Category: science

Book Recommendation: “An Environmental Guide from A to Z” (Tim Magner)

By , November 16, 2010 3:08 pm

There are a lot of junky books out there, but every now and then, an unknown gem comes my way and makes me very thankful that I get to review books on occasion!  An Environmental Guide from A to Z is just such a book.

Typical A-B-C- books are usually geared towards babies and toddlers and often leave older readers and adults cold.  This book is a happy exception.

Picture an A-B-C book for older children with each letter representing an environmental or nature-related concept or important person.  Each word is fully explained in easy to understand terms and is beautifully illustrated by Aubri Vincent-Barwood.  “D is for Darwin,” “F is for Fossil Fuels, ”  “I is for the Inuit Eskimos,”  “R is for Reduce and Reuse.”

Each letter also has a “Did you know?” section with an interesting fact or two related to the topic.  For example, in the “B is for Bees and Insects” section:  “A bee’s buzz comes from their wings flapping 200 times per second!”

I even learned a few things:  “Q is for Vo Quy,” “L is for Paolo Lugari” (read the book for more information) or “the average ‘piece of food’ travels 1,500 miles before it reaches your mouth….”  How about:  “with solar panels, Germany has nearly cut their use of coal in half” and “Denmark gets more than 20% of its electrical power from wind farms.”  I love it when I find a well-written childrens’ book that actually also teaches me a thing or two.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book is that it doesn’t just limit itself to teaching facts, ideas and concepts, but it also asks questions encouraging children to think about their own lives.  Each letter has at least one little oak leaf with questions on it, or sometimes activity ideas.  “What’s the biggest tree in your neighborhood?  How old is it?”  Many of these questions will encourage kids to get outside:  “Watching the animals in your neighborhood, can you see how they are built to survive?”

If you are looking for an informative and interesting book that teaches about the environment and “green living”  without being preachy, then I encourage you to take a look at An Environmental Guide from A to Z Many thanks to Tim for sending me a copy.  This is a review copy that will remain on our shelf to be enjoyed for a long time to come.

Molecules in Motion (“730 Easy Science Experiments” – Book Review)

By , September 22, 2008 10:45 pm

I must admit, my heart sank when my sister gave my kids the book 730 Easy Science Experiments: With Everyday Materials by E. Richard Churchill, Louis V. Loesching, and Muriel Mandell.

This confession will certainly earn me yet another “Mom of the Year Award,” but here it is:

Was my first thought:  “730?? Oh hooray! Think of all the wonderful projects and what we will learn together!!”  Noooo…. My first thought was:  “730?? Who is going to have to do those 730 science experiments with them?? Oh no!”

My childless sister seemed to pick up on my silent consternation and left with a sadistic smile (or so I thought) and the parting words of: “Have fun!”

Well actually, we are having fun.  The book sat on a shelf for a while until my 8 year-old daughter recently rediscovered it.

On Sunday, when I was planning a “Fun With Mom Day,” she showed me some experiments that she wanted to do.  Since we were going to have Fun With Mom no matter what, I was willing to assist in any and all experiments.  We did several.  The one I will share with you today involved the motion of molecules.

This sounds fancy, but actually, like most of the experiments in this very thorough (did I tell you already that there are 730 experiments?) volume, this experiment involved only items we had on hand here in the house.

You need food coloring, two clear glasses, and hot and cold water.  Put hot water in one glass (I used very hot tap water) and cold water in the other (I used super-cooled water from our refrigerator water dispenser).

Put just one drop of food coloring in each glass and watch what happens.  The molecules are moving faster in hot water so the food coloring blends with the water very, very quickly.  In the slower-moving cold water glass, the food coloring barely moves at all.  In fact it makes some beautiful slow-motion droplet shapes that reminded me of a lava lamp.

This glass was the hot water:

And this one was cold (see the “lava lamp?”):

This was just one of 730 experiments.  That means I have another 729 to inflict on you all!!

Seriously, I do like this book.  As I mentioned earlier, the ingredients are mostly household items, or are easily obtainable: no enriched uranium needed here.

The experiments vary in complexity from ridiculously simple yet not boring for young ones (Straw Wheels – moving a heavy book more easily using drinking straws as rollers – p.23) to more complicated yet still easily doable (Seeing Sound Waves p.110 or Balloon Barometer p.249).

The chapters are interesting and fun:  Clutching at Straws; Paper Capers; More Than Lemonade; Dairy Dozen; Adventures With a String; Soap Suds; Slow Start-Fast Finish; Keeping Your Balance; How to Have All the Moves; The Sound of Science; Feeling Stressed? Try Some Surface Tension; Science Can Give You a Warm Feeling; Blown Away; Being Earth Conscious; World Travellers; Leafy Lessons; Dirty Words: Soil, Sand, Humus, and Mud; Gravity and Magnetism: Attractive Forces; Don’t Fiddle With Old Fossils; Weather; Whirling Winds and Gentle Breezes; Water, Water, Everywhere; Building a Weather Station; Air, H2O, and Other Things; Here’s Superman, But Where’s Clark?; Salty Solutions and Sweet Success

Each experiment has a “What to do,” a “What Happens,” and most importantly, a “Why” section.

You’ll be seeing more experiments from us I am sure.  Remember, we still have 729 of them to show you!

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