Want to keep the learning going outside the classroom? Here are super fun new books that are also educational! Your kids will just know that they’re fun, but you’ll know that they’re learning about science and language arts! So pat yourselves on the back, Mom and Dad, as you watch your kids enjoying books that are also helping their little minds grow.
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Fun New Books That Are Also Educational (Shhh!)
Friends Stick Together is a sweet new picture book about an unlikely pair that must learn to work together. Rupert is a mild-mannered rhino who loves classical music and cucumber sandwiches. His life is quiet and orderly, until one day Levi the tickbird shows up. Levi is loud and silly, with a tendency to burp the alphabet. Rupert tries every trick he can think of to rid himself of Levi, until one day he finally succeeds – and comes to realize how Levi actually made his life more fun (as well as less itchy). Great book to show how being friends with someone different can challenge us and enrich our lives.
So what does this have to do with STEM? This book is not just about friendship, it’s also sneakily about symbiosis, when different animal or plant species have a close association. In the case of Rupert and Levi, Levi gets to eat Rupert’s ticks, which in turn helps Rupert’s skin feel better. STEM book that’s also fun? Win-win!
Older kids will love the Zoey and Sassafras series, which I have written about previously. (Although I should say that this would make a great read aloud for younger kids as well, especially because it has so many illustrations). The Pod and The Bog and Caterflies and Ice are the latest adventures of Zoey and her cat Sassafras.
Zoey is the coolest kid around, getting to help with magical characters through the power of science! For example, in The Pod and The Bog she must figure out how to help a mysterious glowing seed pod to grow. My kids enjoy finding out about these magical creatives and trying to solve the mystery. I love how Zoey uses the scientific method to test out hypotheses and ultimately arrive at a solution, and that she is using her smarts to help others. This series is a real favorite at our house and an easy choice to include in our list of fun new books that are also educational!
It is hard to imagine a more fun book about punctuation! My kids and I laugh and laugh each time we read Semicolons, Cupcakes, and Cucumbers. It is a picture book, but it is so clever that my older son really enjoys it as well. Trust me, after reading this book, your kids will never look at punctuation the same way again! This is the story of four friends (Period, Question Mark, Exclamation Point, and Comma) who are trying to agree on what to do for fun. It’s not until a mysterious stranger (Semi-Colon) shows up that they realize that they can work together and find activities they all can enjoy!
The personalities of each character come through clearly, and each always speaks using its own punctuation mark. For example, Exclamation Point is the adventurous one, always shouting with enthusiasm, while Period is very matter of fact and really just wants to go to the library. Young readers will laugh out loud as the friends stumble through a series of adventures together before finally finding a fun way to spend the day. Don’t miss the bonus educational activities at the end!
When the picture book Rhyme Crime arrived at our house recently, my five year old grabbed it immediately and went to read it on the couch. A few minutes later he brought it over to me and said I had to stop making dinner and read it immediately because it was hilarious. Turns out he was right! Someone is stealing words – and replacing them with rhymes. For example, when Hammy’s new hat was stolen, he found himself wearing a cat instead! The results are always silly, and the colorful illustrations even more so. The thief finally meets his downfall when he makes the mistake of stealing an orange! This is a fun read, especially for kids that are just learning about rhymes. My toddler loves flipping through it just for the pictures.
Enjoy these fun new books that are also educational with your kids, for a parenting win-win!
When I was a child, my family lived through a hurricane – something previously unheard of in my part of North Carolina, as far inland as we were. Luckily, my mother was always attentive to emergency reports and had quickly stocked our home with the essentials, so that when the storm hit we were ready. (A good thing, since we were without power for 10 days!) Recently we have seen many more families impacted by natural disasters, from hurricanes to wildfires, which is why it is essential to teach our children about emergency preparedness. Here are some wonderful resources that will help your family to get ready for an emergency plus teach children about the science behind extreme weather, including a great new children’s book from an award-winning meteorologist!
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Freddy the Frogcaster for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Emergency Preparedness and Extreme Weather: Resources for Kids
Freddy the Frogcaster and the Flash Flood is a wonderful book for a range of ages. It is the fifth in a series from award-winning meteorologist Janice Dean, who focuses her stories on helping children understand extreme weather and learn important safety tips. In this book, Freddy the Frogcaster (who is super adorable, by the way!) warns the town about a big storm coming – but then the storm passes them by! Freddy must overcome his embarrassment to make sure the town is ready when a storm does come. I love that this story shows that, even though forecasters may not always “get it right” all of the time (thanks to the science of predicting the weather), it is still important to pay attention to the weather report so we can help us be ready when a disaster hits.
