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For STEM Friday we have a 2018 AAAS Subaru Children’s Science Book Prize Finalist, Try This Extreme: 50 Fun & Safe Experiments for the Mad Scientist in You by Karen Romano Young and photographs by Matthew Rakola.

What is extreme about this book? It explores extreme temperatures (for example, the effect of cold on glow sticks), extreme environments (test survival skills) , and extreme animal abilities (for example, exploring the insulating power of whale blubber). It is also extremely engaging.

As we've come to expect from National Geographic Kids, the book is illustrated with fantastic color photographs. What makes it stand out is that it features real kids performing the experiments, and includes some of their comments, plus readers gets to meet all the kid scientists on pages 10 and 11. Seeing their peers doing the experiments draws kids in and empowers them to try some themselves.

The back matter includes all the science standards for each experiment, plus a very handy index.

For busy parent and educators, Try This! Extreme could be a real life saver. With clear step-by-step instructions and using easy-to-obtain materials, children can take the lead with these projects. Plus, it is super cool!

Age Range: 10 and up
Publisher: National Geographic Children's Books (September 26, 2017)
ISBN-10: 142632863X
ISBN-13: 978-1426328633

Let's do a hands-on science experiment for older kids inspired by the book:

Soda Floating and Sinking

Imagine you are working in a restaurant. Someone has filled two taps, one with diet soft drink and one with regular soft drink. Unfortunately, no one knows which is which. The store manager doesn’t want to serve the public the wrong soft drink, and the two taste similar enough that there are some questions. Should she throw out the soft drinks, or can you tell which is regular and which is diet using science?

If you know something about the density of different types of soda, you might be able to help.

Density can be calculated using the formula:

density= mass divided by volume

Materials:

  • Large plastic bin, sink, or tub
  • 4 unopened cans of different flavors of regular soft drink
  • 4 unopened cans of different flavors of diet soft drink
  • Water
  • Table top kitchen scale
  • Calculator

Part 1. Observe the density of soft drink cans placed in a large container filled with tap water.

Do you expect the unopened cans of soft drink to float, sink, or stay in the middle when placed in tap water? Given that the cans likely contain an equal amount of aluminum and fluid, do you expect any differences in how the different kinds of soda will behave?

Fill a plastic storage bin, sink, or tub with tap water. Place the unopened cans of regular soft drink and diet soft drink in the water. Observe whether the cans float or sink.

(For a quick peek at the expected results, see this video)

Did what you observed match your predictions?

soft-drink-bottles
Public Domain Photograph by Peter Griffin at PublicDomainPictures.net

Part 2. Determine the density of unopened cans of soda

  1. Turn on the kitchen scale.
  2. Make sure it reads zero (is tared).
  3. Place an unopened can of soda on the scale.
  4. Write down your data in a table like this one:density-table
  5. Record the kind of soda
  6. Read and record the mass of the can in grams.
  7. Locate the volume of the can in milliliters and record it.
  8. Repeat steps 2-6 until you’ve weighed 4 cans of regular soda and 4 cans of diet soda
  9. Using a calculator, calculate the density of each.

What is going on?

Soft drinks are actually complex mixtures containing a variety of substances such as colors, flavors, acids, sweeteners, preservatives, and caffeine. For example, soft drinks contain phosphoric acid, which gives them a tangy taste. Phosphoric acid can also acts as a preservative, keeping the contents of the bottle fresh.

Which of these ingredients, if any, might explain the different densities observed? Read the nutrition facts of the regular soda and diet soda. Do you notice any ingredients that are contained in large enough amounts that they might result in the differences in density between diet and regular soda? How much of that substance is in regular soda? How much in diet?

Finally, how might you figure out which soda is which in the example described at the top?

Want more? See our growing list of children's books with hands-on science experiments at Science Books for Kids.

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.

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For STEM Friday let's take a look at a beautiful new picture book, On Gull Beach by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Bob Marstall.

In this book, youngsters learn about seagulls and other inhabitants of a Massachusetts beach.

The story follows a young boy as he explores the seashore. Along the way, he spots a sea star. Before he can reach it, however, a seagull picks it up and flies away. Find out what he discovers as he chases the gull along the beach.

Jane Yolen's simple, but expertly-crafted rhyming text and Bob Marstall's exceptional illustrations make a delightful combination. Plus, you can't go wrong with the people of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology backing it.

The back matter includes more detailed information about gulls, other shorebirds, sea stars, and different types of crabs. Included are small color photographs of the different animals, plus QR Codes that will take you to sound files. There is also a sidebar about "How You Can Help Our Beaches and Wildlife."

Young birdwatchers will love On Gull Beach. It would also be a great choice for a trip to the beach, either in real life or in the reader's imagination. Enjoy a copy today!

Age Range: 4 - 11 years
Publisher: Cornell Lab Publishing Group (March 27, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1943645183
ISBN-13: 978-1943645183

Related Seagull Science Activities

1. Identifying Birds

Encourage children to learn how to identify birds. When children can tell different birds apart, they pay more attention to the birds they see.

Identifying birds requires learning to recognize body shapes, learning the names of body parts, plus honing observation skills. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has some tips and resources to get started.

