Friday, October 27, 2017

Science after Dark

My kids loved going outside at night. We'd watch meteors, listen to insects, and go on moon-lit walks to look for nightlife. Here's a couple of new releases to inspire the night scientists in your house.

themes: nonfiction, night sky, animal behavior

 Night Creepers
by Linda Stanek; illus by Shennen Bersani
32 pages; ages 3-8
Arbordale, 2017

Waking up.

Most of us will read that and think, "morning". But no, these are red foxes and they're just shaking off sleep for a night busy with adventures.

What I like about this book: Each spread introduces young readers to a nocturnal or crepuscular (active dawn and dusk) creature. We meet wolves, bats, flying squirrels. raccoons, owls, frogs, and fireflies. The left side of each spread features large text with animal actions: gliding, washing, preening. A column down the right side gives more detail about the animal's behavior, what they eat, how they hunt, and where they live. Back matter includes four pages of activities for creative minds.

Night Sky (NGK Readers series)
by Laura March
32 pages; ages 5-8
National Geographic Children's Books, 2017

When the sun goes down, dots of light fill the night sky.
Some of them move. Others are still. Some twinkle. Others don't.
Have you ever wondered what they are?

 Short chapters focus on the moon, stars, planets, and "flying objects" - meteors and comets. Simple text is accompanied by gorgeous photos of earth, sky, and other heavenly objects.

What I like about this book: In addition to the text, a reader can gain information from photo captions, text boxes, and side bars. I like the "Sky Word" boxes; each explains one term. And I like the occasional jokes along the tops of the pages: Why did the moon stop eating? There's a wonderful graphic showing how an eclipse works, tips for stargazing, and "7 Cool Facts About Space!" A quiz at the end, photo glossary, and table of contents add value for curious kids.

Beyond the books:

Go on a night walk. Listen to the sounds of animals, wind blowing through leaves. Feel the air - is is cool? damp? icy? warm? dry? What does night time smell like? Jot down your observations about what you see, hear, feel, smell.

What do night animals sound like? Here's an article that provides short videos of night time noises you might hear.

Watch the night sky for a month. Or more. What do you see? You can find star maps and upcoming meteor showers at EarthSky (click on "tonight" for maps of constellations and things to look for).

Take a field trip to the library for books about the constellations. Hunt down Greek legends, Native American stories, or other tales that tell how a constellation came to be.

Today we're joining the STEM Friday roundup - and we're also joining others over at Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review copies from the publisher.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wednesday Explorers Club - leave seeds for the birds

If you're a gardener and love birds, that gives you a great excuse to leave garden "clean-up" till spring. Sunflowers, coneflowers, cosmos, bachelor buttons, coreopsis, asters, zinnias - these flowers produce seeds that birds love to chow down on.

What kinds of flowers do you have in your garden or around the neighborhood that provide winter food for birds? Grab your journal and pencil and sketch a few of them. Then watch what birds harvest the seeds over the next couple months.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Books Starring Koala!

by Claire Saxby; illus. by Julie Vivas
32 pages; ages 4-8
Candlewick Press, 2017

theme: animal families, nonfiction, growing up

In a high tree fork, a gray ball unfurls. Tall as a toddler, a sleepy young koala sniffs at leaves.

He's hungry and it's dinnertime. Climb, koala! Because up there - that's where the yummy leaves are. Koala wants to snuggle with mom, but it's time for him to find his own way. It's time to find his own sleeping branch - even his own tree.

What I like: this is a wonderful story of growing up, leaving home, and learning to be independent. Koala faces challenges, but he finds a place of his own. I also like the different sizes of text on the page. Large, simple text is easier for younger readers, while more dense text meant for older readers provides more details about how koalas live and behave.

Climb, Koala! (NGK Readers series)
by Jennifer Szymanski
24 pages; ages 2-5
National Geographic Children's Books, 2017

Climb, koala! Koalas can climb high.

Using simple language, Jennifer Szymanski introduces the youngest beginning readers to koalas.

What I like: The text is in large font, and each page is illustrated with photos that complement the text. So when kids are reading about claws, they get a close-up look at the sharp koala claws. I like the "Vocabulary tree" at the beginning, a word classification which divides featured words into things the koalas have (claws, fur) and what they do (climb, eat). There's a matching game on the last page, too.


Learn more about koalas at the Australia Zoo page.

Check out this video of environmentalists in Australia working for a National Koala Act to help protect the koala. National Geographic video.

Koalas are marsupials. Meet other marsupials on the Live Science website. Are there any marsupials living in your area? If so, learn a bit about them.

Today we're joining the STEM Friday roundup - and we're also joining others over at Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review copies from the publisher.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ A Field Trip for Nuts!

This is the season to find all kinds of nuts: acorns, hickory nuts, walnuts, beech nuts. The black walnuts are falling, now, on the road. They're huge, green balls nearly the size of tennis balls, though they tend to break apart if you kick them too hard. Finding hickory nuts is always a race with the squirrels and birds.

Go out an look for some nuts. Draw pictures of what you find (or take photos). Sit quietly and notice what animals come to investigate the nuts.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Beauty and the Beak

Beauty and the Beak: how science, technology, and a 3-D printed beak rescued a Bald Eagle.
by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp
48 pages; ages 5-12
Persnickety Press, 2017

themes: engineering, animal rescue, nonfiction

In a huge nest of twigs, high above an icy cold Alaskan river, a Bald Eagle chick cracked open her egg.

At first she's covered in down. But soon her wings become longer and stronger. Bit by bit her feathers grow in. She's a teen, taking test flights, and then off on her own. She hunts, eats, and soon is ready to fly back to the land where she was born. But one day she is shot in the face. A bullet shatters her beak, tears her eye, and leaves her bleeding.

"Beauty" is rescued and taken to a wildlife center where she can heal. But she can't eat or drink because her beak hasn't grown back. Then Janie, a raptor biologist, takes Beauty to a raptor center in Idaho. She works with an engineer to try something crazy: create a prosthetic beak for the eagle - and make it with a 3-D printer! But would it work? It did, and Beauty learned to eat and drink again on her own.

What I like about this book: This is a true story of how engineering and technology come to the rescue! That would be enough, but there are 16 pages of back matter packed with details about Beauty's beak and other prosthetic devices, as well as tons of facts about Bald Eagles.

I also like that this book comes out in the tenth anniversary year of the Bald Eagle being taken off the Endangered Species List. Even though they are no longer "endangered", Bald Eagles still face many risks - especially from human activity. People shoot them, or the eagles collide with cars, trains, or power lines.

Beyond the Book:
Listen to sounds made by Bald Eagles at Cornell Lab of Ornithology's website. You can also learn how to identify Bald Eagles.

Watch Bald Eagles via "eagle cam". Here's one in Washington DC. Season is over, now, but you can review the summer highlights.

Check out this post on "Wild Engineering."  And then head over to see this video about how the engineers created Beauty's new beak.

Then try your hand at engineering a prosthetic tail for fish! Download this pdf for some science and engineering fun. There's also an activity where you can engineer a  model of a prosthetic beak!

Today we're joining the STEM Friday roundup. Drop by STEM Friday blog for more science books and resources. We're also joining others over at Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review copy from the publisher.
edited: December 18, 2017

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Wednesday Explorers Club - unseasonal observations

Walking through town the other day I saw some trees blooming. Even my forsythia is blooming again. It's October! Granted, we've had a lo-o-ong summer, but the red on trees should be leaves turning color.

Which brings me to phenology: the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena. According to the US National Phenology Network, "Changes in phenological events like flowering and animal migration are among the most sensitive biological responses to climate change. Across the world, many spring events are occurring earlier—and fall events are happening later—than they did in the past." 

You can help scientists by keeping track of flower blooms, bird migrations, insects emerging, and other natural phenomena by becoming a citizen scientist through Project BudBurst. All you need is a journal, a pencil, and insatiable curiosity. Despite its name, you don't have to wait until spring to make observations. You can start now. Have fun!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Super Women ~ Six scientists who changed the world

Super Women, Six scientists who changed the world
by Laurie Lawlor
64 pages; ages 8-12
Holiday House, 2017

"Imagine being a highly trained astronomer who's forbidden to look through a state-of-the-art telescope," writes Laurie Lawler. Or that you're an accomplished underwater cartographer not allowed on a research vessel, or a chemist not allowed to work in a research lab.

Not because you don't have the skills - but only because you're a woman. We're not talking about women in science hundreds of years ago, but within our lifetime. Absurd, right?

And yet, Lawlor has compiled half a dozen stories of real scientists who had to fight against gender discrimination to do their research. Her tales include:
  • Eugenie  Clark, known as the "shark lady" - an oceanographer who dives into the sea to study sharks and other creatures living in the deep. Her research helped people understand that sharks can learn. Scientist, explorer, Clark authored more than 175 scholarly and popular science articles and been a champion of ocean conservation.
  • Gertrude Elion shares the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology & Medicine with George Hitchings and Sir James Black. Her research contributes to drug treatment for cancers. But when she graduated in 1937 with high honors in chemistry, she was turned away from research labs because hiring a woman would be "too distracting".
  • Katherine Coleman Johnson served as a human "computer", one of a team of mathematicians who helped send Alan B. Shepard, Jr. into orbit around Earth. As an African American woman and mathematician, she faced many obstacles working in the brand new space agency, whose technical staff was mostly white and male. In 2015, President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  • Marie Tharp mapped underwater mountains, valleys, ridges, and plains. She was one of the first scientists to notice evidence for plate tectonics. Other researchers discounted her thoughts as "wacky ideas" and "girl talk", but eventually she convinced them. She worked with another researcher to create the world ocean floor map.
  • Florence Hawley Ellis wanted to be an archeologist, but men joked that she'd never find workers willing to follow her into the field. In addition to digging up artifacts, she collected information from Pueblo and Navajo elders about customs, stories, social organizations and more. She also noticed historical evidence of droughts and ongoing perils of climate change in the Southwest. 
  • Eleanor Margaret Burbidge is an astronomer who hunts deep-space objects. She viewed the first image of a quasar that was billions of light years from Earth. But in the early years of her career, institutes denied women access to telescopes because the living quarters were meant to be places where male astronomers wouldn't be bothered by wives or family. She finagled a way to live off campus and use the telescope and has contributed greatly to the field of astronomy.
The book is filled with photos, and complemented with a glossary where you can quickly look up "quasar".

Today we're joining the STEM Friday roundup. Drop by STEM Friday blog for more science books and resources. Review copy from the publisher.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ A Seedy Walk

Head out on a seedy field trip. Pull a large pair of old socks over your shoes and up your legs. Then head outside and walk through a weedy area - maybe next to a country road, or at the far end of a park, a hay field or even your garden.

You might be surprised by how many seeds "hitch" a ride.

When you get home, pull the seeds off your socks and take a close look at them - a magnifying lens will help. Can you figure out what plants they come from?

Sort them by what they look like. If you have some potting soil, fill up some paper cups and plant the seeds. Can you grow them into new plants?