Books to Add STEM to Your Summer

Disclosure: I was sent copies of these books free of charge to review. All opinions in my review are my own and I did not receive any other compensation. As in all my reviews I am providing links for your ease, but receive no compensation.

It seems everywhere you look people are talking about STEM. The products at Lakeshore Learning seem to be labeled STEM or STEAM. This is the latest educational craze and it is about time. As a former math teacher I know the importance of math and science for our kids. I also know that it is important for them to be taught at a young age so they can really enjoy learning them. And for the most part kids love learning science!! It is one of the few places that hands-on learning is not made up it just is. The experiments and discoveries are natural and normal. They lead to real life math problems as well. However this is often where the elementary teachers have a shortfall. Since our elementary teachers teach all the subjects: reading, math, science, social studies, phonics, handwriting and grammar; they often focus on their favorites or what they feel are easiest for them to teach. It makes sense. Unfortunately it is often not math or science and sometimes the teacher's own insecurities of these subjects can be passed on (as well as the parents') by how it is taught and approached. It seems that the publishers and educational toy makers have finally realized they needed to bring products to parents and teachers to make teaching these subjects easier. After all in this high tech world science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are the careers of the future. So today I am going to share with you some great resources to bring a little STEM into your house this summer as well as a few of the lessons we did for our science units as I homeschooled Hazel the last six weeks of second grade.

We will start by talking about plants and biology. Plants were one of the science topics I was told to cover. Hazel had a little exposure to plants in kindergarten and of course knows about plants from gardening with me and my father. However there are some details she did not remember. Our first book Science Crackers: Bubbling Biology by Steve Parker has some plant lessons in it.

Biology is the study of life. This books has information and activities to learn about animals, plants and humans. It covers things like seeds, reaction time, pulse and more. We did an activity we had done in the past but Hazel did not remember. It is similar to the "Get Growing" activity in Bubbling Biology. In the book they use a clear jar versus our plastic bag.
This activity is perfect for introducing plant parts as well as a lesson about roots and stems. We also had some fun with food coloring with white flowers (we used pansies) and celery. This of course shows how the water reaches the various parts of the plant.
We also looked at the needs of a plant. For this we planted seeds with different variations of what we gave. We took one need away from each plant except for the first one.

And to see how sunlight really mattered to plants we tried this lesson suggested with the Magic School Bus series. We also watched the videos of Magic School Bus on plants.

We actually did a second maze for this experiment, but I cannot find my pictures of it. Sorry!! We made it so only a spot of light could get passed the bumps in the cardboard. It worked great. The plant zig-zagged with the folds. We also cut up seeds to see the inside. 

Now back to Bubbling Biology. This book has information on animals (including us) and plants as well as five hands-on activities that can easily be done at home with household supplies. I also love how it introduces the word biology to kids. It is a great book with some simple and fun ways to add a bit of science to your summer.

In this series is also Science Crackers: Crackling Chemistry by Steve Parker. This book has information about nature versus not, matter, mixing, heating, freezing and more. It also has eight hands-on activities. I will admit we have not tried them yet. I plan on doing some of these with Hazel this summer. She has been asking about what chemistry is so this book will help her get a sense of that. It includes kitchen chemistry as well as things like pesticides and more.

Another question Hazel has been asking is what physics is. To help answer this question we will be trying some of the activities in Science Crackers: Fizzing Physics by Steve Parker. With topics such as friction, sound, magnetism, light & color, and electricity this book introduces physics to children with information and six hands-on activities. 

The Science Crackers series of books offer lots of information in a fun way with easy to do hands-on activities. They are perfect for adding science to your summer. The suggested age of these books is 7-12.  The last book we are reviewing in this series is Awesome Astronomy by Raman Prinja. This book was essential in our astronomy unit for Hazel to finish second grade.

We read the information and did three of the five hands-on activities in it. We started with "Craters in a Tray" to explore the formation of craters on the moon. To do this activity we used a metal tray, flour, cocoa powder and marbles. Yes, things you probably have around your house!!

While discussing the moon we also talked about the phases of the moon. We made the "Moon Flip Book." Unfortunately we did not have the time any blank index cards and I cut our cardstock a bit off so it does not flip well. This is the best video I could find of us demonstrating it.

To look at the stars we made "Constellation in Your Hand." However instead of using tin foil like the book suggested Hazel wanted to use black paper since that is what her former teacher had used to make hers.

Of course after we made these we also got the Constellation Flashlight we reviewed from Oriental Trading. She loves both though for different reasons. The tubes work in a well lit place while the flashlight you need a darker space to see.

Now to go with this great astronomy book we also used Exploring Space by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Stephen Biesty. This book goes through the details of humans' exploration of space. It talks about the first rockets to what the future holds. It goes into all sorts of details including what life would look like on Mars if humans decide to colonize there. It gives the details of how the space ships work and what is needed on them. This book has it all. And I am not sure who is more excited about it--Hazel or Steve. 

To end our space unit we took a trip the Museum of Science and saw a show at the planetarium. Steve took the day off to explore with us. There Hazel got to check out a space capsule.

We also got a close up view of the sun and planets in our solar system.
It is always a fun way to end a unit. Her former class also went on a different day so I had promised her we would go. 

A look at science in today's age is not complete without a look at garbage! This Book Stinks! by Sarah Wassner Flynn is a perfect way to learn some science with garbage. Did you know it is estimated that on average every person throws away 2.6 pounds of trash a day? Yup, that is a lot of trash. Do you know what happens to your trash? Each town and area deals with it differently and each method has its own downfalls. This book has all the specifics, statistics and more about trash and what happens with it. With the waste and how some people make money selling other people's trash or making art from trash. It also explains how the trash and in particular liter is damaging our planet and wildlife. 

The book itself is colorful and reads a bit like a magazine, perhaps since it is from National Geographic Kids. It is a bit busy to me, but I think a child would like it. The suggested age is 8-12. It also ends with ideas on how to cut down on household trash and help in the community. This is a great book for Earth Day as well as any day of the year where we teach our kids to care about the environment!

Now the T in STEM stands for technology. There is a lot of technology mixed in with science as well as engineering which is what the E stands for. We are going to go to a book for engineering next, but stay tuned for a future post dealing with technology books!! The next book is Rosie Revere's Big Project Book for Bold Engineers by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts. 

Now I honestly gave this book to Hazel to see what she could do with it. When I picked it up and realized it had things about space and other things I thought would interest her I assigned some of those pages as part of our homeschool lessons, but for the most part she just has done what she wanted.

Now the book has information about engineers and what they do, as well as about famous people. It has various paper and pen activities--drawing, exploring, etc. and it has hands-on creating. She has not tried the hands-on creating things like the marble run, simple catapult or solar oven yet. I see those coming this summer. However I will share a few of the pages she has done or started.

I assigned the one above when we doing our space unit. I also had her do a journal entry on what it would be like to live on the moon. 

Hmmm...maybe she is a quitter since she did not finish this activity. But then again maybe she will come back to it. I just knew she would like to read about the story behind the first lightbulb, so I assigned it.

I love how this book gets girls thinking about all sorts of different problems and explains about engineering. Of course it meant even more to Hazel since her father is an engineer (and so is her grandfather). She has wondered what engineer meant as a result.

Now the M in STEM is my favorite--math! For a neat look at math check out the new book from Bedtime Math. It is How Many Guinea Pigs Can Fit on a Plane? by Laura Overdeck. I was sent a promotional portion of the book, but have not seen the actual book, so I cannot review it, but will share it looks very interesting and I for one would love to see the whole book.

Our final book for today is not just a STEM book. It is National Geographic Kids Almanac 2018.  I am featuring it here today though because a good part of the book covers topics we have discussed in this post. The contents share the divisions of Your World 2018, Awesome Exploration, Amazing Animals, Going Green, Engineering-Technology, Wonders of Nature, Fun and Games, Space and Earth, Culture Connection, Life Science, History Happens, and Geography Rocks. As you can see from the chapter titles there is quite a bit of STEM in this book with a little bit of history and culture thrown in. It is from National Geographic Kids so it has lots of science--animals, weather, space and more--through out it. The suggested ages are 8-12. 

Similar to the other National Geographic Kids book it reads like a magazine but with over 300 pages and lots of information in there. Hazel saw this book in Barnes and Noble before we received it and was instantly attracted to it. I actually wouldn't have thought it with the shark on the cover, but she was very interested. She has looked at several times but I have to admit I took it from her so I could get around to writing this review. The only disappointing thing for me is that we got after our science units were done. This book would have helped with both, but we are using the history which includes Martin Luther King, Jr., history of wars and more as well as the culture chapter to study the states and our look at the various countries.

So if you are looking to add some STEM activities to your kids' summer, be sure to check out these great books. I know we will be using them all this summer to keep my little scientist interested in learning!!