Scientists At Work: Activities and Books to Promote Science Literacy

Promote Science Literacy - Scientists at WorkScience understanding is key to making our way in the world. Whether we are making decisions about our health care, attempting to understand currents events, or learning to perform a new job, science knowledge plays an important role.

The major goal of scientists is to develop current theories that explain bodies of data and predict outcomes of further investigations. Engineers use their knowledge to solve problems.

Modeling, critiquing, and communicating are equally important in STEM fields as are observing and conducing research, testing a hypothesis, and analyzing data.

Promote Science Literacy

Hands-on science instruction and experience in inquiry science is important for understanding STEM concepts. However, it is also important for students to develop an understanding of what scientists actually DO in their day-to-day work. Today, I share a few tips to improve your student’s science literacy.

Encourage students to read nonfiction during independent reading time. Consider reading aloud a biography of a scientist that corresponds with your current unit of study.

Give a book talk about a new nonfiction title. Invite students to share a short book talk on a title they have read.

Create book display to highlight scientists at work. Rotate themes on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Set up a display of the tools and equipment scientists use.

Ask students to interview a scientist in your community. Create posters to share what you’ve learned with others.

Take a field trip to visit with scientists in the field. Consider agricultural sciences, healthcare, and engineering related work.

hydrogeologyScientists at Work

Reading literature and non-fiction books that feature real-world scientists helps students to develop a greater understanding of the world of science. They realize that science isn’t just lab coats and goggles. Here are a few titles that detail the skills and varied experiences of STEM careers.

Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard
Citizen science is the study of the world by the people who live in it. In this title, Burns introduces readers to children and adults, scientists and nonscientists who study nature in an effort to learn more and save particular species of animals.

The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe
In 2006, a beekeeper discovered his hives were completely empty. What had happened to the 20 million bees? Soon, other beekeepers had the same story. This book describes how scientists worked alongside aviculturalists to discover what we now call colony collapse disorder.

Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion
Join oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeryer as he takes readers around the globe and shares his insight after years of tracking debris. With data of ocean currents he brings this concern to the public eye.

The Frog Scientist
Years ago, scientists had discovered that all around the globe, frogs were dying. The decline has many causes, including habitat loss and disease. Follow along with Tyrone, a young man passionate about frogs, who becomes an amphibian scientist and discovers that the most commonly used pesticide in the United States plays a role in the demise of his beloved frogs.

The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity 
Two rovers were sent to Mars in 2003 to discover whether water had ever existed there. See for yourself how the imagination drives scientists and engineers to overcome hurdles and ultimately build models and simulations.

Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon (Newbery Honor Book)
This multi-award winning title offers a thrilling story of the Manhattan Project. The author details how Oppenheimer recruited scientists from a variety of backgrounds to work on plans for an atomic bomb.

 

entomologycareersI encourage you to begin to explore science career options in more depth. Keep a notebook of what you’ve learned. I have shared two previous careers we have explored: Entomology and Hydrogeology.

Obstaclēs: The Little Giant with a Big Heart {book review}

I love to read! I especially like to read books that take me on a journey to the past or to other cultures. I love books that break barriers and stereotypes, exposing me to new realities and experiences of others. My favorite genres are historical fiction and magical realism popularized by Gabriel García Márquez.

Obstaclēs MCBD For the past couple of years, I have participated in the Multicultural Children’s Book Day as a book reviewer. It is an event I look forward to as I have an opportunity to not only learn about other cultures but I also discover new authors.

In years past, I have had the opportunity to select the book I would review in advance. This year, however, I left it up to chance. I didn’t have any idea with what book and author I would be partnered. When I received Obstaclēs in the mail, I have to admit I was a little perplexed. A giant dwarfed by his peers? Not exactly what I was expecting, but I was willing to take a chance and give it a go.

I am so glad that I did! What a great story and unique approach to topics today’s children grapple with daily.

I received a copy of Obstaclēs by the author, Gregory Ransom and his publisher, LuLu.com in exchange for an honest review. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

I, and my children especially, have always enjoyed science fiction and fantasy novels. With the popularity of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, it is no wonder that these fantastical realms are familiar to today’s middle school kids. Ransom, a middle school history teacher, uses these imaginary places and creatures to describe real-world problems that kids in middle grades may face, doing so in a way that is comfortable and endearing.

