The first day of school is exciting, nerve-wracking, and fun! Kids need encouragement to make friends and our book, WONKY: A ROBOTICS CLUB STORY is perfect multicultural book for the job.
Howie, a shy turtle, is scared that he won’t make friends. Typical of the first day of school, he doubts that anyone will share his passion for robots. During Robotics Club, everyone chooses up partners and Howie is left out. He puts on a brave front:
“No big deal,” he says. “Just what I wanted anyway. This way, no one will ruin my robot design.”
But inside, he’s dying.
And then–the classroom door bursts open and in bounds Lincoln, a boisterous ostrich. Of course, the teacher insists that this unlikely pair become a team.
Nathaniel Gold‘s charming illustrations take the reader through the design process as the pair tries to decide on what kind of robot they want to make.
Howie and Lincoln take animals as inspiration for their designs with 8-legged robots, 5-legged robots, and more. From a design standpoint, they are favoring form over function. They they finally decide what they want the robot to DO, Howie and Lincoln find common ground.
This 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.
Because LIncoln the ostrich comes from Africa, there’s also a multicultural element to the story. It’s easy to see and discuss the differences between a box turtle and an ostrich. By framing multicultural acceptance with animals, it avoids specific mention of any one culture and adapts well to any ethnic mix. Of course, teachers and parents may bring in specific cultural references as desired or needed.
STEM + Back to School
The STEM ideas of designing for function combine with a friendship story. It sets the tone for a STEM-focused classroom.
.” . .offbeat and clever. . . With pages filled with animals and robots, this tale will certainly appeal to kids. . . .”
On this website, you can purchase the ebook. We guarantee that you can read it on the device of your choice, or your money back. Find the paperback and hardcovers at your favorite educational distributor or online store.
Where were you 50 years ago? (Were you even alive?) On July 20, we’ll celebrate the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon. It was the culmination of years of research into space travel. We’re in another time period of pushing for space exploration, with the updated goal of landing a man on Mars. Because of that, children’s books about the first moon landing and space books in general are popular right now.
12 men walked on the Moon, but since the Apollo era, no one has been back since 1972. However, since 2000, humans have lived in the microgravity of the International Space Station (ISS). We needed to understand what happened to the human body during an extended stay in space. The most famous experiment was astronaut Scott Kelly, whose twin brother stayed on Earth, while Scott spent a year in space. Scientists studied how bones, muscle and other body parts differed between the twins after a year in space.
Animals Supported Space Travel
The past 50 years have been important ones for space travel as scientists answered many questions about supporting life in space. Part of that has been doing animal experiments to study responses of different animals to the environment of microgravity. This has included monkeys, dogs, tortoises, mice, and insects.
Animals in space date back to testing of hot air balloons by the French Montgolfier brothers. They sent a sheep, a duck and a rooster up in the balloons to see if ground dwelling animals could survive. Later, animals went up to 27 miles high; these included fruit flies, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, cats, dogs, frogs, goldfish and monkeys. Albert II, a rhesus monkey, launched into space on June 11, 1949, going up 83 miles. Unfortunately, he died on impact after a parachute failure. The death rate among monkeys at this stage was very high: some sources say that about two-thirds of all monkeys launched in the 1940s and 1950s died on missions or soon after landing. In 1951, the monkey Yorick was the first monkey to survive space flight and return to Earth alive.
