Too often we think that a “science book” needs to be written about a science topic, or a biography on a scientist or mathematician. To help kids understand that science is part of their daily lives, we use fictional books that kids already love to help them recognize the science in these stories. As students read, they often want to know “Could that really happen?, and they use self-directed inquiry to learn more.
As educators, we are also able to pull math and science lessons based on the events in the stories to help students experience STEAM in ways that really matter to them.
The Story Percy Jackson lives with his mother and struggles in school. One day, after a run-in with a Minotaur, he discovers the father he never knew is the Greek god Poseidon. He travels to a demigod training camp, Camp Half-Blood, where he meets other kids just like him who are training to go on quests and save the world.
The Science Students can use scientific knowledge and design-thinking to explore the characters and storylines. They can engineer a better escape for Icarus, explore biological characteristics of Mythological monsters and the adaptations they developed to become more fierce, and design a better chariot for the extra-curricular chariot racing.
Why Else we like It It’s also a great series for kids who think that they are different, or might not fit in. Percy Jackson struggles with ADHD and dyslexia. He later learns that these can be seen as strengths. What he saw as having difficulties reading, is because his brain is structured to read Greek, not English. His ADHD is what helps him to be successful in battle to be able to think fast. There are several books in the series, and several spin off series, books are great for reluctant readers, and they are now available as graphic novels.
Harry Potter Series
The Story This seven book series follows Harry Potter, a lonely young boy, who suddenly discovers he is a wizard. He goes to the wizarding world to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where he finds out he is a hero and legend. The series follow Harry Potter and his friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, as they learn magic and contend with Harry’s arch-nemesis Lord Voldemort.
The Science Students always want to know if this magical world could be real. They can explore how to use chemistry, physics, biology, and engineering to make the events in the book really come to life. They can discover the biological characteristics of magical creatures and using genetics to get specific characteristics, using real chemistry to make magical potions, “magical” properties of everyday plants, and use physics and robotics to create their own Quidditch tabletop games.
Why Else we like It The Harry Potter series is universally loved by many adults and children, and it creates a great opportunity for parents and kids to work together and explore the topics
Isle of the Lost Series (Based on Disney Descendants Movies) Sisters Grimm: The Fairytale Detectives The Land of Stories The School for Good and Evil The Half-Upon a Time Trilogy
The Stories These are some of the most popular books students have been bringing into The Laboratory Collective lately. They are varying takes on what happens when infamous fairytale heroes and fairytale villains cross paths in a modern world or attend boarding schools together.
The Science Students love seeing how the fantasy movies and worlds they grew up with can have realistic elements. They can explore the ideas of treasure and gems by studying the chemistry of crystallization or learning about how synthetic diamonds are grown, they can explore the history of venoms, sleeping potions, and the reality of poison apples, or they can use math and design-thinking to construct the best United Kingdom.
Why Else we like It We have found that many of the students who absolutely love reading these books and imagining themselves interacting with Fairy Tale heroes and villains, don’t typically consider themselves “math kids” or “science kids”. We love using these ideas, that they are already passionate about, to show how there does not need to be a hard line between imagination and math and science.
The Last Kids on Earth Series
The Story This light-hearted, funny take on a zombie apocalypse describes what happens when all the parents and authority figures flee and a group of kids face a series of zombies and strange creatures in this post-apocalyptic world.
The Science The book is filled with physics, engineering, and design-thinking ideas as the characters need to invent with everyday objects to survive. They can learn about water filtering, solar ovens, making paracord bracelets so they are always prepared, hacking a metal detector, making paper crossbows. It also explores ideas of anatomy in a real way: How does the brain work, and what is happening in the zombies’ brains to make them think and act in these ways? What is happening to their bodies as they become zombified? How can the zombies best preserve their limbs and bodies to prevent rotting?
Why Else we like It These books are a fun way to explore the idea of a zombie apocalypse without being too gross or scary. They incorporate visual literacy, using comical drawings throughout, to give a break from straight text, and they are a good way for reluctant readers to get excited about reading.