The hero in our story is Obstaclēs, a giant who is dwarfed by his peers and struggles to fit in. Students may see themselves and empathize with our hero as he works through issues of bullying, self-confidence, ADHD, and discovering the gifts and unique skills that he has to offer.

As readers will come to discover, this little giant has a big heart. As he learns to overcome difficulties with diligence and perseverance, he also comes to accept and love himself for who he is as an individual. When he recognizes that even a small giant can make a difference, he makes a huge difference.

Entertaining and encouraging, Obstaclēs is a great read for reluctant readers and those who struggle with self esteem. It is a terrific read for kids of all ages, but particularly middle grades (3-6).


Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that.

MCBookDay-white-21-300x234Current Sponsors

MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include ScholasticBarefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. RomanAudrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTVCapstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle SwiftWisdom Tales PressLee& Low BooksThe Pack-n-Go GirlsLive Oak MediaAuthor Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

Author Sponsors

Karen Leggett AbourayaVeronica AppletonSusan Bernardo, Kathleen BurkinshawMaria DismondyD.G. DriverGeoff Griffin Savannah HendricksStephen HodgesCarmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid ImaniGwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana LlanosNatasha Moulton-LevyTeddy O’MalleyStacy McAnulty,  Cerece MurphyMiranda PaulAnnette PimentelGreg RansomSandra RichardsElsa TakaokaGraciela Tiscareño-Sato,  Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation, Andrea Y. Wang

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also work tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

MCBD Links to remember:

Queen Girls: Inspiring Girls with Real Stories of Female Heroes

Today I divert from my usual content to share with you a book series that I am very excited about. Though my children are no longer the target age, I love the mission of Queen Girls – to inspire girls to follow their dreams and envision them as possible and I look forward to sharing the books with my nieces and nephews. I also love that the stories are based on real women – short biographies that highlight the struggles and successes of women the world over.

Often times, classic stories highlight the strength, courage and skills of men while female characters are often stereotyped or one-dimensionall: the mother figure, the homemaker, the exotic beauty, the love seeker.

Did you know that 57% of children’s books have male protagonists, while only 31% are female? We believe that we should be telling different stories to our children. Let’s encourage girls to find their happiness, passions, drive and self-confidence from within. At the same time, let’s help boys to move to a place of equality.

Queen Girls Kickstarter

They also believe in giving back to the community and this is why they stand on a One for One model. Every time you purchase a book, another will be donated to local and international organizations who are fighting illiteracy and empowering girls.

The first fairy tale is Bessie, Queen of the Sky inspired by the story of Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to hold a pilot’s license. The book will be available in English and Spanish.

When Bessie was growing up, no one could have imagined that a girl from a humble family would get out of the cotton fields and become a pilot. But with the help of her best friend Bloony, Bessie uses her courage and determination to make her dream come true!

How to get involved?

They are running a Kickstarter campaign to collect necessary funds to print the first book! Queen Girls is hoping to reach like-minded people who can help them ‘kick’ their crowdfunding campaign! If you believe in their mission and want to be part of the movement, donate and receive one of the first limited copies here!

bessie-and-bloony-flying

This multicultural team is formed by Jimena Durán (Spain), Andrea Doshi (USA) and Chiara Fabbri (Italy). They bring their diverse experiences to this initiative along with tons of love and dedication. Their intention is to open this collection to fellow authors and illustrators that could potentially bring their own Queens on board.

Books

Available in English & Spanish
Recommended age – 4 to 7 y.o.
32 page, hardcover & digital

Bessie, Queen of the Sky! Inspired by the story of Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to hold a pilot’s license in the world – When Bessie was growing up, no one could have imagined that a girl from a humble family would get out of the cotton fields and become a pilot. But with the help of her best friend Bloony, Bessie uses her courage and determination to make her dream come true!

Isadora, the Rebel Queen! Inspired by the story of Isadora Duncan, a ballerina who danced away from rigid ballet technique towards what she perceived as natural movement. Influenced by the sea, she started dancing like no one ever did before, imitating the waves of the sea with her arms and feet – She defied conventionalist minds by creating what today we refer to as Modern Dance or “Barefoot Style.”

Savi, Queen of Education! Inspired by the story of Savitribhai Phule, a woman poet, an educationalist and a social reformer, Savi was one of the earliest crusaders of education for girls in India. She defied all odds to become the first female teacher at the first women’s school founded by her and her family.

