Royce, Christine Anne, Science and Children
We often gloss over the history of science--the women and men who have made advancements in the area of scientific discovery. These notable individuals are the backbone of our field. This month, we honor these scientists by encouraging children to read about their stories and make their own discoveries.
This Month's Trade Books
Odd Boy Out: Young Albert Einstein
By Don Brown.
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.
Don Brown chronicles Albert Einstein's life from birth to adulthood in a creative way that describes the scientist's personality to the reader, explaining how he was not a great student and even disliked school. The author reveals that Einstein was supported by his parents even though he was considered, as the title suggests, an "odd boy."
Buzz Aldrin: Reaching for the Moon
By Buzz Aldrin.
Buzz Aldrin, space pioneer on the first lunar landing, recounts specific episodes throughout his life that influenced him to pursue a career as an astronaut. Anecdotes include Aldrin getting his nickname, riding in an airplane for the first time, and eventually joining the Gemini and Apollo programs. The biography puts into perspective how many small events played a role in helping Aldrin achieve a larger goal.
Researchers say students need to be able to read for content (i.e., efferent reading) and to experience, think, and feel while doing so (i.e., aesthetic reading; Rosenblatt 1991). The National Science Education Standards state that "students need to understand that science reflects history and is an ongoing, changing enterprise" (NRC 1996, p. 107). The standards also infer that by teaching students about scientific ideas of the past, we lay the foundation for the ideas that they may develop in later years.
This month's trade books teach younger students that "science and technology have been practiced by people for a long time" and that "many people choose science as a career and devote their entire lives to studying it." (NRC 1996, p. 141) In addition, children can relate to these stories because they focus on the lives of both scientists as youths. A list of additional biographies is posted online (see NSTA Connection). For additional ideas for researching female scientists, see Campbell (2007).
Regardless of which scientist a student investigates, this activity provides an opportunity for students to learn more about individuals who contributed to science and perhaps start to see themselves as having similar experiences--and potential.
Campbell, A. 2007. Weaving women into the curriculum. Science Scope 31 (2): 54-58.
National Research Council (NRC). 1996. National science education standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Rosenblatt, L.M. 1991. Literature--S.O.S.! Language Arts. 68 (6): 444-448.
For Grades K-3: Biography Boxes
Biographical or autobiographical books about scientists, sentence strips, and cardboard or plastic storage boxes
Students will investigate the life of a scientist and create a timeline that outlines the key events in this person's life.
1. Ask the students to explain the difference between biography and autobiography to begin your discussion. Once they have provided definitions for these two terms, ask them to name scientists they have heard of that might have a biography or autobiography written about them.
2. Read aloud one or both of this month's books, asking students to listen to the type of information that is presented in the book (e.g., places, dates, what the scientist did as a child, if they had any siblings). …