During the early exploration years, the Soviets sent nine dogs into space, some more than once. France flew their first rat (Hector) into space on 22 February 1961. The United States launched Biosatellite I in 1966 and Biosatellite I/II in 1967 with fruit flies, parasitic wasps, flour beetles and frog eggs, along with bacteria, amoebae, plants and fungi. In September 1968, the Soviets sent the Horsfeld tortoises to circle the moon, the first animals to survive deep space. From the Wikipedia article, here’s a list of Animals in Space:
1947 Fruit flies, 68 miles high
1949 Albert II, rhesus monkey, 83 miles high
1950 Mouse, space
1951 Dogs Tsygan (Gypsy) and Dezik, space but not orbit
1951 Mice, sub-space
1957 Dog Laika – orbited Earth, plus 10 other dogs
1958 South American squirrel monkey Gordo
1959 Monkeys Able (rhesus) and Baker (squirrel monkey). Baker lived till November 29, 1984
1959 two space dogs and Marfusa, the first rabbit in space
1959 2 frogs and 12 mice
1960 Dogs Belka and Strelka, a gray rabbit, 40 mice, 2 rats, 15 flasks of fruit flies and plants
1960 Three black mice: Sally, Amy and Moe
1961 Ham the chimp
1961 Enos the Chimp, orbited Earth
1961 Dog Chernushka, some mice, frogs, and a guinea pig
1961 French rat, Hector and two other rats
1963 Cat Felicette and another cat
1967 Two French monkeys
1964-66 Chinese mice, rats, and two dogs
1966 Dogs Veterok (Little Wind) and Ugolyok (Blackie), 22 days in orbit, the longest space flight for a dog
2006 Madagascar hissing cockroaches, Mexican jumping beans, South African flat rock scorpions, seed-harvester ants
2007 Tradigrades, also known as water-bears, cockroaches (one conceived while in space)
2009 Painted lady and monarch butterfly larvae for a school experiment
2010 Iranian mouse, two turtles, and some worms
2011 Golden orb spiders named Gladys and Esmeralda, with fruit flies to eat. Tardigrades and extremophiles
2012 Medaka fish for new Aquatic Habitat on ISS
2013 Iranian monkey
2014 Pavement ants
2014 one male and four female geckos
2014 Twenty mice
2015 Twenty mice
2016 Twenty mice
2018 Twenty mice
Nefertiti the Spidernaut: The Jumping Spider Who Learned to Hunt in Space
It would be impossible to tell the story of each animal who has gone to space and taught us about how to survive in that harsh environment! But one story of a spider stands out. It’s tempting to give her human qualities, but she was just a spider. A hungry one! She learned to modify her hunting methods to adapt to the micrograviy of space. And she survived to come back to Earth alive and grow fat again.
This 4th of July is the right time to honor the sacrifices made by military families. When parents are assigned overseas or even just a remote place state-side, it’s hard for families. There are several children’s books that address the family dynamics of a military family.
While military children need these books, they are also important for all children to read and think about. The American way of life is supported by our military. Kids need to understand the sacrifices that make their own freedoms possible.
In honor of 4th of July and our military families, Mims House offers free an ebook of 11 Ways to Ruin a Photograph. (When you check out, use this coupon code: THANKS) In this poignant story, a child decides that while Daddy is gone for a year, it’s NOT a family photo album. She ruins every family photo until her father returns from his tour of duty.
Are you looking for science notebooks from American scientists? The Smithsonian Institution has an archive of the science notebooks from their staff for the last 150 years. They are available from the Field Book Project and we’ve included ten scientists in our book, MY STEAM NOTEBOOK.
Science Notebooks: Ornithologist or Bird Scientist
Martin Moynihan (1928-1996) spoke French, German and Spanish, and published his first scientific paper at the age of 18. For the Smithsonian, he worked in Panama from 1957-1974 helping to build the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on Barro Colorado Island. To build the Panama Canal, some rivers were dammed to make Gatun Lake. That meant the existing tropical forest was covered with water. Only the tallest hills remained above water as islands. Barro Colorado has become one of the most studied tropical forests in the world.
Moynihan’s notebooks are fascinating because he used drawing and labeling extensively. This is a skill that kids can easily learn as they make observations.
Download a pdf excerpt from MY STEAM NOTEBOOK which includes all the information on Martin Moynihan. See his amazing field notes and learn other ways he used his science notebook!
Book clubs are a simple way to develops student literacy. Middle
school students (grades 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th
grades) understand that their success depends on their level of literacy, or their
ability to read and write fluently. The discussion breaks down on the best way
to achieve literacy.
As I’ve discussed before, giving students CHOICE is the most important way to encourage students to read. A simple way to do that is a book club. Book clubs are ways to share the reading experience with a small group within a controlled environment. Here’s the thing: book clubs also need CHOICE. For more on the importance of choice, read The Book Whisperer.
Students become far more excited about reading when they
have choices in the book clubs. They want to choose the members of their group
and the books they’ll read. But giving them ownership in other ways also helps.
Often students want to decide on discussion questions. They want leadership
roles in guiding the discussions. For sure they want to avoid record keeping (logs,
reports, and group projects). In other words, middle school students want to
be independent readers and thinkers.
Teachers have to think about their required teaching
standards when setting up book clubs during class times. However, giving students
ownership of book clubs and their independent reading is a choice toward
literacy and encouraging students to become life-long readers.
Often teachers choose to present a curated list of titles
but assure students that they can add to the list if wanted. The curated list
can represent a wide range of genres, diverse topics and characters, and reading
Finding Books for Book Clubs
Home/friends – sometimes students can borrow a
book from a friend or perhaps they actually own a copy.
School & public library – often students can
find copies of the chosen book at the school or public library.
eBooks – Often, ebooks are cheaper than the
paperback books. Check the prices and decide if ebooks is a cheaper option.
Build a classroom library – over several years,
teachers often build school libraries with collections of book sets. This is great
as long as the sets don’t become the default book choices and students are no
longer able to decide what to read.
Purchase books – schools need to allow budgets
for students to choose the books they want to read. This may take working with
administration to change policies. But it’s the strongest choice possible to
build literacy. Without books that kids love, literacy is impossible to
develop. Often teachers and school librarians work with local or regional educational
distributors to find the best pricing.
Mims House Supports Book Clubs—And Literacy
Review Copies. Free paperback review copies to teachers or other book club facilitators of book clubs. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with teacher’s name, grade level and number of students in book clubs.
Discounted ebooks. We’ll discount ebooks for titles your students choose for book clubs. This is the most cost-effective choice. We guarantee that you’ll be able to read our ebooks on the device of your choice. Email email@example.com with teacher’s name, grade level and number of students in book clubs.
Paperback books. We’ll be glad to quote you book club pricing on our paperback books. We want students to read! So, we’ll give you the best pricing we can. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with teacher’s name, grade level and number of students in book clubs.
Download our free discussion guides. These work as a starting point for discussion, but we hope that students will move beyond these questions.
What did scientists write in their notebooks? It’s easy to make wild assumptions, but why do that? Readily available online are scans of scientists who worked for the Smithsonian Institution over the last 150 years in the Field Book Project.
It begins with Alexander Wetmore, an ornithologist or bird scientist, who was also the Secretary (the person in charge) of the Smithsonian Institute from 1945-1952. He left many notebooks, photos, and specimen with the Smithsonian.
Wetmore started writing science notebooks when he was only eight years old! While on a Florida vacation, he saw a pelican and wrote about it.
At the age of 15, his first published article, “My Experience with a Red-headed Woodpecker” appeared in the 1900 Bird Lore magazine.
During his travels to Panama and other places, Wetmore brought back 26,058 bird and mammal skins. He write a book, The Birds of the Republic of Panama, writing bout 189 species and sub-species of birds that were new to science. Over his lifetime, over 56 new genera, species, and subspecies of birds (both recent and fossils) were named in his honor.
Wetmore kept lists of birds he saw in a single month, or in a year. Listing is a simple writing exercise for students working in their science notebooks. They can easily write lists about their observations.
Download the Wetmore section of My STEAM NOTEBOOK
We could continue telling you about Wetmore, but instead, we’re making available a special excerpt from My STEAM Notebook. The Wetmore excerpt includes the how to use this notebook explanation, Alexander Wetmore information, notebook pages for students to work, suggestions for related STEAM activities, a reproduction of his first published article and more. Add your email below and we’ll immediately send you the pdf.
A solar eclipse on May 29, 1919 changed science forever.
The story starts earlier on November 15, 1915 when German scientist Albert Einstein presented a paper about his general theory of relativity. The theories were hard for most people to understand. However, a British astronomer, Stanley Eddington, was fascinated by the theory and worked to help explain it to his colleagues.
The 1919 solar eclipse provided the perfect opportunity to prove Einstein’s theory. The sun’s gravity, Einstein said, would pull light rays making them bend or curve. A solar eclipse was the perfect time to measure this shift. Scientists needed to photograph some bright stars before the eclipse and then during the eclipse and compare the two. If the stars appeared to move, the light was bending.
