Posts tagged ‘science’

July 8, 2013

Need some science with your watermelon?

I have never tired to make my love for science a secret. Except in high school, and then I actually hated it so there was no secret, just a catastrophic misunderstanding that was luckily remedied by some more creative teachers in college. But that’s another story for another time. Right now, I want to talk about how you can get your kids to love science, too, because, really there is nothing NOT to love. And while most parents know to keep up on reading over the summer, and many also do some math or writing, not everyone thinks about science.

So today I’m linking to an article I wrote for ParentMap magazine in Seattle. It talks about how to bring science to your kid, whether that kid is scientifically, artistically, linguistically, or anything other-istically inclined. So go ahead and click on the link below.

Turn Cooking and Collecting Into Summer Science Fun!

And then, depending on which part you (and your child) likes best, head to the kitchen or the backyard or the library. And let the science learning begin!

Some of the books mentioned in that article can also be found on this blog. LIke Swirl by Swirl, Forest Has A Song, and Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different.

April 24, 2013

even in the April snow, the forest is singing

Each silver
snowflake
sings my name.
Guess what?
No two sound the same.

foresthasasongI love LOVE LOVE that last line. We all know that no two snowflakes look alike, but that they sound differently? When they call our name? What a wonderful image! And while you might think it strange to start a blog in April about snow, the flakes are fast and furious outside my window right now, so I’m just trying to stick with what mother nature is dealing.

This poem is from a wonderful book of poems just sent to me. And it’s poetry month, so that’s perfect, don’t you think? It’s called Forest Has a Song and in it a girl walks through the forest in all four seasons, listening to the song. There are so many wonderful kid-friendly images that really make the forest come alive.

exploding a mushroom:

Puff!
I found one.
Puff!
It’s plump.
Puff!
Come see this
mushroom pump.

tiptoeing on moss:

Barefoot on this emerald carpet
toe-by-toe I squish across.
I softly sink in velvet green.
Oh how I wish for socks of moss.

Aren’t those great? Other poems detail a fossil, a pile of animal bones, a squirrel, the song of the forest, deer, and many more.

This would be a great book for a classroom. It would be fun to read on or before a family camping trip or hike. It would be fun to read any night, really. And you can challenge your kids to look for the sensory images in the poems. Can they hear a snowflake? What do they think it sounds like? Can they see a cardinal and do they think he looks like a kite?

You could also turn it into a scavenger hunt if you live near or are visiting a forest. Can they find mushrooms? Lichen? A squirrel? A deer? How many images from the book can they remember and see for themselves?

Older kids can make up their own images. Have them walk barefoot across something…a lawn, a pebbly beach, or maybe through a cool brook. What does that feel like? Would they want pebble slippers like the author wanted moss slippers? Can they think of a different image they would like?

Have fun with this book, and I hope you enjoy some of nature this summer. Just not the snowflakes, maybe.

foresthasasongTitle: Forest Has a Song
Author
: Amy Ludgwig Vanderwater
Illustrator: Robbin Gourley
Genre: Poetry, Pictures, Nature
Ages: Almost any

November 14, 2012

from sugar and spice to the glucose cycle

My high school science education consisted of the following memories: breaking a flask (not a big deal, the teacher said), breaking a thermometer (kind of a big deal), breaking many other kids of lab equipment (increasingly a big deal), never (not once) getting the correct results on any physics or chemistry lab despite being studious, careful, and the last to finish pretty much every single time. I had a mild interest in biology but I always assumed I was “bad” at science. Despite good grades, which obviously didn’t reflected the trail of broken equipment I left in my wake, it never (NEVER!) occurred to me that I could be good at science.

Then enter college: I took an introductory biology course and fell in love. Bird migration! Ants who farm aphids! These were stories whose magic nobody could ignore. And to the surprise of everyone (especially myself and my professors who were wary of me from the first moment I refused to dissect a cat (I mean, really, a cat?), I became a bio major.

WHICH IS WHY I LOVED THIS BOOK!

Title: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Author: Jacqueline Kelly
Genre: Historical Fiction
Age: Middle School and Upper Elementary

So many reasons to buy this book for your daughter (and read it yourself!):

1. It’s historical fiction, set in Texas in 1899, but it doesn’t whop you over the head with that fact. There are some interesting details: the first telephone and the woman operator with her long arms, Granddaddy sitting in a car for the first time, etc. But the historical fiction gives you, the parent, an edge: You can talk about societal expectations for girls and your child will likely be very comfortable talking about them in the book, as it was over 100 years ago. Then, once the conversation gets going, you can talk about how things have changed, but how we still have a long way to go.

2. It’s a science-nature story, but you don’t have to be a scientist to like this book. Any girl reader who enjoys character-driven books will like this one. And they will be getting a great female scientist role model on the side! It’s mostly a girl-growing-up story, and this girl, the only one amongst a myriad of brothers, is struggling against the expectations of her family (she’s supposed to learn to sew and cook or how will she ever get a family?), wondering if she might ever be allowed to have dreams beyond that.  And if your girl does get hooked on science after reading this book, don’t let it die out! Give her a field guide and start looking up plants or insects or birds or stars. Or grab some jars and start collecting bugs.