This book works on so many levels. The colorful illustrations and relatable story line are very appealing to young readers, who may not even notice how much weather science is woven into the story itself! There are also wonderful fact filled pages at the end of the book, where kids not only learn all about the science behind floods, they get great tips on how to stay safe if one strikes.
I really recommend this series for families and classrooms, as it contains such valuable information in a very entertaining, easy to understand format.
November 2, 2017Book Reviews, STEMComments Off on New STEM Books with Strong Female Characters
As we all know, there is a big push to get girls interested in STEM and a key component of that is to provide great role models for them, so they can imagine themselves doing STEM activities and pursuing related careers. That is why I am so pleased to share with you great STEM books aimed at children of different ages that feature girls and women with varied personalities and backgrounds, who happen to all love the STEM fields. Here is a collection of great new STEM books with strong female characters, plus bonus STEM resources!
I also want to add that while these books have strong female characters, they are not STEM books for girls only. I have read all of them with my sons, who have really enjoyed them. Boys need positive female role models, too!
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
New STEM Books with Strong Female Characters
Twinderella, A Fractioned Fairy Tale is a wonderful mathematical twist on the classic tale, delivering up not one but two heroines to love. Cin and Tin split exactly in half all of the chores they receive from their evil stepmother but both yearn for something more. After they attend the royal ball, the smitten Prince Charming is confused when the slipper he finds fits both of the twins. Can the fairy godmother help the girls with some mathematical magic? I love that while one twin in your more traditional fairy princess, the other is a math whiz who just wants to lead an academic life – no judgment of either choice in this book! We also love the poster that comes with the book (“Master math to live happily ever HALF-ter!”), which includes fun math activities on the back.
The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: the Story of Dr. Patricia Bath is the inspiring true story of a gifted child whose parents encouraged her dreams despite the double burden she faced as a black girl. Her story of determination and perseverance will inspire any child who has been told she couldn’t do something simply because she was different. The book tells Dr. Bath’s life story with engaging pictures and rhyming text, plus there are lots of resources included at the end – a timeline of Dr. Bath’s life, “fun facts” about her, a more in-depth look at her biography, and – my favorite – a personal note from Dr. Bath, encouraging children to always ask questions.
One thing that really struck me about her story is her focus on community health and providing prevention eye care to underserved communities. Years ago I read an article about female scientists, which made the observation that women in science tend to focus on practical research to help people – rather like the truism in development circles that if you want to educate a community, you need to educate the women. Exactly why we need more girls to get excited about STEM!
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: the Story of Dr. Temple Grandin is another incredible true story of a STEM heroine who was told “no” at every turn. Dr. Temple Grandin was one of the first people I had ever heard of with autism (years before my own nephew’s diagnosis). Importantly, she was one of the very first who could really communicate to others what it feels like to be autistic, and how differently people with autism see the world. What is so great about her story is that it is not so much about her “overcoming” autism but learning to use it to her advantage to empathize with animals and try to see things from their point of view. This book follows a similar format to The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes above – first a picture book story and then additional resources, including fun facts and a personal note from Dr. Grandin.
The Friendship Code is the first book in the super cool new Girls Who Code chapter book series. It centers around Lucy and her excitement about the new coding club at school. But she is frustrated with the teacher seems to give them irrelevant assignments – plus there is bound to be major drama when her former best friend joins the club, too! To top it off, someone is sending Lucy messages written in code. Can she and her coding club friends solve the mystery? I love the diverse characters in the book – diverse not just racially but personality wise as well. You have your geek, your jock, your theater buff, and your fashionista – showing that all kinds of kids can enjoy doing coding. The dynamics among the characters feels very authentic, and kids will love trying to solve the case – learning a lot of basic coding along the way!
As with all of the books listed here, boys can really enjoy it, too – in fact, I’m having to write this review from memory, as my oldest son has the book spirited away in his room to finish reading. When I asked him for it back, he waved vaguely to his room and said it should be in there, adding, “It’s really good!” Um, yes, I know! Now can I have it back, please??
Hamster Princess: Giant Trouble gets an honorable mention here (read my full review), because even though the books in this amazing series are not STEM books, the super fierce Princess Harriet has a major obsession with fractions! The boys and I have been reading these together and are super excited for the next installment. Great book for reversing a lot of stereotypes about female and male characters in traditional fairy tales.
