Friday, June 22, 2018

Activity books for emerging scientists, engineers, and explorers

Summer is here! If you've got a road trip planned - and even if you don't - you may be looking for a fun activity book that keeps kids involved in STEM exploration over the summer. Here are three that provide for lots of open-ended investigation.

Iggy Peck's Big Project Book for Amazing Architects
by Andrea Beaty; illus. by David Roberts
96 pages; ages 5-8
Abrams, 2017

 Do you like to build things? Doodle? Dream up new creations? If so, this book is for you! Graph-paper-ruled pages are filled with engineering and architectural challenges, ideas, and things to imagineer (that's like imagining and engineering all smooshed together).

The book introduces the story of Iggy Peck and then gets you started with a list of things that might be useful for architectural designs - from rubber bands and paper clips to boxes, plastic bottles, and a T-square. There's a great show-and-tell about balance, rhythm, and movement in design, and then you're on your own to design a new city hall, school, or haunted house. There's a similar book for emerging engineers called,  Rosie Revere's Big Project Book for Bold Engineers.

My Steam Notebook
by Darcy Pattison
156 pages, ages 6-10
Mim's House, 2017

Don't let the subtitle, "150 years of primary source documents from American scientists" fool you - at its heart, this is an activity book. There are indeed documents, photos of pages from scientists' notebooks and photos. One scientist loved to keep lists, another went on an ant safari and drew maps. As for STEAM, that refers to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math.

After introducing a scientist and his or her notebook, there are a few pages that are blank on one side and graph-paper-ruled on the other for you to jot notes, draw observations, make maps, record data... in effect, turn this book into your own scientist's notebook. There's a fill-in-the-blank table of contents at the front, and a make-your-own glossary at the back, for new words you discover as you explore your world.

Doodle Journeys
by Dawn Devries Sokol
160 pages; ages 8-12
Amulet Books, 2018

This fill-in journal is just the right size for tucking in a travel bag or backpack, which makes it the perfect thing to take along whether traveling by car or plane (or sail boat, canoe, bicycle, foot). It's designed to dip in anywhere, and use during more than one trip.

Introductory pages include items you might want to pack in a "travel tool kit" - things like pens, colored pencils, glue stick, tape, small scissors, a small ziplock to collect stamps, receipts, candy wrappers, etc. for collage.... stuff that could easily fit into a pencil pouch.

The book is divided into three chapters: Doodle Drills to get you going; Imaginary Trips for the creative mind; and Real Journeys for in-real-life adventures - even if it's just a walk to the library. You can fill the pages with drawings and observations of plants, animals, buildings, and other things you see, as well as use Dawn's prompts.

So go. Get a journal or an activity book. Explore new ideas, new places, and fill the pages. Review copies provided by publishers.

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