3. The book is beautiful; the sentences read like honey dripping down…well, dripping down something honey would drip down. Trust me, the prose is gorgeous. And that’s good for anyone. (And it is a Newbery Honor book. So there.)

P.S. I did sit through only one dissection. There was this guy in high school who would spend free time working on his frog for AP Bio, and I would hang out and watch him. It was probably disgusting. Maybe unethical. But in his defense, he’s a surgeon now. And in my defense, I’m married to him.

October 11, 2012

Pass along some warmth, and maybe some knowledge, too

Every time the Wizard of Why asks me about a polar bear, I want to cry. What if there aren’t any left when his son asks him the same question? The idea that I brought a child into a world like that–the idea that he learns every day the world is less perfect than he imagined it, is sometimes hard to take. News stories of bears stranded mid-ocean on small pieces of ice, or mother polar bears eating their cubs pound through my head. I don’t share those. Sometimes I talk to him about the danger they face. I try to balance honesty with his own young developmental stage.

But I do love that he’s asking–always asking–about the world around him. He wants to know how animals do the things they do. And, former science teacher that I am, (or current, if this counts as a job), I want to tell him. Which is why I love getting books like this one.

My son will love it. I know he will ask to read it again and again, as he does with any fact-laden book. But this is not nonfiction in the strictest sense of the word. The facts are laced into poetry and the poetry sewn into a kind of a story.

The question “how do humans keep warm in the winter, Mama?” is repeated, with slight variations, on each of the crisply illustrated pages of this scientific story. “Do they live in a bunch taking turns for their lunch?” the voice asks, while the picture shows us that this is what bees do. Through a series of questions partnered with drawings, children learn how animals stay warm in the winter through adaptations, shelters, and changing habitats.

One of the great twists in this book is that the questions are asked by the animal young of their own mothers–a turtle is imagining a human child with a shell on its back, a bear cub is picturing a sleepy girl who has just finished a full meal. My son will love this as well–he will love the idea that animals are asking questions and it confirms for him that questions are good, that they are part of our natural world, that they are important to us.

Title: A Warm Winter Tail
Author: Carrie A. Pearson
Illustrator: Christina Wild
Genre: Picture Book
Age: 0 – 7

Usually, I like to talk about what you can do with a book other than just reading it. But this book does that for me! There are activities in the back of the book that include more fun facts, more detailed explanations of the winter behavior of the animals in the book, and a matching game. There are also more activities online.

I don’t know how to save the world, but I do know that education is the first step. It may not be sufficient, but it is necessary. Books are an important part of that education. I’m excited to be a stop on the blog tour of A Warm Winter Tail, and I hope you enjoy it too!

September 24, 2012

A free book for your scientific (or unscientific) girl

 

Getting girls into science is a big deal. I wrote an article about this in ParentMap after a great study was published by the AAUW (American Association of University Women). One of the biggest factors they talked about was having role models for girls in science–that girls didn’t see themselves in the typical movie scientist (think old guy with white hair). So maybe reading Ivy and Bean is all they need! If you think so, and want a chance for your own daughter or student, just comment below!

Here are last week’s winners:

Ivy and Bean book: HeyLookAWriterFellow

Ivy and Bean mini notes: Jasmine, Carol, Tania

Title: Ivy and Bean What’s the Big Idea?
Author: Annie Barrows
Illustrator: Sophie Blackall
Genre: Fiction
Age: Early Elementary

And if you want to win this next book, What’s the Big Idea, Just comment below! Runners-up get a set of cool mini-notes.

February 24, 2012

is your child an alien? and “Is there life in outer space?”

Every parent has times when they are pretty sure their kids are aliens. If you want to teach them about aliens–or space, and planets, and scientific discovery, then here’s a great book for your little alien.

Title: Is There Life in Outer Space?
Author: Franklyn M. Branley
Illustrator: Edward Miller
Genre: Science, Nonfiction, Early Reader, Picture Book
Ages: 3 – 6


The Wizard of Why is pretty sure there are aliens. After all, aliens show up in lot of books and TV shows, and they’re pretty much true, so there must be aliens. And they are cute and green, with antennae and robot friends. (Although he was quick to tell me recently that Mars could not have aliens because it was too hot in the daytime there.) And since my least favorite thing as a mother is squashing his dreams about the world, I was excited that this book tackled the issue for me. And even better, it does so in a realistic, scientific way, but leaves a lot of room for the imaginative preschooler.

It’s a great introductory science book with fun pictures and a lot to talk about. So many early science books are just terrible–in an attempt to speak to younger children, they end up dumbing the issues down so they don’t many any sense. Or so they make science seem so completely, awfully boring. But this is a great one that talks about when people thought there were aliens (such as War of the Worlds) and what scientists have done to discover (or not discover) them. It’s a fun book, and my son, who loves aliens, and is still pretty sure they exist and might visit any minute, loves the book, too.

What about you? What things does your child like to dream and read about?

February 20, 2012

Girls in the math and sciences

Why are girls in America still falling behind in the sciences and choosing scientific careers so much less often than men? I look at some of these issues in an article published recently in Northstate Parent.

To read more articles I’ve published, check out this list here.

November 2, 2011

where’s the girl stuff at the science museum?

Writing about girls and science and stereotypes and all that is wrong with the world at ParentMap.