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Infusing Mathematics into Storytime

I recently had the privilege of attending a Colloquium on Early Mathematics Learning with Dr. Megan Franke from UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.  The workshop was put on by Grand View University’s Jacobson Institute for Innovation in Education.  Dr. Franke is the 2018 Jacobson Visiting Scholar.

During the workshop, Franke demonstrated some ways to infuse any story time with mathematics, beginning with a Describe, Draw, Describe.

Describe, Draw, Describe

Geometry is all about relationships and movement in space.  Picture books offer opportunities to have conversations with young learners about spatial relations.

According to Stanford University’s DREME TE website, which is a math resource for early childhood educators:

Spatial language provides children with essential tools to describe their environments and negotiate their wants and needs (“No, I don’t want that one, I want the one under it!”). And, it turns out, adults’ and young children’s use of spatial language predicts children’s skills at spatial problem solving later on. Spatial language includes words describing location/position (under, in front of), attributes (long, high, side, angle, same, symmetrical), orientation and mental transformation(left, turn, match), and geometric shape names (rectangular prism, triangle, sphere). [Photo from DREME TE blog]

Dr. Franke demonstrated an activity she called Describe, Draw, Describe. It’s a technique that anyone can couple with story time to help kids practice their spatial and communication skills.  Note that the activity is not about copying the original image, it’s about practicing spatial relations.

Franke used the book There’s a Bear on My Chair by Ross Collins as her example.

Here’s how Describe, Draw, Describe works:

  1. After reading a picture book, pick one place in story to go back to.
  2. DESCRIBE: Return to that page or picture and ask “What do you notice?”
  3. DRAW: Ask students to “Draw what you see.”
  4. DESCRIBE: When they are done drawing, invite them to “Talk about what you drew.”

Tips for Educators and Parents:

When reading as story as a catalyst for a mathematics conversation, Dr. Franke suggests:

  • During the story, pick one place to pause and ask a math question, which could be based on numbers, spatial relationships, shapes, etc. Be mindful of interrupting too much and think carefully about your questioning.
  • Don’t intervene too much! Make it your practice to put the story first, keeping it alive by limited interruptions.
  • Pick one place to go back after the story is over. (This is where you do Describe, Draw, Describe)

Note: Draw, Describe, Draw can also be done using works of art for an art and mathematics infusion.

Scaffolding Skills: Early Childhood and Beyond

Reading picture books is a strategy to help develop mathematical language. It puts the terms into context and provides a visual way to remember them. When students have the language of spacial relationships, they have a scaffold to support geometry skills. This helps them articulate directional relationships, draw models, and understand use of space and time.

Consider this strategy when drawing simple geometric shapes and turning those shapes into 3-D renderings. An example is when a square becomes a cube so that a student can determine volume. They can draw a better model if they understand spatial relationships, and modeling is the key to simple and complex geometric shapes.

To the left are a few more books that lend themselves to spatial skills, but any picture book can be used.



Want to Learn More?

For more information about this resource and more can be found at  The DREME TE resources are intended for teacher educators, and are available free with a log in.

Post by Dr. Sarah Derry, SC STEM Hub Manager and parent to three energetic boys.

This blog is dedicated to connecting STEM and literacy. If you have ideas for this blog OR would like to be a guest blogger, please email the Hub.

SCI Book Recommendation–Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code

SCI Scale-Ups

     The Science Center of Iowa (SCI) set out to do ground-breaking work all across Iowa. If all students couldn’t get to the SCI, then the SCI would try to reach all students.
     To accomplish this, they created STEM curriculum for PreK-12 students: Pint-Size Science and Making STEM Connections. Both programs are part of the Iowa STEM Initiative’s Scale-Up Program, and both feature incredible books.
      We caught up with Jolie Pelds (pictured right), SCI’s Director of Innovative STEM Teaching. Pelds introduced us to the books featured in this year’s kits and her new favorite read–Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code written by Laurie Wallmark and illustrated by Katy Wu. When I asked Pelds why she liked it so much, she said “just look at the first page” (see it below).

