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Looking for a fabulous STEM activity? The Great Backyard Bird Count is this weekend, February 14-17, 2020.

 

The Great Backyard Bird Count is one of our favorite child-friendly citizen science projects. All you and your family need to do is count the birds you see over 15 minutes and then report your finding via the e-Bird app. Although it is called "backyard," you may count birds anywhere they are found, including parks, preserves, or fields. There is plenty of information and instructions about getting started at the website.

Are you a bird photographer? There is also a photo contest.

Related Activities:

Looking for children's books about birds?

1. Check out Taking Flight: a List of Children’s Books About Bird Migration at Science Books for Kids

Taking-Flight-childrens-books-about-bird-migration-300x270

2. The list of children's books for young birdwatchers at Science Books for Kids

childrens-books-for-young-birdwatchers

You may also want to try:

Are you planning to participate in The Great Backyard Bird Count? What kinds of birds do you see in your backyard? We'd love to hear.

Have you looked into nonfiction picture books about the solar system for preschoolers lately? There's a trend to use less-than-serious illustrations to capture the reader's attention, for example images of the earth, moon, sun, and other planets with expressive faces, mixed with text that contains serious science vocabulary, facts, and concepts.

At a recent STEM story time for preschoolers, I read Nerdy Babies: Space by Emmy Kastner.

 

Follow the "Nerdy Baby" astronauts as they travel into space (floating), orbit around the sun, go back to the moon, then discover each of the planets in the solar system, with one significant fact noted about each.

The format is question and answer. For example:

Do you love the moon?
Earth sure does!
They travel around space together.

The pacing, vocabulary, and information presented all work perfectly for preschoolers in the 4-5 year old range.

The only thing that was off-putting was that the author included the Nerdy Baby branding in the text, which starts with:

"Hello, Nerdy Babies!"

Preschoolers might not like to be called babies (or nerdy), so decide how you want to deal with that part.

Overall, Nerdy Babies: Space is a sweet, well-paced introduction to our solar system.

Related Activity:

Find the coloring sheet at the author's website. Color the planets, then cut them out. Use the planets to make puppets (tape to craft stick), a solar system mobile (tape string to back and hang), or create a solar system poster to mount on the wall.

Series: Nerdy Babies
Board book: 32 pages
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (May 7, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1250312051
ISBN-13: 978-1250312051

Our second book is Moon! Earth's Best Friend by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Stevie Lewis.

On the surface this picture book looks similar to the one above. There's a moon with a sweet face on the cover. Open it up and begin to read, however, and you've entered an entirely different world, one more appropriate for older children.

First of all, Moon! is narrated by the Moon (in first person). Next you will find some big numbers.

Average distance between Earth and me:  238,855 miles.

There's also a summary or the most recent ideas about how the moon formed when a planet-like rock the size of Mars crashed into the Earth.

On the other hand, there's a lighthearted discussion of why cows can't really jump over the moon.

Overall, Moon! is for serious young readers who enjoy learning science facts. However, it might also be a good choice for older reluctant readers who will be sucked in by the more creative aspects.

Related:

If you enjoy this book, check out the others in the series, Sun! One in a Billion by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Stevie Lewis, and Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years by by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by David Litchfield.

Also, check out our STEM Story Time space activities,

and be sure to visit our growing list of children's books about the moon and lunar landings


plus our list of children's books about planets and the solar system
at Science Books for Kids.

Age Range: 4 - 8 years
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (June 11, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1250199344
ISBN-13: 978-1250199348

solar-system-activitiesThis week for our Preschool STEM Story Time we investigated the solar system.

Because this is story time, I began and ended by reading books about space. First I read Nerdy Babies: Space by Emmy Kastner (to be reviewed here for Nonfiction Monday).

 

This was at just the right level, although they were put off by the "Nerdy Baby" branding.

