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Find more Focus on STEM
Summer is a time to slow down and observe the world around us. That simple act of mindfulness can also be the beginning of the scientific process. Observation leads to inquiry, and looking for answers is another way to talk about investigation.
In the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), observation begins at the youngest levels. For example, the Physical Science Standard 2-PS1-1 Matter and Its Interactions states, “Students who demonstrate understanding can: Plan and conduct an investigation to describe and classify different kinds of materials by their observable properties.”
In the real world, this skill reaches far beyond the realm of science, as observation plays a vital role at home, school, and work for both children and adults. One of the reasons that the NGSScreated was to enable students to “learn science by doing science.” Encourage the practice of observation with these new books.
The power of observation is front and center in Bird Builds a Nest: A First Science Storybook, by Martin Jenkins, as young readers watch Bird work over time, pushing, pulling, and carrying to make a nest. In Cece Loves Science, by Kimberly Derting and Shelli R. Johannes, the science begins in the classroom and moves to the home as Cece and her friend Isaac formulate a question and then investigate whether Cece’s dog, Einstein, will eat vegetables.
Seeing and Solving Problems
A problem at home during monsoon season in Bangladesh begins Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea: How a Science Project Helps One Family and the Planet, by Elizabeth Suneby. Iqbal tries to help his mother cook without getting sick from the smoke. Instructions for creating a pizza-box solar cooker are included, so readers can try the solution themselves to make s’mores, a classic summer-campout dessert. In Champion: The Comeback Tale of the American Chestnut Tree, by Sally M. Walker, readers encounter a scientific mystery at the New York Zoological Park that continues today—why do trees die from blight? Three different approaches to saving the chief forester’s favorite tree will show older readers how to help restore other tree species.
Seeing in New Ways
With Astronaut, Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact, by Jennifer Swanson, older readers will observe the similarities between ocean and space exploration as they see male and female scientists at work and then try the activities in the book themselves. The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science, by Joyce Sidman, portrays a child using her power of observation to document the lives of the “summer birds” as they change from caterpillars to moths and butterflies.
Readers of all ages can record their observations in a field journal, like Maria Merian did as a child. Set up a station for making nature-friendly field journals with blank-paper pages, two cardboard covers, notebook rings, a hole punch, and art supplies.
Add a storytelling focus, and download free printable comic-book pages for students to create—and star in—their own science comics. At the end of summer reading, celebrate the students’ observations with a display of their completed field journals and comic books in the library.
Astronaut, Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact. By Jennifer Swanson. 2018. National Geographic, $18.99 (9781426328671). Gr. 5–8.
Bird Builds a Nest: A First Science Storybook. By Martin Jenkins. Illus. by Richard Jones. 2018. Candlewick, $16.99 (9780763693466). PreS–Gr. 1.
Cece Loves Science. By Kimberly Derting and Shelli R. Johannes. Illus. by Vashti Harrison. 2018. Greenwillow, $17.99 (9780062499608). K–Gr. 3.
Champion: The Comeback Tale of the American Chestnut Tree. By Sally M. Walker. 2018. Holt, $17.99 (9781250125231). Gr. 5–8.
Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea: How a Science Project Helps One Family and the Planet. By Elizabeth Suneby. Illus. by Rebecca Green. 2018. Kids Can, $18.99 (9781771387200). Gr. 2–4.
From her studio in Northern California, Anastasia Suen reads, writes, and edits STEM books for makers of all ages, including Up! Up! Up! Skyscraper (Charlesbridge).
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