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code

“If you’ve got a good idea, and you know it’s going to work, go ahead and do it.”
–Grace Hopper
     Who was Grace Hopper? Even the end sheets tell the story: “Rule breaker. Chance taker. Troublemaker. AMAZING GRACE.” Beginning as an young girl interested in how everyday things worked, Hopper took things a part to learn more about them. Her parents encouraged her curiosity.
     At age seven, Hopper dismantled several clocks in her house to find out what made them tick. She finished high school two years early and then attended Vassar College. Dedicated to making a difference in the World War II effort, Hopper enlisted in the U.S. Navy and embarked on a lifelong military career writing computer programs.
    The book is full of delightful anecdotes. For example, after finding a moth trapped inside a navy computer, she coined the phrase computer bug.
“She didn’t wait for someone else to figure it out–she came up with solutions herself!”
–Jolie Pelds
     “It’s an awesome book,” said Pelds, “because she’s a rebel and a hacker in the way she thinks. She had the ability to take something difficult and make it easier. She didn’t wait for someone else to figure it out–she came up with solutions herself!”
     Hopper’s legacy lives on today. She revolutionized how we use computers, creating what would become COBOL, a common programming language that is still used around the world. Hopper served as a trailblazer for others, especially women, who wanted the challenge of solving difficult problems while defying expectations of the era.

Enter to WIN a CODE/STEM prize extravaganza! 

From Rosie Revere, Engineer to How to Code a Sand Castle to On a Beam of Light: the Story of Albert Einstein, do you have a favorite STEM picture book? If so, please send us an email with the 1.) title, 2.) author, and 3.) why you like it so much. All emails received will go into a drawing for a prize extravaganza!
  • Open: August 1, 2018
  • Deadline: all emails must be received on or before August 10, 2018
  • Email:
  • Announcements: all prize recipients will be notified via email by August 12, 2018

Get This Book: What’s Math Got To Do With It?

The Hub asked Drake professor Dr. Maryanne Huey for ideas on working with young students on math confidence. She recommended the incredible resource: What’s Math Got To Do With It by Jo Boaler. Currently, Boaler is a professor of mathematics education at Stanford University. She also created a website called YouCubed and given TED Talks.

This is one of those rare, important books that every new parent and teacher should read. Boaler explains the importance of introducing math literacy at a young age. She identifies classrooms that consistently develop strong math students and how those teachers do it, and she looks at what parents can do to constantly enrich math at home.

Boaler cites a recent study in which the United States ranked 36 among 64 developed countries across the world. She says that when middle school students asked if they’d rather do math or eat broccoli, over half said they’d rather eat broccoli. While this is humorous, what’s not funny is that many students go into the world with insufficient math skills. The top paying, fastest-growing jobs in the world require employees with strong math skills. If you want a great career = learn math!

But the best part of the book, for me, involves the challenges interspersed through the book. Here are three to check out, but know all of her recommendations are awesome.

1. Page 16: Fibonacci’s Sequence

We loved showing the Golden Ratio, as it’s proof math is everywhere. From the spiral of a snail shell to the spin of hurricane to the way a flower bloom opens, evidence is everywhere! Here’s a website that helps explain this concept. You’ll never walk outside again without thinking about math.

2. Page 170: Tangrams

Introduce geometry in a fun way with tangrams. Preschool kids love the colors and older kids enjoy the puzzle challenge of the project. There’s a website that offers free, online tangrams for teachers and parents to use.

3. Page 211: Race to 20

This is a simple game two people can play in the car. In the game, two people race to reach 20, staring at 0 and using integrals of 1 or 2. While you’ll eventually realize the key to success, the game can be modified by changing the ending number or the integrals used.

Not everyone needs to major in life, but the problem-solving skills learned transfer to all of life’s situations.

In the last chapter, Boaler talks about math’s future: “Let’s move together from the mathematics trauma and dislike that has pervaded our society in recent years to a brighter mathematical future for all, charged with excitement, engagement and learning.”

Kids are born to love numbers. From the first time they hold up their pointer finger when asked their age, to figuring out how much candy they can buy with piggy bank savings. And it takes all of us to nurture their curiosity and ability. If you want to learn how, check out this book.

Humans Helping Nature: If Sharks Disappeared + Me and Moto

“Modern day storytellers carry the message of environmental stewardship to future generations,” states the Nature Generation website. I’d go a step further and say that the readers of these books will also become our environmental stewards. Recently, this group started a book award, and the 2018 Green Earth Book Award List was just released. It has something on it for everyone! Introducing a child to nature books is the first step to creating an environmentally conscious and scientifically literate adult. 

This week, we have a guest blogger for you. Emma, a fourth grader, is helping us out with a post. She loves animals, nature photography, and books. Her favorite food combination is chips and queso. And her favorite place to go in nature is the beach. Emma, at left, is waiting for the perfect shot. “You have to be patient to get a good picture,” she says.

