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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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Today for STEM Friday we are featuring a 2018 Best STEM Book K-12 (National Science Teachers Association and the Children's Book Council)How Could We Harness a Hurricane? by Vicki Cobb.

Hurricanes have certainly been in the news. This middle grade title is for kids who are looking for a deeper understanding of extreme weather. It not only explains what a hurricane is, but also offers discussions about whether we can stop hurricanes from forming, whether we can harness their energy, and whether we should we even try to "mess with Mother Nature."

What I love about it is that it's filled with hands-on experiments for those kids who learn by doing. For example, there's an experiment to show how hot water flows through cold water (We did a similar, but less complicated experiment years ago).

You can get a good idea about what the book covers in this book trailer:

How Could We Harness a Hurricane? asks some difficult questions and penetrates into the science of big weather. It is perfect for older kids who want to seriously learn about hurricanes.

Hurricane Science Activity for Kids

How do meteorologists figure out how to categorize hurricanes?

They use the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, which uses wind speed.

It seems like we've put hurricanes into categories forever, but it has been only about 45 years. The scale was developed in 1971 and introduced to the general public in 1973. It was developed by Herbert Saffir, an engineer, and Robert Simpson, who was a meteorologist and director of the U.S. National Hurricane Center. The only factor taken into consideration is how fast the winds are blowing.

How do the meteorologists measure wind speeds in hurricanes? These days pilots fly specially-equipped planes into the storm and drop instruments called dropsones.

Public domain illustration from NASA retrieved at Wikimedia

The dropsonde has GPS capability so the scientists who monitor the data it transmits can calculate how fast and in what direction the wind is carrying it.

On the ground, we use a device called an anemometer to measure the wind speed.

Anemometer

You can buy or build an anemometer. There are instructions on how to make an anemometer using muffin tins on the Growing with Science website, or one using paper cups at Education.com.

Take your equipment outside. Record the wind speed at different temperatures and different times of the day. Is it easy to measure? How does wind speed change?

Check with local weather reports to see if your results match what is posted. Why might they be similar or different?

You can also experiment with mini-hurricanes on the surface of bubbles (parental supervision needed.)


How cool is that?

Related Resources:

Looking for more children's books about weather? Visit our growing list at Science Books for Kids.

Age Range: 9 - 12 years
Publisher: Seagrass Press (August 1, 2017)
ISBN-10: 1633222462
ISBN-13: 978-1633222465

Disclosure: This book was provided by Quarto Kids 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.

In honor of the longest night (December 21), we are introducing a new book for middle graders Dark Matters: Nature's Reaction to Light Pollution by Joan Marie Galat. It is the perfect time to ponder the importance of darkness.


Dark Matters sheds light on a relatively new science,"scotobiology," which is the study of how darkness and light effect the health and behavior of living organisms. Scotobiology was officially established in 2003, although scientists have known of the impacts of artificial light for decades.

Set up a bit differently than most nonfiction, each chapter in Dark Matters starts with Joan's reminisces about her childhood experiences with night and lights. The personal stories draw in young readers and help give perspective to the more technical informational sections that follow. They also remind the reader that our environment is changing from one generation to the next. Young children may never have seen the Milky Way because light pollution is so prevalent.

After establishing what light pollution is, Galat reveals how excessive artificial lights at night can harm not only nocturnal animals such as bats and fireflies, but also day-active animals, such as birds. In some places birds end up singing all night because they are confused by excessive lights. In other places migrating birds crash into tall building at night, plunging to their deaths in vast numbers. Throughout the book she reveals many examples of how our environment is being harmed by excessive artificial light.

The book trailer gives you a good idea of the topics it covers:

Dark Matters explores an important topic that is relatively new and hasn't received much attention. Check out a copy today.

Related Activity:  Investigate the Night

In our area in the summer the Desert Botanical Garden holds flashlight tours of the garden at night. It is an enlightening experience because the garden becomes a very different place in the dark. The humidity goes up and the wind goes down. The temperatures start to drop. Suddenly your senses of smell, hearing, and touch come alive and your night vision kicks in. Night-blooming plants flower and nocturnal animals scamper. It's amazing.

Look for similar nighttime excursions to participate in near your home. As well as flashlight tours, look for outdoor astronomy demonstrations and night hikes. Don't forget to write down your thoughts and observations after you are done.

Links for more information:

  1. Check out the links and activity suggestions at Joan Galat's Website
  2. Find out about the "dark side" of LED lights -- the blue light they make depresses melatonin, an important hormone -- at Science Friday
  3. Revisit previous posts about nocturnal animals and/or animals effected by light pollution here at Growing with Science:

And be sure to visit our growing list of children's books about nocturnal animals at Science Books for Kids.

Age Range: 10 - 18 years
Publisher: Red Deer Press; 1 edition (July 30, 2017)
ISBN-10: 0889955158
ISBN-13: 978-0889955158

Disclosure: This book was provided by the author/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.

Although it's a day early, we are also participating in STEM Friday.

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