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Today Growing with Science is hosting STEM Friday, the meme that highlights recently released Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books for children (as well as older favorites). The STEM Friday book meme has been ongoing for a year, but now you can find it in one place each week - at the new STEM Friday blog. You should go check it out.
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Our featured guest today has some unusual characteristics.
It is an animal that:

  • has a beak
  • is related to a slug
  • has the largest eyes of any animal
  • is eaten by sperm whales.

Can you guess what it is?

The book Giant Squid: Searching for a Sea Monster (Smithsonian) by Mary M Cerullo and Clyde F.E. Roper will give you all the answers to this mystery, or at least all the answers that are known so far.

One of the authors, Dr. Clyde Roper, is a zoologist at Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History who has devoted his life to finding out more about giant squid.

It isn't easy studying giant squid, however. They live in the depths of the oceans, so far down only one person has ever recorded images of a living specimen (by sending a camera deep into the ocean). How do scientists like Dr. Roper study something that they can't see? Dr. Roper looks for rare specimens that wash up on shore and also examines sperm whales. He studies sperm whales because they dive down and eat giant squid. In fact, it was the sucker-shaped scars left on the skin of the sperm whales by giant squid tentacles that helped scientists figure out how big they were.

In this video, Dr. Roper discusses some of his findings. The film editing is a bit "unusual," but I think you can still see his passion for his subject.

CREDIT: Smithsonian Institution

Doesn't that make you want to become a zoologist, too?

What I really like about this book is it shows how marine biologists use clues from a variety of sources to learn about these mysterious creatures. For example, scientists can estimate how many giant squid are in the ocean depths by calculating the number of giant squid a sperm whale eats and then multiplying that number by the number of sperm whales there are. Assuming sperm whales are not catching all giant squids that are living in the ocean, the numbers suggest there are millions of giant squid. Amazing!

How do scientists figure out how many giant squid a sperm whale eats? It is based on the number of giant squid beaks found in the stomachs of sperm whales, because the hard beaks are not digested. This leads to the part of the book that is not for the squeamish. Some of the photographs show researchers dissecting a sperm whale carcass that washed up on shore, in order to find out what its stomach contents were. It is a bloody, smelly process. Some of the photographs of the dead giant squids that have been found aren't that pleasant, either. Sensitive children should probably be warned about the graphic nature of some of the photographs, but the story is so fascinating, they should be encouraged to give it a try. And the color photographs of the squids relatives, particularly the cuttlefishes, are just enchanting.

I really could go on and on about this book. The bottom line is that Giant Squid: Searching for a Sea Monster is a fascinating look at a mysterious creature, and a wonderful glimpse into the scientific process as well. I highly recommend it, particularly for budding marine biologists. Take it along on your next trip to the beach.

For more giant squid information and lesson ideas:

Giant Squid at  Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

Ocean Portal - For educators has links to many lessons about the ocean, for example:

Museum of New Zealand has a kid-friendly site with activities and information about the related Colossal Squid

The University of Arizona has a lesson:  The Cool Communication of Cephalopods

Spineless Smarts- a NOVA program about studying cuttlefish - too cute

A book about glass squid - shows relative sizes of different squid and sperm whales compared to a semi-trailer truck.
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Did you know that April has been National Poetry month? To celebrate, The STEM Friday blog has a post about STEM Haiku . Here is my haiku inspired by the book:

Search for sea monster
Giant squid swimming so deep
Tentacle comes up

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Paperback: 48 pages
Publisher: Capstone Press (January 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1429680237
ISBN-13: 978-1429680233


This plush toy might be interesting, as well.


Disclosures: Book was provided by publisher for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.

Tomorrow Growing with Science is hosting STEM Friday, the meme that highlights recently released Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books for children (as well as older favorites). The STEM Friday book meme has been ongoing for a year, but now you can find it in one place each week - at the new STEM Friday blog.

I thought this would be a great opportunity to do a weekend of posts celebrating science books for children. Today I'll go over some resources where you can find out about new STEM books, particularly science books. Stay tuned for more.