In her own words:

Hi, my name is Emma. This past week, I read lots of books. I think you should read these two: If Sharks Disappeared and Moto And Me. They all talk about how humans can help save animals.

  1. If Sharks Disappeared
    Written and illustrated by Lily Williams

In this book, the main character is a little girl who talked about what would happen if sharks disappeared. Sharks are very helpful! Most sharks typically eat slow, weak prey. If sharks don’t eat them, pinnipeds would take over the ocean. Pinnipeds are animals like seals and walruses. They eat lots of fish. Soon the fish would be gone, then the pinnipeds would die out. Plankton would take over the ocean, and it would become a thick sludge of pink mess. Yuck!

Sharks have been around for 450 million years. Currently, over 400 different species exist. We need sharks in the world, so don’t buy anything with shark in it, like jaws, oil, fins, soup, etc.). It’s the least we can do.

  1. Moto and Me
    Written by Suzi Eszterhas

In Moto and Me, Suzi Eszterhas, a wildlife photographer, went to Masai Mara, a wildlife reserve in Kenya to photograph animals. One day, a park ranger was taking a jeep with people in it on a safari. Moto’s mom was taking Moto to safety, when she heard the sound of a vehicle approaching them. She quickly dropped Moto off on the side of the road, and then skidded away.

When the safari jeep went past, the ranger saw Moto and thought the mom would come back and get him, but after a long while, Moto’s mom didn’t come back. So, the park ranger, who was still sitting there with the safari jeep, picked Moto up (he was only 2 weeks old) and took him back to the ranger station. This trip took hours. When Moto arrived, the rangers knew Suzi Eszterhas, the author, had been studying wildcats. They called Suzi, and asked if she wanted to be a foster mom. Suzi said YES!, and took him in.

One day, Suzi didn’t see Moto, and she knew that a leopard had been prowling around, and she thought: “Oh no he’s dead!” Then, one day she went on safari, and saw Moto. It was such a happy reunion. About a year and a half later, when Suzi returned to the US, rangers where still watching Moto. One day Suzi heard that Moto was now a father, and had kittens of his own! He is all grown up and safe in Africa.




We are seeking READERS! If you’d like to read a book on the 2018 Green Earth Book Award Shortlist (or any STEMie-type book), we want to hear from you! Email and share your thoughts on the story. You can answer a few simple questions or even create your own post. Happy reading!


Book Review: What Can’t Wait

Click here for teacher/writer resources.

By day, Dr. Sarah Derry manages the SC STEM Hub and a busy family life. Still, she makes time to read each night, and her choices often involve books with a STEM element.

Today, she’s sharing one of her favorites: What Can’t Wait, by award-winning author Ashley Hope Pérez. The book is a fictional narrative that explores some of the real-world challenges faced by youth under-represented in STEM.

One of the things Derry likes about the book is that contains an important example that girls like math and are good at it! “This book helps illustrate social factors that can complicate a student’s academic success,” she said.  “I wish I had read it before my first year as a high school teacher.”

Derry on a quest for the book.

Through a program called Teach for America, Derry found her calling in STEM education. As a high school teacher in the Houston schools, Derry realized first-hand some of the struggles urban students face in their journey toward academic success. This book parallels those real-life stories.

The main character, Marisa, has an affinity for calculus.  She is the 17-year-old daughter of immigrant parents and, potentially, the first in her family to attend college.  Throughout the narrative, the reader witnesses Marisa’s struggle to define her expectations for herself among the conflicting expectations of her teachers, friends, y familia.

Derry recommends What Can’t Wait for a wide audience, which follows the growing trend of YA books moving into adult fiction. “This is the perfect book for middle/high school students and educators,” said Derry. “Whether they come from a background that is under-represented in STEM or not, the theme of defining oneself among the expectations of others (real or perceived) is universal.”

Author Ashley Hope Perez

This is just one of Pérez’s three critically-acclaimed books.  In addition to What Can’t Wait, check out The Knife and the Butterfly and her most recent, Out of Darkness. She currently teaches world literature at Ohio State University and conducts research in the areas of Latin American literature, Latina/o literature, and narrative ethics.

Here’s what Kirkus Reviews thought about Pérez’s book:
“Pérez fills a hole in YA lit by giving Marisa an authentic voice that smoothly blends Spanish phrases into dialogue and captures the pressures of both Latina life and being caught between two cultures…. Un magnífico debut.”

Children’s Librarian Erica Eis on Great STEM Books–Part II

Erica Eis, Forest Avenue’s Children’s Librarian is back today to share some great STEM book picks for older readers. With an expertise in literacy and a special interest in STEM, Eis has chosen a few of the best titles to share with you this holiday season. They are all available through the DM Public Library check-out system.

If you’re looking for the perfect gift, Eis suggests considering a STEM book. Find out what the child is passionate about: dinosaurs, space, the ocean. Look for curated lists that are created by librarians, teacher organizations, schools, or universities.

“Whenever a kid tells me she or he can’t find a good STEM book,” says Eis, “I say, ‘Challenge accepted!’ Whatever their interest, there’s a book that fits. STEM books provide an entry to school curriculum and get kids to think critically. If you’re curious about the world, there’s a STEM book for you!”

Grades 3-6

The Octopus Scientists by Sy Montgomery

from Goodreads: With three hearts and blue blood, its gelatinous body unconstrained by jointed limbs or gravity, the octopus seems to be an alien, an inhabitant of another world. It’s baggy, boneless body sprouts eight arms covered with thousands of suckers—suckers that can taste as well as feel. The octopus also has the powers of a superhero: it can shape-shift, change color, squirt ink, pour itself through the tiniest of openings, or jet away through the sea faster than a swimmer can follow…These thinking, feeling creatures can help readers experience and understand our world (and perhaps even life itself) in a new way.

Erica says: “What makes this book interesting is that it features a scientist that studies a particular animal. The author spends time with the scientist. The format of this book introduces young readers to the textbook format, with chapters and picture captions.”

Besides being full of great photos and information, this book helps kids navigate scientific reading.


The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacquiline Kelly

from Goodreads: Calpurnia Virginia Tate is eleven years old in 1899 when she wonders why the yellow grasshoppers in her Texas backyard are so much bigger than the green ones. With a little help from her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist, she figures out that the green grasshoppers are easier to see against the yellow grass, so they are eaten before they can get any larger. As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.

Erica says: “This is a great book for those who like Little House and American Girl books. With references to Origin of the Species, this book shows that, even at the turn of the century, girls in STEM can’t be stopped.”

The use of scientific methods and universal themes in this book bridges the gap between Calpurnia’s era and ours.

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream
by Tanya Lee Stone

from Goodreads: What does it take to be an astronaut? Excellence at flying, courage, intelligence, resistance to stress, top physical shape — any checklist would include these. But when America created NASA in 1958, there was another unspoken rule: you had to be a man. Here is the tale of thirteen women who proved that they were not only as tough as the toughest man but also brave enough to challenge the government. They were blocked by prejudice, jealousy, and the scrawled note of one of the most powerful men in Washington. But even though the Mercury 13 women did not make it into space, they did not lose, for their example empowered young women to take their place in the sky, piloting jets and commanding space capsules.

Erica says: “With storytelling parallels to the space race, the author pulls from primary sources, interviewing those women who are still alive. In addition, photographs are paired really well with the information.”

This is a great introduction to high school textbooks and use of primary sources. The book contains magazine articles, photos, cartoons, telegrams (left), letters, interviews and more. Yet, it’s interesting enough to pull in younger readers with a high interest in space.


For more great STEM book ideas, check out these lists:

National Science Teachers Association

Children’s Book Council

New York Public Library

Children’s Librarian Erica Eis’ Best PreK-3 STEM Books for Holidays

What happens when curious kids take a trip to the library? Magic! Especially if children’s librarian and STEM enthusiast, Erica Eis, is there!

“The reason I love STEM books is because they support school curriculum in fun, engaging ways. And, if you can figure out a person’s interest area, STEM books always pull in the non-readers.”

The Hub took a trip to the Forest Avenue Library to get Erica’s recommendation for great STEM reads and holiday gifts. Erica’s expertise in children’s literature, along with her lifelong interest in science and passion for STEM, makes her the perfect person to recommend titles. Beginning with Pre-K through 3rd grade, this is the first in a two-part blog series.


Something’s Fishy by Kevin McCloskey

from Goodreads: Some fish breathe air and some fish fly, but the most wonderful fish of all turns out to be the one you’ve got at home. In another offering of the beloved Giggle and Learn series, Kevin McCloskey blends science, art, and comedy to reveal the true story behind the common goldfish.

Erica says: “I really like this book because it’s structured like a graphic novel. It’s a great source of information and introduces scientific vocabulary in the areas of ichthyology and marine biology.”

Mix in a little humor, add beautiful illustrations, and find out what makes this book a favorite.