Bonus STEM Books & Resources
Here are even more fun STEM books and resources to get your kids excited about STEM! And in keeping with our theme, most of the people behind them are women!
How to Survive as a Shark is such a fun way to teach kids about these amazing creatures! I love the format, a crusty older shark teaching the little ones all they need to know (like stay away from your mom – she might eat you!) The story is really fun, as the dialogue between the shark teacher and “kids” provides a lot of humor, but don’t be fooled: It’s positively stuffed with interesting facts, all told in accessible – but not watered down – language.
How to Survive as a Firefly is another in the same series, this time focuses on fireflies. (In this one the teacher has to hurry up and finish his lesson since he only has 30 seconds left to live!) My kids love these books – to be honest, I was surprised that my preschooler would want to read a book that was so full of scientific information, but when we sat down to read together, it was obvious why: It is just plain fun! The story and illustrations are so engaging, and the facts really are fascinating. Plus these books focus on creatures like sharks and bugs that naturally pique the interest of kids. Don’t miss the bonus questions from the baby fireflies at the end!
Sumita Mukherjee is back with another cool STEM book for kids! (See my review of her last book). Cool Science Experiments For Kids!: Awesome science experiments and Do It Yourself activities for 6-10 years kids is designed for people who want to do fun, hands on experiments with their kids. I love that there is such a variety of experiments and that they are marked for level of difficulty and estimated time, so it’s easy to flip through and find one that’s a good fit for your kids or classroom. Step by step instructions with photos make it easy to follow along even if you don’t have much scientific background yourself. The experiments cover motion & energy, chemistry & reactions, math fun, and crafts & games.
Coding Games for Kids – Learn to Code with Play app is a great way to teach kids the principles of coding in a fun, engaging way! There are six games, including Monster Dentist and Pop the Balloons, each of which has many different levels, so kids can work their way up as their learn the coding basics of sequence, loops, and function. My only caveat is to take the age range of 6-8 with a grain of salt. My 4 year old had fun playing the beginning levels, whereas my 7 year old thought the graphic (though not necessarily the content) were a little babyish. They both had a lot of fun playing the games, however, and it is well suited to beginning coders.
June 23, 2017Book Reviews, STEMComments Off on How To Be A STEM Superhero – Even If You Don’t Like Science
We all know how important STEM education is – but that doesn’t mean we all feel confident teaching STEM to our children. I enjoyed my science classes as a kid, but, to be honest, it really wasn’t my thing. I did well, but I was really more of an arts and literature kind of a gal. So when it came time for college, I cheerfully tested out of my science requirements and filled my schedule with history, languages, and anthropology classes instead. Fast forward several decades, and now I am doing my best to encourage my STEM-loving kids, even without a strong background in science. The good news? You don’t have to be a scientist to be a STEM superhero!
That’s why I am so excited for this guest post from my friend Lisa at Knocked Up Abroad. Read on as she shares ideas on how you can be a STEM superhero – even if you don’t like science!
Our kids have a natural curiosity to question their environment, and most of their questions are usually biologic in nature. Do worms have eyes? What do ladybugs eat? etc. When our kids ask us questions, we, as parents, feel that we need to have all of the answers. However, we don’t always have these answers handy without first consulting Wikipedia. The best solution, when confronted with a question to which you do not have an answer, is to admit it.
“That’s a really good question. I don’t know the answer but let’s look it up when we get home.”
Boom. You didn’t look incompetent; you just taught your kid how to conduct research. It is important that parents foster their children’s natural curiosity in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) even if that parent has absolutely zero training, interest, or mild expertise in STEM.
STEM jobs are our the future, and fortunately, there are a ton of children’s books that are focused on making STEM not only easy to understand but interesting to learn for young kids. STEM doesn’t have to be intimidating if you’re not a science loving parent. Many parents don’t even know where to start when it comes to answering their kids’ questions about science.
One book, in particular, is emphasizing the non-scientific personality traits that are inherent to all scientists—persistence (perseverance is a mouthful). Every kid needs to learn how to persist—how to overcome challenges—and it is a character trait that will serve everyone later in life regardless of what career they pursue.
In Marie Curie and the Power of Persistence, Marie is confronted time and time again by the villain, Mr. Opposition (Mr. O). Time and time again, Marie persists and overcomes Mr. O to reach both personal and professional success.
By focusing on Marie’s personality traits that lead to her success instead of a level of genius that may be too confusing and intimidating for young children, every child and parent can identify new ways in which they persisted over a challenge.
