HANDS-ON-BOOKS: Nonfiction for Kids with Fun Activities
As three award-winning authors with more than 50 books published about the world of nature and history's makers and shakers, we hope to share insights and stories about writing nonfiction for young people. Go with us beyond arts and crafts to explore—in depth—history's past worlds and the wonder of the natural world. Use our hands-on activities to inspire someone today!
When Bubba and Squirt accidentally arrive in China, they discover they are in a pit with the Terracotta Warriors. These statues were first discovered in 1974 by local farmers digging for a well. The warriors were buried with the first Emperor of China, Ch’in Shi Huang-ti. Their purpose was to help him rule another empire in the afterlife. It is believed that there are more than 8,000 soldiers. No two are the same.
Ch’in Shi Huang-ti was a ruthless emperor, but he was an important figure in Chinese history. Some of his accomplishments included . . .
. beginning construction of the Great Wall of China
. standardizing Chinese units of measurements and currency
. unifying Chinese script
Throughout my story, Bubba and Squirt experience Chinese culture. They enjoy eating Chinese dumplings, or jiaozi. You can buy them in Chinese restaurants or from grocery stores. Here’s the recipe if you would like to try making them at home.
Another cool thing you can do is make Chinese paper lanterns. Here’s how:
Colored construction paper
Pencil and eraser
Small battery operated candle
What to do:
1.Cut a strip of paper ½ inch wide from the short end.
2.Fold the remaining paper in half lengthwise.
3.With your pencil, mark a line ½ inch from the open edge.
4.Mark ½ inch marks along this line.
5.Cut the lines from the folded edge through both layers.
6.Open paper and roll to form a cylinder.
7.Tape or staple the edges at the top, middle, and bottom
8.Add the handle. And the candle!
Steps in Pictures:
Steps 3 and 4
Steps 7 and 9
Light your candle and enjoy those dumplings!
Sherry Ellis is an award-winning author and professional musician who plays and teaches the violin, viola, and piano. When she is not writing or engaged in musical activities, she can be found doing household chores, hiking, or exploring the world. Ellis, her husband,and their two children live in Atlanta, Georgia.
The art of creating a silhouette has been around a long time, but was most popular in the 1700s and early 1800s. A silhouette, cut from dark paper, shows a person as a solid shape, one color, usually in profile.
Sitting for an artist who brushed oil paint onto canvas took time and was an extravagance most people could not afford. A silhouette, however, also called a "shade," "profile," or "shadow portrait," took only minutes to create and was cheap enough for the masses to buy. The name "silhouette" comes from the French finance minister, Etienne de Silhouette, who relaxed cutting images out of paper. He also liked things done cheaply. His name soon stuck to this inexpensive form of portraiture.
Expert silhouette artists could eye a person's profile and snip away at the black paper until the image remained. Other artists used a light and a screen to cast a shadow of the subject. They traced the outline and cut it out.
Silhouettes remained a popular means of creating portraits until photography began taking over in the 1840s. This activity comes from my book, George Washington for Kids, His Life and Times.
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?
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!
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.