping Kids Write About Their Observations | MimsHouse.com

Engineers tended to emphasize idea generation, the design phase, or drawings of how to build something. Biologists tended to tell a narrative of observing or collecting specimens in the wild. In the laboratory, notebooks tended to be more procedural, or “this is what I did and how I did it.” Medical research included be exact chemical procedures in a laboratory. Notebooks for those researchers held pages of mathematical figures, dense tables of data, and little narrative. Doctors involved in public health, however, traveled to sites with disease outbreaks, worked with community organizers to make changes, or worked on public education campaigns. Their notebooks are often travelogues with notes on disease scattered throughout.

Some scientists were compulsive about writing down everything, while others merely jotted things now and then. Overseas travel often inspired a detailed diary, and then the scientist wrote nothing for a decade. But through the varied experiences of American scientists, the notebooks are there. Why?
Scientists felt compelled to keep a notebook for many reasons. For engineers, a notebook could be a legal document, the basis of a patent filing. Other scientists seemed to have a sense of destiny and wanted to record something for later generations to read. Others were just bugged by an idea and wanted to work it out on paper.

Essentially, they all had to address the basic question of all writing: who is your audience? Yourself or others?

Process v. Product based Science Notebooks

Most notebooks I looked at took a process-based approach, which means the notebook was a record of the process of exploring science. These notebooks were written by the scientists for themselves. Even when there was a sense that this record might be historically important, scientists often skipped days in recording data.

NSTA Recommends This Book for Writing About Science
The National Science Teacher’s Association publishes a site that recommends books for teaching science, NSTA Recommends. This is their review of MY STEAM NOTEBOOK
Reviewed by Steve Canipe
Director, Science, Mathematics & Instructional Design Technology

This book, written by Darcy Pattison and entitled My STEAM Notebook: 150 Years of Primary Source Documents from American Scientists, at first look might well draw a startled reception from teachers and parents. The reason for this is that the book is mostly blank pages. A reader might well think what is this? Ms. Pattison, the author, explains her reasoning for blank pages in the well–written introductory notes. She has poured through many scientific notebooks used by American scientists, ranging from those in the mid–1800s to the end of the 20th century and it appears her purpose is several fold. One, she wants to introduce the idea that all scientists keep a journal, notebook, or other record of their observations, experiments, experiences, etc. Two, she wants to inspire young scientists to start or keep doing good record keeping and has provided a blank template to follow. Read the full review here.

By contrast, most recommendations about student science notebooks take a product-based approach. Students must complete a project with certain required elements, and the teacher grades the notebook. Scientists are focused inward on their own goals, experiences, and projects. Students, because they produce a product-based notebook, must look outward. Scientists write for themselves; students write for their teacher. Like any writing project, audience is a key consideration of what and how something is written.

One element almost universally required in student notebooks is a question. Often called a focusing question, it serves to guide the rest of the inquiry. After examining historical examples of notebooks from scientists, I rarely found a focusing question. That’s not to say that the question wasn’t in the scientist’s mind, but it wasn’t expressed on the pages of notebooks. Scientists were usually clear in their inquiry goals and didn’t need to state the question so others could evaluate it. Again, it’s the difference between inward or outward facing purposes for a notebook.

Another way to say this is that process-based notebooks are best used for formative assessment, those which monitor student understanding and then modify the course work to aid understanding. Product-based science notebooks are best for summative assessment such as when the teacher evaluates and assigns a grade.

150 Years of American Scientists: Read Their Science Notebooks

The scientists whose notebooks are included here span about 150 years of American scientific study, from the mid-1800s to the end of the 1900s. In the process of researching available historical notebooks, I concentrated on seeking examples that would help students learn to use their own notebooks to record questions, observations, and conclusions. The historical notebooks are arranged here in a progression that will help students understand the potential for what a notebook can do for their scientific understanding.

My STEAM Notebook - Alexander Wetmore
Alexander Wetmore in Panama, where he collected bird skins.

Alexander Wetmore, nicknamed Alick (pp. 16-17), is presented first because his first recording of a bird occurred at age eight while in Florida on a vacation. He described the pelican as a “great big bird that eats fish.”5 Throughout his teen years, he kept a monthly record of all the birds he saw. By age 15, he had published his first article in 1900 in Bird Lore magazine, “My Experience with a Red-headed Woodpecker.” (See pp. 148-149 for a reproduction of that article.) Wetmore’s notebooks show that observations can be done at any age. Lifelong passions can begin in an elementary school science notebook.

If you pare it down to essentials, the only things recorded in a notebook are words and drawings. Of course, photographs, worksheets, or other memorabilia can be fastened inside the notebook, but what students will actually write are words and drawings. Students need to explore a variety of ways to use text and art.

Acc 01-096, Box 1, Folder 26; Page of field notes documents M. Moynihan’s behavioral observations of gulls (laridae) in South America. This messy notebook from Mortin Moynihan shows a labeled drawing, lots of text, and a bit of doodling.

Martin H. Moynihan (pp. 28-29) presents a variety of options: text only, drawings only and a combination of text and drawing. Sometimes, text dominates, and other times drawings dominate.

William Healey Dall notebook from MY STEAM NOTEBOOK, by Darcy Pattison
Dall drew three potty made my natives. Without the text, though, it’s impossible to understand the size of each pot. The sketch and text together provide the needed information.

Likewise, William Healey Dall (pp. 40-41) gives students a look at additional options possible in a notebook. He drew maps, native people, and interesting objects while he kept a careful record of his travels to Alaska. Look especially at his drawing of native pottery. While it’s interesting, the drawing alone doesn’t tell enough because we don’t know the scale. Only the text explains the size of each pot. Students need to learn to use text and drawings together to give a more complete understanding of what is observed.

Joseph Nelson Rose cactus expert, from MY STEAM NOTEBOOK, by Darcy Pattison
When Joseph Nelson Rose collected Cactus, it included photos, seeds, pressed leaves, flowers and descriptions of each cactus.

A basic skill that students need is the ability to make a careful observation. Joseph Nelson Rose’s cactus example (pp. 52-53) is excellent because he includes descriptions of color, size, shape, and number. Notice too that he uses scientific vocabulary. As students write in notebooks, observations will be more exact as they learn the scientific names for objects, anatomy, and so on. For that, use My Glossary in the back of this book. However, remember that students may also choose to define words in context.

Lucille Mann feeds a tiger cub. From MY STEAM NOTEBOOK, by Darcy Pattison
Lucille Mann feeds a tiger cub at the National Zoo. She accompanied her husband on animal collection trips and wrote narratives that bring the trips to life.

Lucile Mann (pp. 64-65) was the wordsmith in the family, leaving the public speaking to her husband, William “Bill” Mann, Director of the National Zoo. Because she worked first as an editor, her diaries are carefully typed and edited. One type of writing found over and over in science notebooks is a narrative, or a description of something that happened to them. Mann’s narrative writing skills are shown by her use of sensory details in her travel descriptions.

Boy holds a board showing tape worms taken from his body. From MY STEAM NOTEBOOK, by Darcy Pattison
Scientists Fred Soper worked in public health in the US and South America. One project worked to eliminate tape worms by building better public health toilets. This boy holds a board that shows the tape worms taken from his body.

Fred Soper (pp. 76-77) also recorded narratives in his diaries kept during public health work in Brazil. He not only records scientific observations, but does it with humor. His writing voice was warm, sarcastic and funny.

Shifting focus to the drawings in the science notebooks.

Acc 000229, Box 20, Folder 1; Photographs documenting Mary Agnes Chase’s field work in Brazil, 1924-1925. With Dona Maria.

Mary Agnes Chase (pp. 88-89) originally worked as a botanical illustrator. Early in her career, she learned to use a microscope which helped her make observations that brought her work to life. She also used photography extensively later in her career, and it’s interesting to discuss with students the role of a botanical illustrator as compared with a photographer. Illustrators are free to combine elements from different seasons: for example a flower and a fruit. Photographers are restricted to only what their cameras can record. Also look at how carefully her type-written pages are edited.

DONALD S. ERDMAN’S NOTEBOOK: RU 007428, Box 1, Folder 1; “Account book and one sheet of paper dating from the Spring and Summer of 1948. The account book contains lists of expenses, including the cost of purchasing specimens. The book also contains a number of sketches (some in color), labeled with genus and number (approx. U-48-123 to U-48-175), sometimes including sex, locality, and other information. Localities include the Red Sea. The sheet of paper contains a list of fish collected or seen in the Persian Gulf.”

While many of the scientists included drawings, Donald S. Erdman (pp. 100-101) took them to a new level with color (although shown in b/w here). But he didn’t use color just to use color. Instead, he describes the reason for color: that preserved fish quickly lose any color. For proper identification and understanding of the fish, color was required. Students should learn to use whatever tools are necessary to record observations.

