Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A dog named Newton helps explain physics!

Finding high-quality trade books about animals, plants, space and weather can take time, but the task of locating a physical science trade book appropriate for primary grades is definitely daunting. One book we've found is Newton and Me by Lynne Mayer. Published by Sylvan Dell and recognized as an NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book, this book shows applications of Isaac Newton's first and second laws of motion in contexts familiar to kids - pushing a ball and pulling a wagon, for example. The story of a boy and his dog, Newton, is told in prose with limited text on each page. Cartoonish drawings support the text and sometimes contain embedded content -  the name of the street where the boy lives (Lincolnshire) is Newton's birthplace in England. Like all Sylvan Dell books (see our previous blog about this publisher), there is a "For Creative Minds" section at the end. This section includes questions/answers about the content, a brief biography of Newton, and a matching game.

If you want a little background information in physics, or have a highly  inquisitive upper intermediate student, one suggestion is to keep Physics: Why Matter Matters! on hand. Written by Dan Green and illustrated by Simon Basher, this 2008 book is one of many in the Basher science series published by Kingfisher. The format of each page is the same: one page of text written in first person, and a full-page cartoon drawing of the concept personified. For example, "Acceleration" is depicted as a little face in a rocket, accompanied by the following text: "Forget the need for speed - I've got what it takes to get you going. I'm what makes things pull away from one another, like cars at a traffic light... To fire me up, forces have to be unbalanced, and I always zip off in the direction of the bigger force..." Fun facts are included in smaller font at the bottom of the page; in this case, we learn the acceleration of a cheetah (144 m/s2) and person associated with its discovery  (Benedetti in 1553). Topics include motion, light, sound, waves, electricity, and nuclear energy. Students - or teachers! -  with those beyond-the-elementary-textbook questions (What is a vacuum in space? How do magnets work?) would benefit from this book's easy-to-read format.

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