Tag Archive for: books

Tales of Engineering – Bacteria bombs and fashionable pirates

We are back from summer break and ready to engage!

Our valiant Tales of Engineering engineers gathered once again at NUSTEM HQ to learn and reflect about engaging with young children in the classroom. From bacteria bombs to sliding wardrobes, they tried to sell “snake oil” to pirates and fashion models as part of their public engagement training session, delivered by NUSTEM to support this project!

We also had time to start thinking about what materials the children will take home, and we came up with a really cool idea of bookmarks to signpost families and teachers to the resources which are going to feature here.

Stay tuned for our next meeting in November, when we’ll start to co-create Magnificent Things.

Tales of Engineering – Our first meeting

Ready… set … engineer!

Our first meeting for Tales of Engineering took place in July 2019 at Northumbria University, where a small group of engineers were generally terrified with the idea of reading to young children and becoming engineering ambassadors!

We had a good look through a few available engineering story books and decided to go with: The Most Magnificent Thing, by Ashley Spires. We think it has an engaging plot, champions diversity in engineering, and it will be flexible enough so our engineers can work with children on their most magnificent things.

We’ll be back in September for another gathering, where we will find out how best to communicate our ideas to young people.

Family Space Explorers

We’re always looking for new ways to engage different audiences, and this winter our Family Space Explorers project is doing just that. Funded by the UK Space Agency, we’re engaging young children and their families with space science through STEM story workshops and hands-on activities in libraries across the north east.

Why families?

As a project, we believe that one way of addressing the STEM skills shortage is through long-term interventions. We want STEM conversations happening at home, amongst young families, so that when children later come to make career-critical subject choices they already have a wealth of experience and family support to guide their decisions. The Family Space Explorers workshops are aimed at children aged 2-5, along with their families. They’re carefully planned to help parents and carers build their confidence in exploring science and engineering topics with their child.

Why libraries?

Most of NUSTEM’s work is delivered via our partner schools, which are drawn from the local area. For some families, entering a school can itself be a barrier to engagement. Working in local libraries and community centres (along with schools!), in areas of higher socio-economic deprivation, we hope to reach a greater number and variety of families.

The Workshops

We’ve developed two workshops, each with activities linked to books for young children. The sessions are each 45 minutes long and involve shared reading and activities. At the end of each session, participants get to keep a copy of the book, so they can continue the reading and activities at home.

Choosing the stories was difficult. We aim to embed diversity and equality throughout our work, and it was tricky to find stories that had strong female lead characters. In book after book we found male characters (children and adults) heading into space… with very little representation from female characters.

We chose “Goodnight Spaceman” because of its charming story and strong links to the UK Space Agency. We also wrote our own book, “Are we nearly there yet?” to explore space exploration through non-fiction, which allowed us to cast a female lead character in the shape of a robot explorer. We also put together a list of other good STEM stories, which you can find at our Family Space Explorers page.

Linking activities

It’s important that our workshops can be repeatable by families at home – we want the interventions to continue beyond the end of the workshop. In the workshops, families use Duplo to build their own version of a space rocket to travel to the International Space Station, and a rover to explore the surface of Mars. The simplicity of the activities enable parents to continue constructive play at home, and to adopt similar approaches with other stories.

Supporting local schools

We’re sending a copy of our book to schools across the region, and inviting teachers and educators who work with young children to attend our two free training sessions. These sessions will equip teachers to deliver the sessions in their own schools.

How to get involved

We have a number of sessions booked into our calendar over the next few months. If you have children aged 2-5 and you’d like to attend, click here to view upcoming sessions and find details of how to book onto the events.

Royal Society Young People’s book prize

As Christmas comes rapidly nearer, family members might be asking what children would like for Christmas.  Books are often popular (particularly with more distant relatives).  But what to buy?

For children who are curious and interested in the world around them, the books from the Royal Society Young People’s book prize could be ideal.  Science books which are aimed at under-14s are considered and then a shortlist of 6 books is chosen.  This year’s shortlist was announced before the summer holiday, and then panels of school children around the country read and judged the books.  They sent their comments and verdicts to the Royal Society, and the winner was announced on Monday 16th November.

2015-11-17 12.35.11

The 2015 shortlisted books for the Royal Society Prize

A number of our partner secondary schools took part in the judging, with books clubs made up of years 7 and 8 reading the books and discussing the good (and bad) points.  One school, Cramlington Learning Village, has shared their comments on the books to help you choose which would be the most interesting to read.  Here are some of their thoughts…

365 Science Activities

  • This book is a bit big to use – but also allows the author to fit in even more activities to keep the reader busy and entertained!  There’s a limited amount of scientific vocabulary and the experiments could maybe have been more organised into different sections or themes. — Laura, 11
  • Very colourful and packed with fun things to do. — Josh, 11
  • Eye-catching and great fun.  Love the idea of an activity for every day of the year. — Lily, 12
  • The illustrations make the experiments look even more exciting and tempting and the language is just right.  I learnt a lot! — Chelsea, 12
  • I love doing experiments but even so I learnt a lot of new stuff from this book. — Rachel, 11

Published by Usborne, ISBN 978-1409550068 | Goodreads page, Google Books | Buy from Amazon UK, Waterstones, AbeBooks, or your local bookshop.

Frank Einstein, by John Scieszka, illustrated by Brian Biggs

  • More aimed at older ages, this story about a child-genius is written well with lots of pictures, facts – and humour!  The illustrations made me want to open the book and I’m pleased I did.  It hooked me in and the plot was so interesting I found it hard to put the book down.  An amazing and very clever combination of facts and story. — Ayesha, 12

Website | Published by Amulet, ISBN 978-1419712180 | Goodreads page, Google Books | Buy from Amazon UK, Waterstones, AbeBooks, or your local bookshop.

Jake’s Bones, by Jacke McGowan-Lowe

  • Easy to use because of the combination of arrows and text. — Grace, 11
  • The bright, clear pictures guide you through the facts in the book.  The picture of the dinosaur skeleton really made me want to read and find out more! — Oliver, 11

Website | Published by Ticktock, ISBN 978-1783250257 | Goodreads page, Google Books | Buy from Amazon UK, Waterstones, AbeBooks, or your local bookshop.

Night Sky Watcher, by Raman Prinja

  • A very interesting and educational book. — Josh, 11
  • The interesting images make this book inviting and all the facts are very clearly explained.  Also, it has a zip and that’s unusual in a book!  Fun and entertaining for ages 9-90. — Amy, 11
  • The zip made me want to open this book! It was educational as well as great fun.  All the difficult, scientific words are well-explained making this an easy book to read and dip in and out of, with clear signposting. — Rebecca, 12
  • Very easy to find out what’s where in the book which is written like a huge factfile. It’s fabulous (I love the zip!!) — Bethany, 12

Published by QED, ISBN 978-1781716571 | Goodreads page, Google Books | Buy from Amazon UK, Waterstones, AbeBooks, or your local bookshop.

Tiny, by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton

  • Easy to read with big, colourful illustrations. — Beth, 12
  • Written like a story this book is really easy to use with beautiful clear yet detailed illustrations on every page.It’s great for younger children as there are more pictures than facts and all the information is clearly explained through the pictures. I found it really interesting too. A very clear, interesting book with beautiful illustrations. — Evie, 12

Website | Published by Walker Books, ISBN 978-1406341041 | Goodreads page, Google Books | Buy from Amazon UK, Waterstones, AbeBooks, or your local bookshop.

Utterly Amazing Science, by Robert Winston

  • Creative, imaginative, fact-filled and fun. — Adam, 11
  • The entertaining pop-ups will really encourage young children to learn. — Laura, 11
  • The diagrams, bright colours and pop-up pages make picking up the science facts really easy. — Emma, 11
  • Fascinating facts made easier to remember with the pull tabs and pop-ups. — Beth, 12

Website | Published by DK Children, ISBN 978-1409347934 | Goodreads page, Google Books | Buy from Amazon UK, Waterstones, AbeBooks, or your local bookshop.

And the winner is…

The young people from Cramlington thought that the winner should be Utterly Amazing Science. The Royal Society judges agreed with them, and Robert Winston won the award for his pop-up book.

For more information about the Science Prize, and previous winners, visit the Royal Society website.

World Book Day

Today is World Book Day.  Across the country, schools will be celebrating books and reading.  Here at Think Physics we’re very keen to encourage reading too.

For our primary work with younger children, we’ve been looking for fiction books which feature science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM).  And if possible, a strong female main character.  We’ve found a few.  We’ve saved them onto a pinterest board for you to have a look at.

At secondary, we’d also like to be able to share fiction books which feature STEM with a strong female main character.  It’s a bit harder to do though.  For strong female main characters, there is of course, The Hunger Games trilogy with Katniss Everdene, but they’re not really STEM related.  I also find that, as an adult, some of the themes in young adult fiction are really gruesome or disturbing.  I’m not sure why that doesn’t seem to bother my children, but it doesn’t.  There are some young adult books which have a link to STEM, but in general, it’s far less central to the story.  There’s a useful list of books on the School Library Journal website, which gives some examples.

Finally, if you want to have a read of non-fiction popular science books, then have a browse through the shelves of the Science Teaching Library, curated by Alex Weatherall.  There are some great books on there suitable for the general reader.

If you have any recommendations, please do let us know.