Billions of Bricks: A Counting Book About Building
by Kurt Cyrus

from Goodreads: Grab a hard hat and all your tools, and get ready for a construction adventure in counting! This clever, rhyming picture book leads readers through a day in the life of a construction crew building with bricks. A brick may seem like just a simple block, but in groupings of ten, twenty, and more, it can create many impressive structures, from hotels to schools to skyscrapers. This is a terrific introduction to counting in quantities for children.

Erica says: “What’s great about this book is that it introduces kids to counting in sequence, like in 2s and 10s, which is the start to teaching multiplication. The book talks about how bricks are used to build, plus it’s in rhyme and meter.”

This is a great introduction to math and engineering.

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

from Goodreads: Scientist Ada has a boundless imagination and has always been hopelessly curious. Why are there pointy things stuck to a rose? Why are there hairs growing inside your nose? When her house fills with a horrific, toe-curling smell, Ada knows it’s up to her to find the source. What would you do with a problem like this? Not afraid of failure, Ada embarks on a fact-finding mission and conducts scientific experiments, all in the name of discovery. But, this time, her experiments lead to even more stink and get her into trouble!

Erica says: “This book is ever better than Rosie for little ones. Ada is 3 or 4 years old, and it introduces the scientific method. Kids will love it, and parents will relate to the humor.”

This book makes a great bedtime story.

Grades K-3

Grace Hopper Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark

from Goodreads: Who was Grace Hopper? A software tester, workplace jester, cherished mentor, ace inventor, avid reader, naval leader—AND rule breaker, chance taker, and troublemaker. Grace Hopper coined the term “computer bug” and taught computers to “speak English,” and throughout her life succeeded in doing what no one had ever done before. Delighting in difficult ideas and in defying expectations, the insatiably curious Hopper truly is “Amazing Grace” . . . and a role model for science- and math-minded girls and boys.

Erica says: “This book gives a voice to a scientist who has been erased from history. Younger readers will be intrigued about someone who takes things apart and fixes them. Older readers will recognize the sexism and gender bias.”

The book also has informative back matter, including a timeline and list of other resources.


Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes

from Goodreads: Welcome to Stately Academy, a school which is just crawling with mysteries to be solved! The founder of the school left many clues and puzzles to challenge his enterprising students. Using their wits and their growing prowess with coding, Hopper and her friend Eni are going to solve the mystery of Stately Academy no matter what it takes!

Erica says: “This is a great graphic novel, featuring both a girl and person of color, that introduces basic coding. There are puzzles that readers can solve using binary code, or they can wait for the characters to do it.” (Check out the book’s illustration above.)

This book is readable for an elementary kid, but interesting enough to hold a middle-schooler’s attention.


Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows by Asia Citro

from Goodreads: With magical animals, science, mystery, and adventure — the brand new series Zoey and Sassafras has something for everyone! Easy-to-read language and illustrations on nearly every page make this series perfect for a wide range of ages. In the first book of this series, Zoey discovers a glowing photo and learns an amazing secret. Injured magical animals come to their backyard barn for help! When a sick baby dragon appears, it’s up to Zoey and Sassafras to figure out what’s wrong. Will they be able to help little Marshmallow before it’s too late?

Erica says: “This chapter book is unique because it’s a mix of science and fantasy. The main character uses the scientific method to help each mythological creature. Readers can apply the strategy as they solve their own problems.”

Chapter books like this do a great job of introducing a longer story that’s divided in shorter chapters with lots of illustrations. That gives kids an easy place to stop if they need a reading break.


These book suggestions are just the very top of the STEM literary peak! Visit Erica and the other librarians at the Forest Avenue location to see their extensive and growing mountain of STEM books. And tune-in next week when Erica recommends books for grades 3-8.




Book Review: The Triumph of Seeds

“I have great faith in a seed,” writes Henry David Thoreau.
“Convince that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”  

Growing up during the Great Depression, Mary Alice Drossel saw first-hand how America depended upon seeds. (Pictured in center with her brothers) From dust storms to grasshoppers to harsh winters, somehow the heartiest seeds survived. As a teenager, she began teaching in a country school. Planting and harvesting impacted the entire community—everything depended on the success of those seeds.

At 92, she’s spent her entire life teaching and farming. “All living things are dependent upon seeds for their existence,” said Drossel. She recently read Thor Hanson’s book The Triumph of Seeds and stopped by the Hub to share her thoughts about the book with us.

Q: What message is the author sharing through this book?

