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We have two space science-related events next weekend, August 11-12, 2018.

1. Parker Solar Probe Launch

First up, on Saturday August 11, 2018 NASA is going to launch the Parker Solar Probe. The probe will travel close to the sun and gather data about it, including information about the sun's corona. Scientists are curious about the corona because temperatures measured there are hotter than at the surface of the sun and they want to know why.

Photograph of the sun's corona during a solar eclipse (NASA)

This probe is special because it has to withstand super hot temperatures. Scientists and engineers came up with a specially-designed heat shield and used water in a device like a car's radiator to keep the equipment on board from frying.

You can see more details in this video from NASA:

Hear more about it in the Why Is The Sun’s Corona Hotter Than Its Surface? podcast at Science Friday.

Related activity:

Capture the sun's energy using a solar oven (WikiHow or HomeScienceTools).

2. Perseid Meteor Shower

What is a meteor shower or "shooting star?"

Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through a "cloud" of bits of rocks or dust left over from a passing comet or asteroid. If a particle enters the atmosphere, it creates a streak of light as it burns up. The debris cloud for the Perseid shower comes from the Comet Swift-Tuttle. The Perseids are named because they appear to originate in the constellation named Perseus.

The Perseids are the best meteor showers for viewing with children for a number of reasons. First of all, they occur in summer so temperatures at night is usually at more comfortable than for the fall or winter showers. Most children are out of school, so there are no worries about staying up on a school night. Also, the Perseids are some of the most reliable showers and last over at least two nights. This year is going to be especially good viewing because light from the moon is not going to interfere.

If you have never watched a meteor shower, it is fantastic! When the meteors are active it can be better than fireworks. Find a nice dark place to observe the sky, and if possible, spread out on a lawn chair, the ground or the back of a pick-up truck with some blankets or sleeping bags. No need for binoculars or telescope, because the meteors move too quickly to follow.

Because this is a natural event, there are no guarantees the meteors will be frequent. Prime your children to be patient or do the Constellation Detective activity (PDF link) at the same time.

Related posts:

Three astronomy activities

Want more? See our growing list of children's books about planets and the solar system.

For STEM Friday this week we have a middle grade science book, The Secret of the Bird's Smart Brain. and More! (Animal Secrets Revealed!) by Ana Maria Rodriguez.

Using a fun format where each chapter reveals a surprise about a different group of animals, the author has found five science stories which often turn conventional wisdom upside down. In the first chapter, the term "bird brain" has a whole new meaning when scientists find that small size has nothing to do with power. In the following chapters readers discover whether birds have a sense of smell, how and why mama bears act during different seasons, and how pig grunts and alligator bellows may have more to say more than we originally thought. The last chapter ends with a hands-on activity for kids to try.

Although it is the animals that draw young readers in (the kunekune pigs are adorable!), the true stars of each chapter are the scientists who are discovering their secrets. The book shows details of how each group of scientists studies the problems, from counting brain cells to recording pig grunts.

The Secret of the Bird's Smart Brain...And More! is the next best thing to taking a field trip with a biologist. Check out a copy today.

Related Activity Suggestions:

Investigate Kunekune Pigs (Chapter 4)

Kunekune pigs are a rare breed from New Zealand. They are prized because of their small size and ability to use grass (to graze) as their main source of food.

Here are two kunekune piglets from the Dallas Zoo:


What do you think the little "tassels" of hair under the chin is all about?

The scientists in the book studied the grunts. You can hear the sounds the pigs make in this video.

Can you hear other sounds in the area besides the pig, like the kids and the chickens? How do you think scientists tune in to just the pig sounds when they want to study them? (See answer below.)

Don't these pigs have interesting colors?  The New Zealand Kunekune Association's page on coat color genetics has a detailed explanation of how genes interact to produce coat colors.

Investigate Bird Brains and Bird Behavior

Age Range: 8 - 11 years
Publisher: Enslow Pub Inc (August 15, 2017)
ISBN-10: 0766088529
ISBN-13: 978-0766088528

Answer:  Scientists trained the pigs they wanted to study to go one at a time into special sound-insulated huts so they could record individual pigs without a lot of extra background noise. Read chapter 4 to find out more.

Disclosure: This book was provided by the author for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

7

To finish our week on body structure and function, we have a new picture book:  What Do They Do With All That Poo? by Jane Kurtz and illustrated by Allison Black. Check out the book giveaway below the review.

 

From around the time they start potty training, children become fascinated with bodily functions. They also often go through a bathroom humor phase. This new picture book (publishing next week) discusses animal "poo" with just the right mix of serious and fun that it is sure to engage readers of this age.

For the text, Jane Kurtz uses a two level approach. Across the top of the pages is a bouncy rhyme, which is fantastic for educators who want to read the book aloud to young children. Across the bottom of the pages are denser sentences geared for older readers who want to find out more information.

Using twelve animal examples,  -- from bats to rhinos --  Kurtz explains how the variation in their poo results from differences in the animals' nutrition and digestion. For example, panda poo is mostly undigested bamboo, so it is green and not smelly at all. On the other hand, penguin poo is fishy.

Insect poo is called "frass."

The author also includes information about how zoos handle the disposal of animal wastes, including composting. There's even a surprise or two at the end.

Allison Black's illustrations are cheerful and inventive. She says her dad was a veterinarian and he used to store poo samples in the fridge, so she could call on her experiences for the book.

What Do They Do With All That Poo? is a perfect book to accompany a trip to the zoo, farm, or wildlife habitat. Check out a copy today!

Age Range: 3 - 8 years
Publisher: Beach Lane Books (June 19, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1481479865
ISBN-13: 978-1481479868

More Stuff:

For a discussion of the digestive process in humans, see yesterday's post

Check out the square (actually cubic) wombat poo mentioned in the book in this video.

 

Giveaway!

Want to enter the giveaway for the book? Simply login to the Rafflecopter box below -- making sure you leave a valid e-mail address -- by 12:00 a.m. EST June 18, 2018. Rafflecopter will randomly pick one lucky winner who will receive a copy of What Do They Do With All That Poo?, courtesy of Beach Lane Books  (U.S. addresses only, please). The giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to our winner!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please leave a comment if you have any difficulties.

Author information:  Jane Kurtz was born in Portland, Oregon (where she now lives), but when she was two years old, her parents decided to move to Ethiopia, where she spent most of her childhood. Jane speaks about being an author at schools and conferences—in all but eleven of the United States, so far, and such places as Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, France, Germany, Romania, Russia, Oman, England, Indonesia, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Japan. She helped start Ethiopia Reads (EthiopiaReads.org), a nonprofit that is planting libraries for children and printing some of the first easy-reader books in local languages in Ethiopia. She is the author of many books for children, including Water Hole Waiting and River Friendly River Wild, winner of the SCBWI Golden Kite award for picture book text. To learn more, visit her website: janekurtz.com.
Twitter: @janekurtz

 

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher's representative for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.