Robert E. Silberglied (pp. 112-113) had an amazing eye for visual details. Notice the elaborate key and compass indicating north that he used on his map of Gomez Farias in Mexico. Silberglied also specialized in photography. He used ultraviolet light in his studies and photographed flowers in ultraviolet light. Optical microscopy allowed him to zoom in close on a butterfly’s wing. Though he didn’t use it, we introduce the idea of aerial or satellite photography and electron microscopy in the discussion questions.

Almost all these American scientists collected specimens. Throughout, you’ll see discussions of objects that are sent back home for further study. From Chase’s grasses to Wetmore’s bird skins, collecting items for further study is an important part of observation. Scientists were careful to record exactly when and where the items were collected. Often the descriptions involve a physical location (e.g. Silberglied’s “. . .2 miles off Mexican Highway 85”6) Temperature, weather, elevation and other conditions are often reported. Students need to learn to record these type of variables.

Watson M. Perrygo (pp. 124-125), as a taxidermist and museum curator, shows one of the final stages of observations and collection of specimens. The objects are available for various scientific studies, and they are also made available for the general public to view in a museum setting. The specimens are important historical snapshots of an ecosystem and can be compared to contemporary conditions. But they are also an entertaining way to learn more science. Museums write informational materials to help the public understand what they are seeing.

For more, see MY STEAM NOTEBOOK.

Guest post By Miranda Paul

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Those of us who love science and all things nerdy don’t have to be convinced to pick up the next STEM book. In our classrooms, there are children who gravitate toward nonfiction or fact-base chronicles of all kinds of phenomena. But we are at a time when a love for and a knowledge of science is increasingly important in society. How can we reach more readers, especially the children who might otherwise never pick up a nonfiction STEM title?

Nine Months: Before a Baby is Born by Miranda Paul
Images copyright Jason Chin 2019

Writing about the science in their life. Before it was titled Nine Months, I referred to my picture book as “The Story of You.” In my research, I tried to unlock some of the most captivating and relevant aspects of fetal development so that kids would feel an intimate sense of accomplishment. I wrote with the intention of astonishing them by the science of their own development and growth. I imagined their reactions, and then got to affirm them when I tested the advance copy with first graders:

I once had a tail?!

If I kept growing that fast, I’d be as tall as a skyscraper!

I didn’t know I could dream before I was even born. Wow, I’m awesome.

The text is based around the senses as they develop in utero—especially touch, sight, sound, and taste. Science happens every second of every day, and many adults can forget (or never learned, perhaps!) how extraordinary the ordinary can be—breathing, moving, swallowing. Though our paths into this world are varied and diverse, every human being on this planet has gone through much of what the developing baby in this book endures. The recto pages, which depict one family’s simultaneous story of getting ready for that new human being, positions the text (and the book) at the intersection of science and social studies—one of my favorite places to reside, professionally. The book becomes versatile in this regard, and as practical as it is beautiful.

Students pick up books for all kinds of reasons. Whether they want a short, accessible text or realistic, large illustrations or something that’s true and surprising or an introduction to the unknown, Nine Months has the potential to reach a range of young children. Older children—those who may be getting a new sibling or cousin, as well as those who may be only children or curious about their own development—can find a wealth of information in the four pages of back matter. Even the kid who may not be a science-lover surely will appreciate knowing more about how quickly a lion or cat can reproduce or how long an elephant’s gestation lasts, if they’re not already leaping around at the fact that they were able to do somersaults when they were “zero.”

Page from NINE MONTHS by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason Chin

Nine Months took me ten years to fully develop from concept to final text. It was the book I wanted for my daughter when I was pregnant with her brother. While there were sentimental, Hallmark-style titles about the love and preparation for a new baby, and there were great books about the facts of life, I wanted a book that combined both. A book of scientific accuracy PLUS wonder and emotion, portrayed in a meticulous and realistic way. I wanted a book that could be gifted to anyone from a toddler to a first-time mom as a baby shower gift to a teacher beginning a biology unit.

Month 4, NINE MONTHS by Miranda Paul

Expository nonfiction, especially STEM titles, have the power to reach readers who may not otherwise gravitate toward narrative nonfiction. And Nine Months combines the expository elements with a linear sequence that pulls the typical fiction reader in. Jason Chin’s incredibly detailed watercolors and actual size renditions, modeled after his own relatives (a diverse family not unlike our own) reminded me immediately of my own pregnancy. It’s the book I’ve been waiting for for ten years. But hopefully, it’s a book that fills a gap in classrooms, libraries, and households, too. Nine Months is ultimately the story of us all, and it’s hard to deny the miraculous science of our species once you know the details.


Miranda Paul is the award-winning picture book author of One Plastic Bag, Water is Water, Whose Hands Are These? and Are We Pears Yet?, the winner of a 2018 Award of Excellence from the Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries. Her 2019 titles include I Am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon, a Junior Library Guild Selection, and Nine Months: Before A Baby is Born, which has received starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly. Nine Months releases from Neal Porter Books at Holiday House on April 23, 2019. Learn more about Miranda at www.mirandapaul.com.

GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, St. Louis, MO April 12, 2019, 1-4 pm.
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See the full author list at GUEST POSTS BY SCIENCE AUTHORS and the date on which they will post.

Guest post by Baptiste Paul

In college, I was trained in the environmental studies field at Bucknell University. I did not know then that the skills I’d learn or the content I’d study would serve me well on the path toward becoming a children’s picture book author. But isn’t life experience and knowledge in any field important in creating nonfiction content for young children? Since my youth, I’ve always loved having a hypothesis and testing it. The worst that can happen is failure—something that most scientists acknowledge as a necessary step in any discovery.

I’ve had formal experience teaching in a classroom, so when I began presenting to children I also had to hypothesize about what they’d be interested in hearing about. I decided they might like to know more about the research process. For me, the most fascinating and rewarding part of my job as an author is connecting with kids through showing them my research. The children I encounter in the classrooms are curious. They want to learn about the world around them. In any given day, a curious child repeatedly will hear the words “no” and “stop” from the grown ups around them. I wonder if we, the adults, might ask those students open-ended questions instead—such as, can you tell me more about your project? Have you thought about this or that? What worked? What did not work? Or, what could we do differently here? Sometimes, the most important lessons come from failure. It’s okay for kids to know and embrace failure.

Two years ago, Miranda Paul and I took a trip to Cameroon to do research for our co-authored book I Am Farmer, which would become my debut STEM nonfiction picture book. The book tells the story of Farmer Tantoh, a Cameroonian environmentalist and humanitarian. We visited the places he grew up and worked and spoke with his mother, grandmother, neighbors, and school teachers. We learned that at an early age, Tantoh was curious about the environment and how things grow. Most of his learning was through experimentation and observation. Although his first experiment failed (he tried to plant onion bulbs on top of the soil and under the shade of banana trees), he never gave up—partly due to two encouraging adults who didn’t tell him “no” or “stop.” Tantoh wondered why his onions did not grow. Eventually, he sought help from his grandmother. Instead of reprimanding him for stealing her onions, she explained to him that plants need sunlight, dirt and water to grow. That was the moment when he realized that there was a process for everything. It was also led to a desire to learn everything, joked one teacher.

During his life, many people around him died from typhoid and other water borne diseases. Tantoh himself suffered from the disease for years. When he got better, he devoted considerable amount of time to learning about underground water systems and how they work. His work would eventually save thousands of lives. Since one of the biggest challenges still facing many villages in Cameroon is access to safe and clean drinking water, I Am Farmer is also a book about how one person continues to recognize a problem and implements a plan to reduce it. His method for accomplishing so much? Nurture others’ curiosity and teach them to utilize their energy and resources together.

I Am Farmer is a book about social justice and global issues, but it is refreshing to see there are many reviews that highlight this picture book for its STEM concepts to elementary and middle school audiences. According to one of the reviewers, “This story of hope and determination will appeal to anyone who cares about the environment. It has clear tie-ins to geography, environmentalism, and STEM that will make it perfect for the library and education markets.”

Looking back, it seems inevitable that an environmental science major who grew up with many similarities as Farmer Tantoh would write a book like this. But that’s the fun thing about life and science—the outcomes may or may not be predictable, but the processes are what get us there.


Baptiste Paul

Baptiste Paul is a Caribbean-born author of two books for children. His debut picture book, The Field,received starred reviews from Kirkus, The Horn Book, and Booklist. According to Kirkus, his co-authored book Adventures To School,will “will pique readers’ curiosity.” His picture book biography, I Am Farmer, chronicles the work of Cameroonian environmentalist Tantoh Nforba (2019, Lerner/Millbrook). Born and raised on the island of Saint Lucia, Baptiste is a native Creole/Patois speaker who enjoys reading his books and sharing about his experiences with anyone who will listen. Learn more about Baptiste at baptistepaul.net.


