July 4, 2018

Embrace Your Inner Inventor

by Mary Kay Carson

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I'm proud to announce the release of my newest book, Alexander Graham Bell for Kids: His Life and Inventions with 21 Activities.

Alexander Graham Bell was a man of many interests and talents. While famous for inventing the telephone, Bell also...

  • invented an improved phonograph that Thomas Edison had to buy the patent for in order to build a usable product.
  • worked with early airplane inventors Glenn Curtiss and Samuel Langley and competed with the Wright Brothers.
  • attempted to save President Garfield from his fatal gunshot wound with a bullet-finding invention similar to a metal detector.
  • was a pioneering speech teacher to the deaf and a life-long friend and mentor of Helen Keller.
  • emigrated from Scotland with his parents after both his brothers died from tuberculosis.
Bell invented and experimented his entire life. A favorite Bell quote is: "The inventor is a man who looks around upon the world and is not contented with things as they are. He wants to improve whatever he sees, he wants to benefit the world."

You and your students can put their own problem solving skills to work. Everyone craves improvement and likes getting problems solved. We all seek better ways of doing things and love new gadgets! What would you invent?

June 17, 2018

Take Your Pick of Favorite Summer Activities

Look what grew in my house last summer!

Summer! Time to relax, refresh, and review. In honor of the Summer Solstice coming this week, I’m linking you to several of my favorite summer activities posted since we started Hands-on-Books in 2011!

May 1, 2018

Thanks for all Planets, Kepler!

by Mary Kay Carson

Kepler is dying. NASA's famed planet-hunting space telescope is running out of fuel and will soon stop functioning. The workhorse has been discovering planets beyond our solar system for the past nine years. But nothing lasts forever. Once Kepler uses up the last of its fuel, the spacecraft's orbit around Earth will begin to decay. Until then it soldiers on collecting data.

As of today, Kepler's confirmed exoplanet discovery count is 2,343. Nearly as many remain unconfirmed. That's right, we now know about thousands of planets circling other stars that no one knew existed until the small space telescope went to work in 2009. As impressive as the number of new exoplanets is, the stunning variety of these new worlds is just as impressive. There are planets orbiting two stars, hot gas giants like Jupiter orbiting near their suns, and lots of small rocky places, too. Surely one or two are Earth-like.

Kepler's successor is already up and running. A small refrigerator-sized satellite went into orbit in April. It's called TESS, short for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. Like Kepler, it will search for exoplanets by looking for telltale dips in light that occur when planets pass in front of their star. But it will do so much faster and with better cameras. Good hunting, TESS!

Students and educators can model how Kepler and TESS search for alien worlds circling distant stars in this activity from my book, Beyond the Solar System. Enjoy! And thanks, Kepler, for all the planets.

April 6, 2018

Make and Play a Board Game!

by Brandon Marie Miller

Playing a board game in Ancient Egypt
We toss dice, spin a wheel, draw a card. Pieces move around a decorated board. People have played board games for thousands of years. Most of us grew up playing them. Each year, new games are invented and  old favorites get updates.

Versions of chess, checkers and backgammon have been around hundreds of years. Fans have played  games like Monopoly and Sorry for over 80 years now. Candy Land, introduced in 1946, has been updated many times for new generations of kids.

Monopoly, 1930s

And from Trivial Pursuit, to Hungry Hungry Hippos and Settlers of Catan, people enjoy the shared experience of sitting around a game board in competition. The Game of Life, first created in 1860, was one of my favorites as a kid. You spun a wheel, moved little cars around the board, earned a salary and faced setbacks. Once when our spinner stuck, my sister and I greased it with a little butter and kept playing!
You may not have heard of the board game, The Royal Game of the Goose, but the game has been played since the 1500s. I included this game in my book THOMAS JEFFERSON FOR KIDS, HIS LIFE AND TIMES. Below are instructions to make the board and the rules for play. Enjoy!

February 3, 2018

Chinese or Not, Newton's Laws Rule!

My very first book is for sale in Taiwan! Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids now appears in traditional Chinese.

Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids (Chicago Review Press, 2009), now appears in English, Croatian, Japanese, and traditional Chinese—with plans for publication in China.

Newton wrote science’s most important book, the Principia, to roll out twenty years of thought about the universe. He established three laws of motion, steppingstones to the biggest idea in the Principia: the Law of Universal Gravitation.