 

The type of seagulls featured in the book are herring gulls. As you can see from the illustrations, herring gulls have robust white bodies, light gray on their wings, pink legs and feet, yellow eyes, and they have a red spot towards the tip of their yellow lower beak.  The All About Birds website has more details and photographs of herring gulls.

 

Is this a herring gull? Check the characteristics listed above. Does it match?

Nope. There are more than 20 species of gulls in North America.  This is an immature Heermann's gull (Larus heermanni).

2. Questions and Answers: Seagulls

Q: How are the feet of seagulls different from those of the song birds in your community?

A: The seagulls have webbed feet for swimming.

Q: What sounds do seagulls make?

Seagulls make a number of different sounds depending on circumstances. They have alarm calls, courtship calls, sounds to defend territories, and sounds when they feed their chicks. All About Birds has some seagull sound recordings.

Q: Why do seagulls have dots on their beaks?

A: Seagull chicks peck the dot on the beak as a signal they want to be fed.

Q:  Are seagulls only found at the beach?

A:  No. Seagulls are also found inland, around rivers and lakes, and even in agricultural fields. They are common around landfills.

Q:  Do seagulls really eat sea stars like in the book?

A:  Seagulls eat many different creatures at the beach, including sea stars, crabs, and fish. Those found at the landfill are feeding on trash.

Here are some clever gulls eating snails.

No matter how you crack it, seagulls are interesting animals.

__________________________________

Earlier titles in the On Bird Hill and Beyond series:
On Bird Hill (2016) by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Bob Marstall

On Duck Pond (2017) by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Bob Marstall

See our growing list of children's books for young birdwatchers at Science Books for Kids.

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher's representatives 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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Right in time for National Puppy Day (March 23) and to celebrate the Year of the Dog, National Geographic is publishing not one, but two great nonfiction children's books about our furry friends, dogs.

It's a Puppy's Life by photographer Seth Casteel is a picture book with an irresistible combination of adorable photographs of puppies and romping, bouncy partially-rhyming text.

Pups need to eat to grow big and strong...
a nibble,
some kibble,
then time to move on.

As we would expect from National Geographic, the photographs are fantastic, funny and cute. The author/photographer of the wildly popular Underwater Dogs, Seth Casteel obviously has a passion for his subjects. We see puppies playing, sniffing, making a mess, and sleeping.

Where's the science? In the back matter are 32 thumbnails of the photographs used in the book with captions that identify each by breed. The puppies range from basset hounds to Yorkshire terriers, allowing readers to explore the concept of inheritance and variation of traits, a Next Generation Science standard.

Even the most reluctant reader is going to enjoy It's a Puppy's Life. It is an obvious choice for anyone who is a dog enthusiast, plus would be a great choice to share for National Puppy Day!

Age Range: 4 - 8 years
Publisher: National Geographic Children's Books (March 20, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1426330693
ISBN-13: 978-1426330698

Dog Days of History: The Incredible Story of Our Best Friends (Animals) by Sarah Albee is intended for older children.

Albee starts out with a discussion of where dogs come from. The scientific name for dogs is Canis lupus familiaris, which indicates it is a subspecies of wolf (Canis lupus). In fact, dogs share most of their DNA with wolves, but show incredible variation in appearances.

Progressing in chronological order, the following chapters explore the relations of people and dogs in the ancient world, middle ages, etc., through modern times. Albee features famous dogs through history, like Lewis and Clark's dog, Seaman. The final chapter wraps up with the role of dogs in modern culture and a glimpse of the future of dogs.

The book is illustrated with a combination of high-quality stock photographs and art featuring dogs from a variety of times and places.

The back matter is extensive, including "A Note About the Research," which explains that many stories about dogs seen on the Internet may be exaggerated or fabricated. She includes a fun list of the words used in various languages to represent the sounds dogs make, from "arf-arf" or "bow-wow" in English to "wff-wff" in Welsh. As appropriate for a history book, there is an extensive three-page "Bibliodography" (too cute), plus references for all the quotes.

Dog Days of History will thrill both dog lovers and history buffs. It is a handy reference young readers are likely to return to again and again.

Age Range: 9 - 12 years
Publisher: National Geographic Children's Books (March 27, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1426329717
ISBN-13: 978-1426329715

Related Dog Science Activities/Lessons:

  1. Dog Coat Color Genetics - this British website delves deeply into genetics. If nothing else check out all the different dog coat colors
  2. Extensive lesson on Artificial Selection and Dog Breeding from UCMP for older students
  3. NatureWorks has some nice fact sheets about the other members of the Canidae, including: Arctic Fox, Coyote, Gray Fox, Red Wolf, and Red Fox.
  4. Fun Dog Behavior Test:  Check whether your dog(s) is (are) right or left pawed. Offer your dog a treat or toy slightly under a chair or piece of furniture (with an opening big enough so it can easily get a paw under without injury or chance of getting trapped). Which paw does it use to retrieve it? Is it consistent? Or keep records of which paw your dog uses when it starts walking. Research how this might relate to other behaviors.

Check out our growing list of children's nonfiction books about dogs at Science Books for Kids.

childrens-books-about-dogs

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher's representatives 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.