This is a difficult concept for kids! But the NextGen Science Standards ask kindergarten kids to understand the concepts of PUSH and PULL. In space, gravity is the pull, while acceleration is the push. By using the simple concepts of PUSH and PULL, kids begin the process of conceptualizing Einstein’s theory. It will likely be a life-time journey, but we can start it very simply in elementary school.
ECLIPSE: How the 1919 Solar Eclipse Proved Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity
Available in October, 2019 is our story ECLIPSE: How the 1919 Solar Eclipse Proved Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. It tells the story of Eddington’s trip to a small African island of Principe, also known as the Chocolate Islands because cacao nuts were grown there. In 1919, it was a 47 day boat trip. Once there, Eddington and his associate Edwin Cottingham set up the telescopes and waited for May 25, 1919.
Just in case the weather was bad, astronomers also sent a team to Brazil to photograph the solar eclipse. Both locations were remote and difficult to reach with the huge telescopes required. Heat and humidity plagued both teams, causing photographic materials to warp, which threw off the focus.
This is a dramatic story! On Principe, it rained that morning, only clearing up right as the eclipse started. The scientists only had 302 seconds of totality, the time when the sun was totally blocked. They exposed photographic plates with a metronome ticking off the seconds.
Measuring a Solar Eclipse
The analysis of data took months because they had to account for temperature, humidity, position of the telescope on Earth and more. Finally, on November 6, 1919, astronomers announced the results: light does bend around the sun. The photographs proved Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
An interactive element is built into the story. If you flip the top-right corner, the images will show a solar eclipse happening.
Summer reading is the perfect time to read a stretch book! Recently, we wrote about helping students choose the right book for them. The idea of choosing a “stretch book” caught the attention of teachers and we wanted to explore it further.
A stretch book is one that takes the reader out of their comfort zone in some way. It may be a different genre than normal, or have fewer illustrations and more text. Maybe it’s that uncomfortable zone when a reader moves from picture books to short chapter books or moves from short chapter books to longer chapter books. In some way, the book is a challenge. The question is how we can set up the situation in a way that students are most likely to succeed? How do we handle “failures”?
Why Students Make Safe Choices
Let’s review why students are likely to make safe choices. When a student chooses a book, it says something about him/her. It adds or subtracts to the overall public face that a student projects. Peer pressure means students must be able to answer the question, “What are you reading?” While justifying a certain book to themselves can be hard, justifying it to friends is even worse. Teasing, bullying, belittling – the negative results of a choice can be overwhelming. It you expect students to take chances in their reading, it’s wise to set up the decision in ways that will make it successful.
Model the Stretch Choices
That means we need to model the behavior or making stretch choices. Are you making stretch choices? It’s important for students to hear you talking about your choices and why you decide to read a certain book.
It’s OK to NOT Finish a Book
And yes – it’s ok to start a book and not finish it. As an adult, I do this all the time. It’s fine to tell a student, “Try this book. If you don’t like it, just bring it back! You don’t have to finish it.”
When they bring it back, don’t make a big deal of it. If the circumstances are right, you might ask why they didn’t finish. But the info is more for you to help them choose books later and to get feedback about the book that might help you with other students. It’s NOT to make them feel bad about their choice.
Booktalks, Book Displays – Label STRETCH Books
When you set up displays or do booktalks, include a Stretch Book. Give the category of stretch books a unique name that resonates for some reason in your community. For example, I’m from Arkansas, and the University of Arkansas mascot is the Razorback pig. Maybe the stretch books are the “Woo Pig Sooie” books that get a cheer when they are chosen. Yes! Take the time to celebrate the choice by breaking into a cheer! When you introduce the books, tell students that you think this one is a bit harder and only the brave kids will choose it. NOT the best readers – you don’t want to set up that kind of competition. Make it one that courageous or brave kids will choose.
What if we teach kids how to anticipate and deal with that question? Help students to find ways to make their choices look admirable:
“I’m taking a chance by reading something a bit different.” “I’m reading outside my normal genre, just to stretch a bit.” “It’s a new author for me. I’m not sure I’ll like it, but I’m the kind of person who likes to take risks sometimes.”
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