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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.

With the advent of the Global Positioning System (GPS ), people of all ages are forgetting how to use or create maps. This is an issue because maps aren't just for finding our way to Grandma's house. Not only are they useful for organizing information visually, but they are also a relevant way to develop the spatial relations skills that are so useful in many careers.

We often underestimate the ability of young children to learn how to read and understand maps. That's why a resource like the new nonfiction picture book Mapping My Day by Julie Dillemuth and illustrated by Laura Wood is such an asset for educators.

Mapping My Day introduces basic map concepts and vocabulary through a day in the life of a young girl named Flora. She wakes up to a lesson about cardinal directions, races to the bathroom while learning about map scale, and goes outside to use a treasure map full of landmarks. And that's all before breakfast.

The back matter includes a "Note to Parents, Caregivers, and Professionals" with explanations of why mapping skills are so important and an extensive section explaining map concepts with suggestions for numerous activities. Activity pages to encourage children to try out their mapping skills are included.

Mapping My Day explores an important topic that is often ignored. Educators will find it to be a valuable resource.

Related:

  1. Download the activity pages from the back matter for free at the Magination Press website (publishing arm of the American Psychological Association)
  2. Learn NC has an extensive discussion about Map skills and higher-order thinking for educators
  3. Read a book and do an activity for Pi Day from a previous post at Growing with Science

Pi Day is coming up on Tuesday March 14 (3/14). It's a fun way to celebrate the mathematical constant π and all things math.

What does mapping have to do with math and Pi Day? Although often associated with geography, mapping is a way to present visual information that is useful in many STEM fields. Think of genome maps for genetics. Or, how about all the coordinates you learn about in geometry? Mapping is everywhere.

Explore more children's math books for Pi Day and every day at Science Books for Kids.

list-math-books-for-pi-day

Age Range: 4 - 8 years
Publisher: Magination Press; 1 edition (March 13, 2017)
ISBN-10: 1433823330
ISBN-13: 978-1433823336

Disclosure: This 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.

2

Usually we feature photographs of the Bug of the Week on Wednesdays, but this week for a change of pace we have a new children's picture book about house flies. It is a nominee for a 2015 Cybils award in the Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction category.

The premise of I, Fly: The Buzz About Flies and How Awesome They Are by Bridget Heos and illustrated by Jennifer Plecas is that house flies deserve to be studied even though they aren't as attractive or iconic as butterflies.

At first glance this book does not look like typical nonfiction. The illustrations are cartoons, complete with speech bubbles. The narrator is a stylized fly "speaking" in first person about his mom, brothers and sisters, as well as doing a bit of "trash-talking" about butterflies. Even the yucky/gross aspects are covered with a humorous touch.

Don't let the fun facade fool you, however. The text is full of carefully organized and well-researched facts about house flies. Readers will learn that house flies go through complete metamorphosis like butterflies, but that their larvae and pupae look very different. Heos slips in facts about house fly flight, anatomy, other flies that are relatives (mosquito, blow fly and fruit fly), and even some problems with flies (they carry disease-causing bacteria). Is it true that house flies throw up on our food? Yes, but only solids and it is more like spitting up.

I, Fly will be highly appealing to children (of that certain age) who are enthralled with all things gross and disgusting. The lighthearted approach will make it palatable to parents, teachers and librarians, as well.

Age Range: 4 - 8 years
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); First Edition edition (March 10, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0805094695
ISBN-13: 978-0805094695

HouseFly2_(PSF)(Image of house fly in Public domain from Wikimedia)

This book would pair well with the fictional picture book Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Harry Bliss. In fact, the pair could be used to compare nonfiction and fiction.

Age Range: 4 - 8 years
Publisher: HarperCollins (January 8, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0062232983
ISBN-13: 978-0062232984

For more, see our insect-related lists of children's books at Science Books for Kids, including:

Disclosure: The books were provided by my 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.