August 1, 2021

A SPORTS-TASTIC CHALLENGE!

Welcome this month's guest blogger, Jennifer Swanson!

How many of you are currently watching the Tokyo Olympics? Me! <waves hand wildly> 

I LOVE sports. I should. I grew up with three brothers and a father who love sports. It was natural that I would as well. After all, I spent most of my days playing baseball in the backyard with my brothers, shooting hoops in the driveway, swimming laps in the pool for swim practice, running, hiking, biking, etc. You name it, I’ve played the sport. 

But many of you also know that I LOVE science, too! (Remember, I was the one who started a science club in my garage when I was seven.) So, when an opportunity came to combine the two in a book, I literally jumped at it (after all, the long jump was once one of my events). 😊 

In my The Secret Science of Sports: The Math, Physics, and Mechanical Engineering Behind Every Grand Slam, Triple Axel, and Penalty Kick  (August 2021, Black Dog & Leventhal), my recipe for a great book is -->  STEM + Sports = GREAT FUN!

Hold on. There is one thing you should know. This book is not meant to be read sitting down. I want readers to DO the STEM with the sports. To SEE and EXPERIENCE the science, technology, engineering, and math in every sport. 

TRY OUT these three challenges from the book:

You’ll need: • soccer ball  • balloon


Did you have fun? I hope so! My goal for this book is to have it taken outside, sloshed through mud-filled soccer fields, covered in sports drinks stains from tennis and football players, and yes, even end up with rippled pages from getting wet next to a swimming pool.

It’s also a PERFECT guide to the 2021 Olympics. (Hint: this book even breaks down Simone Biles’ famous flip—it’s on page 159.) 

Have a great summer! Go STEM and SPORTS!

🏀    🏆    🎾

Science Rocks! And so do Jennifer Swanson’s books. She is the award-winning author of over 45 nonfiction books for children. 

You can find Jennifer through her website www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com.   

Check out Jennifer's award-winning STEM podcast for Kids SolveItForKIDS.com.

July 1, 2021

Sometimes the Political IS Personal: Make that Memory!

 When Hillary Clinton won the Democrat nomination for US president in 2016, many thought that she was the first woman so honored.

Not so. Several women, Victoria Woodhull and Shirley Chisholm among them, had their names placed in nomination across the years.

The name that rings in my mind is Margaret Chase Smith, Republican senator of Maine, who was nominated at the Republican Convention at San Francisco’s Cow Palace in 1964. US Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, a right wing Republican, won the nomination. 

Smith is remembered for taking on Sen. Joseph McCarthy in his crusade to ferret out Communists from the US during the 1950s:  

 I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to a political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny—Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear.



























June 1, 2021

Investigate Flamingo Feathers

Welcome guest blogger Jenna Grodzicki! 

My newest book, Wild Style: Amazing Animal Adornments, features 11 animals that decorate themselves in order to survive. Doing the research for this book was a blast! These wacky adornments help the animals stay safe from predators, protect their bodies, show power, make it easier to find a mate, or allow them to sneak up on their meal unseen. 

One such animal is the flamingo. The flamingo spreads oil all over its feathers. This oil is produced in glands near its tail. The oil keeps the flamingo’s plumage waterproof and improves its durability. But how does this actually work? The activity I’ve provided below will show students exactly how the oil does its intended job.



Jenna Grodzicki is the author of both fiction and nonfiction picture books. Her book, I See Sea Food: Sea Creatures That Look Like Food (Millbrook Press, 2019) was the winner of the 2020 Connecticut Book Award in the Young Readers Nonfiction category. Jenna spent more than 10 years as an educator, but now she’s a full-time writer. She loves researching and writing about weird and wonderful animals. 

May 2, 2021

Build a Bathyscope

by Mary Kay Carson

Happy spring, everyone! My just-released latest book Animal Watching is the perfect companion to warmer weather. It's part of a new Outdoor School series of books that encourages kids to get outside and explore the natural world. Kirkus gave the books a starred review, saying that the book is, "[s]ure to encourage readers to go outside and get to know their animal neighbors."

Animal Watching
is a book built for the outdoors. Its water-resistant cover, sewn binding, and metal corner protectors help fulfill the book’s purpose: get kids outside to explore the natural world. Readers build their animal watching and identification skills through leveled steps, recording their observations in the book itself. Kids start simple, simply checking off observed bird behaviors or mammal signs, for example. As they gain experience and knowledge they level up to sketching, surveying habitats, and describing sounds and smells. Users train themselves to be active observers by paying attention to an animal’s shape, size, color, behavior, and location—wildlife identification's “Fantastic Five” clues. 