And more books to come! We have the firm intention to grow this collection and open it up to fellow authors and illustrators that could potentially bring their own queens on board.

If this sounds appealing to you, please pledge to make it happen here!

#queeengirls #childrensbooks #booksforgirls
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The Evolution of STEM to STEAM: A Book Review & Activity Resources

When I was teaching full time, there was a big push to increase student participation in science, technology, engineering, and math courses and ultimately encourage youth to pursue these careers. In fact, I was hired as an elementary science specialist and was responsible for the science instruction of over 330 students in 4th – 6th grades. In this role, I discovered my true passion … science education.

The Evolution of STEM to STEAM @EvaVarga.netThe Push for STEM

STEM arose from the desire of policy makers to encourage the natural curiosity of youth and their sense of wonder about these fields. These experts say our young people need strong STEM skills to compete in the world market. We must work together to cultivate the next generation of critical thinkers and innovators.

The US Department of Education reports that the number of STEM / STEAM jobs in the United States will grow by 14% from 2010 to 2020, growth that the is “much faster “ than the national average of 5-8% across all job sectors. Computer programming and IT jobs top the list of the the hardest to fill jobs and yet they are not the most popular college majors.

With this push for STEM programs and my broad work experiences, I have written extensively about STEM concepts. For several years, I coordinated a STEM Club for homeschool kids in our local area and shared many our activities here with you.

STEAM is the Future

The inclusion of the arts component into STEM makes it more fun to learn, and more approachable to kids. Arts and creativity are crucial to these fields and are the tool that allows technology to be usable in real life.

STEAM represents a paradigm shift from traditional education philosophy, based on standardized test scores, to a modern ideal which focuses on valuing the learning process as much as the results. The arts are poised to transform our economy in the 21st century just as science and technology did in the last century.

Fostering a strong STEAM education is our best opportunity to boost the spirit of innovation. It’s what we need to help ensure we continue on a prosperous and secure journey. STEAM literacy is also critical because it has a profound and growing impact on our day-to-day lives. Nature, space exploration, the arts, and any STEAM-related interest reveals to us the beauty and power of the world we inhabit.

steam-kidsSTEAM Kids

I am excited to share with you all a fabulous new book by a group of homeschool moms and science advocates, STEAM Kids: 50+ Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math Hands-on Projects for Kids. They authors have pulled their collective experience and wisdom to provide you with a wealth of fun activities young children will LOVE!

They have just launched and I am delighted to have been given a sneak peak at STEAM Kids in exchange for an honest review. I encourage you to take a peak – I know you’ll love it, too. Over 140 pages of fun hands-on STEAM related activities for young children.

If you’re looking for great hands on activities that encourage children to develop their creative abilities while building upon their skills, STEAM Kids is the answer. Teachers and parents alike will find plenty of ideas to captivate young kids and immerse them in an engaging learning environment.

Like what you see? The STEAM Kids ebook is available for just $14.99!  If you have older kids, consider purchasing copies to give as gifts. One activity a week fully outlined using materials easily found around the house for less than 30¢ a week. You can’t go wrong!

steam-halloweenThat’s not all! During launch week (9/14-9/21), you will also received their STEAM Kids: Halloween activity book free. Thereafter, it will be available for $4.99 so don’t delay. Inside you’ll find 59 pages filled with spooky and sweet Halloween activities perfect for the classroom or at home. Things like pumpkin brush bots, spider web science, Halloween building challenges and more.

As an little expression of gratitude, they’ve also created a FREE Printable highlighting 52 weeks of STEAM activities.

100 Tips for Traveling with Kids in Europe: A Book Review & GIVEAWAY

I am so very excited! Several months ago, fellow travel blogger, Ashley Steel, reached out to me to inquire if my children would be interested in submitting their photography for a new book she was writing with Bill Richards. The focus of their new book was on traveling with kids in Europe and we had just returned from a three week excursion to Italy and Greece.

100 Tips for Traveling with Kids in Europe This post may contain affiliate links.

My kids were delighted to take part and submitted several photos each – their favorites from each of the two countries we had recently visited. We didn’t know which photographs would be selected and have been looking forward to the discovery.