Historical fantasy draws upon real history but adds fantastical elements. World-building is a basic task for fantasy authors. Both fantasy and science fiction, by definition, take place in worlds outside our own. Contemporary fantasy may draw upon our known world, but it’s not fantasy unless some rules are bent to allow a fantastical element. Present day New York City isn’t fantasy until the Statue of Liberty comes alive and walks on water. (Or something equally fantastic.)

Historical Setting for Fantasy

But there’s nothing that says you have to invent everything. For example, Donna Jo Napoli chooses a particular time period for her retelling of fairy tales. Bound is a Cinderella retelling set in the 17th century Ming Dynasty in northern China. By setting it so specifically in a historical setting, Napoli doesn’t have to invent as much. Instead, she researches, sometimes for months. The beauty of this process is that she can also change anything she wants to fit the story. Unlike historical non-fiction, or even a straight historical novel, a fairy tale retelling can change the setting to be true to the story.

Liberty’s Historical Setting: Tall Ships

Liberty by Darcy Pattison

That’s what I’ve done with my middle grade novel, Liberty. It’s the story of two pigs who vow to sail the Seven Seas together. I always wanted to write a story with .

But pigs don’t sail. How could they hold onto the ropes with their hooves? How could they climb the rigging? It’s an interesting problem, but I was determined that they would sail the Seven Seas. I wanted to write a story about characters who set their sites on an impossible dream.

Once I decided on sailing, I knew I wanted to hark back to the 1850s when the tall ships ruled the seas. These are the huge sailing vessels which set world speed records for delivering goods to the Far East and India. That meant, the story must take place in a coastal town with a large harbor that was historically used for sailing ships. Boston.

Isn’t it cool to follow the chain of thought. One decision—the characters will sail—leads to the next—1850s tall ships—which leads to the next—Boston. Decisions are sequential and depend on each decision before it. If I changed a basic assumption (they wanted to sail), the entire story would collapse.
I looked for historical maps of Boston and had fun poring over them to decide where my hero/ines would lodge and work.

Liberty’s Plot

The plot also comes from these beginning decisions. The pigs, Santiago and Penelope Talbert, have one goal: to sail the Seven Seas. But to get there entails many steps. They have to escape Old MacDonald’s farm, cross the river into Liberty—the land where any person or animal can get ahead in the world, learn to sail, get a job on a sail boat, earn money for their own boat, and finally sail across the world. Nothing can be easy or the reader won’t stick around for the journey.

Specific details again went back to the setting. One thing that tall ships delivered to India was blocks of ice. Refrigeration wasn’t invented until sometime in the 20th century. In the 1850s, though, ice could be delivered in a city. Ice boxes were common and households paid for large blocks of ice to be delivered to keep things like milk and butter cool.

Ice was cut during deep winter. Crews went out to a pond or lake and cut out blocks of ice, which were packed with pine straw into ice houses. Of course, warm weather would start to melt the ice, but it could last long into the hot weather.

The tall ships were fast enough to carry ice blocks to India. They knew that half of the ice would melt before they arrived, but in India, ice was very expensive. The premium pricing available made it a profitable journey for an ice ship.

And there’s the setting that I needed. What if my pigs could apprentice on an Ice Ship, and sail around the world to India to deliver ice?

Historical settings reduce the work necessary for fantasy world building. But the author must still make choices on where and when to follow history blindly and when to make changes. For Liberty, that was easy because intelligent animals populate the world. That’s not historical, but it’s fun fantasy.

Guest post by Laurie Wallmark

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.

In choosing who was to be my next subject for a picture book biography about a woman in STEM (science, technology, math, engineering), I had to consider many factors—the availability of source material, existence of other kids’ books about her, and the importance of her contribution to STEM. The most important consideration, though, was whether the story of that person’s life and achievement would engage and inspire children.

Hedy Lamarr cover

Many adults have heard the name Hedy Lamarr. They think of her as a glamorous movie star, widely considered to be the most beautiful woman in the world. Few people, though, know she was also a brilliant inventor. Hedy co-invented the technology, known as spread-spectrum frequency skipping, which keeps our electronic devices—like computers, tablets, and phones— safe from hacking.

The more I delved into my research about Hedy, the more I realized she was so much more than her looks. As she put it, “People seem to think because I have a pretty face I’m stupid….I have to work twice as hard as anyone else to convince people I have something resembling a brain.” Although Hedy loved acting, she couldn’t wait for the end of each day’s filming. That was when she could work on her inventions in her home laboratory.

In thinking about Hedy’s life, I realized she would be a good role model (in some ways—not all) for young people. After all, many children have the mistaken idea that some interests and hobbies are incompatible with others. You can’t be a football player and like to sing. You can’t be good at math and be an artist. And you certainly can’t be smart and dress in the latest fashions.

I hope that by reading Hedy’s story, children will learn you don’t have to choose between their interests. (Not to mention they might learn a little science alone the way.)

Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life (Sterling Children’s Books) releases February 5, but is available for preorder now wherever fine books are sold.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

laurie wallmark childrens book author

Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark’s debut picture book, ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE (Creston Books, 2015), received four starred trade reviews (Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal) and many national awards including Outstanding Science Trade Book and Cook Prize Honor Book. Her picture book biography, GRACE HOPPER: QUEEN OF COMPUTER CODE (Sterling Children’s Books, 2017), earned a Kirkus star and is a Parents’ Choice Gold Medal winner. Her next book, HEDY LAMARR’S DOUBLE LIFE (Sterling Children’s Books), releases in February 2019.Laurie has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from VCFA.

Find her online at her LaurieWallmark.com, Facebook or Twitter

By Anna Crowley Redding

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.

Hello, science teachers, educators, readers, and fellow writers!  I am thrilled to be a guest blogger on the MimsHouse blog today to share with you an idea that is going to prepare our students for the enormous technological revolution at humanity’s doorstep. I’m talking artificial intelligence, mass acceptance and use of driver-less automobiles, medical breakthroughs, human colonies on other planets, etc. This is such an exciting time to be alive and engaged in all things STEM/STEAM!

I am on a mission to help students of all ages fall in love with problem solving––which really means, falling in love with failure. Honestly, this came naturally to us as toddlers. When we were conquering walking, we fell almost every time.

Sometimes this led to tears. But more often than not, it meant making an adjustment in our balance, gait, or focus. Sometimes, all that was required was a little bit more confidence in taking that leap of faith that we could, in fact, make it two steps without holding on!

Google It by Anna Crowley Redding

The same was true with building towers out of blocks. When the tower crashed down over and over again, we eventually learned engineering (build a stronger foundation) and physics (don’t cantilever that rectangle block quite so much and oh, gravity…ugh.) And you probably figured out there are few block structures that can survive the “curiosity” of a younger sibling.

But somewhere along the way, this spirit of trial and error is often replaced with a quest to get the answer right the first time. Perfection becomes the goal. Our shift is changed from the process to the answer. And not just any answer. No, the right answer. On our first try. And really what that means is falling out of love with problem-solving in falling in love with perfection.

Believe me when I tell you that you are reading the words of a Type-A person who loves getting things right. But writing Google It: A History of Google (Feiwel and Friends 2018) and Elon Musk: A Mission to Save the World (Feiwel and Friends 2019) was an eye-opening experience for me! The two students who invented the Google search engine didn’t set out to do so. They set out to solve a problem. Solving that problem resulted in nothing less than organizing the internet. Organizing. The. Internet.

When Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, started his rocket company (from scratch), it wasn’t to indulge his childhood pastime of building launchable rocket kits. No, he started from scratch because he realized the United States had no plan for getting to Mars. And for Elon, getting to Mars solves a specific problem that had weighed on him for years: a mass extinction event like catastrophic climate change, a planet destroying asteroid strike, etc.

In both cases getting these companies off the ground, solving all the mini-problems that cropped up meant failing over and over and over again. Back to the drawing board, tweaking, changing, adjusting and even starting over. This process required asking fundamental questions, cleaning the slate of conventional wisdom and assumptions so you can think about the problem in a new way.

Elon for example, traveled to Russia three times to buy inter-continental ballistic missiles. (Yes, it’s true). But, to hear him tell it, he quickly discovered they were artificially overpriced. Why not build a rocket himself? And to do that, he had to ask himself questions like this one: What is a rocket anyway? If a rocket is made out of these particular atoms, what’s the best way to arrange them?