A little over half of Animal Watching's 450 pages are in the book's identification sections. These are field-guide-like pages that feature common birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and fish. Each animal's page includes space to record details (date, location, etc.) when sighting the animal. 

There are also a number of Next Level activities, including one that invites kids to make their own underwater viewing instrument. Below are instructions for making a simple aquascope or bathyscope. These devices create viewing window into the water, giving fish watchers a clearer look at what's swimming around down below. Enjoy!




April 1, 2021

Mammal Mania! Make A Dichotomous Key...


We welcome Lisa Amstutz, whose Mammal Mania! will be released on April 20. Happy Book Birthday!

My newest book, Mammal Mania (Chicago Review Press, 2021), explores what makes mammals unique, as well as their anatomy, behavior, and conservation needs. Like the others in the Young Naturalists series, it features three hands-on activities in each chapter. I designed these activities to introduce late-elementary and middle grade kids to the basics of zoology.

The activity I’ve shared below helps students learn how to use a dichotomous key. Scientists use keys like this to categorize and identify all sorts of things, from mammals to trees to insects. The word “dichotomous” means “cut into two parts”. Accordingly, each branch on the key gives the user two options to choose from. Like a choose-your-own-adventure book, each leads down a different path. The options start off very broad and general, and get more detailed and specific as you go.

Educators can use this activity to help teach taxonomy, the science of classifying living things. As students learn the taxonomic ranks, show them how each group branches off from the next in a key. For younger students, this can be adapted as a fun sorting activity—help them think through ways to group objects based on similarities and differences. Have fun with this!

===========================

Using a Dichotomous Key

A dichotomous key is a tool that scientists use to identify living things. It works by sorting organisms into smaller and smaller groups based on things they have in common. At each step, two choices are given. The user chooses which one fits best and then follows that path. Try making your own key, then test it out on a friend.

MATERIALS

·       Magazines with plant and animal pictures

·       Scissors

·       Paper

·       Pen

1. Cut out 20 different plant and animal pictures from your magazines.

2. Sort the pictures into groups. How are they similar or different?

3. On your piece of paper, draw a dichotomous key to fit your categories.

4. Mix up your pictures. Then see if a friend can follow your key and sort them into the same categories you chose.


Lisa Amstutz is the author of ~150 science and history books for kids. Her background includes a B.A. in Biology and an M.S. in Environmental Science. A former outdoor educator, Lisa specializes in topics related to science, nature, and agriculture. She lives on a small farm with her family. Visit her online at www.LisaAmstutz.com.

 

March 1, 2021

Be an Archaeologist: Identify the Artifact!

Welcome to Sarah Albee, whose newest book digs into a favorite subject: archaeology!

Have you ever dreamed of discovering long-lost treasure? I know I have—ever since I was a kid. So I wrote a book about people who stumbled across treasure by chance. It’s called Accidental Archaeologists: True Stories of Unexpected Discoveries.

Each chapter begins with an unexpected discovery by a “regular person” (by which I mean a non-archaeologist). These people include farmers, construction workers, cave explorers, hikers, and yes, kids, all of whom make a chance find that fundamentally changes what we thought we knew about human history. Some of these discoveries are now famous—the Rosetta stone, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the ancient Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum—and some are less well-known.

The archaeological word for something from the past made by a human is called an artifact. And while some of the accidentally-discovered artifacts I write about in my book have been actual treasure (gold, jewels, works of art), others were once just ordinary, everyday objects. Some were even found at sites that turned out to be ancient garbage dumps! But one person-from-history’s trash can be an archaeologist’s treasure.

Even experienced archaeologists can’t always identify what an artifact might have been used for by people of the past. Look around your room—can you see any item that might baffle people from the future if it were to be discovered 50 or 100 or 500 years from now?

 Activity:

You’ll need:

Something to write with and a notebook

 Try This:

Below are three pictures of mystery artifacts from the past. The only info you get to know is where the artifact was found.

·       Study the object.

·       Brainstorm: In your notebook, list at least three possible explanations of how you think the item might have been used by people in the past.

·       Now try showing the pictures to other people. Make a list in your notebook of some of the most creative guesses. Did anyone correctly guess all three? 

Scroll to the end to find the answers!

 Mystery Artifact #1

                                                             







credit: Wellcome Collection CC-BY 

Location: England


Mystery Artifact #2


    credit: Sharon Mollerus _ FLICKR _ CC-BY

Location: Greece


Mystery Artifact #3

     credit: Courtesy of National Postal Museum, Smithsonian

Location: United States 


ANSWERS!...

 Mystery Artifact #1

This object is called an ear trumpet, or ear horn, and it was created in the 19th century by a company based in London, England. Made of tin, the ear trumpet is collapsible, which made it easier to carry around. Ear trumpets were used by people who were hearing-impaired to capture and amplify sounds.

Mystery Artifact #2

This is a baby’s potty-chair dating back to ancient Athens. The child would have been lifted up and placed onto the seat with their bottom over the hole, and with their legs sticking out through the side opening. Inside the base of the seat there would likely have been a chamber pot or other container to catch the waste. The smaller hole cut out of the base (there’s another one in the back) would have been used to help lift the potty, which would have been pretty heavy to lug around.

 Mystery Artifact #3

This one has probably stumped you. It stumped me when I saw it. The object is called a perforation paddle, and this one was made in 1899 for use by the Board of Health in Montgomery, Alabama. According to the National Postal Museum description, perforation paddles were used during epidemics of yellow fever to puncture letters and packages and newspapers with dozens of tiny holes. People believed that germs could hitch a ride on the mail and so, to disinfect it, they punctured the mail with holes and then fumigated the letters and packages and newspapers with nasty-smelling disinfectants like sulfur (which smells like rotten eggs). Yellow fever is actually a viral disease that is transmitted by the bite of a certain species of mosquito, so perforation paddles would not have been effective for warding off the disease.


Sarah Albee is the New York Times bestselling author of nonfiction books for kids. Accidental Archaeologists: True Stories of Unexpected Discoveries is her most recent title.  Some of her other books include North America: A Foldout Graphic HistoryDog Days of History; POISON: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous MedicinesAlexander Hamilton: A Plan for America, Why’d They Wear That? Bugged: How Insects Changed History; and Poop Happened: A History of the World from the Bottom UpShe lives in Connecticut with her family. 

 

 

January 31, 2021

Opening the Road: Plan a Trip Using the Green Book

  • It's February and Black History Month.  We welcome Keila V. Dawson, who has a brand-new book about a worthy topic. Let's hit the road.....
OPENING THE ROAD: VICTOR HUGO GREEN AND THE GREEN BOOK is the true story about the Green Book travel guides African Americans used during segregation and its creator, Victor Hugo Green.

By the 1930s, affordable cars and improved highways lured travelers to hit the open road. But those roads weren’t open to all. Black travelers had difficulty finding food, lodging, gas, and even restrooms to use.

 Green published his first guide in 1936, but it only covered Metropolitan New York. The demand for the guide grew, and two years later the Green Book became a national guide. It was updated annually, without the convenience of a computer, and when fewer than half of U.S. homes owned a telephone! With the help of his wife, Alma, a network of mail carriers, a sales staff, Black-owned businesses and Green Book travelers, the guide remained in print for almost thirty years.

 Plan a Trip Activity

 Planning a trip using the Green Book steered Black travelers to businesses that welcomed them, helped them avoid embarrassment and danger.

 Using the Green Book guides, take a trip back in time to explore different editions to learn if there were listings in your city and state.

Instructions:

1. Go to the New York Public Library DIGITAL COLLECTIONS of the Green Book and click on the guide cover for the 1938 edition, the first national edition.

·       Find the index.

·       Is your state in index? If so, go to the page number to find the cities listed.

·       Is your city listed?

·       If you found your city and state, what type of businesses did you find? How many?

·       What do you think the information you found or didn’t find means?

For example, if you searched for Houston, Texas in the 1938 Green Book, you’d find twenty-one states and the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.). But not the state of Texas.


2. Search the 1939 edition and so on.

·       If you found your city and state, what type of businesses did you find?  How many?

·      What do you think the information you found or didn’t find means?  The 1939 edition includes Texas on page 41.


 And the following listings in the 1939 edition in Houston include:

o   four hotels

o   one restaurant

o   one tavern

o   one automotive shop

o   one beauty parlor

o   one drug store

3. Keep going!

·       In every subsequent year, did you find more states listed? More cities? More listings in the same cities found in the previous edition?

·       Compare and contrast listings and editions 5 years or more years apart.

 Eight years later, in the 1947 Green Book, Texas is on page 75.

·       What do you think the information you found or didn’t find means?

 


 The 1947 edition lists the following businesses in Houston:

  • o   four hotels (two new, two from 1939)
  • o   one restaurant  (a different one from 1939)
  • o   two beauty parlors (one new, one from 1939)
  • o   one barber shop (new listing)
  • o   one tavern (the same one listed in 1939)
  • o   one liquor store (new listing)
  • o   zero automotive shop (there was one listed in 1939)
  • o   two drug stores (one new, one from 1939)

This activity should spark a discussion about how Black Americans planned road trips using the Green Book and traveled during segregation. And given communication was not readily available like today, why Victor Green urged, “Carry your Green Book with you, you many need it.”

Find more activities to use with OPENING THE ROAD: VICTOR HUGO GREEN AND THE GREEN BOOK in the educator’s guide written by the author.



Keila V. Dawson is co-editor of NO VOICE TOO SMALL: FOURTEEN YOUNG AMERICANS MAKING HISTORY, along with Lindsay H. Metcalf and Jeanette Bradley, illustrated by Bradley (Charlesbridge, September 2020) and the forthcoming NO WORLD TOO BIG:YOUNG PEOPLE FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE also with Lindsay H. Metcalf and Jeanette Bradley, illustrated by Bradley (Charlesbridge, spring 2023). She is the author of THE KING CAKE BABY, illustrated by Vernon Smith (Pelican Publishing 2015) and OPENING THE ROAD: VICTOR HUGO GREEN AND HIS GREEN BOOK, illustrated by Alleanna Harris (Beaming Books, January 26, 2021). Dawson was born and grew up in New Orleans, has lived and worked in the Philippines, Japan, and Egypt and lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. Find her on Twitter, Instagram,  Pinterest, or her website.

 


January 2, 2021

It's Mayan! Make Marshmallow Constellations & Enjoy an Ancient Mayan Treat


This month, Hands-on-Books features Sherry Ellis, who not only writes for kids, but is a gifted violinist. Welcome back!

 I’m happy to announce the release of my newest book, Bubba and Squirt’s Mayan Adventure. It’s the second in my Bubba and Squirt series and it’s fiction based on my research about Mayan history and culture.

When Bubba and Squirt travel through the magic portal, they find themselves at Altun Ha, an ancient Mayan civilization in Belize. Today, Altun Ha is an active archaeological site. Over three hundred jade objects have been found there, including an ornately carved head of the Mayan sun go, Kinich Ahua. The head weighs about ten pounds and is believed to be the largest Mayan jade carving in existence.

In addition to their impressive carvings and architecture, the Mayans were famous for their Mayan Calendar which was based on the movement of the starts, moon, and sun.

You may have heard of constellations—groups of stars that form recognizable patterns in the night sky. When the ancient Mayans studied the stars, they saw the same patterns that you and I see today. You can try making these patterns using mini marshmallows and toothpicks. Here’s how:


Materials:

· Bag of mini marshmallows
· Toothpicks
· Diagrams of your favorite constellations
· Paper and pencils 

What to do:

1.      Draw the constellation you will create. Use a constellation diagram as a guide. (Black construction paper and white pencils look nice if you have them.)

2.      Use dots for the stars and lines to form the constellation’s shape.

3.      Construct the constellation using marshmallows for the stars and toothpicks for the lines. You may need to break some of the toothpicks to make them shorter.



When you’re done, put your marshmallows in a cup of hot cocoa. Archeologists have found evidence that wealthy Mayans enjoyed this drink more than 2000 years ago! You can pretend you’re an ancient Mayan when you sip this tasty treat!

For more fun activities, go here.

Sherry Ellis is an award-winning author and professional musician who plays and teaches the violin, viola, and piano. Ellis has previously published Bubba and Squirt’s Big Dig to China; Don’t Feed the Elephant; Ten Zany Birds; That Mama is a Grouch; and That Baby Woke Me Up, AGAIN. When she is not writing or engaged in musical activities, she can be found doing household chores, hiking, or exploring the world. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

 


December 1, 2020

Make Some Paper!

by Brandon Marie Miller 

Cave walls. Clay tablets. Stone. Bone. Papyrus. Vellum (animal skin). For thousands of years people etched drawings and painted writings onto these materials. Then, about 2,000 years ago, a Chinese court official named Ts'ai made the first paper. The process mashed tree bark, hemp, shredded rags, and water into a pulp. The liquid was pressed out, and what was left behind dried into a thick, strong, rich paper that stood up to ink and paint! 

Over the centuries, paper allowed the spread of information and art around the globe. Paper-making mills and printing presses churned out books, newspapers, and advertisement broadsides (posters). Official documents, recorded on paper and housed in archives, allow us to study the past. Paper made it possible to print thousands of copies of novels, plays, and poetry that anyone could read. People penned letters, journals, and diaries offering us a glimpse into lives and thoughts from centuries ago. Scientists scribbled down notes and proposed theories, sharing their new knowledge through published books and pamphlets. 

When I wrote my book Benjamin Franklin, American Genius, I noted Franklin's lifelong use of the power of the printed word. As a young apprentice he learned the trade of printing newspapers and secretly started writing his own articles under a pen name, Silence Dogood. He'd go on to make his fortune printing his own newspaper and almanac. In the 1700s paper was mostly made out of recycled cotton and linen rags and clothes. Always on the lookout for a good business enterprise, Franklin opened a stationary shop alongside his printing business and collected rags for making paper-- eventually he owned many paper mills. 
Franklin pushes a wheelbarrow full of paper through Philadelphia streets. 

Today, paper mills use less expensive wood fiber mixed with recycled paper instead of cloth fibers to make paper pulp. Recycling has always been part of paper making and you can do your part to keep that going by recycling paper at home and at school. Whenever you use a paper bag, cardboard box, notebook paper, envelope, or read a book or magazine-- you are part of the ancient story of paper! Try your hand at making your own paper art!



November 1, 2020

Get Outside and Get Inventing!

by guest-blogger Jennifer Swanson

Want to find some amazing ways to use your imagination and explore things right from your window or in your own backyard?  Awesome. Then this project is for you.


First, answer this question. What do you get when you combine animals and engineering? Biomimicry, of course. Biomimicry is engineering inspired by nature. Engineers who work with biomimicry study how animals and nature work and then mimic it or take inspiration to solve human problems. That is the topic of my new book, BEASTLY BIONICS: Rad Robots, Brilliant Biomimicry, and Incredible Inventions Inspired by Nature. (NGKids Book, 2020) 

Bionics-inspired engineering means watching how a bird flies help you figure out how to build an airplane, or maybe how to quiet a loud fan in your house. Sound intriguing? I think so!


This gecko ... 

 (Image from Beastly Bionics, 2020, NGKids Books) 

... could inspire an engineer to make a robot like this:


(Image from Beastly Bionics, 2020, NGKids Books)


Why a robot gecko? Well, geckos have sticky feet that can climb anything. If a human could have that ability, they might be able to climb walls, windows to clean them, or even the side of a cliff. 


When you’re designing a biomimetic robot, ask yourself a few questions:

  • What characteristics does the animal have that are useful?
  • How can these characteristics help humans?
  • Can the characteristics be imitated?

Let’s see how it works. Watching an elephant might inspire this: 




A robotic arm that allows people to reach for things more easily off a high shelf. Get it? The elephant uses its trunk to do that, so a robotic arm that looks and acts like the elephant’s trunk would do the same. That is biomimicry. 


Now it’s YOUR turn to design something: 



----------------- Get Outside and Get Inventing! -----------------


Materials needed: • journal or notebook • pencil • patience and imagination


Follow these directions:


Observe It!  

Ask yourself: 

  • What is the coolest thing this animal does? 
  • How can that be used to create something that will help humans?

Answer these questions in your journal.


Draw it!

Draw a picture of the animal in your journal.

Draw a picture of the helpful attribute that the animal has and how it can be turned into something that can help a human, a robot arm, an easy gripper, or even a special design. 


Design it!

Gather materials and see if you can make a model of your idea. It can be out of building blocks, paper, cardboard, or whatever supplies you have. If you have access to robotics materials, and can code something, that works, too. 


Test it out!  

See if it works. Then  present your idea to the class or to your parents. Ask them if they understand how it’s useful to the world and if they’d use it? 


Take feedback and then make adjustments (just like an engineer would).


HAVE FUN with this! And if your parent’s allow, tag me on Twitter or Instagram (@JenSwanBooks) with a picture of your design. I’d love to see your creativity. GO STEM!


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jenniferswansonbooks.com

Jennifer Swanson is the award-winning author of more than 40+ nonfiction books for children, mostly about science and technology. Jennifer’s love of STEM began when she started a science club in her garage at age 7. 

   Her books have received many accolades including starred reviews, Booklist Best Tech books list, Green Earth Book Honor Award, a Florida Book Award, and multiple California Reading Association awards, and National Science Teaching BEST STEM awards. Her Brain Games book was #13 on The Planets.org 50 Best Science books Ever Written and her Save the Crash-test Dummies book is on the AAAS-Subaru Longlist for MG STEM books. 

   She is also the creator of the STEM Tuesday blog, STEAMTeamBooks promotion group and creator and cohost of Solve It! for Kids, a STEM podcast for kids and families where Jennifer encourages kids (of all ages) to engage their curiosity and DISCOVER the science all around them! Visit her website, www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com, find her on Facebook, or on Twitter, or Instagram @JenSwanBooks.