Thursday, August 27, 2015

School Visits (and the Genius Ideas I Learn from Them!) by Suzanne Slade

Every school visit I always learn something interesting from teachers and students. My last author visit was no exception because I discovered a genius idea called Genius Hour. During my presentation I’d shared the proof pages of my upcoming picture book, The Inventor’s Secret. Later, one teacher came up and said The Inventor’s Secret would be perfect to kick off her Genius Hour program.
I was excited to see her so enthused about a book I’d worked on for four years, yet I was a bit embarrassed to admit I’d never heard of Genius Hour. So she kindly explained—Genius Hour is a program where students work on a project of their choosing for one hour each week. The great part about this student-driven program is that children are highly motivated to learn about their topics.
Genius Hour lends to a wide variety of projects in one classroom, as each student selects the subject he or she wants to research. For example, at the school I was visiting—Meadowview School in Woodridge, IL—fifth graders in Ms. Wright’s Genius Hour program baked up cotton candy cookies, built battery-powered cars out of spare parts, and much more!

Meadowview students building a battery-powered car from leftover parts from science kits and spare toy parts.

Fifth grade Meadowview student decorating cotton candy sugar cookies with blueberry drizzle.

During my school visit this teacher also explained the message of persistence in The Inventor’s Secret would help inspire young inventors working on their own contraptions in school “makerspaces.”
Okay, full disclosure, I didn’t know what a makerspace was either! So I did a bit of research and found out makerspaces (aka fab labs or hackerspaces) are workspaces in schools and libraries where students can brainstorm, experiment, and create their own projects. Makerspaces are filled with various kinds of equipment, such as 3D printers, electronics, tools, computers, hardware, craft supplies, and more.
Now my son had tinkered on gadgets for years in our basement, which slowly aquired an assortment of tools, wires, and electronics equipment (including a 3D printer that he used to make his own inline skates), so I understood the enormous potential of a school makerspace.

 Since learning of makerspaces, I’ve enjoyed reading about school labs around the country and the incredible projects children are creating in them. Would you believe students at Fox Meadow Elementary in New York made models of Lincoln’s face in their makerspace using a 3D printer and files of Lincoln’s actual life mask from the Smithsonian 3D image library? How awesome is that? (FYI - A technology teacher at Fox Meadow, Peter McKenna, started a School Makerspace forum where teachers can exchange ideas and projects.)

Fox Meadow school makerspace

3D printed model of Lincoln life mask

Actual Lincoln life mask

So as another new school year begins, I can’t wait to learn more fascinating things from students and teachers during my author visits. I’d also be thrilled to receive pictures of your school’s creative projects, including the sling shot cars, electric circuits, or flip books your students make using The Inventor’s Secret free Teacher’s Guide.

Suzanne Slade is the award-winning author of more than 100 children’s books (and former engineer who working on car brakes and Delta IV rockets.) Her latest picture book, The Inventor’s Secret, shares the fascinating, true story of persistence (and friendship) of two of the world’s most famous inventors—Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Use it to kick off your Genius Hour, inspire young inventors, or celebrate National Inventor’s Day (February 11.) Also, check out the book’s trailer and look for more teacher resources on Suzanne's website.

The Inventor's Secret: What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford
ISBN: 978-1-58089-667-2 HC $16.95
Available September 8, 2015
Find Out More
Genius Hour Livebinder 
Suzanne’s List of Genius Hour Resources 
Designing a School Makerspace 
Manufacturing Makerspaces 
Instructables - website with great DIY projects 
Make: - website with more great DIY projects

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Ah, the memories. ALA Annual 2015 in San Francisco. The authors! The illustrators! The librarians!
What a great event!

Friday, May 29, 2015

David's Drawing Table episode 2

Did you ever want to be a storyteller? You probably already are! Join author/illustrator David Hyde Costello at the Drawing Table and help him figure out what to do about one scary lake monster. Is he friend or is he foe? Your ideas are needed!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Eating Your Homework is as Easy as Pi!

Humdrum or delicious? When students eat their homework, the classroom suddenly turns from tedious to oh-so-tasty. Get ready to serve up some yummy new fun—while discovering and learning about math and science.

Psst, did you remember that Pi Day is March 14? It’s time to divvy up some Variable Pizza Pi. Look up the recipe for this constant crowd-pleaser in Eat Your Math Homework, and get set for variable excitement—quite a lot . . . or mega.