One great way to read this book with kids is to have a follow-up discussion about a time when each person faced a challenge. Who or what was their Mr. Opposition? How did they use persistence to reach their goals?
Marie Curie represents a positive female role model for both girls and boys as the first person to ever win two Nobel Prizes and the only person to win Nobel Prizes in two different sciences. This book illustrates her complex discoveries using language that early readers can understand. The book is excellent for readers between the ages of 5-9 years and parents, even those who aren’t STEM-inclined, will enjoy reading the super science hero story.
With Marie Curie and the Power of Persistence, everyone can be a STEM superhero, all you need is persistence.
The book is available to pre-order now through IndieGogo until July 4. There are exclusive hands-on experiments to give kids a jump start on their own scientific discoveries. Who knows? Maybe your kid will be the next Marie Curie!
Now you can be a STEM superhero for all children! Help us bring science to life for our youngest readers by supporting the book or by sharing this project on Facebook.
We have all heard about the dreaded summer slide – the loss a child experiences during summer vacation, when lack of practice erodes the learning so painstakingly gained during the school year. Here are fun ways to beat the summer slide, through educational media that your child will actually enjoy!
Don’t miss my summer slide giveaway – scroll down for more details!
Disclosure: I received complimentary samples of the products below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
A new find for us this summer is the wonderful book Find Your Way In Space: Travel through space and practice your Math and Mapping skills. It is so much fun and packed with learning! Through it, kids go on an adventure through space, sharpening their geography and math skills along the way. It is something of a cross between a choose-your-own-adventure and a seek-and-find book. It is non-sequential, so you can take various paths to reach your end goal, plus on each page there are multiple entry and exit points. All along the way you help your fellow aliens find lost objects or locate their destinations, count stars or compare sizes of asteroids, and answer math problems to get through road blocks. This is the kind of book that can be used countless times, as your child selects different missions or chooses different pathways to reach their goal.
If you really want to get your child excited about reading, you should check out Epic!, an all-you-can-read online library of children’s books that you can access across your devices. Epic! is a dream come true for our family, since our kids go through so many books each week. We are always at the limit on our library cards and are constantly juggling how many books we have to return in order to check out those new ones they just have to have. With Epic! that struggle is over! My kids now have access to a vast library of books, audiobooks, educational videos, and quizzes. You can have up to 4 profiles on your account, so each child can have a customized reading profile with recommendations just for them.
I love the wide range of books available and how easy it is for my kids to find books they are interested in. I especially love the selection of “read to me” books for my two pre-readers, so that they can enjoy reading time as well. Epic! is perfect if you are traveling this summer, so you don’t have to worry about lugging along a stack of books!
Music and movies are also fun ways to stimulate young brains over the summer. They expect learning to be more fun over vacation, and why not? Watch some kid-friendly foreign movies or some awe-inspiring nature documentaries. You can also listen to great music and learn at the same time!
Every Child Wins is an example of great educational music that is so fun you’ll want to listen to it even when your kids aren’t around! It is no secret that educational music is usually very forced, artificial, and not much fun for anyone. So I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the album Every Kid’s A Genius actually sounds like music you’d hear on an R&B or hip-hop station, but the lyrics are related to learning the alphabet and numbers. It is very upbeat, so it is great to play as you get ready in the mornings or in the car. The tunes are catchy, so the lesson will stay with your child long after the music is turned off.
Best of all, you could win a FREE COPY of this album by commenting below before midnight PT on Sunday, June 11, 2017, with your favorite way to beat the summer slide! I have 25 copies to give away, so comment for a chance to win! Random winners will be chosen from the verified entries.
Computer Programs & Apps
Of course, you can’t talk about education for kids these days without talking about screen time! Luckily there are some truly wonderful apps and computer programs that can keep your kids excited about learning and beat the summer slide.
One program that we’ve come to love is Smartick. I loved math as a kid, but I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that my oldest son doesn’t. At least, he didn’t. Getting him to do math worksheets has always been like pulling teeth. Math games and manipulatives help, but for a long time math remained his least favorite subject. Yet now that we are using Smartick, doing math is a treat, not a chore! He really enjoys this online program, especially because you earn points to use in games after you finish your session.
I love that my 4 year old can also use it without my help. He was really amazed and so proud of himself for using the same program as his big brother! Each child has his own profile, and Smartick uses artificial intelligence to adjust the program to that child’s level, so they are working on problems just right for them. The idea is that your child does one short, 15 minute session a day, so that they get the repetition and practice without the burnout. I love that I get a daily report of how and what they do in their sessions, so I can track their progress. Please note that they are currently running a summer special through 7/31/17 – try it for free then choose a discounted package. It’s a great way to get started!