Our wait is now over! Traveling with Kids in Europe is now available in paperback from Amazon. We couldn’t be happier with the final product. The layout of the book is fabulous and I just love how the children’s photographs are dispersed throughout the book to augment the many wonderful travel tips provided by Steel and Richards.

lovelocks

Traveling with Kids in Europe is divided into three sections: preparing for your trip (get the kids involved in planning and setting an itinerary), the trip itself (navigating the airport, finding your hotel, etc.), and finally logistical tips and safety (alerting your credit card company prior to departure). There is so much packed into this book.

While we can’t list all of the tourist activities across this exciting continent, we sow the seeds for what your trip can really be. Don’t settle for just the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, and Big Ben. Explore Europe! Dance to street musicians, learn about politics, eat seven kinds of waffles, go punting, and see fairy tale scenery (literally!).

Whether you are new to foreign travel or are planning your first trip aboard, you’ll find ideas and suggestions to ensure your excursion is memorable and enjoyable!

sails
Traveling with Kids in Europe is a fabulous book full of great tips for traveling with kids. What I love best are the photographs on every page – taken by children of all ages as they traveled in Europe with their families. Though I could be partial – I just love seeing Europe from the perspective of the kids. Their creativity brings to life the culture of each country through the eyes of the young travelers themselves.

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You might also be interested in their earlier book, Family on the Loose: The Art of Traveling with Kids. You can learn more about their works by visiting their website.

Smart Money, Smart Kids: How We’ve Applied Dave Ramsey Strategies to Our Life

Patrick and I have always been careful with our finances. Making smart money decisions has not always been easy, however. I had a significant amount of credit card debt in college. When we married, we vowed not to let debt break us. In fact, we even lived with Patrick’s parents for three years as we paid off our college loans!

About a year ago, we started listening to Dave Ramsey’s podcasts. Hearing couples and families all over the country scream, “I’m debt free!” has been really inspiring. I love his Seven Baby Steps. We’ve been working on steps 4 (savings for retirement) and 5 (college funding) simultaneously for years – even before we knew of Dave Ramsey.

Smart Money Smart Kids: Applying Dave Ramsey Strategies to Our Life @EvaVarga.netWhile we were living in Redding, we were renting so step 6 (paying off house) didn’t really apply to us. Now that we’ve moved back to Oregon and are in the process of buying a home once more, we have made owning our home outright a family priority. Our goal is to pay off our home before the kids begin college full-time. That gives us just 5 years!

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be describing how we have applied Dave Ramsey strategies to our life. I begin today with the resources we’ve used getting started. 

Money Smart Kids

Dave Ramsey has written many books on personal finance and budgeting. Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money is the first book written with his daughter, Rachel. In his usual writing style, Dave presents a no nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is guide to raising money-smart kids. His daughter offers story after story of what life was like growing up as Dave Ramsey’s daughter. I just loved her! Her stories give the book humor and soften Dave’s usual dry approach.

We listened to the audio version while traveling to Portland with the kiddos several weeks ago. We have been using many of the strategies he describes such as:

  • Not giving the kids an allowance but expecting them to earn their own money by doing work (Dave calls this “earning a commission”)
  • Expecting them to save and pay for things they want

We’d stop the audio periodically on our trip and talk over the points presented. My son’s ears perked up when he heard of Dave’s 401 plan. When your teenager starts driving and wants his own car, the money the child has saved for this purchase is matched dollar for dollar. In other words, if your teen saves $5,000, then you match them with $5,000, and they can buy a $10,000 car.

My son quickly asked, “Instead of buying a car, would you match the money I save to buy a grand piano?” Absolutely little man. Absolutely.

Our conversations quickly evolved into brainstorming entrepreneurial ideas. “I’m only 10 years old! How can I make money?” Next week, I will share some of the creative ideas we came up with – ways kids can earn money of their own.

Personal Finance Course

Throughout his books and podcasts, Dave recommends his other publications and materials. I was certainly intrigued when I learned of his Foundations in Personal Finance, a high school personal finance course designed specifically for homeschoolers.

Much to my delight, this product was recently available for a significant discount through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op. While the offer has now expired, they have invited him to return. You can request a reminder from the co-op when they offer is available again.

Please note, as my kids are only 8th and 6th grades, we aren’t using this material presently. However, we look forward to implementing this curriculum in a few years.

Related Posts:

We Have Enough .. Our Efforts in Frugality

Our 4 Steps on the Pursuit of Happiness

Lessons Learned from my Father