Never mind the constants (the crust and the sauce), here’s your chance to add your own variables: toppings such as pepperoni, green pepper, or pineapple chunks. And we’re not done yet! Measure the circumference and determine the diameter of the pizza. This will help you pinpoint pi, that amazingly endless decimal number that starts 3.1415926 . . . (pi = circumference divided by diameter)

What about in the classroom? How about switching things up a bit with this yummy classroom adaptation? Share circle shaped cookies (Yes, the cookie itself and the icing are the constants). Have students decorate each cookie with variables such as chocolate chips, raisins, or colored marshmallows. Figure out the circumference and diameter of one cookie (Hint: To measure the circumference, use a piece of string. Place the string around the rim of the cookie. Cut or mark the string to match the size of the cookie’s circumference. Straighten this measured string and find its length using a ruler).

When students find the circumference divided by the diameter, it’s easy as pie to calculate pi. Was the answer close to 3.14? Why wasn’t it exact? What else can you find out about pi?

And now here’s another tasty tidbit. Let’s face it, all science lessons are not created equal. Neither are rocks. In fact, there are three basic categories of rocks: metamorphic, igneous, and sedimentary. Heat and pressure cause metamorphic rocks to morph, or change form. Igneous rocks form from cooled liquid rock beneath the earth’s surface. And sedimentary, well, think of a lasagna—when layers of sediment press against each other, the layers meld together.

Speaking of lasagna, check out the recipe for Sedimentary Pizza Lasagna from Eat Your Science Homework . . . Yum!

. . . Or whip up some classroom friendly Sedimentary Sandwiches instead. Use 3 or 4 layers of bread (or crackers) and your favorite sandwich fixings to build a rock solid masterpiece. Bite in—and don’t worry about chipping a tooth!

For more on how to turn your classroom into a banquet of learning, please check out Eat Your Science Homework and Eat Your Math Homework from Charlesbridge Publishing.

Your constant math and science pals, 

Ann and Leeza

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Introducing a Children's Book to Scholars?


At first, I was elated when the Hunan Provincial Museum invited me to their International Symposium Commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the Excavation of the Han Tombs at Mawangdui. Elated to be surrounded by experts and scholars from Asia, Europe, and North America who research myriad aspects of Mawangdui. To meet people whose work I had studied in preparing my book, At Home in Her Tomb. To return to Changsha, where Lady Dai and her family had lived and were buried in their lavish tombs.

But then reality and intimidation set in. Like the other symposium participants, I was expected to make a presentation. Oh no. This was the audience I worried about while writing the book because they would know if I had made any mistakes. And now, what could I say about writing a children's book that would possibly be of interest to scholars? Could the book interest them as a research project on introducing Mawangdui to students and nonspecialists—people who haven't heard about the tombs and don't know how important they are?

I flew to Changsha in early December where more than one hundred people from nine countries gathered for the symposium. For two days we met in general sessions all together and in three smaller groups focusing on Mawangdui's archaeology, artifacts, and bamboo and silk writings. I reveled in learning from the many experts about different aspects of the tombs.

I was awed to see people who took part in excavating the tombs and to meet leaders and staff of the Hunan Provincial Museum. I recognized many of their names from articles and books I had studied. Meeting Dr. Peng Long-xiang was especially meaningful because we had corresponded about the autopsy on Lady Dai's body.  

 With Dr. Peng at the opening dinner
During my presentation (with help from my wonderful translator, Lee), I recounted how becoming captivated by Lady Dai at a museum exhibition launched me into learning everything I could about Mawangdui. I described writing challenges, especially in adapting academic research about ancient history into a book that modern students and non-academics could find compelling. I talked about discovering the human story of a family in grief honoring their lost loved ones. I shared how learning about Mawangdui helped me understand Chinese traditions for honoring the dead that continue today, including within my extended family. Lastly, I reported how readers are responding to the book.

Although I had worried about what the experts would think, they were excited that people—especially children—in America and other countries are learning about this archaeological site that reveals so much about life in early China. Several who worked in major museums said I'd given them ideas for outreach and education programs for their museum collections.

The ramp and steps of the son's tomb, which remains open for viewing.

On the last day, we visited the excavation site of the Mawangdui tombs. Standing where Lady Dai, the Marquis of Dai, and their son had been buried brought tears to my eyes, along with gratitude for how learning about this family has impacted my life.

By Christine Liu-Perkins
978-1-58089-370-1 HC $19.95