A great program for kids learning to read is Reading with Fonics. My preschooler has had a lot of fun with it! I love that it is right at his level, so it really builds his confidence at the same time as it is reinforcing concepts and teaching him new skills. It is a really cute, fun game that is based on the idea that reading can be decoded by teaching kids basic phonics – the sounds that letters and letter combinations make – rather than having them memorize long lists of words. Once they master the basic sounds, they can read most words they encounter, even if they have never seen them before!
I love that Reading with Fonics starts off with very simple sounds and becomes progressively more complex. Each time you master one sound, another is unlocked. This is a familiar video game format, plus it ensures that your child has time to really “get” the concept before moving on to a new one. It is a really fun game for little ones, and a great way to give them a leg up on their reading for the fall!
What is your favorite way to beat the summer slide? Comment below before midnight PT on Sunday, June 11, 2017, and you could be one of 25 winners of a FREE DOWNLOAD of Every Kid’s A Genius music album (see above). Random winners will be chosen from the verified entries.
April 26, 2017Education, STEMComments Off on Encouraging Curiosity: Create a Questions Notebook
Do you have a child who asks questions constantly? Do you want a way to channel the curiosity of your students and teach them basic research skills? Here is a great resource for elementary age children to use: a questions notebook to guide students to investigate their own questions. This free printable is a wonderful way of encouraging curiosity and laying the foundation for critical thinking and independent research.
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of Zoey and Sassafras for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Encouraging Curiosity: Create a Questions Notebook
My kids are full of questions: Why do dogs hate cats? Why can’t I see myself in the mirror with the lights off? Why is the word “cough” in “coffee”? This natural curiosity is the foundation of scientific learning, yet I was finding it increasingly difficult to satisfy their endless questions when I was, for example, cooking dinner or changing a squirmy toddler. I needed a way of encouraging curiosity while maintaining my sanity.
Yet more importantly, I remembered how my mother had handled my own endless questions when I was a child. Rather than just give me answers, she always sent me to the bookshelf where we kept a row of heavy, dark green encyclopedias. (Does anyone have these anymore? The original Google!) She could have easily just answered my questions, but instead she gave me the greater gift of learning to investigate for myself. Through practicing these basic research skills, I built my confidence and discovered the importance of finding out the truth for myself rather than relying on anyone else.
I wanted to do the same for kids, so I created this questions notebook: simply right click on the images below to download and print your copies!
Printable Page 1
Printable Page 2
How to Use This Printable
Print out copies of the notebook pages above and keep them on hand for your child or students. Encourage them to not only write down a question but a hypothesis as well. Some may feel too shy or uncertain to do this at first, but you will see their confidence grow as they gain experience.
Subject: Have them try to decide which subject heading their question falls under. This will come in handy as they begin their research, to help them choose the appropriate sources.
Bookshelf: On the second page I have listed several types of sources they can use to research their questions. I like to start with what is on your own bookshelf, to combat the urge to simply do an online search. Your bookshelf is immediately available and can encourage further exploration of the resources you already have at home or in your classroom. We love Picturepedia, Children’s Illustrated Dictionary, and Science: A Visual Encyclopedia.
Library: If they would like to learn more, help them find more specific resources on your next trip to the library. Encourage them to ask a librarian if they need help finding relevant resources.
Expert/Field Trip/Experiment: If you can see that a topic has really fired up your students’ interest, you could arrange for a guest speaker, help them design an experiment, or facilitate a field trip (either as a class or as a suggested activity for home).
If You Are a Parent:Encourage your child to write her questions in her questions notebook. When you have some free time to sit with her, choose one or two to research together. As she gets the hang of it, she can do more of them independently, though you will still want to review the completed pages together when you can. These notebook pages can be the basis for science fair projects or school papers!
If You Are a Homeschooler: Researching these questions can be a regular part of your child’s independent work. Several times a week my son chooses a question or two to research while I’m working with his younger brother. This has become a favorite activity for both of us, as I love seeing what he discovers!
If You Are a Teacher: Again, this can be a great activity for independent work, or an enjoyable homework assignment. You may also choose several to investigate further as a class.
