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For STEM Friday we have one of the fabulous books nominated for a Cybils Award.

Our choice is a middle grade title from the always high quality Scientists in the Field Series, The Hyena Scientist by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop.

I have to admit that I wasn't sure I wanted to read a book about hyenas. After all, they have a bad reputation, as the authors say, "widely considered to be dirty, ugly, and mean." The fact the book was one of the Scientists in the Field series, however, convinced me to give it a try (well, that and it was nominated).  I'm glad I did.

It turns out that I knew very little about hyenas. Given their appearance, most people assume they are related to dogs. On the first page we learn that in fact they are more closely related to cats than dogs, and most closely related to mongooses. Mongooses?!

How many other common perceptions of them are wrong? A lot.

They are scavengers that slink around stealing prey from lions, right? Turns out that although hyenas do scavenge a bit, they are smart and formidable hunters. With careful observations, the featured scientist Kay Holekamp discovered that in fact lions steal prey from hyenas more often than the other way around.

Rather than give away all the surprises in the book, let's just say your impression of hyenas will likely change after you read it. In fact, you just might want to go study them yourself.

And if you decide to do that, this book will show you what it might be like. As with the other books in the series, the scientists are at the center. We learn about how Kay Holecamp and her assistants came to study hyenas and how they go about it. For example, on pages 18-19 is the inspiring story of Dee. It turned out many years ago Dee worked at the Saint Louis Zoo and took on Kay as a student volunteer. Kay went off to school and Dee eventually went to another job because at the time women were only allowed to hold limited positions at zoos. However, Dee always loved animals and dreamed of going to Africa. Years later, at the age of sixty-nine she reconnected with Kay and her dreams came true. She now helps Kay at her field site. What an inspiring story.

I should also mention Nic Bishop's fabulous photographs. I have been a long time fan, and I think his work is just getting better and better.

As you can tell, I really like this book. For readers interested in biology or what it takes to be a field biologists, The Hyena Scientist is a treasure trove. Delve into a copy today.

One final note:  as a middle grade title, this really is for older readers. Being about the biology of one of Africa's top predators, there are some mature themes and graphic photographs.

Related:

Younger children can learn more about the spotted hyena at National Geographic Kids.

Although this video should come with a strong "don't try this at home" warning, this video about a family that feed hyenas in Ethiopian city of Harar. They have developed an understanding of hyenas is quite fascinating. At the end are some shots of the area during the day. Click through to YouTube to see a detailed explanation of what you are seeing (in English).

See how big some of the animals are? Can you hear the men whistling to communicate to the hyenas? Hyenas are social creatures. Can you spot any social interactions?

Why do you think it is filmed at night?

Age Range: 10 - 12 years
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (May 15, 2018)
ISBN-10: 0544635116
ISBN-13: 978-0544635111

Interested in learning more about scientists? Check out the books in our growing list of Scientists in the Field books at Science Books for Kids.

Disclosure: This book was provided by our local library. 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. Note: this is a new link as of 10/2018.

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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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This week for STEM Friday we were inspired by a book, Magnificent Minds: 16 Pioneering Women in Science and Medicine by Pendred E. Noyce. It is a collection of biographies of women who made important discoveries in fields of STEM and health care.

Moving chronologically from the birth of midwife Louise Bourgeois Boursier in 1563 to the death of chemist and drug discoverer Gertrude Elion in 1999, the author has taken a novel look at the accomplishments of these women. For example, Florence Nightingale is known for her nursing skills, but Noyce suggests those skills were improved by Nightingale's reliance on statistics and evidence-based research.

The book is organized into chapters that are separate biographies of each of the women. Because the chapters stand alone, readers can easily page to an individual subject of their choice. Also, at the beginning of each chapter is a well-researched timeline that gives details of not only that woman's life, but also with significant events that occurred during her lifetime. For example, the first Impressionist exhibition in Paris and Bell's invention of the telephone occurred during Sofia Kovalevskaya's lifetime. The timelines help tremendously to add context.

Magnificent Minds will thrill those interested in history, particularly the history of STEM and medicine. It would also make a good choice for encouraging girls and young women to pursue STEM careers.

Related Activity:

Why highlight women scientists? Let's take a quiz.

A. Do you recognize this woman who made important contributions to STEM? What was her contribution?

Ada_Lovelace_portrait(Public domain image from Wikimedia)

B. How about this woman? What was her field of expertise?

FlorenceMerriam1904(Public domain photograph retrieved at Wikimedia)

She was born in 1863.

C. Do you recognize the scientist below? She was born in 1902.

Barbara_McClintock_(1902-1992)(Acc. 90-105 - Science Service, Records, 1920s-1970s, Smithsonian Institution Archives Persistent URL:Link to data base record Repository: Smithsonian Institution Archives View more collections from the Smithsonian Institution.)

How did you do? Did you struggle to identify them? These women were groundbreakers with great passion for their subjects of study. People are now beginning to appreciate their unique contributions.

Answers:

A. Augusta Ada Byron, Countess Lovelace

Showing a talent for mathematics, Augusta Byron helped with and wrote about some of the early analytical machines that were precursors to computers. She was thought to have published the first computer algorithm. Her work was cut short by illness and her death at a young age. Her biography is featured in Magnificent Minds.

B. The second scientist is ornithologist and writer Florence Augusta Merriam Bailey.

Augusta Bailey is known for writing some of the earliest field guides to birds. She also campaigned against the widespread use of bird feathers in fashion. She is not covered in Magnificent Minds, but you can read more about her at this Women of Courage profile.

C. The last scientist is Nobel Prize winner, Barbara McClintock.

McClintock studied the genetics of corn and uncovered gene movement, or the so-called "jumping genes." Her biography is also covered in the book and our previous post.

Additional Resources:

The National Academies as an interactive website about Women's Adventures in Science.

Check our list of 21+ Children's Books about Women Scientists at Science Books for Kids.

21-books-about-women-scientists-150x150

Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Hardcover: 180 pages
Publisher: Tumblehome Learning, Inc. (March 1, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0989792471
ISBN-13: 978-0989792479

Disclosure: The books was provided electronically 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.