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Today Growing with Science is hosting STEM Friday, the meme that highlights Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books for children (as well as older favorites). The STEM Friday book meme can found each week at the  STEM Friday blog. It is a great resource if you are looking for the newest and best in STEM books for kids.

You know how much we love hands-on activities here at Growing With Science, which is why we were excited to find Build It: Invent New Structures and Contraptions (Invent It)by Tammy Enz.

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Author Enz is a civil engineer, and her experience shows in the details in each of the projects. Included are instructions on how to make a device that can open an close a door remotely (with strings), a newspaper fort, a trash grabber, toothpick bridge, a pet waterer and many more. Each project comes with a list of materials and step-by-step instructions with color photographs accompanying each step.

In additions to the projects, sidebars are sprinkled throughout that reveal some historically-important inventions. Did you know the can opener was invented 48 years after the invention of the tin can? Amazing!

Build It: Invent New Structures and Contraptions would be great for a busy teacher looking for a quick science or engineering project because it has complete and detailed plans. It would also be fun for the home inventor who could build the project as presented and then use the skills he or she learned to tweak the design or come with up with a whole new invention.

Related activity:

The book contains plans for a toothpick bridge held together with hot glue. If you want to work with younger children who aren't ready for a hot glue gun, however, try the classic toothpicks and mini-marshmallows. The children can build bridges or towers. Hint: Fresh marshmallows can be mushy. Allow the marshmallows dry out for several days to stabilize the structure before testing or moving it.

This quick video shows some of the details.

Other materials that can be used for building bridges or towers include plastic drinking straws, craft sticks, and dried spaghetti.

Even grapes can work in a pinch, although the structure won't be a permanent one.

These projects are sure to lead to bigger things!

More about bridges (scroll to bottom for additional links)

Build It: Invent New Structures and Contraptions by Tammy Enz

Reading level:  3-4
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Capstone Press (January 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1429679816
ISBN-13: 978-1429679817

Book was provided by publisher for review purposes.

Did you know that it is World Oceans Day today? To celebrate, let's take a look at picture book, Your Senses at the Beach by Kimberly Marie Hutmacher.

"Get ready to feel
the warm sand
and smell the salty air
Today we'll use our
five senses at the beach."

Your Senses at the Beach would be a good choice for a child who is going to the beach for the first time and isn't sure what to expect. Reading it would introduce some of the sights, sounds and smells that they might experience. It also works well for encouraging children to explore the beach more fully while learning about their senses. Finally, it would be a great way to relive the memories of a special trip to the beach.

What would you see, hear, smell, touch and taste at the beach? Maybe this video from the World Oceans Day will help give you some ideas.

If you would like more ideas about ocean and beach-related activities, explore these previous posts from Growing With Science:

Learn about Steller Sea Lions

Investigate an animal (sea slug) that can make its own food

Sea Horses and Other Fish

Shore Birds

Tide Pool Invertebrates

Experiments with movement of floating trash

Sand Experiments

Reading level: Ages 4 and up (First Grade)
Library Binding: 24 pages
Publisher: Capstone Press (August 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1429666633
ISBN-13: 978-1429666633

Book was provided by publisher for review purposes.

Come visit the new STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.


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.
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.

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

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.