Science Books

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"Come in and take a look - if you dare!"

So starts our featured book Animal Planet Strange, Unusual, Gross & Cool Animals* by Charles Ghigna and the folks at Animal Planet. It was recently a finalist for the 2016 Cybils award in the elementary/juvenile nonfiction category.

(*Amazon affiliate link)

Kids go wild over these kinds of books. With over 200 photographs of weird animals, how can you go wrong? Add text by award-winning poet and children's author Charles Ghigna, and you know this is a book that deserves a second look.

First up in the book are the Strange animals. Some of the animals include the blobfish, which was once voted the world's ugliest animal (see video below); the red-lipped batfish, which turns out can't swim very well; and the lowland streaked tenrec, a tiny animal which looks like it got tangled up with the spines of a porcupine. After all the weird creatures in that section, it's hard to imagine what they found for the Unusual, Gross, and Cool animal categories that follow.

Budding zoologists will definitely dare take a look at Animal Planet Strange, Unusual, Gross & Cool Animals. In fact, even the most reluctant reader will want to explore it. Check out a copy today!

Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Publisher: Animal Planet (October 11, 2016)
ISBN-10: 1618931660
ISBN-13: 978-1618931665

This is a regular armadillo. If you think it looks weird, wait until you see the pink fairy armadillo on page 43.

(Public domain photograph by Jean Beaufort)

Suggested activity:  Make an Animal Fact Sheet

Pick a strange, unusual, gross, or cool animal and put together a fact sheet about it. Include facts like the animal's name, its scientific name, where it lives, its habitat, what it eats, how big it is, and how long it lives. Does it have any unique features? Does it migrate? Be sure to include a picture. You can use crayons and markers on paper, or a computer.

Here's a made-up example:

Need help picking an animal?  Here are two suggestions.

Warthogs look pretty strange, but wait until you see what happens when one meets a group of mongooses:

Find out more about the blobfish:

If you choose, share your fact sheet with friends and family.

Additional Activities

Try these two free downloads (may take a little time to load):

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher/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.

For STEM Friday we have a middle grade title  Cool Plastic Bottle and Milk Jug Science (Recycled Science) by Tammy Enz.

Tammy Enz has come up with nine intriguing science activities that reuse plastic containers. It's a win-win scenario because plastic containers provide inexpensive containers for science projects, and finding new purposes for water bottles or milk jugs keeps them out of the landfill.

The instructions for the activities are short and clear. There's a list of materials you'll need, step-by-step instructions how to put it together, photographs showing the set up, and a brief explanation of what's happening. Activities range from making a cloud in a bottle in a few minutes to a longer term composting worm farm.

Cool Plastic Bottle and Milk Jug Science is perfect for a busy educator who needs a science activity fast. The best part is the materials are inexpensive and generally readily available. If you are doing science with kids, it's a great book to have on hand.

Age Range: 8 - 14 years
Publisher: Capstone Press (August 1, 2016)
ISBN-10: 1515708624
ISBN-13: 978-1515708629

Related Activities:

This video shows an easy demonstration of air pressure using plastic bottles.

Who needs expensive glassware when you can replicate many of the same containers using plastic bottles. Here are two ideas to get you started.

  1. Gravity Filtration

When you separate solid particles from a liquid by pouring the mixture through a filter, it is called gravity filtration. Generally filtration in chemistry involves special glassware, but for simple experiments at home you can use a large plastic soda bottle cut in two, with the top inverted into the bottom. Most soda bottles can be cut with household scissors.

soda-bottle-filter

Place a coffee filter into the inverted top of the soda bottle, with the cap off. Fold or cut the top so it fits smoothly. Pour the liquid to be filtered through the filter. Larger particles will be trapped in the filter, and the liquid and smaller particles will pass through into the catchment container. Remove the filter and invert into a dish. Scrape off the solids with a spoon, if necessary.

Certain brands of paper towels will also work as filters, but coffee filters are inexpensive and easier to work with.

2. Distillation

Distillation is a way to separate mixtures that takes advantage of differences in boiling point. The liquid leaves the mixture via evaporation and then the gas/vapor is captured again via condensation.

bottle-distillation-apparatusNote:  This activity works best outdoors on a hot, sunny day.

You can set up a simple distillation apparatus using a soda bottle that has been cut in half. Leave the cap on.

Place the mixture in the bottom of the soda bottle. Place an empty glass in the center. Invert the top of the soda bottle (with the cap left on) into the bottom half. Press down so it fits tightly and doesn’t allow gases to escape. Fill the top of the soda bottle with ice. Cover with newspaper (insulation) and then aluminum foil. Set in the sun. Visit regularly over the day and replace the ice as needed.

The water should evaporate from the bottom, condense on the top and then run into the cup.

Related: Previous review of Build It! by the same author, Tammy Enz.

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher/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.

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Many people have heard about the plight of polar bears, having to swim farther and farther to find food because of the melting sea ice in the Arctic. Professor Scott Mills is studying the effects of climate change on a smaller, cuter animal:  the snowshoe hare.

For STEM Friday we have Hopping Ahead of Climate Change by Sneed B. Collard III, which chronicles Professor Mills's studies.

Have you heard of snowshoe hares? They are one of a small number of animal species that have different colored fur in the summer versus the winter. In the summer they are brown and look very much like a cottontail rabbit. In the winter, their fur is mostly white.

arctic_harePublic Domain Photograph By Unknown retrieved from Wikimedia

How is climate change a threat? As with other animals that change from brown to white, the hares are triggered to molt their hair by changes in day length rather than temperature. That means when the nights start to get longer, the hares change to white, regardless of whether it has started to snow or not. Recently, the snows have been coming later and later in the season where snowshoe hares live. As you might imagine, a stark white hare is probably more vulnerable to predators on bare ground than on snowy ground. Professor Mills and his students test that hypothesis.

The book is illustrated with color photographs of hares and their habitats, as well as helpful graphs, charts, and maps. Although it may look superficially like a picture book, this is a solidly middle grade title for readers 10 years old and older.

Pick up Hopping Ahead of Climate Change for students interested in environmental issues, animals, or science. You will be glad you did.

Activity:  Create a Chart of the Characteristics of Hares versus Rabbits

Why are the animals called hares rather than rabbits? In Arizona we have both types, so here are some differences:

Hares:

  • Babies born with fur
  • Larger, longer hind legs and often have longer ears (although not snowshoes)
  • Ears with some black fur
  • Live on the surface
  • Haven't been domesticated

Rabbits:

  • Babies born without fur
  • Shorter hind legs
  • Most live in burrows in the ground, but not all
  • Burrows are often near other rabbits, more social
  • Some varieties domesticated

Gather some images of hares and rabbits and create a chart. See if you can find even more differences between hares and rabbits.

This video shows some of Professor Mills's students research. Note:  There are scenes of animal fur left behind by predators and also of animals in live traps. You should always preview videos to make sure they are appropriate for your child.

Related:

  1. Camouflage-related science activities at PBS Parents.

2. Review of Sneed Collard's Fire Birds at Wrapped in Foil blog. See other books by the same author, such as

Snakes, Alligators, and Broken Hearts by Sneed B. Collard III, in which he describes his adventures growing up during the 1960s and 1970s, particularly when visiting his dad who was a biologist.

 

Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Publisher: Bucking Horse Books (November 1, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0984446060
ISBN-13: 978-0984446063

3. Growing list of children's books about polar habitats

polar-habitats
Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher/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.