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Here at Growing with Science, our activities are often inspired by children's books. Today for STEM Friday we are featuring four new titles in the Picture Book Science series by Andi Diehn and illustrated by Shululu (pen name of Hui Li), coming out March 1, 2018. For a review of the books, see our sister blog, Wrapped in Foil.

Activities to accompany and expand upon the books:

Let's discover more about the topics covered by the books through videos and hands-on activities.

1. Sun Energy

Energy: Physical Science for Kids explains what energy is through examples, such as chemical energy, heat energy, electrical energy, and light energy.

sunflower One question the book asks is whether plants use energy. After all, they don't run around, jump or even move.

Or do they?

Young sunflowers (and a number of other plants) do orient throughout the day so their leaves catch the most sunlight. You can see more in this video from Science News:

Plants are amazing because they can "capture" the energy from the light of the sun and convert it into chemical energy that we can use.

Sunflower Activity:  Plant a row of sunflowers in the soil. As they grow, observe how they leaves are oriented throughout the day. (Learn about plant parts, flower parts, pollination, and plant life cycles, as well.)

Related posts:

2. Force of gravity

In Forces: Physical Science for Kids, readers explore the concepts of gravity, friction, and magnetism.

Gravity is the force of attraction between two objects with a mass. It varies with how large the mass is, how fast it is moving, and also how close the objects are.

Let's learn a little more about gravity with this video from Crash Course Kids:

Buggy and Buddy blog has a great activity to show how the force of magnets can overcome the force of gravity.

  • Making parachutes is a good way to investigate the forces of gravity.
  • Making siphons is another way to find out more about gravity (Growing With Science Water Cycle, second activity).

Nomad Press has a children's book, Explore Gravity!, which has 25 hands-on experiments to try.

3. Matter

What are the states of matter? Solid, liquid and gas are the forms we are most familiar with. There is also a fourth state of matter called plasma, and very possibly others (up to six or seven). Plasma is the most abundant state of matter in the universe by far.

If it is so common, then why hasn’t everyone heard of it? One problem may be the term plasma. Plasma is a word also used for the fluid in blood that carries the cells and other materials from place to place. The same word  has two very different meanings, but that happens all the time in the English language.

The state of matter plasma is a gas that has been energized so much some of its electrons have come flying off. It can also be called ionized gas, but that is confusing because it sounds like it is just a special kind of gas. Plasma behaves differently from gas, and is thus a separate state.

In this video, we see the differences between the three states of matter we are most familiar with:

 

Explore the three most familiar states of matter using an ice cube

Place an ice cube or two on a flat surface outside on a warm, sunny day. Revisit it every twenty minutes and observe what happens.

Public domain photograph by George Hodan

Expected result:  The solid water (ice) should melt to liquid water. After it has finished melting, if the day is warm enough the liquid should evaporate, which means it has turned to gas (water vapor).

Related post about plasma

4. Waves

Waves: Physical Science for Kids relates the physical waves that we can see to light, microwave, and radio waves.

In our previous post, Exploring Waves with activities, we discussed how the water in waves doesn't actually move across the surface, but instead cycles up and down in place. This can be a difficult idea to grasp, but Andi Diehn nails it in her book about waves. She likens ocean wave movement to fans doing "the wave" at sporting events. Each person remains in the same seat, but by rising and lowering creates a wave of movement across the stadium.

To see the properties of electromagnetic radiation and how it travels in waves, see:

Conclusions:

These Picture Book Science books introduce, define, and clarify the scientific vocabulary.  This is important because the physical science topics that these books cover are not mutually exclusive and the overlap can lead to confusion. For example, light energy travels in the form of waves; the force of gravity moves objects, giving them potential and kinetic energy; waves in the ocean can be harnessed to produce electrical energy, etc. Having a clear understanding of the concepts is an important first step to scientific discovery.

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To explore the physical science even more, try 25 Items for a Hands-On Physical Science Bin

Disclosure: This book was provided the publisher 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.

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This week for STEM Friday we have physical science activities inspired by the new book:  The Kids' Book of Simple Machines: Cool Projects & Activities that Make Science Fun!by Kelly Doudna.

The Kids' Book of Simple Machines is the perfect hands-on science book for early elementary-aged children. It has concise explanations of the science of simple machines,  clear step-by-step instructions, and enticing colorful photographs of the projects. In addition, the background information in the different sections introduces children to famous scientists and inventors, from Archimedes to the Wright brothers.

The six simple machines covered are the lever, pulley, inclined plane, wedge, wheel and axle, and screw. After a brief introduction to each type in the front, the following chapters give more in-depth information, numerous examples of the different simple machines, and several activities and projects to explore the concepts more fully.

Whether you are teaching science in the classroom, after school, or at home, The Kids' Book of Simple Machines is a well-designed and useful resource. The young makers of the world are going to have hours of fun trying out the activities in this book.

Related Activities:

1. Archimedes Screw

One of the simple machines from the book is the screw.

Screws1_(PSF)(Public domain image from Wikimedia)

A screw is an inclined plane wrapped around some sort of central core. In addition to holding pieces of metal or wood together, screws can also be used to move objects. Propellers are types of screws that help move boats through water or airplanes through the air.

One of the earliest examples of a screw being used to move things was invented by the Greek scientist Archimedes. We all know that water moves down slope because of gravity. Archimedes figured out a way to move water against gravity using a device that now bears his name, the Archimedes screw.

Instructions for making an Archimedes screw may be found at:

2. Simple Machines Quiz

After reading this introduction to simple machines at Idaho Public Television,  figure out what kind or kinds of simple machines are illustrated here  (Public domain images are from Wikimedia).

Answers are at the bottom of the post.