A: The author is sharing the importance of seeds. We are alive because of grains, fruits and vegetables. We depend upon seeds for nourishment.

Q: What’s one interesting thing that you learning?

A: I learned that seeds can lay dormant for many years in the ground, until conditions are right for them to grow.

Q: What stuck with you after you finished the book?

A: Here’s a few things she found of most interest:

  • I was surprised to learn that, during the war, Hitler gave instructions to save Russian scientist Vavilov’s seed bank during the siege of Leningrad. And that, even today, people risk their lives to protect seeds and their stories. Pages 104-105
  • The Stealth Bomber, also known as the Northrup Grumman B2 Spirit, took inspiration from the wing design of Javan cucumber seeds. Page 208: “Like the seed that inspired it, the B-2’s high-life, no-drag shape is extremely efficient, making it possible for the plane to fly nearly 7,000 miles without refueling…still considered a cornerstone of the US arsenal.”
  • As a coffee lover, Drossel was happy to learn of the bean’s benefits. Page 152: “Coffee beans contain at least 800 other compounds, in addition to caffeine. Making that daily cup, by some accounts, the most chemically complex food in the human diet…coffee drinkers enjoy reduced risk of type II diabetes, liver cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. Nobody has any clear idea of why.”

Q: Who should read this book?

A: Everyone. Because our existence is dependent on seeds.

So go pour yourself a cup of coffee and find a copy of this book.

Book Review: Track that Scat!

Due to popular demand, the subject of poop is back! You may remember when we featured Poop Detectives. This time, the picture book Track that Scat! by Iowa writer Lisa Morlock takes readers on a journey to learn more about animals through tracking their footprints and scat (the scientific word for poop). Along with the rhyming text, non-fiction side bars feature lively facts about each animal.

These charming two-year old twins, James and Oren, are big fans of the outdoors. Besides books, they love camping, hiking and getting dirty whenever possible. The twins sat down with their mom to read this book. Check out what they remember most.

Q: What is this book about?
Oren’s A: Poop
James’ A: Scat

Q: What was the best part about this book?
Both A: When she steps in poop

Q: What part of this book made you smile?
Both A: The pooping

Q: What part of the book surprised you most?
Both A: The rabbit’s “eek eek!”

Q: What part of the book worried or concerned you?
Both A: The fox’s “snort-snarl”

Q: What did you learn from reading this book?
James’ A: About poop and the skunk
Oren’s A: About the fox and raccoon

Q: List three words that best describe this book.
Both A: Dog, poop, song

Q: What was your favorite line or phrase from the book?
Both A: The raccoon page

Q: Who else should read this book AND why?
Both A: Daddy and Mom

Among other awards, the book was named one of National Science Teacher’s of America (NSTA) 2013 Honor Books. If you’re an educator, naturalist, scout leader, or care provider looking for educational ideas and activities to use in conjunction with the book, please download this PDF by Sleeping Bear Press.

If you’re looking for more books recommended by the National Science Teacher’s Association, look for this seal of approval. Visit their website for a complete list.

Book Review: The Hidden Life of Trees

“Walkers who visit one of the ancient deciduous preserves in the forest I manage always report that their heart feels lighter and they feel right at home,” writes Peter Wohlleben about his favorite place. And this sense of peace is why people are drawn to the woods.

Once you read Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees, you’ll never look at a forest in the same way. At least that’s what 14-year-old Will discovered. When not reading, Will enjoys being outside, running, and science.

Wohlleben, a forest ranger in Germany, spent his career studying trees. He then found a way to communicate that research in a way that every reader could relate to–within the metaphor of a family. Will stopped by the blog to share his insights about the book.

Q: What message is the author trying to share through this book?
A: Trees have a complex social system in which they provide each other nutrients, warn each other of danger, and share knowledge with each other.

Q: What’s one interesting thing you learning?
A: Trees have distinct personalities that affect how they grow. While some prefer to use more energy in order to grow faster, others save energy in case of danger, such as insects.

Q: Did anything surprise you about the research?
A: In commercial forests, trees are not as healthy and do not share the bonds that natural forests do. This is detrimental to the trees as well as the wood produced by them.

Q: Who should read this book?
A: Anyone who needs Oxygen to live should read this book because it helps us better understand trees and what we can do to help forests grow.



This book is applicable to STEM because it focuses on Peter Wohlleben’s observations and studies as a forester in Europe. His findings lead him to several interesting conclusions that might change how people view the woods.

Learn more about Peter Wohlleben in this New York Times article or listen to this National Public Radio feature.

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