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For STEM Friday, we are highlighting the middle grade title Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact by Jennifer Swanson.

At first the link between exploring the oceans and exploring space might not seem obvious, but the pioneering men and women who add to our understanding of both regions face similar challenges. Lack of oxygen, cold, darkness, and pressure extremes are just some of the trials they have to overcome.

In addition to loads of information about what exploring space and the deep oceans is all about, the book also explains some of the key science concepts:

  • Gravity and microgravity (in space)
  • Buoyancy and density
  • Pressure and temperature
  • Topography

Chapter 3 compares living inside a space habitat like the International Space Station (ISS) and and underwater habitat. Readers learn the two intersect because astronauts get ready for space by training underwater at Aquarius, an underwater research center off the coast of Florida.

Chapter 4 asks and attempts to answer why do humans explore. Why would someone want to become an astronaut or aquanaut? The final chapter wraps up with what some of the discoveries have been in these two areas, and then mentions that some people have suggested the two areas are similar enough that the government agencies NOAA and NASA should be combined.

Scattered throughout the book are three hands-on activities:

  • Sink or Float
  • Docking the ISS
  • Design Your Own Space Suit

The back matter includes brief bios of ten astronauts and aquanauts, including their training and current positions, which is a great resource for children who might be interested in similar careers.

Astronaut-Aquanaut is a must have for future explorers. It also shows where a career in STEM might lead. Explore a copy today!

Related activities:

1. Investigate Buoyancy and Density with Cartesian Divers

Make a Cartesian diverat Science Bob -- has different materials to try and has more suggestions for making a Cartesian diver demonstration a true experiment.

2. Try some astronaut food to accompany the book

It is relatively easy to find novelty astronaut food online, such as:

Astronaut Ice Cream Neapolitan, Mint, Cookies & Cream, Sandwich and Chocolate Chip Freeze Dried Food PACK OF 5

 

Learn more about the book and author at Nonfiction Monday blog

Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Publisher: National Geographic Children's Books (January 9, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1426328672
ISBN-13: 978-1426328671

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.

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.

Are your children interested in learning more about the physical sciences? We'll be adding a series of activities to explore:

  • Astronomy (today)
  • Meteorology
  • Earth Science
  • Physics
  • Chemistry

Astronomy is the study of objects and processes that occur out in space. Astronomy covers the moon, planets, the solar system, asteroids, comets, stars, nebulae, galaxies, etc.

Let's start our study with near objects.

moonset-peake(Photograph by Tim Peake of the European Space Agency Image Credit: ESA/NASA)

The Moon

Begin by observing the moon on a clear night, which will raise a child’s interest and start the questions flowing. Check the newspaper for the weather, phase of moon and local times when the moon will rise and set.

Try to find an area away from lights and look at the moon. Take a pair of binoculars or a telescope with you, if available (The moon is bright, so don’t stare at it with binoculars for too long).

Activity 1.  Making Craters

The most obvious features on the face of the moon are the impact craters. Children can create and study craters using a simple model.

Gather:

  • Flour
  • Powdered cocoa or cornmeal
  • Unbreakable pan
  • Marbles and/or rocks
  • Candy sprinkles (optional)
  • Newspaper or garbage bags (optional)

Find a level surface, preferably outside or indoors where a bit of flour won't cause a mess. Cover the surface with some newspaper or flat garbage bags to help with clean up. Fill a large pan (preferably unbreakable, such as aluminum or plastic) halfway with flour. If you want, you can also add a thin layer of candy sprinkles to represent other minerals present under the surface. Finally, gently add a thin layer of cocoa powder or cornmeal.

Have your kids drop various round objects into the flour. The results should be some interesting craters and splash patterns, which are the patterns of debris shot out of the crater with impact.

This video from NASA gives more complete details.

Related:

1. Outreach Resources from Night Sky Network, which include the following activities to download (may have to provide some information for access) :

  • Does the moon rotate?
  • Observing the Moon
  • Why does the moon have phases?
  • Why do eclipses happen?

2. World Space Week Heinlein Teacher Kit (direct link to .pdf)

3. Geology.com has an interactive map of the 50 largest impact craters on Earth.

The Solar System

The next step into astronomy is to study the planets and other objects in the solar system.

Activity 2:  Make a poster or model of the solar system.

One simple way to study all the planets is to create a mobile or poster of the solar system. How complicated a project this can be will depend on the age and interests of your child. Use your imagination and move beyond Styrofoam balls (which can be expensive).

Suggested materials:

  • Cloth
  • Salt clay or model magic
  • Paper maché
  • Yarn/string (see video below)
  • Balloons
  • Paper

How to make decorative balls out of yarn that could be used for a solar system model:


You can also purchase model kits made of various materials.


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Related Resources:

Exploratorium has a calculator to determine the relative sizes and distances for a scale model.

The European Space Agency has an excellent set of lesson plans complete with full color images of objects in the solar system to download:  Our Solar System

The McDonald Observatory has a lesson on making a scale model of the solar system (direct .pdf link) to download (as well as many related lessons)

When the mobile/model is completed, ask some questions. Why do we have night and day? What is an eclipse? Why do we have seasons? A sophisticated model can help answer some of these questions.

Activity 3:  Outdoor Solar System Scale Models

Take a field trip to an outdoor scale model of the solar system. Wikimedia has a partial list of scale models found throughout the world.

In Arizona try:

  1. The Solar System Walk at the Environmental Education Center in Chandler, Arizona
  2. Display around the observatory at the Gilbert Riparian Preserve, Gilbert, Arizona.
  3. The Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Do you know where there's a scale model of the solar system to explore? Please leave a comment.

Books about planets and the solar system

planet-books-button

Stars/Universe

It might seem like it would be difficult to study something as large and complex as the the universe, but there are actually many potential hands-on activities.

  1. Take a trip to a planetarium.
  2. Study dust
  3. Make your own galaxy
  4. Scale model of a black hole (advanced)
  5. Constellation Detective (direct link to .pdf)
  6. Build your own telescope, for example using this kit from Home Science Tools (I am not affiliated with this company)

Want to learn more? Khan Academy has video lessons about stars, black holes and galaxies.

Lists of related children's books at Science Books for Kids:

Children's books about stars and the universe.

stars-books-button

For National Poetry Month, try our list of Poetry Books about Space

space-poetry-for-kids

 

Physical Science Investigations