To help get your kids excited about conducting their own research, introduce them to Zoey & Sassafras, a dynamic duo of a science-loving girl and her faithful cat who help the magical creatures who come to them with their problems. For example, in the first book, Dragons and Marshmallows, they help a sick baby dragon, while in Monsters and Mold they help a monster get rid of embarrassing mold so he can go to a dance. (Don’t you love the idea of monsters having a big, friendly dance party?)
There is so much I love about this series: the lovable characters, the wonderful relationship Zoey has with her parents, and the fact that this incredible girl makes the scientific method look like so much fun! As Zoey tries to help her magical friends, she must experiment to figure out the best solution. And she has a trusty notebook where she tracks her observations and experiments! She not only hones her powers of observation and analytical thinking, she is also practicing persistence in the face of failures and learning to use her skills to help others.
These books help children see themselves as scientists and researchers and feeds their interests in the wider world. Merhorses and Bubbles, for instance, will stoke their curiosity about environmental issues, as Zoey investigates why the magical creatures in the stream are in danger. These are great books for encouraging curiosity and empowering children to discover answers for themselves.
What are your favorite ways of encouraging curiosity in your children or students?
The Festival of Ridván begins next week, and because it commemorates Bahá’u’lláh’s stay in a garden full of roses, I love to do rose crafts and activities with my children to celebrate (like make these rose cookies). Inspired by the roses that were piled in Bahá’u’lláh’s tent each day (so many that His guests could not see each other over them!) I have gathered together a huge list of rose crafts, play and learning activities, and recipes for you. Enjoy!
STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) is such an important part of education today, and for good reason: most careers in today’s economy are based on some aspect of STEM. And even more fundamentally, a child who can think like a scientist can apply those critical thinking skills and curiosity to any field they wish to pursue. Here are some simple ways to get kids excited about STEM at any age!
I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase. I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
How to Get Kids Excited About STEM
1. Keep It Fun
There are all kinds of fun ways to get kids excited about STEM – from picture books to crafts and field trips. Experiment and see what gets your kids interested! Pay attention to what they love and use that as a way to start their explorations. For example, when my oldest became fascinated with carnivorous plants, we checked out as many books as we could, did crafts, made snacks in the shape of the plants he loved, and took a trip to San Francisco to see an exhibit!
There are so many ways to explore. Try visiting your local science museum – they are always so fun, and will introduce your child to new topics they may not have considered. A visit will definitely get your child fired up about science!
You can also explore at home by taking an activity they enjoy and helping them experience it in new ways! Old Tracks, New Tricks is a great new book to get kids excited about STEM from an early age. You may be thinking, what does playing with trains have to do with STEM? Plenty! This is not only a fun story (what happens when a group of fun-loving train tracks are adopted into a home where the trains make everyone stick to their rules?), it is wonderful for inspiring play and learning. Through this imaginative tale, kids are invited to think outside the box and use favorite toys in new ways. Who says you can’t use your train tracks for painting or to build trees or high tower jumps? I love that this book really empowers kids to be creators by coming up with their own projects! As soon as we read this book the first time, my kids jumped up and raced to pull out the train tracks. Soon they were building and creating – and kept going all morning!
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2. Focus on Hands on Learning
Kids really get excited when you take learning out into the real world and give them projects they can do for themselves. We recently attended a Science and Engineering Night at our homeschool charter school (yes! a charter school that supports homeschoolers – we love it!). My kids loved jumping in and getting involved in so many projects, from making slime and building towers to participating in an astronaut-in-training obstacle course. What fun ways to get kids excited about STEM!
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A fun way to recreate this learning at home is to use a STEM project guide like the new STEAM AHEAD! DIY for KIDS. This great activity pack includes making and building activities for kids ages 4 to 10. There is such a variety of projects included here, that you are guaranteed to find ones that you and your kids will enjoy!
From LED cards and scribbling bots to squishy circuits and bubble blowers, there is something for everyone! And note that this is STEAM, not just STEM – that extra “A” stands for Art and means that it includes craft projects that also teach science – score! Find even more resources to get kids excited about STEM on the WizKids Club website – and grab a free download – an alien doodle book!
3. Empower Them
If you loved Rosie Revere, Engineer then I know you will be just as excited as I am to learn that there is now an activity book to go along with it! Rosie Revere’s Big Project Book for Bold Engineers is a wonderful companion to the bestselling children’s book, building on the excitement it created around engineering and STEM. It includes 40+ things to invent, draw, and make. I love that it really encourages kids to use their imaginations and become inventors and creators themselves. The book also puts a big emphasis on failure as part of the engineering process. It celebrates flops and encourages kids to track their own as part of the fun of inventing. “Think about a time you failed at something and wanted to quit. Draw a picture to show how you felt. What did you learn?”
