STEM Friday Roundup For January 27, 2012

Welcome to the January 27, 2012 edition of STEM Friday.

Are you looking for Science, Technology, Engineering or Math children’s books? Then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve gathered some of our recent  favorites to share.

For my contribution, I am featuring a book that would be an excellent tool for a discussion on the pros and cons of advancements in technology. Becoming Invisible: From Camouflage to Cloaks by Carla Mooney is a detailed look at what is happening in the high tech world of cloaking.

Camouflage and invisibility are fascinating topics. Everyone who has read the Harry Potter books probably wished they could have an invisibility cloak, too. Can you imagine how much fun it would be to be able to hide in plain sight?

Mooney explains the differences between camouflage and invisibility. With camouflage, the colors and patterns help the wearer blend in with the environment, but you can still see them if you know where to look. The idea of camouflage was proposed by an artist who studied the markings of animals in the late 1800’s. During World War I, the armies and navies of many countries tested camouflage patterns to hide both equipment and people, leading to the camouflage uniforms used by military personnel today.

“Optical camouflage” is another form of camouflage which uses projectors to display scenes of the moving background onto special reflective cloaks. From the right angle, it is impossible to tell where the cloaked person (or object) is standing because he or she seems to be part of the background images. If the viewer isn’t in line with the projectors, however, the illusion doesn’t work.

On the other hand, when something is truly invisible, our eyes can not see it. To attempt to produce true invisibility, scientists have trying to bend light to go around objects. Researchers have been able to bend types electromagnetic waves that are near relatives of visible light with special man-made materials called metamaterials. Using metamaterials made of metal and fiberglass, scientists have been able to develop “cloaks” that bend either microwaves or infrared light around an object, hiding it from detection. Both microwaves and infrared radiation have longer wavelengths than visible light, so the metamaterials will have to get smaller to be able to bend visible light. The possibility, however, seems more likely than ever before.

In Chapter 4, Mooney gives some ideas how invisibility cloaks could change the world if engineers and scientists succeed. She suggests several positive uses for the technology, but points out that it could be dangerous, as well. Can you imagine if criminals could become invisible? What about if enemy armies could cloak themselves and then suddenly appear well inside our borders? Other worry that invisible agents could spy on our every move without our knowledge or consent.

Becoming Invisible: From Camouflage to Cloaks gives the reader a lot to think about. I definitely recommend it to students who are considering physics or engineering as careers.

Be sure to check out the Camouflage and invisibility activities at Growing With Science that were inspired by the book.

Today’s STEM Friday recommended books:

(Links take you to the review of each title.)

Jeff at NC Teacher Stuff has Open Wide! by Catherine Ham
Shirley at Simply Science has the lovely A Leaf Can Be… by Laura Purdie Salas
Precious at Rourke Publishing Blog highlights Fossils, Uncovering the Past by Tom Greve
Anastasia has Freaky-Strange Buildings by Michael Sandler at Booktalking.

If you would like to participate in STEM Friday in the future, go to Booktalking blog and click on STEM Friday for more information.

STEM Friday Roundup and Star of the Sea

Welcome to the December 9, 2011 edition of STEM Friday.

Are you looking for Science, Technology, Engineering or Math children’s books? Then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve gathered some of our favorites here today.

For our contribution, we are featuring Star of the Sea: A Day in the Life of a Starfish by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Joan Paley. This lovely picture book has been selected as one of the 2012 NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K–12.

Once again award-winning author Janet Halfmann has come up with a charming and informative story for readers 5 and up. Ochre sea star has a busy day looking for food and avoiding becoming food for other animals. The limpet extends its mantle and is too slippery for ochre sea star to grasp, but she is able to open and eat a mussel using her powerful arms. She manages to escape from a hungry fish, but isn’t so lucky when it comes to an encounter with a sea gull. (Note:  sensitive children may be alarmed that the sea star loses one of her arms, but remind them that she will be able to grow a new one again soon.)

In the backmatter Halfmann provides detailed information about the life history of ochre sea stars, including facts about their anatomy, locomotion, and reproduction. This type of background material is so helpful for busy teachers who don’t have time to gather a lot of other sources to look up all the answers to questions that might come up ahead of time. In this book, it’s all at their fingertips. She also includes sources to “Find Out More.”

Star of the Sea would be useful for units on marine animals (my nephew was just studying marine invertebrates in fourth grade), and also lessons on food chains. For informal science, it would be a great tie-in to a trip to an aquarium or the beach, especially to tide pools.

I couldn’t help myself, the book inspired some related activities:

1. For children who haven’t visited an aquarium or a beach, it helps to give them something concrete to explore. Sometimes you can find dried sea stars in craft stores to show. Otherwise, toy stores often carry realistic toy models.

2. To investigate how the sea star’s tube feet act like suction cups, allow the children to free explore with some inexpensive hook-style suction cups used as to hang household items. Let them try to attach and detach the suction cups to different surfaces. Which surface works best, rough or smooth? What happens if you moisten the suction surface with a damp sponge, versus a dry suction cup? Which comes off more easily?

Brimful Curiosities has wonderful starfish craft to accompany the book. Notice how she uses real shells, also available in craft stores.

Growing with Science has hands on activities about Tide Pool Invertebrates

Monterey Bay Aquarium has a wealth of lesson plans and guides. Be sure to listen to I am a Sea Star.

Our STEM Friday posts:

Ugly Animals by Gilda and Melvin Berger

An eye-popping book reviewed by Jeff at NC Teacher Stuff

Amazing Kitchen Chemistry Projects You Can Build Yourself by Cynthia Light Brown and illustrated by Blair Shedd

Cooked up today by Laurie Thompson.

Lightning, Hurricanes, and Blizzards: The Science of Storms by Paul Fleisher

Highlighted at Booktalking by Anastasia Suen

The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore with collages by Susan L. Roth.

The story of Gordon Sato, reviewed today at rovingfiddlehead kidlit.

MotherReader has a Science and Stories program for preschoolers called “Motion and Force” featuring:

Move! by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
Forces Make Things Move by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Hot Rod Hamster by Cynthia Lord
What is Velocity? by Joanne Barkan
What’s Faster Than a Speeding Cheetah? by Robert E. Wells

Enterprise STEM By Shirley Duke, part of the Let’s Explore Science series

Shirley shares her book at Simply Science.

If you would like to participate in STEM Friday in the future, go to Booktalking blog and click on STEM Friday for more information.

Hummingbirds: Facts and Folklore from the Americas

Hummingbirds: Facts and Folklore from the Americas by Jeanette Larson and Adrienne Yorinks with illustrations by Adrienne Yorinks, is a blend of past and present that combines factual information with ancient wisdom of pourquoi tales. Splash in fabric art illustrations and you have an interesting cultural mix that is uniquely American.  

Jeanette Larson and Adrienne Yorinks are friends who were looking for a topic to write about together. Adrienne Yorinks has a degree in animal behavior as well as being a fabric artist. Jeanette has written professional books for librarians. When they hit on a mutual interest in hummingbirds, they knew they had a winner. You can read more about their collaboration at Donna Bowman Bratton.

Hummingbirds are fascinating creatures. Here in Arizona Anna’s hummingbirds stay year around, and many species fly through during migrations. You can’t help but be captivated by their bright colors and furious energy.

It may be the hummingbirds attract your interest to this book, but it is the folktales that make it special. Telling folktales was the way people recorded and passed around information before the advent of writing and printing presses. Many people find that these stories make it easier to remember certain concepts. Folktales also offer a glimpse into the culture of the people who told them.

Both the folktales and the fabric art are great ways to inspire a child’s creativity. After reading the tales aloud, they can be the basis for fabric art and craft projects, puppet shows, serve as writing prompts for new folktales and stories, etc. Jeanette Larson has activity sheets and links on her website to help get you started.

This book has been nominated for a Cybils award in the MG/YA nonfiction category, and has gotten a lot of attention. For more informative reviews of Hummingbirds: Facts and Folklore from the Americas, see

NC Teacher Stuff

Simply Science

Not Just for Kids

Reading level: Ages 9 and up
Hardcover: 64 pages
Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing (February 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1580893325
ISBN-13: 978-1580893329

This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Be sure to look for more information about children’s books at today’s Book Talk Tuesday.