A. What kind(s) of simple machine(s) are these scissors?

Scissors3_(PSF)

B. How about this wheelbarrow?

Wheelbarrow_(PSF)

C. What kind of simple machine is an adze?

Adz_(PSF)

D. How about this press, which might be used to squeeze the juice out of apples?

Press_2_(PSF)

Learn more with The Kids' Book of Simple Machines: Cool Projects & Activities that Make Science Fun!by Kelly Doudna

Age Range: 5 - 9 years
Grade Level: Kindergarten - 4
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Mighty Media Kids (August 25, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1938063597
ISBN-13: 978-1938063596

Disclosure: The book was provided by the publisher 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.

Answers:

A. Scissors:  You are correct if you answered lever or wedge. Scissors are complex machines consisting of double levers and wedges (the blades).

B. Wheelbarrow:  Also a complex machine, a wheelbarrow combines a wheel/axle with a lever.

C. Adze:  The blade of the adze is a wedge.

D. Press:  The simple machine found in this press is a screw.

How did you do? If you'd like to learn more about simple machines, please let us know.

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Our science activities and lessons today are inspired by the children's picture book Groundhogs (Pebble Plus: North American Animals) by Chadwick Gillenwater. With Groundhog Day just two weeks away (February 2, 2013), it would be a great time to learn more about groundhogs and do some science activities relating to shadows and weather. For more about the book and other books for the celebration of Groundhog Day, visit Wrapped in Foil.

1. Learn about groundhogs or woodchucks and create an age-appropriate fact sheet.

Groundhogs, also called woodchucks, are rodents belonging to the marmot family. Their scientific name is Marmota monax. They live throughout the eastern and northern parts of North America, all the way north to Alaska.

Groundhogs live in burrows they dig in the ground. They come out of the burrow to eat plants during the summer. Often you can see them alongside highways grazing on the road banks or sitting up looking for danger. Sometimes they climb small trees or shrubs to escape from enemies or to explore new types of food.

In the winter groundhogs hibernate deep underground. Sometimes they will come out of hibernation to search for food. This has become part of the Groundhog Day story.

Groundhogs are also called whistle pigs because they whistle to communicate with each other. The Marmot Burrow website has a recording of a male groundhog whistling.

In this video, you can see a young groundhog and learn more about their habits.

For a longer and more extensively narrated video about a woodchuck family, see Groundhogs 2005-2008 An uncommon look at a common animal. The link takes you to the video at YouTube (sharing has been disabled). Update:  See the videos on the new website.

You also might want to read some of the books listed below. When you are done, create a fact sheet about groundhogs to share what you have learned. Include drawings of the animals and their homes.

2. Science of Shadows

A. Preschool-K Level:  Exploring Shadows

Gather:

  • flashlights
  • bare, light-colored wall in a darkened room (ceiling is fun, too)
  • assorted objects to cast shadows, including a wide-toothed comb or hair pick, and a ball

Darken a room somewhat and then use the flashlight to explore shadows. Move an object closer to the flashlight and then farther way. Move the flashlight closer to the object and pull it away. What happens? What happens when you hold the comb in front of the flashlight? Now turn on a second flashlight. Shine the two flashlights on an object. Slowly move the flashlights apart. What happens to the shadow(s)?

Older children will enjoy making shadow animals and/or shadow puppets.

How about a groundhog shadow puppet to celebrate Groundhog Day? Cut out a groundhog shape and glue it to a craft stick with white glue. Now take it outside and see if the groundhog will see its shadow.

B. Elementary:  Chasing shadows

Need:

  • Hard level surface out of doors large enough for each participant to record their shadows
  • Sidewalk chalk of different colors
  • Yardstick or measuring tape (optional)
  • Compass (optional)
  • Sunny day

Start by going outside in the morning. Have the children chose a place to stand. Draw a circle of chalk around their feet and then write their initials inside the circle. Now, have them stand with their back to the sun. Have a helper draw a line around their shadow. Measure the length of the shadow. Check the direction of the shadow using the compass (optional).

Return and repeat the process around noon and later in the afternoon. How have the shadows changed? Discuss how the shadows might be different in the different seasons as the sun appears to be higher or lower in the sky due to the Earth's tilt.

C. Older:  Make a sundial

There are many great websites that show how to make an explore a sundial. Here are just two:

D. Older:  Use a shadow to measure a tree.

To find out more about Groundhogs, try these nonfiction children's books:

Groundhogs (Pebble Plus: North American Animals) by Chadwick Gillenwater

Library Binding: 24 pages
Publisher: Capstone Press (August 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1429686731
ISBN-13: 978-1429686730

 

Groundhog's Burrow (Science Slam: the Hole Truth!: Underground Animal Life) by Dee Phillips

Orphan The Story of A Baby Woodchuck by Faith McNulty

For more about Shadows, try these nonfiction children's books:

What makes a shadow? (Let's-read-and-find-out science) by Clyde Robert Bull and illustrated by June Otani

Publisher: Scholastic; Revised edition (1998)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0590275933
ISBN-13: 978-0590275934

Shadows by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Harvey Stevenson


Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); 1st edition (March 1, 2002)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805060596
ISBN-13: 978-0805060591

Light: Shadows, Mirrors, and Rainbows (Amazing Science) by Natalie M. Rosinsky  and illustrated by Sheree Boyd

Reading level: Ages 5 and up
Paperback: 24 pages
Publisher: Picture Window Books (January 2004)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1404803327
ISBN-13: 978-1404803329

Light and Shadows (Science@School) by Brian J. Knapp

Moonbear's Shadow (Moonbear Books) by Frank Asch (One of our favorite fiction books about shadows).

Format: Paperback
Publication Date: 3/1/2000
Pages: 32
Reading Level: Age 5 and Up

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