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Nonfiction Monday on Tuesday iScience

I’m so fortunate to have some of Norwood House new iScience titles in our collection. They demonstrate the scientific inquiry method in complex ways but are easily understood by students. In fact, I find the students understand the titles better than the teachers and are willing to listen to each read aloud. The students don’t care whether the title is on level A, B, or C.

Perhaps this is because the students come to books with the unfailing belief in their own ability to understand and learn;  they do not limit themselves. Teachers on the other hand often glance at the amount of text  and dismiss titles without trying them. They’ll say “That’s too hard for my kids.” I urge all librarians and teachers to try these titles out with students and see the “wicked-cool” results.

“Wicked-cool” was the phrase a small group of third graders used after we read togetherPatterns and Textures: Who Took The Pets? by Emily Sohn and Laura Townsend. The A.R. level of this title is 3.9, but the vocabulary is science-rich, innovative, and necessary to promote growth. I’m tired of sharing only stories written to the lowest vocabulary level. We need to read more titles to our students that include words like parallel venation, pinnate venation, and palmate venation. Why? Because good authors can incorporate these into the text so students comprehend the meaning.

Using accurate language and allowing students to expand their frameworks is key to growth. The iScience books appear to answer the demands of the educators behind the call for common core standards. The titles stretch students and give them something to strive to learn more about to succeed. These titles provide a wide variety of facts and data while attempting to solve a scientific problem. When a problem is presented, possible solutions or theories are considered.

Throughout the narrative, the problem is interwoven. As new facts are considered and the science behind their inclusion is explained, these facts are related back to the problem and the three theories. In the end each theory is reviewed with the eliminating evidence presented. After the correct theory is identified, the processes used to gather evidence is extended and connected with a student’s real life.

Aspects of the book which appeal to me include the historical scientific references, the information on scientists at work and their careers, and the real-life applications to students’ lives. While some teachers may be overwhelmed at the variety and diversity of facts presented, students are able to sift through the facts to link the vital evidence to the theories presented.

For librarians who are teaching how to focus on information and to eliminate irrelevant facts, these books present a challenge. The concept of sorting through a wide-variety of facts is important, but seldom taught as educators try to focus instruction and remove distractions. Students sort through red herrings and extraneous information every time they turn on the television, chat with their friends, and play video games. They can handle these challenges.

Today I was chatting with the resident scientist at our school and her colleagues with the Vanderbilt University Scientist in Residence program. Our STEM school benefits from four different scientists who each spend one day a week in our school. Each scientist works with a different grade level. All of these scientists help demonstrate lessons, activities, and experiments with the students and for the teachers’ benefit. These lessons are clever, intricate, and scientifically accurate. They expand our curriculum. They are connected to our scientist’s fields of study. And, they will hopefully enable the teachers to create more rigorous and involved lessons.

The sad problem we face is reaching teachers so we can integrate science and information science with classroom instruction. Our resident scientist and I are ready to help – in fact, we are desperate to seize any opportunity to collaborate with teachers. I’m grateful that publishers like Norwood House Press are creating innovative titles to help us. They even provide teaching guides that include complex questions to meet the demanding lesson plan structures we teachers face in this day of Race to The Top. Thank you, Norwood House Press.