Places to find lists of fantastic STEM Books:

The first list can be found at the The Miss Rumphius Effect blog. Patricia Stohr-Hunt has well-organized thematic lists of books, particularly math and science. She also recently did a wonderful list of Women in Science – Trailblazers of the 20th Century, which includes synopses of children's books about:

  • Rachel Carson
  • Mary Leakey
  • Jane Goodall
  • Sylvia Earle
  • Wangari Maathai

with a companion post, Women in Science - Trailblazers Before the 20th Century

that features children's books about:

  • Hypatia
  • Maria Mitchell
  • Marie Curie

Archimedes Notebook has a list of book reviews of carefully selected children's science books.

Shirley at Simply Science concentrates on science books for children, and she always adds a few recommended activities as well.

Anastasia has put together a list of science poetry books, plus STEM haiku (more about that tomorrow).

Jeff at NC Teacher Stuff is a regular contributor to STEM Friday and he has some great links to math and science websites.

National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) has extensive yearly lists of outstanding science trade books

AAAS/Subaru SB&F (Science Books and Films) Prize for Excellence in Science Books - See a list of the 2012 science winners Also, the SB&F site offers book lists that change monthly, for example suggestions for a Science Book Club. They also have best of lists from 1999-2005

Of course, the STEM Friday blog is a place to find reviews of new science/STEM books, updated each Friday. Be sure to check the comments for links to reviews from our community members.

Are you looking for science books? New STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) book resources for are springing up all over. It is a great time to grow a reading list for science books!

I would love to hear about any resources I might have missed.

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Today we have a lovely new picture book A Leaf Can Be . . . (Millbrook Picture Books) with poetic text by Laura Purdie Salas and breathtaking illustrations by Violeta Dabija. This book has been generating a lot of excitement in the children's literature world (See my review at Wrapped in Foil).

In the book Salas gently describes leaf "jobs," which are all the roles that leaves may play.  “A leaf can be a…Shade spiller…Mouth filler…Tree topper…Rain stopper….” She covers not only the basics, such as that leaves are where plants make food, but also more whimsical and imaginative uses, such as they serve as a place to conceal moths or snakes. She includes a section "More About Leaves" in the backmatter that feels and looks like she is sharing her handwritten research notes.

The mixed-media illustrations by Violeta Dabija are in a class by themselves. They "leave" this veteran book reviewer speechless (The video trailer below does not do justice to their beauty).

The bottom line is that A Leaf Can Be . . . is sure to be a winner with budding scientists.

Activities to investigate leaves, inspired by A Leaf Can Be . . .:

Make a leaf collection to study leaf form and function.

There are many, many ways to make a leaf collection.

My new favorite way to preserve leaves is to scan them.

Simply lay fresh or dry leaves on the bed of a scanner. Rather than using the machine cover, which might crush the leaves, gently cover with cloth or a large piece of construction paper to serve as a backdrop. Scan and save electronically. Now you can add your scans to an electronic journal or print them out for a paper one. No more lost or crushed specimens.

Be sure to include information about when and where you collected your leaves and any information you have about the identity of the plant. Collections like this can be an important learning and research tool, as well as a useful reference resource.

With the excitement of spring, with all the glorious new plant growth,  it is a perfect time to investigate leaves.

Related activities:

1. Laura Purdie Salas has a teaching guide to use with the book on her website, with suggestions for art, science, math and literature activities.

2.The Botany & Art, and their roles in Conservation lesson plans include a podcast about botanical illustration. as well as other materials (at the Smithsonian).

3. Bookish Ways in Math and Science has a unit on plants that includes a "Leafy Comparison."

4. Shirley at Simply Science has a review of A Leaf Can Be . . . and suggests taking a leaf walk.

5. Older children and adults might enjoy these leafy puns at The New York Times.

A Leaf Can Be . . .

Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Millbrook Pr Trade (February 1, 2012)
ISBN-10: 0761362037
ISBN-13: 978-0761362036


Disclosures: The author provided an electronic copy of this book for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.