Answering these questions and others with a successful, less-expensive rocket was no easy task. But he did it. And he accomplished this by dedicating himself to the question, to the problem, and not the solution. Had he dedicated himself to the solution, he might have spent all his money on those Russian ICBM’s, and maybe something would have gone wrong. And, then, what if he no longer had the money to solve the original problem of ensuring humanity survives an extinction event?

Enter today’s students, teachers, writers, and readers. How can we shift our focus back to falling in love with problems, dispensing with convention and dearly held assumptions? What if we pushed our thinking in new directions? What if students began hunting for problems, and trying different ways to solve them? And what if we, as coaches and mentors, let them fail––so that ultimately, they might solve a problem.

These ideas are at the heart of my books. Taking a deep dive into the lives of people who devote themselves to problem-solving has changed my perspective. I’m inspired and I want to share that love for tackling the unknown, the uncharted, and the unsolved with all of you.

In addition to the amazing NSTA BEST OF STEM books on the 2019 list, here are some other books that might encourage your students and support them on their problem-solving quests! See you in St. Louis!

Anna

p.s. (Full disclosure, tonight I am teaching my 7-year-old how to chop garlic and my biggest challenge will be to close my mouth and breathe until he figures it out without me taking over!)

For your youngest readers:

The Rabbit Listened. By Cori Doerrfeld –  Oh this book! Let’s face it, failure is necessary. But my goodness it can come with a heap of emotions. This book is a beautiful and gentle primer in how to handle those feelings and how to support your friends.

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

Chapter Books:

Any mystery series. After all, solving a mystery is solving a problem. But let’s face it, mysteries make the process even more fun than closing the case! Nate the Great, A-Z Mysteries, The Magic Treehouse, and so many more.

Middle Grade:

I Survived Series by Lauren Tarshis. Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett. So many more!

Young Adult:

Google It: A History of Google – How Two Students’ Quest to Organize the Internet Changed the World by Anna Crowley Redding

Anna Crowley Redding, children's book author

ANNA CROWLEY REDDING: Before diving into the deep end of writing for children, Anna Crowley Redding’s first career was as an Emmy-award winning investigative television reporter, anchor, and journalist. The recipient of multiple Edward R. Murrow awards and recognized by the Associated Press for her reporting, Redding now focuses her stealthy detective skills on digging up great stories for kids and teens — which, as it turns out, is her true passion.

Guest post by Heather Montgomery.

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.

Inquiry. It’s a process we all know. Research shows its power, and as people who want young minds to grow, we all know its value. But, how do we jump-start inquiry?

Something Rotten by Heather Montgomery cover image

In my own experience, the greatest learning has come when I have had to fill in the gaps. What if we could provide that opportunity to kids?  

Here’s how it happened to me one day:

I was minding my own business, dissecting a road-killed snake. Not finding any good info on that particular species’ anatomy, I googled up a diagram of a related snake. As I snip-snipped my way through those gushy guts, the parts in front of me didn’t line up with that neat little diagram.

My mind insisted that I dig deeper.

I clipped, I snipped, I slipped all of the parts out on the table. With things sprawled out, I could see things were missing. What was wrong? Sudden I had questions and I had hypotheses. Two hours later I found myself feeling like I had made the discovery of a lifetime.

Now, what I learned that day was not new to science but it was new to me and I’ll never forget it. That process of trying to make the pieces line up, of trying to rectify the difference between the printed page and the real world, of trying to settle the cognitive dissonance going on in my mind – that is where the true learning set in. It is what prompted a 12-year journey and resulted in Something Rotten: A Fresh Look at Roadkill.

What if we set students up for that? What if we give them the opportunity to fill in the gaps? What if we let them craft their own stories of discovery?

But trusting that process when crafting lessons (and books) can be hard. And putting this into practice can seem daunting. There are expectations, standards, and deadlines to meet.

How can we set up young minds for inquiry?

When teaching about metamorphosis, what if we give them a diagram of a butterfly lifecycle but a jellyfish as a subject?

Think of the standards they’d address without even knowing it:

Cover Little Monsters of the Ocean by Heather L. Montgomery
  • Asking questions
  • Developing models
  • Cause and effect
  • Patterns
  • Compare and contrast
  • Integrate knowledge from illustrations

What if we make the statement: “Bugs are just like people.” Then let the students prove us wrong (or right)? You know those students who like to prove us wrong – they will be engaged.

Bugs Don't Hug
  • Engaging in argument from evidence
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information
  • Patterns
  • Distinguish point of view
  • Opinion writing

What if we set up their lab exercise for failure? When what they find in their pan can’t possibly match what is on their worksheet? Think of the critical thinking that could go on! The analysis, the evaluation, the leaning close and scratching of heads? The whispering to the partner? The decision about ignoring the mis-match or actually using the evidence in front of their eyes?

  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Constructing explanations
  • Structure and function
  • Provide reasons supported by facts
  • Write informative texts

A young man, Francoise Malherbe, who lives in South Africa became fascinated by bones when he was 3 years old. After a meal, he asked his father for the fish bones. As he grew, he kept collecting bones and started piecing the skeletons together. By age eleven he was collecting one road-killed animal a month and rearticulating it. Can you imagine what Francoise was learning? When you go to re-build a giraffe there are no easy instructions.

This is the kind of story that fuels my writing. This is the kind of thinking that fuels me as an educator. When inquiry takes over, genuine learning happens. Where can I leave gaps for kids to fill in their story?

Come join me at the Linking Literacy event during the NSTA National Conference, St. Louis, MO, April 12-13. There will be panel discussions, small group conversations with authors, and book signings.

Can’t make it? Check out #FreshLookAtRoadkill to follow the inquiry story.  

———-

Heather L. Montgomery writes books for kids who are wild about animals. An award-winning educator, Heather uses yuck appeal to engage young minds. Her recent titles include: Little Monsters of the Ocean: Metamorphosis under the Waves (Millbrook Press, 2019), Bugs Don’t Hug: Six-Legged Parents and Their Kids (Charlesbridge, 2018), and Something Rotten: A Fresh Look at Roadkill (Bloomsbury, 2018). Inquiry is her life.

www.HeatherLMontgomery.com 

Guest post By Jessica Fries-Gaither

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.

Meet the Authors at Linking Literacy Event, 2019 NSTA Convention April 12, 2019

When I began my career as a science educator 20 years ago, I knew that my job was to provide interesting learning experiences for students to engage in scientific practices and learn science content. Through fabulous colleagues and professional development, I’ve deepened my understanding of research-based instructional strategies and have become more effective. What I didn’t expect, however, was that my view of my role would dramatically change.

You see, I’ve come to realize that above anything else I do, my primary role is to help students see themselves as scientists. It’s not enough for them to understand concepts and be able to perform skills (although both are undeniably important). Instead, I believe, it is crucial for each student to develop an identity as someone who approaches the world in a scientific way. These dispositions remain long after facts are forgotten, and help students persist in challenging situations.

I’ve also learned that one effective way of helping students develop their identities as scientists is to connect their work with historical and contemporary scientists. While the range of excellent picture book biographies has expanded greatly in past years, there was still a missing link between students’ classroom activities and the work of professional scientists. And so I began writing children’s books to fill that gap.

Notable Notebooks

Notable Notebooks

My first book, Notable Notebooks: Scientists and Their Questions (NSTA Kids, 2016) profiles a group of nine diverse scientists throughout history and how keeping a notebook or journal was or is an integral part of their practice. Readers learn about the work of scientists such as Galileo, Jane Goodall, and Ellen Ochoa and even get to see snapshots of some of these historic notebook entries! The book ends with simple instructions for making and keeping a scientific notebook — perfect for kids reading this outside of school or those new to the practice. Rhyming text is aimed at students in grades 3-5, and Linda Olliver’s beautiful illustrations bring each scientist’s work to life!

The book has been quite a success, being named an Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12 and even being sent to the International Space Station to be read by an astronaut as part of the Story Time From Space program. I’ve also heard from teachers across the country (in elementary, middle, and even high school) that their students love the book and their science notebooks, which is incredibly rewarding. It has been used as the kickoff for a year of science notebooking, a connection to existing practice, or even the launching point for a biography study of scientists.

Exemplar Evidence

Exemplar Evidence

My newest book, Exemplary Evidence: Scientists and Their Data (NSTA Kids, 2019) was released in December and I couldn’t be happier to share! A follow-up to Notable Notebooks, Exemplary Evidence profiles another set of nine scientists, including Alhazen, Nettie Stevens, and Marie Daly. In this book, the focus isn’t on record keeping in a notebook, but as the title suggests, the collection of data in both qualitative and quantitative forms. Just as in Notable Notebooks, each scientist’s story is told through rhyming text and accompanied by Linda’ Olliver’s gorgeous illustrations. The final two pages of the book walk readers through four steps of data collection and analysis.

