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.

by Darcy Pattison

The hardest writing task for kids is to choose a great topic. Once the topic is narrowed down enough, writing an essay is much simpler.

Likewise, as an author, choosing a topic is hard. When I know little about a topic, it means intensive research. That’s why the topic of sound and sound waves was a happy choice for me. I hold a Master’s degree in Audiology, the study of sound and human hearing. I’ve worked as a Speech Therapist at a deaf school, and at an otolaryngologist’s (ENT Doctor) office doing hearing tests and recommending hearing aids. Sound is what I studied and did professionally.

Sound and sound waves. Cover of CLANG! Ernst Chladni's Sound Experiments by Darcy Pattison

When I first ran across the story of Ernst Chladni (CLOD-nee), the Father of Acoustics (the study of sound), I was excited. Besides the fact that I knew the general topic, there were quotes taken from an article Chladni wrote himself in a German music magazine. His account of the meeting with Napoleon in February 1809 gave me direction for writing CLANG! Ernst Chladni’s Science Experiments.

A third thing helped me decide to write Chladni’s story: the NextGen Science Standards. In both first and fourth grade, students study waves in general and sound waves in particular.

For example:
1-PS4-1 Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer
Plan and conduct investigations to provide evidence that vibrating materials can make sound and that sound can make materials vibrate.

CLANG! was written to introduce the topic of sound and sound waves to the elementary student in a fun way. Chladni concentrated his work on sound transmitted through solids, but vibrating strings (ex. Guitar) and vibarting columns of air (ex. Pipe organ) were part of this study, too.

The Father of Acoustics: Sound and Sound Waves

I live in Arkansas, the home of Kevin Delaney Day, a science entertainer who’s been featured on the Jimmy Fallon Show and the Tonight Show.

What really caught me, though, was the story of Chladni himself. He was a self-taught man and was hampered in his research by finances. Most scientists of the time taught at a university. Instead, Chladni took his show on the road, traveling to entertain wealthy patrons with his science.
We have science-entertainers today such as Bill Nye the Science Guy. They evoke a kind of “gee-whiz” response with experiments.

Halloween Science Experiments with Kevin Delaney

If you can’t see this video, click here

Kevin Delaney and Jimmy Fallon Create Instant Quicksand

If you can’t see this video, click here

PATRONAGE for the Sound Scientist

It’s hard to make a living as a science entertainer! What Chladni needed was a patron, someone who could support him for a time while he worked on a certain project. Through his French scientist friends, he was introduced to the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.
The patronage of nobility was often sought after by artists and musicians. It was rarer for a scientist to seek such financial help. The French scientists were motivated by the idea of a new book about acoustics written in their native French.

Big Idea: Science Needs International Cooperation

There were three reasons I wrote this story: I’d studied acoustics and sound in college; the NextGen science standards features sound and sound waves in elementary school; and, the event was described in Chladni’s own words. But there’s also a fourth reason. I like stories that demonstrate a big idea in science. These may not be in a curriculum, but I think they are important for kids to understand as they learn about science and consider careers in science.

Chaldn’s story is a great example of how international cooperation is important for advances in scienctific knowledge. Scientists are people who need to eat and drink. He may have preferred finances to come from a German source, but in the end, he needed money to support him while he worked on a new book about acoustics. If the French Emperor wanted to give him 6000 francs, he’d take it.

International cooperation has always been important in advancing the study of science. It’s a BIG idea of science! I hope it made a BIG book for those teaching sound and sound waves in the classroom.

DOWNLOAD a Teacher’s Guide for CLANG!

Darcy Pattison

Storyteller, writing teacher, Queen of Revisions, and founder of Mims House ( publisher, Darcy Pattison has been published in ten languages. Her books, published with Harcourt, Philomel/Penguin, Harpercollins, Arbordale, and Mims House have received recognition for excellence with starred reviews in Kirkus, BCCB and PW. Four nonfiction nature books have been honored as National Science Teacher’s Association Outstanding Science Trade books: Desert Baths (2013), Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma (2015), Nefertiti the Spidernaut (2017), Clang! Ernst Chladni’s Sound Experiments (2019).

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