For STEM Friday this week we have a middle grade science book, The Secret of the Bird's Smart Brain. and More! (Animal Secrets Revealed!) by Ana Maria Rodriguez.
Using a fun format where each chapter reveals a surprise about a different group of animals, the author has found five science stories which often turn conventional wisdom upside down. In the first chapter, the term "bird brain" has a whole new meaning when scientists find that small size has nothing to do with power. In the following chapters readers discover whether birds have a sense of smell, how and why mama bears act during different seasons, and how pig grunts and alligator bellows may have more to say more than we originally thought. The last chapter ends with a hands-on activity for kids to try.
Although it is the animals that draw young readers in (the kunekune pigs are adorable!), the true stars of each chapter are the scientists who are discovering their secrets. The book shows details of how each group of scientists studies the problems, from counting brain cells to recording pig grunts.
The Secret of the Bird's Smart Brain...And More! is the next best thing to taking a field trip with a biologist. Check out a copy today.
Related Activity Suggestions:
Investigate Kunekune Pigs (Chapter 4)
Kunekune pigs are a rare breed from New Zealand. They are prized because of their small size and ability to use grass (to graze) as their main source of food.
Here are two kunekune piglets from the Dallas Zoo:
What do you think the little "tassels" of hair under the chin is all about?
The scientists in the book studied the grunts. You can hear the sounds the pigs make in this video.
Can you hear other sounds in the area besides the pig, like the kids and the chickens? How do you think scientists tune in to just the pig sounds when they want to study them? (See answer below.)
Don't these pigs have interesting colors? The New Zealand Kunekune Association's page on coat color genetics has a detailed explanation of how genes interact to produce coat colors.
Investigate Bird Brains and Bird Behavior
Age Range: 8 - 11 years
Publisher: Enslow Pub Inc (August 15, 2017)
Answer: Scientists trained the pigs they wanted to study to go one at a time into special sound-insulated huts so they could record individual pigs without a lot of extra background noise. Read chapter 4 to find out more.
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