While the target audience is children in grades 3-5, I suspect that other ages will enjoy and benefit from the book as well. I’m eager to hear how this book is used in classrooms and homes across the country.

If you attend the NSTA National Conference in St. Louis, MO in April, 2019, I will present on the topic of developing students’ identities and science and will also be part of a special series of events related to science and literacy on Friday April 12, and Saturday, April 13. I’d love to see you there!



Jessica Fries-Gaither

Jessica Fries-Gaither is the Director of Studies and the elementary science specialist at the Columbus School for Girls in Columbus, OH. An experienced science educator, Jessica has written two books for science teacher as well as two picture books for NSTA Press. More are in the works! Her website is https://www.jessicafriesgaither.com.

READ MORE:



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 Posts by Science Authors

Here’s the schedule of authors and when they will post!

>>

January 15 Jessica Fries-Gaither Exemplary Evidence: Scientists and Their Data
January 17 Heather Montgomery Something Rotten: A Fresh Look at Roadkill
January 22 Anna Crowley Redding Google It: A History of Google
January 24 Laurie Wallmark Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life
January 29 Baptiste Paul I Am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon
January 31 Miranda Paul Nine Months: Before a Baby is Born
February 5 Anita Sanchez Rotten! Vultures, Beetles, Slime, and Nature’s Other Decomposers
February 7 Shana Keller Ticktock Banneker’s Clock
February 12 Tracy Nelson Maurer John Deere, That’s Who!
February 14 HP Newquist The Book of Chocolate
February 19 Carla Billups/Dawn Cusick The Fungus Among Us, the Good, the Bad, and the Downright Scary
February 21 Ann Rubino Emmet’s Storm & Inga’s Amazing Ideas
February 26 Mary Kay Carson Alexander Graham Bell for Kids
February 28 Darcy Pattison Clang
March 5 Jodi Wheeler-Toppen Dog Science Unleashed
March 7 Suzanne Slade Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon
March 12 Melissa Stewart Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers
March 14 Katherine Roy Otis and Will Discover the Deep
March 19 Jen Swanson Astronaut-Aquanaut
March 21 Patricia Newman Eavesdropping on Elephants
March 26 Heidi E.Y. Stmeple Counting Birds
March 28 Jennifer Ward Mama Dug a Little Den & I Love Birds!
April 2 Alexandra Siy Footprints on the Moon & Voyagers Greatest Hits (as a read-aloud)
April 4 Shanda McCloskey Doll-E 1.0
April 9 See You at the Conference – Wrapup Post

Opinion essays and informative essays

Mentor texts help kids write great opinion and informative essays. Opinion essays are often considered one of the hardest essays for kids to write. Partly that’s because they are still developing opinions about many topics. But party it’s hard to give the reasons behind an opinion.
Narrative, Informative & Opinion Essays Printables | MimsHouse.com

Opinion Essay: Choosing a Topic

The difficulties in writing an opinion essay begin with the topic selection. Too often, the topics assigned don’t offer real options. For example, an opinion essay about changing bedtime from 7 pm to 9 pm offers very little to write about. Of course, kids want to stay up later, and of course, parents will say no.
Kids can’t articulate a reason for staying up late, except that they WANT to.
On the other hand, elementary essays about sensitive political topics aren’t useful either.
Instead, it’s helpful to think about topics for which there are clear criteria.

Criterion are rules or ideas that control how you evaluate things.

If you have a criteria that students are always polite in the classroom, then you can evaluate every statement against this criteria. Was there comment polite or impolite?
We often have multiple criteria for choosing something. These criteria help us form an opinion.

HGTV’s House Hunters

One fun thing to do with kids is to choose an appropriate episode of HGTV’s House Hunters to watch and discuss. I especially like the International House Hunter’s version since they focus on housing in other countries. Each episode follows a family as they look at and evaluate 3 different housing options. At the end, there’s always a grid comparing the options based on criterion appropriate for that family.

Example:

  • Big Garage
  • On a Lake
  • Big Yard

There’s always a compromise because no house ever meets all the family’s criterion. It’s a great example of using criterion to form an opinion and make a choice.

Dogs and Cats

One of the easiest elementary opinion essay topics is what breed of cat or dog is best for a student’s family. That’s because there are simple online engines that help students sort through the variety of breeds.

Dog Breed Selector Tool from Animal Planet
Cat Breed Selector Tool from Animal Planet

This simple tool uses ten criterion for choosing a dog breed: size, energy level, exercise needs,play needs, affectionate level, presence of other pets, training, protection, grooming, and climate. At the end of the quiz, the app recommends a breed and gives alternates based on your criterion. Students can also add their own criterion such as family tradition, health of family member, personal preference, hunting needs, and so on.

Writing the Opinion Essay

Once the criterion are clear, it’s easy to add the needed details to an opinion essay. One girl, for instance, said that her dad had back problems and couldn’t lean over. Therefore, he needed a big dog so he could still pet the dog. Another said her Grandma always liked lap cats, so she needed a cat who would enjoy the constant contact. Each family will present different circumstances, which means each student’s essay will be unique.

Out of the ten criterion from the tools, plus the individual circumstances criterion, most students will focus on 3-4 criteria. Each criteria can be discussed in a separate paragraph, which makes the essay’s structure simple.

Opinion Essay Mentor Texts

I Want a Dog cover. Opinion and informative essays | MimsHouse.com
Make Opinion Essays simple with this mentor text!
Our titles, I Want a Dog and I Want a Cat are mentor texts for going through the process of answering the criterion questions. Cousins Dennis and Mellie must decide on the best dog or cat for each family. They talk about the different needs of each family. Each book culminates with an essay that serves as a mentor text for writing an effective opinion essay.


I Want a Cat- Opinion and Informative Essays | MimsHouse.comWriting opinion essays are easy for elementary students when you start with criterion. It allows the students to evaluate choices based on something other than whim or un-reasoned opinions. By starting with a simple choice about the best pet for a student’s family, you bring the topic to their interests and knowledge level.

DOWNLOAD PRINTABLES FOR THE READ AND WRITE SERIES

Read And Write Series -Complete Handouts | MimsHouse.comClick to Download

Writing the Informative Essay

Likewise, informative essays about cats and dogs are simple for elementary students because there’s so much information.

One strategy is to write about cat or dog breeds. For example, there are several classes of dog breeds: working dogs, toy dogs, and so on. It’s simple to research these broad categories of dog breeds and write a well-organized essay. Each category will receive its own paragraph. Look for topics with a similar built-in structure!

My Dirty Dog. Opinion and informative essay mentor texts.

Another type of essay required in elementary school is the how-to informative essay. These essays are essentially instructions on how to do or accomplish something. My Dirty Dog: My Informative Essay provides mentor texts for a how-to informative essay and one for an informative essay based on categories. The trick to getting these essays right is the time words: first, next, before, after, last and so on. When students understand these words and concepts, it’s easy to put the steps in the right order.

One way to facilitate this is to present the steps on separate cards and put them into the correct time order.

Use these mentor texts and the printables to make opinion and informative essay writing in your elementary classroom a fun and simple lesson.

Wisdom Returns to Midway Island

The US Fish and Game service announced this week that Wisdom, the Midway Albatross has returned to Midway Island for the 2018 nesting season. And she’s laid an egg! They say, “Wisdom and her mate Akeakamai return to the same nest site on Midway Atoll each year. Albatross often take time off to rest between egg-laying years, but the pair have met on Midway to lay and hatch an egg every year since 2006.”

Photo of Wisdom on Midway Island 2018
Wisdom and her egg on Midway Atoll in 2018. Photo credit Madalyn Riley /USFWS. Click to read their article.

I first heard her story in 2011, because she survived the Japanese tsunami that struck in March that year, killing thousands and destroying a nuclear plant. Even seven years ago, it was an amazing story of survival. That’s when I worked with illustrator Kitty Harvill to write her story.

How Old is the Oldest Wild Bird in the World?

Answer: The oldest wild bird in the world is at least 68 years old.

  • How to a bird’s age? We don’t know exactly how old Wisdom, the Midway albatross is because no one was there at her birth. However, she was banded on December 10, 1956, or sixty-two years ago. At the time, she was nesting and the minimum age for these birds to breed is 5-6 years old. That means Wisdom is at least 67-68 years old, but may be much older.

    Ornithologist Chandler Robbins who banded her said in 2012, “While I have grown old and gray and get around only with the use of a cane, Wisdom still looks and acts just the same as on the day I banded her.” Robbins passed away in March, 2017.

    We must quickly qualify this answer: Wisdom is the oldest known wild bird in the world.