At the end I read If You Were the Moon by Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Jaime Kim

I love, love this particular title because it is so creative, but I hadn't read it with children before. Surprisingly, I had one boy who didn't want to buy into the moon doing all those things -- such as helping keep the Earth from wobbling.  It was, however, an opportunity to encourage him to develop questions, which gives him a framework to find answers later on. We tend remember concepts best when we figure out the answers ourselves and some questions can take years or even decades to answer.

(Visit Laurie Purdie Salas’s website for downloadable teaching guides -- long and short versions -- and other goodies.)

STEM Activity Station 1. Contact paper solar system.

Remember the shape-sorting frames made out of clear contact paper from the math story time? It worked well to make a solar system story board to accompany the book.

Make a frame out of heavy paper about 36 inches long and ten inches wide. Back it with clear contact paper, with the sticky side against the frame.

Find a paper model of the solar system to print out. I used one from the Paxi Fun Book available from the European Space Agency. Glue the paper to card stock and cut out. Now the children can press the planets to the contact paper. They will stick, but can be removed and placed again and again.

if you have a bigger budget, there are commercially-available magnet solar system pieces that will stick to a white board.

Allow the children to figure out the identity of the different planets and what order they go in.

STEM Activity Station 2. Moon craters

Gather:

  • Detailed image of the moon with craters visible
  • Flour (ask for broken bags at the grocery store)
  • Powdered cocoa, buckwheat flour, or cornmeal
  • Unbreakable pan, such as cake pan
  • Marbles and/or rocks
  • Candy sprinkles (totally optional)
  • Plastic bin, newspaper or garbage bags to catch flour (optional)

Find a level surface, preferably outside or indoors where a bit of flour won't cause a mess. Fill a large pan halfway with flour. If you want, you can also add a thin layer of candy sprinkles to represent other minerals present under the surface. Finally, gently add a thin layer of cocoa powder, buckwheat flour, or cornmeal for contrast. If indoors, place the pan into a bigger bin, or onto newspaper or garbage bags.

 

Have your kids drop various round objects into the flour. The results should be some interesting craters and splash patterns, which are the patterns of debris shot out of the crater with impact.

STEM Activity Station 3:  Rotation of planets

Gather:

  • Table of different planet rotation times (optional)
  • Tops to spin
  • Computer to show planet rotations (optional)

Wow, I wasn't expecting how quickly the preschoolers gravitated to the open laptop. The younger generations have an affinity for things electronic, so be prepared if you decide to use it.

This was a popular station.

STEM Activity Station 4:  Phases of the Moon

Phases of the Moon is a favorite preschool activity. I chose to use the one suggested in the book The Moon Seems to Change (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2) by Franklyn M. Branley and illustrated by Barbara & Ed Emberley.

This explanation of the phases of the moon incorporates a demonstration using an orange on a stick and a flashlight right in the text. I used a Styrofoam ball on a pencil.

Gather:

  • The Moon Seems to Change book
  • Images of phases of the moon, preferably for the current calendar month (optional because they are in the book)
  • Flashlight
  • Orange or Styrofoam ball
  • Stick or pencil

Notes:  The phases of the moon station required more time and attention than given. Maybe should use a simpler activity next time or plan on manning this station full time to guide the participants.

STEM Activity Station 5:  Straw rockets

How do we study space? Rockets are an important part of space exploration. Build and launch a simple straw rocket.

There are many straw rocket instructions on the internet. I made the soda-straw rockets from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Older children could make them on their own.

  • Paper rockets
  • Soda straws (make sure they get thrown out and don't get used by multiple kids)
  • Nerf darts (optional, but easy)

As the instructions read, place the drinking straw into the open end of the rocket or Nerf dart and blow.

See instructions for making a straw rocket using a disposable pipette at Wrapped in Foil.

Notes:  This station was very popular. Consider adding stomp rockets.

 

More Ideas:

Also supplied coloring sheets of planets to color (just one source).

Deb Pilutti has a super fun solar system model to make.

space activity pinterest board

Visit our Pinterest Board for more solar system activity ideas.

Want to find more books to read? We have growing lists of children's books at Science Books for Kids: