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Friday, December 30, 2011

STEM Friday with Windows to Adventure!

Bloggers across the kidlitosphere celebrate STEM Friday by writing about science, technology, engineering and mathematics books for kids on Friday.

So I’m writing about my new book series: Windows to Adventure!

This series is meant to be companion pieces for the science found on the massive website Windows to the Universe. (http://windows2universe.org), but includes more personable fantasy characters to make the science accessible for younger readers.

STEM Friday was started by author Anastasia Suen at her blog: Booktalking (http://asuen.wordpress.com/stem-friday/), and I thank her for this opportunity to both learn and share fabulous science-learning resources for kids with other knowledgeable kidlitophiles.

I work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a professional scientist. (NASA does not endorse any commercial products, and my writing for kids is an activity that is separate from my NASA work).

I’ve always believed that kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. Windows to Adventure (W2A) is predicated on that theory! (grins). I figure that if kids can memorize all the names and features of dinosaurs, then they can learn the names and features of the layers of the atmosphere, the properties of stars and planets, and some of the physics – from geophysics to astrophysics – that makes these topics interesting to someone like me. Its just a matter of making the material engaging, of finding a way of answering some questions and laying the seeds for more questions. If the kids are curious and intrigued, they’ll invest the time to come up with answers of their own. That’s my goal, to make the science intriguing and not in a finding-answers-to-my-homework sense.

W2A takes a group of kids on ‘adventures’ in which the science is important but incidental. In one story they go straight up in the atmosphere, meeting fantasy characters along the way who are associated with atmospheric layers like the stratosphere and magnetosphere. In one story they go walking along the Milky Way to meet stars of different ages (and sizes). In the first book they go along to meet some of the most distinctive mountains and volcanoes in the solar system (in anthropomorphic form so that they can remember their geography and geology more easily).

The books also introduce cultural things – such as language! If the kids are in a country like Japan, some of the characters speak some standard Japanese phrases as ‘konichi-wa’ (hello!).

As a practicing planetary scientist I hope to broaden a student’s exposure to aspects of the planets, to compare and contrast these worlds – all in a way that is interesting and that helps them to be ale to process the news that is coming out of NAS mission like Cassini’s mission to Saturn, or these exoplanets that we’re discovering, to understanding aspects of our own planet’s climate change.

So today while blogging with you, I’m also going to be posting new material to the forum page of the Red Phoenix Books website, where I hope to bring planetary science news of the day up for general discussion with visitors.

Oh, and did I mention that the books try to be multi-cultural, with protagonists of many different ethnicities and cultures? I grew up in a very diverse neighborhood, and that is the basis for creating the neighborhood where these stories take place.

The ten books in the series can be found here (Windows to Adventure). I call them ‘creative non-fiction for kids’ – because though they combine science with fantasy and adventure, at bottom they are not plot-driven stories but vehicles for conveying information.

I hope to see all of you as visitors to the site, and participants in the forum! Cheers.

Links mentioned here:
Windows to the Universe
Windows to Adventure
A Scientist's Cafe (forum) (also found directly from the Red Phoenix Books site's navigation panel.
Other resources at Booktalking's STEM Friday

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for hosting STEM Friday! I'm in with
    Planet Earth: What Planet Are You On? (Basher Science) by Dan Gilpin (Author) and Simon Basher (Author, Illustrator)http://wp.me/pa8jB-1jt

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  2. Wow, what a resource! I might have to order those myself. Thanks for posting. My colleague at the Windows to the Universe website is also looking for great reading material (books) to post for sale on the site, so I'll let her know about these. I love the glossary in there (I find kids are not intimidated by long, unfamiliar words at all).

    You know, I am part of SCBWI's Non-fiction for children's special chapter, and they emphasize how difficult the topic is to write successfully. What are your impressions of the Basher Science? (Or perhaps I should wait until its your turn to host STEM Friday! grins)

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  3. Thank you for hosting today, Claudia. I'm revisiting two of my books, You Can't Wear These Genes and Infections, Infestations, and Diseases. I'm at SimplyScience.
    http://simplyscience.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/genes-and-infections/

    I do like the Basher books and enjoy reading them. I've blogged about a couple of them.

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  4. Wow, simplyscience, what an amazing blog. Lots of fantastic science resources there.

    I'm always looking for cool books to share about bacteria because, believe it or not, when I write about extraterrestrial life, and it's mostly bacteria, kids say 'ewwww' for some reason! (grins). No one realizes how much we live with bacteria everyday, how important bacteria is to everyday life, and how important it is to the planet's ecosystem as a whole!

    So thanks a whole lot for sharing this. One of my colleagues wrote me a short classroom activity called 'Don't Brush Your Teeth, I want to Live!' (about microorganisms, of course). So don't be surprised if I list a link to these book on the Windows to Adventure story about extraterrestrial life.

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