  • Known: If Wisdom is 68 years old, there are likely older birds, but they just didn’t get banded. With over 650,000 Laysan albatrosses nesting on Midway, it’s impossible to band every one.
  • Wild: There are older birds in captivity. For example, Cookie the Cockatoo lived to be 83 years old.

Wisdom, the Midway Albatross

Starred PW review.

Wisdom, the Midway Albatross |MimsHouse.com
Read Wisdom’s Story NOW!

Cover: Clang! Ernst Chladni's Sound Experiments | Great Science Experiments book for kids. | Mims HouseClang! Ernst Chladni’s Sound Experiments has just been named a 2019 Outstanding Science Trade Book by the National Science Teacher’s Association! See the full list here.

national science teachers association outstanding trade book sealHere’s what the NSTA says about the CLANG!:

A sound representation of sound! Takes the, sometimes hard to grasp, concept of sound and sound waves and makes it fun to learn.

Historical Accuracy of Clang!

The book is about German scientist Ernst Chladni (KLOD-nee) being presented to Emperor Napoleon. We have a historical record of Chladni’s visit. He wrote about the event for a German music magazine, which is quoted verbatim in his biography. The event was important for Chladni, because he was looking for financial backing to rewrite his book about acoustics, or the study of sound. Napoleon did finance a translation of his German book into French, and while translating it, Chladni updated it.

Science of Sound in Clang!

It’s great that the NSTA recognizes that the book makes the subject of sound and sound waves easy and fun for kids. My master’s degree is in Audiology, or the study of sound. Audiologists test hearing, fit hearing aids and other duties related to hearing and hearing loss. Sound is what I studied in college.

It was interesting to take a subject that I know well and make it fun for kids. For example, the different musical instruments make sound in different ways:

  • Piano – vibrating wires
  • Clavicylinder (Chladni’s invention) – vibrating glass, a solid
  • Pipe organ – vibrating column of air
  • guitar – vibrating wires/strings
  • Brass plate – vibrating solid

This video demonstrates Chladni’s experiment with modern equipment.

If you can’t see this video, click here.

This video shows a home-made version of the experiment which should be easy to replicate in your classroom. Start at about the 4:00 minute mark:

If you can’t see this video, click here.

Companion Book, Outstanding Science Trade Book: Nothing Stopped Sophie

Amazingly, another 2019 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book is related to CLANG! Ernst Chladni freely admitted to Napoleon that he didn’t understand the math behind the sound experiments. Napoleon offered another cash prize of 3000 francs to any mathematician who could write the acoustic formula. Eventually, it was won by Sophie Germain, the first woman to win a prize fromt he Paris Academy of Sciences. That story is told in Cheryl Bardoe’s book, Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain.
Nothing Stopped Sophie, companion book for CLANG! | MimsHouse.com

These would make great companion books as you study sound and talk about the math of sound.

A Versatile Scientist

One of the more interesting things about Ernst Chladni is that he’s known as the father of two branches of science. He’s the Father of Acoustics, as detailed in the book. His sound experiments, though, took him around Europe, and as he traveled, he became interested in strange rocks. The rocks were meteorites, and Chladni was the first person to suggest that meteorites came from outer space. He’s also known as the Father of Meteoritics.

ORDER eBooks here on the Mims House website. Or order from your favorite online distributor or educational distributor (Follett, Mackin, Child’s Plus, Permabound, Overdrive and so on.)

Survival: World War II

70 years ago, my father, Private Henry B. Foster, was fighting in the Philippines, when the Allied Forces were overrun by the Japanese Fourteenth Army, resulting in the famous Death March, which sent 78,000 soldiers to the Camp O’Donnell as prisoners of war. Private Foster was on Corregidor, also known as “The Rock,” a tadpole-shaped island which divides the entrance of Manila Bay into the North and South Channels.

As the U.S. forces were cut off from supplies, conditions became difficult and at one point, rations were cut to 1/16 of a normal day’s food. Then, came the surrender on May 6, 1942 and removal to Camp O’Donnell to join those from the Death March. There, the conditions were so harsh, my father told stories of men who decided that no human should live this way; they turned their head to the wall and were dead in a few short days. But Private Foster was a survivor.

Survival Stories: Private Foster, WWII | MimsHouse.com

Two years later, when the tide of war turned, the POWs were taken by boat to Japan, herded into large cargo holds. (I actually found the name of his boat, and a list of passengers, which included his name.) My father climbed up into the pipes along the ceiling to be above the filthy, overflowing honey pots (latrines) and hopefully avoid some of the inevitable disease and sickness. They were fed boiled eggs, a smell which ever after he despised. For the year they were on Japanese soil, prisoners were on such short rations that everyone was emaciated, surviving on whatever rats or snakes they could capture. Once, they were allowed to visit a nearby river to bath. As he looked into the water, he wondered who that old man with white hair was, only to realize it was his own reflection. He contracted beri-beri and scurvy from vitamin deficiencies, and his gums were so infected that eventually he had to have all his teeth pulled and wore dentures the rest of his life.

Video of Survival in the Wild


If you can’t see this video, click here.

Survival in the Wild for Over 60 Years

Because of my Dad, survival stories have always touched me. Now, 70 years later, a different story of survival in the Pacific has captured my heart. When the Japanese tsunami overran Midway Atoll in March, 2011 the oldest known wild bird in the world—and her new chick—were in danger. Scientists said the scariest thing was that the tsunami struck at midnight when they could hear the water over-running the island, but couldn’t see what was happening. The next day, sunlight revealed 100,000 dead chicks and over 2000 dead adult seabirds. No one knew where Wisdom was. Her chick was a small heap of waterlogged feathers, bedraggled. And alone.

They waited.

Eight days.

Nine days.

On the tenth day, Wisdom was spotted feeding her chick. She had survived.

Many people read the story and stopped there: but I was captivated by the story of a 60+ year old bird who was still surviving and still laying eggs. The result is my children’s book, WISDOM, THE MIDWAY ALBATROSS: Surviving the Japanese Tsunami and other Disasters for over 60 Years.

A Timeline of Survival

Wisdom was first banded in 1956 by Chandler Robbins, a young Navy man. He said,

“On December 10, 1956, early in my first visit to Midway, I banded 99 incubating Laysan Albatrosses in the ‘downtown’ area of Sand Island, Midway. Wisdom (band number 587-51945) is still alive, healthy and incubating again in December, 2011. While I have grown old and gray and get around only with the use of a cane, Wisdom still looks and acts just the same as on the day I banded her.”

Since the first banding, she was caught and re-banded in 1966, 1985, 1993, and 2002. In 2006, she received two new bands: the usual metal one and a bright red band, Z333, which could be seen at a distance. She was also given the name Wisdom by former Refuge Biologist and current Deputy Refuge Manager, John Klavitter. Scientists observed that she laid an egg and hatched a chick in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016. In 2017, her egg didn’t produce a chick, but she hatched another in 2018. At 65+ years old, she is still raising chicks!

That’s the bare bones of this story of survival and many stopped there. But it wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to know more. I wanted details of her story of her survival.

Research took me back to 1951, the year Wisdom was presumably born and back to Midway Atoll and events in the Pacific. I studied other earthquakes and tsunamis: November 4, 1952 a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Kamchatka, Russia and sent a tsunami across the Pacific. Archival photos show the water in the streets on Midway.

I studied storms: tropical storms and hurricanes that struck Midway Atoll: Hurricane Dot in 1958, Hurricane Iwa in 1982, Tropical Depression Raymond in 1983, Hurricane Iniki in 1992, Tropical Depression Orlene in 1992, Tropical Depression Eugene in 1993.

I studied ecological problems that seabirds faced during the last half of the 20th century: As early as the 1960s came worrisome reports of seabirds eating plastic floating in the ocean. Since then, the problem has only become worse, and many chicks die because their stomachs are so full of plastic, no food will fit and they starve to death. For over 50 years, the alarm has been sounded–and ignored. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, predicted in scientific literature as early as 1988, has only grown with the addition of the debris from the Japanese tsunami, which is estimated to be the size of California.

I studied how fishing practices have affected the seabird population: Longline fishing is the practice of baiting lines that are several miles line and may contain up to 2500 hooks. When a seabird swoops to eat the bait and is caught on a hook, nothing can reach them fast enough to save them. In 1991, estimates said up to 100,000 albatrosses were caught on such lines; they were considered an acceptable by-catch. Today, even with required modifications, it is still a problem.

Wisdom, the Midway Albatross ebook on an iPad | MimsHouse.com
This ebook tells the story of Wisdom, the Midway Albatross, the oldest known wild bird in the world. Possibly the oldest mother in the world, at the age of 65+!

Add to these man-made and natural disasters the ever-present danger of predators. Sharks are often waiting in squid-rich waters when albatrosses land on the sea to eat and the albatross becomes prey instead of predator. And add to that the incredible distances albatrosses fly: In Wisdom’s 60+ years, it is estimated she has flown about 50,000 miles each year, for a total of about 2 to 3 million miles in her lifetime.

This is one of the incredible survival stories!

Years after my father was released from the POW camp and returned to the U.S., I visited Auschwitz in Poland and stood talking with a Polish man about the differences in the German and Japanese POW camps. Finally, the Polish man said, “Let’s talk of better days.”

“You don’t understand,” I said. “My Dad came home from the war, from three years as a POW. He married and had eight children. In spite of everything, he had a full and happy life. He survived.”

I am the product of a story of survival. In spite of everything, my Father survived. When I look at Wisdom and her chick, I see my father and his eight chicks.

And here’s something I never realized before: I have to tell every survival story I can.

Other Survival Stories from Darcy Pattison

Click on the covers to read more.
The Blue Planets World series | MimsHouse.com


Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma | MimsHouse.com







Gift guides for the 2018 Christmas season. If you’re needing a gift for kids, Mim’s house has books for all ages. We all love getting book boxes, with the books and other things that go with it. Here are five suggestions for books and gifts you can get your loved ones!

   Guest post by Rachael Steele

   Gift guide #1: Pre-School Bedtime Story

Rowdy is a great book for your pre-schooler. It's a great story for father's to read to their daughters at bedtime. Give both your daughter and her father the gift of a great relationship. | Rowdy: The Pirate Who Could Not Sleep | Mims House Rowdy is a great book for your pre-schooler. It’s a great story for father’s to read to their daughters at bedtime. Give both your daughter and her father the gift of a great relationship.

And here’s a fun map, and a hat to go with it!

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   Gift guide #2: STEM for the curious elementary student

Nefertiti is a great picture book for STEM education, and it teaches kids about science experiments and space exploration.    Nefertiti is a great picture book for STEM education, and it teaches kids about science experiments and space exploration.

Here’s a fun Star Wars lego set, and a spider finger puppet to go with it!

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   Gift guide #3: STEM book for kids

Follow Michael Faraday back into the 1800s to read about his science experiment with fire! This is a great STEM book to read with your kids, as it condenses the lecture Faraday published in 1861 into something the whole family will understand. Follow Michael Faraday back into the 1800s to read about his science experiment with fire! This is a great STEM book to read with your kids, as it condenses the lecture Faraday published in 1861 into something the whole family will understand.

Your child can also hold a glowing candle while you read.

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Gift guide #4: Picture book for kids

Kell is a fun book about an Alien who crash lands on Earth and has to survive third grade. Your kids will love reading about him and his best friend Bree! | Kell, the Alien, Book 1, The Aliens, Inc. series | MimsHouse.comKell is a fun book about an Alien who crash lands on Earth and has to survive third grade. Your kids will love reading about him and his best friend Bree!

Here’s a fun paint set, so your child can paint like Kell and Bree do! They can wear these fun glasses too.

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   Gift guide #5: YA book for JR high/high school

      Sleepers is a great YA book about sirens who need to inhabit earth. Your kids will love to read about the different take on sirens. | Sleepers, Book 1, Blue Planets World series | MimsHouse.com

Sleepers is a great YA book about sirens who need to inhabit earth. Your kids will love to read about the different take on sirens.

Here’s a sea shell necklace that goes perfectly with the book!

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About the Guest Blogger: Rachael is a five foot ten and a half inch tall writer who is frequently called smol. She writes while stroking her sister’s bunny, jumbling words to creates stories. Typically writing in fantasy and futuristic, she has written over twelve full length novels, both by herself and a few with other people. She blogs at theartofwritingforhim.blogspot.com, and is a intern at Mims House.

 

 

 

Guest blog by Rachel Steele

Available from Follett, Mackin, directly from Mims House, or at your favorite educational distributor.

Author Question #1: What is a high-low book?

via GIPHY

High-low stands for a high interest low reading level book. It’s designed for middle grade to high school. The interest is there, but the reading level is lower. The way they grade the reading level is sentence structure, complexity, etc. I couldn’t lower the vocabulary very well; there are a lot of new words in here. I could simplify the sentences. If you take away the complexity, it’s a great way to grow the readers vocabulary. Over the three books, there’s still this sweeping story of a planet thats about to implode and they need a new place to go. They ask earth, “You only live on land, can we live in your oceans?” The story is there, the emotion is there, the experience of reading the story is still there, I’ve just simplified it so that people with lower reading levels can read it.

Author Question #2: What made you want to write a high-low book?

via GIPHY

Because our family has always had exchange students. We had six different exchange students all in high school who lived with us  I know learning a second language and I know how hard it was to jump into Young Adult for them. It was very difficult. They are mature intelligent people. The internationals who come to come to the United States are the cream of the corn. I saw them struggling reading age appropriate reading materials. I’ve always had sympathy for people who struggle with reading but want books on their maturity level.

Author Question #3: Why did you choose to adapt Blue Planets World Series into a high-low series?

via GIPHY

   It was an easy entry because I already knew the story and I could concentrate on getting the reading level where I wanted it to be. It took one level of complexity away from the writing. I also think it might be fun in classrooms if someone is reading sirens if someone is reading sleepers and emerging readers are reading the same story.  They can take part in the conversation, and although they don’t have all of the story since it’s cut down, they still have the basic story.

Author Question #4: How much research did you do for your high-low books?

via GIPHY

   I read some high-lows, I talked to industry professionals. One person challenged me to make the reading level as low as possible so it’s really an entry level book. It’s about 2.3 grade level. It’s very hard to get it to an early second grade level. It was definitely a challenge.

Author Question #5: How long did it take you to adapt it from a YA to a high-low?

via GIPHY

   I did it in a month. I knew the stories, I knew what I had to cut, I knew what the main things that needed to say and I was just figuring out how to rewrite it in the simplest language I’ve ever done.

Author Question #6: Did the high-low characters lose anything from the original YA characters?

via GIPHY

   Not a lot. Of course they lose sub plots and complexities are gone, but the characters are there. I love language, and it’s a hard thing to do to simplify this.

Author Question #7: Who else reads high-low books?

via GIPHY

I understand there’s a range of reading difficulties, and these books are for these readers. ADD, dyslexia, and other problems make it hard for some readers to concentrate.  I’m old enough to remember the Readers Digest Condensed Books. I remember a time when I thought it was fine to speed things up and get the story quicker. With high-low books, you still get the basic story, it’s just speeded up.

Author Question #8: How can people learning a second language who aren’t from the U.S. relate to these books?


These books aren’t just targeted for internationals, but for them, its also a story of immigrants. These people are asking for permission to come to earth. There’s lots of technical difficulties and political problems with that, so there’s that sympathy for the immigrants as well.

About the Guest Blogger: Rachael is a five foot ten and a half inch tall writer who is frequently called smol. She writes while stroking her sister’s bunny, jumbling words to creates stories. Typically writing in fantasy and futuristic, she has written over twelve full length novels, both by herself and a few with other people. She blogs at theartofwritingforhim.blogspot.com, and is a intern at Mims House.

Moments in Science is a new collection of books from Mims House.

Sometimes in publishing, you stumble into something that works so well that you want to do more.
We’ve done that with a collection of elementary science picture books. And now, we’re making it formal by giving this collection a name.

Moments in Science – BURN:Michael Faraday’s Candle

Burn: Michael Faraday's Candle | MimsHouse.comIt started with Burn: Michael Faraday’s Candle. Michael Faraday gave his famous juvenile lecture, “The Chemical Composition of a Candle,” in December 28, 1948. It was published a few weeks later and has never been out of print.

It’s the most successful science lecture ever given.

And it was originally given to children as part of the Royal Institution’s Christmas children’s lectures, a program that is still presents annual lectures.
However, I was astounded to learn that it had never been done as a children’s book.

It was daunting.
Over 6000 words of dense, archaic language.
I cut it to about 600 words.
Add to that, Peter Willis’s amazing cartoon illustrations.
The result? BURN: Michael Faraday’s Candle, one of our most popular science books.

Moments in Science – CLANG! Ernst Chladni’s Sound Experiments

Cover: Clang! Ernst Chladni's Sound Experiments | Great Science Experiments book for kids. | Mims HouseBecause BURN worked so well, I looked around for another “lecture” or “moment” of science where something changed or some important presentation helped people understand science better. I also looked at the NextGen Science Standards to make sure the book would have a wide appeal.

In 1806, German scientist Ernst Chladni (Klod NEE) was granted an audience with Napoleon Bonaparte. Why?
French scientist loved Chladni’s book on acoustics.
Chladni was a science entertainer. Think Bill Nye, the Science Guy.
He didn’t work for a university.
He didn’t have wealthy patrons.
Instead, he traveled and entertained with his science experiments.