When kids are empowered to learn from their mistakes, they feel more confident to try new things and not give up. This is especially helpful if you have a little perfectionist in your house or if you are one yourself! Worrying about getting things just right the first time can really hold them back. Make sure they know that mistakes are not only okay – they are great! Mistakes help propel the process of invention forward, so encourage your kids to be proud of what they have learned.
If we want to get kids excited about STEM, we need to teach them to trust themselves and follow their curiosity. Science is all about exploration, so we have to equip them with the self-confidence to try new things – and fail. And try again. Having a growth mindset, where failure is not only okay but required, will help them develop perseverance and a belief in themselves as problem solvers. This means loosening up the reins a bit and giving them the freedom to explore, even when we know (or at least we think we know!) that something will not work. (Or that it will be messy or disgusting!)
Want to see if you can grow a bean plant in complete darkness? Let’s find out! Want to experiment with ways to grow mold on bread? Sure! Sometimes kids need to find out things for themselves, so we have to give them space to do just that.
This is one of the many reasons I love Dragons and Marshmallows (Zoey and Sassafras), the first installment in a new book series about a girl whose mother not only trusts her with a big secret (there are magical animals in the forest that need our help!) but also trusts her to take care of the animals while she is away. This is a great book to showcase the scientific method, as Zoey and her pet Sassafras carefully experiment to find out why a baby dragon is sick. I also loves that it shows a kid who is empowered to figure out a problem on her own – and ask for help when she needs it. We can’t wait to read the entire series!
5. Turn It Into an Adventure
If you know anything about the world of science for kids, you know about Bill Nye, the Science Guy! We have used his super fun YouTube videos to teach many a scientific concept, so I was really excited to see that he had co-created a new chapter book series for kids! Jack and the Geniuses: At the Bottom of the World is the first installment in an exciting new middle grade adventure series that features real-world science in a way that is engaging and accessible. Jack and his friends travel to Australia for a science competition, but when one of the scientists goes missing, they are drawn into a mystery that will have them racing to solve clues before it’s too late! I love how hands on science is woven into the story. This book also shows what actual, grown up scientists do, so kids can imagine themselves as part of the scientific world. This book is easy to read without being watered down, so it’s great for reluctant readers as well as those already curious about science. Includes additional information about the science shown in the book as well as an experiment kids can do at home or in the classroom!
What are your favorite ways to get kids excited about STEM? Share in the comments!
Do you have a child who is interested in science and medicine? Or one that you want to encourage to pursue their dreams no matter what the obstacles? Black History Month is the perfect time to introduce them to the inspiring story of medical pioneer Vivien Thomas, who persisted despite incredible difficulties to study medicine and develop a surgical technique that has saved thousands of children’s lives. Inspire your kids with a wonderful children’s book on his life as well as suggested activities to teach your kids mor about this important figure in the history of STEM.
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History of STEM: Black Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas
There is a reason that most of us have never heard of the incredible Vivien Thomas, despite the fact that he invented a surgical technique that allowed for the first successful open heart surgeries on children. Even though he is now credited with saving thousands of children’s lives, his is not a household name.
After the first operations were performed using Thomas’ technique in 1944, the procedure made national news, yet Thomas was never mentioned. The technique itself was named after the two doctors Thomas worked for, both of whom were nominated for the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine because of “their” technique.
Why? Because Vivien Thomas was black, at a time when blacks and whites used separate drinking fountains, when blacks had trouble finding housing in “nice” neighborhoods, when blacks were barred from entering all-white medical schools, and when blacks could not operate on white babies, even to save their lives.
When Thomas’ life-saving technique was first used in 1944, Thomas was not allowed to perform the surgery himself, but the surgeon could not do it without Thomas’ help. Thomas had to stand on a chair behind the surgeon, giving instructions (and at one point stopping the surgeon from making a suture in the wrong direction).
Thomas’ contributions were not recognized until 1971, when his portrait was displayed at John Hopkins University. The university awarded him an honorary doctorate degree 5 years later and appointed him to the faculty. Many of the country’s top surgeons trained under Thomas and credit him with their success.
