With the current trend in education recognizing the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills in children, there is a simultaneously growing trend for more books to support them in their formative years so that they may harness opportunities to build, explore, create and engineer.
Hot off the press and not long since landed on my doorstep are three fantastic books which will engage children of all ages in their efforts to create. Brain Lab for Kids (published by Quarry and imprint of Quarto) has no less than 52 experiments to be tried and tested – perhaps one for every week of the year? The author Eric H. Chudler is nothing less than a neuroscientist! This may sound daunting, but visit his website Neuroscience for Kids to see just how much there is to learn. Discover that you can learn about neurons with rope and other basic materials you will easily find at home: checking the safety tips and then following the method, you will all see how, in one hour, you can begin to learn about neurons communicate with one another. This experiment comes from Unit 1 – Neurons. There are 10 units in total, with the remainder covering all the senses as well as sleep and body rhythms and even memory. Each lab has its own experiments with methods, additional facts and probing ‘think deeper’ prompts. Don’t forget to check the ‘Brain facts’ too!
All that sounding too advanced? Turn to Brick Building 101 by Courtney Sanchez and Jessica Wright, illustrated by Natasha Hellegouarch (Walter Foster Jr. an imprint of Quarto Publishing), a book written to teach children all about STEAM through their beloved Lego (and I’m sure that more than a few adults will pick up some useful ideas too!). With twenty activities, all using Lego, the step-by-step instructions are easy for children to follow: there are large, bold and colourful images, and brick by brick they will enhance their STEAM and Lego skills! The projects do vary in difficulty level divided into Easy, Moderate and Challenging. Materials are clearly illustrated and there is a special box where necessary to indicate any parent prep required. Lego fans old and new will love trying to make the ‘Zippy Zip Line’, ‘Build a Bridge’ or simply ‘Learn Numbers.’ STEAM Stats give additional information and STEAM Sparks add extra challenge. Ideal for boys, girls and grown-ups alike!
Loving all these ideas? Why not turn to DK’s Star Wars Maker Lab next? Here you will find twenty craft and science projects; things to build, experiments to try out and facts to discover. Liz Lee Heinecke and Cole Horton have taken their inspiration from the latest Star Wars films and set out to teach young Padawans how to become masters both in reality and in a galaxy far, far away! They set out from the start to help children visualize the projects ahead of them with a pictorial contents page followed by tips on where to get the supplies, safety measures that may be required and tips about using the templates provided. Follow the step-by-step instructions for each activity; learn how to construct a volcano, make a space rocket and discover more about the invisible force! This book is certain to spark children’s creativity and imaginations, including quotes from the films and some trivia too!
For my last offering on this occasion, it's not another make-and-do book but a book that follows the theme … Star Wars Creatures and Aliens not only informs any interested reader about the characters and settings of the films by bringing some of the magic of the saga to life, it also immerses its reader in an interactive journey of discovery. There are six booklets providing additional detail on some of the key characters as well as fold out flaps that more about the magic concept sketches that were used to create creatures such as Tauntaun, Rancor and Rathar. Learn about the special effects techniques, hear from the creators, delve into interviews and immerse yourself in the world of Star Wars like never before – be inspired perhaps for your own future career as a film maker or designer and then get practising with the STEM and STEAM skills mentioned above! A brilliant book from Abrams written by Mark Salisbury, a book not to be missed by fans of any age.
Inspired by the ideas in these two great books but not quite sure where to start? Albie Newton could offer just the advice you need! Albie is a whizz at inventions and has the perfect plan for making friends at school... unfortunately his inventions can be just a little destructive! For Albie it is a case of learning how to fit in - and how science can be fun without being destructive. A story that teaches us is it good to be different and to have a creative mind - but at the same time that we need to consider others first on some occasions... no matter how exciting the science! Josh Funk and Ester Garay (Sterling Children’s Books) have created between them a book showing just how much fun being a budding scientist can be - but just how much understanding is required too.