What an opportunity! To perform for Napoleon, the Emperor of France!

Two things excited me about this story.
First, we have Chladni’s own words describing the encounter. He wrote for a French music magazine, which was quoted in his biography.
Second, Chaldni’s entertainment worked.
Napoleon gave Chladni 5000 Francs to write his book, Acoustics, in French.

The story also gave me an opportunity to talk about sound, sound vibrations, wave forms, and so on to tie into the NextGen science standards.

Since its launch in February, 2018, it’s also receiving a lot of interest.

Moments in Science – POLLEN: Darwin’s 130 Year Prediction

Next March, we’ll launch a third science book and we’ll be adding all these books into a collection, Moments in Science.
Moments in Science - A collection of science picture books about important moments in science history. | Mims House.com
Moments in Science is simple a collection of science picture books about important moments in science history that tie into the elementary curriculum.


We’re excited about our 2019 titles in the Moments of Science collection.
Here’s a sneak peek at the cover for our March 2019 release, also illustrated by Peter Willis.
Pollen: Darwin's 130 Year Prediction coming March 2019 | MimsHouse.com

How long does it take for science to find an answer to a problem?
On January 25, 1862, naturalist Charles Darwin received a box –
– of orchids.

One flower, the Madagascar star orchid, fascinated him.

Why? Because it had an 11.5” nectary, the place where flowers make nectar, the sweet liquid that insects and birds eat.

How, he wondered, did the orchid get pollinated?

After experiments, he made a prediction.
There must be a giant moth with a 11.5” proboscis, a straw-like tongue.

Darwin died without ever seeing the moth, which was catalogued by entomologists in in 1903.

But still no one had actually observed the moth pollinating the orchid.

In 1992, German entomologist, Lutz Thilo Wasserthal, Ph.D. traveled to Madagascar.
By then, the moths were rare because of loss of habitat.

He managed to capture two moths.
He collected an orchid.
He released the moths into in a cage with the orchid.

Finally! He captured the first photo of the moth pollinating the flower,
just as Darwin had predicted
130 years before.

Backmatter will feature the original photo taken by Wasserthal.
Look for this book in March, 2019.

Interested in seeing review copy when they are available? Email Sue Foster.


August eBook of the MONTH


Welcome to the Mims House eBook of the Month. We offer a free ebook each month. This month, we’re featuring our September release WONKY. Why?

New Classic! First day of school book!

Because while it’s a great Robotics Club story, it’s also a First-Day-of-School book. We hope you’ll share the book with your students on that first day! We know you have your favorites for the first day of school, but we think you’ll enjoy this book for variety! Find a new favorite!

Kirkus Reviews: “With pages filled with animals and robots, this tale will certainly appeal to kids; the story of friendship conquering first-day-of-school jitters remains a bonus.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE EBOOK OF THE MONTH

WONKY: A Robotics Club Story

Wonky: A Robotics Club Story | MimsHouse.com“A delightful story of friendship and teamwork.” Dori Hillestad Butler, Theodore Geisel Honor Award for King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats, and Edgar award for The Buddy Files: The Case of the Lost Boy

“. . .offbeat and clever. . . With pages filled with animals and robots, this tale will certainly appeal to kids. . . .” Kirkus Reviews


Howie ambles into robot club hoping to find a friend. But when Lincoln bounds into the room, Howie hides. The strange new bird is too big and fluffy. The teacher, however, puts the unlikely pair together. Will they be able to accept each other’s wonky ideas and become friends?

For STEM classes, this story emphasizes the discussion of form v. function.
The story encourages divergent thinking as Lincoln and Howie design a robot. For kids who are rigid and inflexible, they’ll see the value of considering different options, and accepting those who are different.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE EBOOK OF THE MONTH

ILLUSTRATOR – NATHANIEL GOLD

Nathaniel Gold is the award-winning author and illustrator of the beloved Chimpman series, as well as Too Much TV Rots Your Brain and Other Poems. His first book, The Chimpanzee Manifesto, received a 2010 IPPY award for outstanding book of the year.
Nathaniel lives in upstate New York with his wife, two children, and a dog.

WHAT THEY ARE SAYING

“Charming. . .Pattison’s storytelling skills give readers a look into the give-and-take of friendship.”
Carla Killough McClafferty, author of The Many Faces of George Washington

“What’s WONKY? The heart-warming story of an unlikely friendship between Robot Club partners, told in Darcy Pattison’s classic, charming voice. WONKY is a good reminder that friendships are often found with a heart that’s open to the unexpected.” Lynn Rowe Reed, illustrator of Punctuation Takes a Vacation

“WONKY is a delightful mixture of a story about new friends and a robot club–honestly, what could be more fun? I adored Howie and Lincoln, Darcy Pattison’s endearing animal characters, and Nathaniel Gold’s colorful illustrations just pop off the page!” Monica Clark-Robinson, author of Let the Children March

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE EBOOK OF THE MONTH


SPECIAL OFFER – eBook of the Month


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Makerspace areas of a library have gained popularity in recent years and School Library Journal recently recommended 39 books to stock in your makerspace. See the article for the full list.

Our title, CLANG: Ernst Chladni’s Sound Experiments, was included in the list of eight Real-Life Makers.

Makerspace Books: Real Life Makers | MimsHouse.com

Makerspace Books about Real-Life Makers



Clang! 3 Reasons to Read & Buy | Mims House. School Library Journal says useful for " history and science and music."


CLANG! ERNST CHLADNI’S SOUND EXPERIMENTS has been reviewed in School Library Journal.

From School Library Journal
Gr 3–6—Pattison and Willis introduce Ernst Chladni, aka the Father of Acoustics, to young children through an engaging narrative and colorful cartoon illustrations. Chladni was a German scientist who traveled Europe entertaining people by explaining and demonstrating the science of sound in the early 1800s. The meeting between Chladni and Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte is the main focus of this telling. Willis’s charming artwork provides realistic representations of Chladni’s inventions while staying true to the fun cartoon style of the rest of the story. Pattison includes German and French words, acknowledging the language barrier that the scientist faced when describing his research on the science of sound. Included in the back matter is more information about Chladni’s instruments, his life, and additional historical context. The book can be utilized in the classroom for a variety of curriculum connections from history and science to music. Pattison’s and Willis’s early collaboration Burn: Michael Faraday’s Candle is an equally enjoyable read. VERDICT An additional purchase for elementary school libraries. —Aileen Barton, Sherman Public Library, TX

“Engaging Narrative” says School Library Journal

The reviewer “got” this book, calling it an “engaging narrative.” The illustrations by Peter Wills are “charming.”

This is the second book in the Moments in Science series. The first two focused on elementary physics. Next year, we’ll add two new titles to the series:

  • BURN: Michael Faraday’s Candle
  • POLLEN: Darwin’s 130-Year Prediction, Spring 2019
  • ECLIPSE: How the 1919 Eclipse Proved Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, Fall, 2019

Peter Willis will be back with exciting illustrations that make the science fun and interesting. Charming!

3 Reasons to Read and Buy

As the SLJ review says, this book is useful for three content areas:

  1. HISTORY. Clang is the story of how Ernst Chladni met with Napoleon Bonaparte and earned a huge stipend to write his book about acoustics – in French. Placing scientists into context of history is important. Also fascinating is how the French and Germans cooperated to further the needs of science. Also of historical interest is the musical instrument that Chladni invented, the clavicylinder.
  2. SCIENCE. While the focus is on the historical event of Chladni meeting Bonaparte, there’s also science about sound. Chladni studied how sound travels in solids. The book explains how sound makes wires, columns of air, and solids vibrate.
  3. MUSIC. To understand music means you must understand sound. Music is a pleasant arrangement of sounds. The book shows how sound is created by vibrating wires, columns of air, and solids.

For extra reading: NOTHING STOPPED SOPHIE: The Story of the Unstoppable Mathematician Sophie German

Nothing Stopped Sophie - Companion book to CLANG! Ernst Chladni's Sound Experiments | MimsHouse.com

While Ernst Chladni understood the science of his experiments, he didn’t fully understand the math behind the sound. Napoleon was also interested in the mathematical formulas. He offered a math prize to anyone who could solve the math. It was eventually won by French mathematician, Sophie German. This charming book tells her story. These two books make perfect companion books for the study of sound.


For a Elementary Physical Science companion book, consider, BURN: Michael Faraday’s Candle. BURN is a discussion of light, while CLANG! covers sound. Together, they cover the Next Gen Science Standards for elementary physical science.

Covers of BURN and CLANG, elementary science books about light and sound | MimsHouse.com

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