A wonderful book to introduce children to Thomas’ life, his incredible perseverance, and pioneering work is Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas. It tells of his life from his childhood, when he worked under his father, a master carpenter, to carefully save money so he could go to a nearby medical school for African Americans. It follows his crushing disappointment at losing his savings in the market crash of 1929 and his persistence in pursuing work in medicine, even if his official job title was simply “janitor.” How did someone with only a high school education develop a life-saving surgical technique that is still used today? How did Thomas overcome the racism and resistance he faced from his co-workers?
One activity we did after reading the book is based on the first operation that was performed using Thomas’ technique, when Thomas stood on a chair behind the surgeon, giving instructions.
The boys took turns standing on a chair behind the other, giving instructions on how to draw a picture. The one drawing had to follow what the other was saying, and the one giving directions was not allowed to actually touch the drawing.
Warning: They hated it! It was too frustrating to just give out instructions and not be able to draw, especially because the one drawing usually had his own ideas about what to do! The one drawing wasn’t having any fun either, since he just wanted to do his own picture.
Hopefully this activity gave them a taste of how incredibly frustrating it must have been for Thomas to watch another surgeon performing his technique, while all he could do was stand behind him and give instructions (which the surgeon would hopefully want and be able to follow).
Welcome to our fourth annual Black History Month series and giveaway! Follow along all month long as we explore the rich history and cultures of Africa and African-Americans. Be sure to enter our giveaway below and link up your own posts at the bottom of the page.
Coming soon! Our annual Black History Month giveaway runs from February 3 through February 28, 2017. Winners will be drawn and notified within 48 hours. Note that some prizes have shipping restrictions. If the winner lives outside of that shipping area, that part of the prize package will go to the next prize winner. Read our full giveaway rules.
I try to integrate subjects whenever possible, so when the time came to study the Nazca lines of South America (after our study of the Olmecs), I saw an opportunity for a great STEM project that taught history as well!
What are the Nazca lines and why should we care? These lines, etched into the ground in the Peruvian desert between 500 BC and 500 AD, are now a World Heritage site and one of the great mysteries of history.
Barely noticeable from the ground, these geoglyphs are so large that their true value can only be appreciated from the air, which is why they did not come to public attention until airplanes started flying them in the 1930s.
By Unukorno (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Some of the straight lines are 30 miles long, while the animal and plant figures (our favorites were the hummingbird and monkey) range from 50 to 1200 feet in length (Source: National Geographic).
By Martin St-Amant (S23678) (Français : Travail personnel English: Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
So how did the ancient peoples of this region create these massive works of art? Possible alien visitors (!) notwithstanding, the most likely explanation is simply that they were great engineers, who were able to map out their designs on a grand scale and patiently bring them to life over a vast swath of land.
What would it undertake this kind of engineering project? To explore, we did this STEM activity, which requires little more than paper, pen, chalk, and a large space to draw:
Nazca Lines STEM Project
1. Choose your site. Before you start your engineering project, you need to know where you are going to be doing your final creation. Ideally, it is a large open space outdoors that is divided into several uniform blocks, such as a sidewalk. Decide how many blocks tall and wide your final design will be. We chose a sidewalk at a nearby park and decided to use three blocks of the sidewalk. (You could also use a white board or blackboard that you divide into sections, though it is nice to draw on a horizontal surface to get the full effect).
2. Create your design. Draw blocks on a sheet of paper that match those of your final site. Since we were going to be using three blocks of a sidewalk, we first drew three large blocks on our paper and my son drew his design onto these. This will help you plan how large your drawing needs to be when you transfer it to the sidewalk. You may even find it helpful to divide your paper (and the sidewalk) into smaller blocks. For younger children, try to keep the drawings fairly simple, as it is easy to underestimate how difficult it will be to scale them up in the next step. (Knowing, of course, that many children – like mine – will ignore this advice and draw something complicated, like a detailed picture of a warrior!)
In which we learn an important lesson about not sitting on our chalk drawings.
3. Make your creation. Take chalk and your paper to your final site and transfer your design. Use your sketch to help you see how big each portion has to be on the sidewalk. It will be much bigger than you think! Even with drawing in hand, this was the most challenging part, as it is quite difficult to scale up your drawing onto the pavement.
Note his creative way to make his warrior taller when he realized he hadn’t scaled up enough!
This was a fun project, and it helps build a healthy respect for those long ago engineers!
Welcome to our third annual celebration of Native American Heritage Month! All month long we’ll be sharing posts about sharing these rich cultures with kids. Find our full schedule of posts below, and don’t forget to link up your own as well! We’re also having a giveaway (see below for details and to enter!) You can find even more ideas on our Native/Indigenous Cultures Pinterest board: