Posts Tagged ‘Science’


Read to Get Ready for STEAM Fest!: Picture Book Biographies of STEAM Pioneers

by Anne Wilmoth on May 15th, 2017

There’s nothing I love more than a good picture book biography of a little-known historical figure; something that makes you let out a surprised “Huh!” when you turn the final page.

In honor of this week’s STEAM Festival for children (that’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) here are a handful of books on STEAM trailblazers that promise to fascinate the adult reading them aloud just as much as the child listening.

ThThumbnaile Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman

When Paul Erdos was four years old, he liked to amuse strangers by asking them their age, then announcing how many seconds they’d been alive, after just a moment of mental calculation.  Paul grew up into a brilliant but eccentric mathematician – “he didn’t fit into the world in a regular way” and needed his mother and friends to see to his basic needs – who traveled the world working with other mathematicians, doing math up to nineteen hours a day, and coming up with new kinds of math.  Numbers are sprinkled throughout this simply-told, charming story.

Thumbnail Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone

Society tried to thwart her at every turn, but the first female doctor in America (she graduated from medical school in 1849), wouldn’t be dissuaded.  In a situation that seems laughable today but was all to real in our country’s history, all the other tenants in the building where she opened her first practice were so horrified that they immediately moved out.  Today, more than half of all U.S. medical school students are women, thanks to Elizabeth Blackwell.

Thumbnail Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wellmark

Who wouldn’t be fascinated by trying to wrap their mind around the leap from the first computer to the sophisticated, lightning-fast information machine that we all now carry around in our pocket?  Women have been instrumental in computer technology since its inception, starting with Ada Byron Lovelace.  This thinker, tinkerer, and girl fascinated by numbers went on to write the algorithm that allowed her colleague’s Thinking Machine to work – making her the world’s first computer programmer.

Thumbnail Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis

The Ferris wheel, that mainstay of summer amusement parks across America, got its start at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.  George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., a mechanical engineer, won a contest seeking a design more spectacular than the Eiffel Tower, which had wowed attendees at the previous World’s Fair.  The fair committee thought his design couldn’t possibly work and refused to give him the money to build it.  George, despite being laughed out of most banks, eventually secured a loan and paid for the wheel himself; he and wife took the first ride.  The story of this feat of engineering and nostalgic piece of Americana is depicted in illustrations washed in blue and purple that evoke twilight at a state fair, alongside text bursting with fascinating bits of detail.

Thumbnail Balloons Over Brodway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet

The little boy who designed a rope-and-pulley system so he could feed the family’s chickens while lying in bed grew up to become the entirely self-taught “father of American puppetry,” the man behind those giant character balloons that millions of people watch on TV every Thanksgiving.  When Tony Sarg came to America, he designed mechanical marionettes for a Macy’s window display.  Later, Macy’s asked him to come up with something more spectacular for the parade than live animals, which were frightening the children – and Tony Sarg’s innovative balloons have risen on Thanksgiving Day every year since 1928.

After finding some inspiration in these books, come down to ICPL’s STEAM Festival and do some problem-solving and discovery of your own!  The STEAM Festival takes place on Friday, May 19 from 9:30-2:30 and Saturday, May 20 from 10-4.

Come to Way Cool Chemistry on Dec. 10

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on December 2nd, 2016

Students interested in chemistry will have the opportunity to participate in hands-on demonstrations and experiments from 2 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, December 10, in Meeting Room A at the Iowa City Public Library.

Way Cool Chemistry is designed to make chemistry accessible and fun for fifth- through eighth-grade students. Pre-registration is not required.

For more information, contact the Library at 319-356-5200.

Fresh Picks: Beautiful Nonfiction

by Morgan Reeves on August 31st, 2016
Fresh Picks: Beautiful Nonfiction Cover Image

In the world of children’s literature, picture books are the shining jewels that we admire for their beautiful illustrations and imaginative stories. Nonfiction titles are often seen as unglamorous workhorses, judged on their ability to meet educational standards in imparting information to their young readers. While there is certainly a necessary place for curriculum supporting, report fodder nonfiction, there is plenty of room on the shelves for nonfiction that captures the imagination as well as presenting the facts.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Sugar Creek Chronicle – Cornelia F. Mutel

by Jason Paulios on April 22nd, 2016
A Sugar Creek Chronicle – Cornelia F. Mutel Cover Image

The latest in the Bur Oak Books series from the University of Iowa Press is Cornelia Mutel’s account on climate change as seen from the mixed oak woodlands in rural Johnson County, Iowa. The book is cleverly structured to follow the four seasons during the year 2012, each season features daily journal entries detailing weather and climate notes. Interspersed are notable updates on various woodland species in the acreage alongside Iowa natural history. Paired with the day-to-day of 2012 country living are complimenting memoir sections detailing growing up in Madison, her mother’s early death, and parenthood in Iowa City.  

Her writing is organized and passionate, her love of the natural world is infectious and I often found myself considering putting down the book to wander a nearby nature trail. Throughout all the meditative trail walking anecdotes filled with chipmunk scurrying and spring ephemeral blooming are sobering climate science facts and how they are impacting all these things we care about. Her research is presented in small digestible amounts and her teaching background is evident in the way in which she breaks down complicated earth science processes. 

ICPL to Host Pint Size Science for Kids

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on March 31st, 2016

What is science? What do scientists do? Find out at the Iowa City Public Library’s Pint Size Science program!

Elementary students in kindergarten through second grade will meet from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the Storytime Room every Tuesday in April to conduct introductory experiments, igniting their interest and understanding of science. This special series will focus on states of matter, meteorology, gizmos and gadgets, and the environment.

Pint Size Science is a free event, but registration is required. To register, visit calendar.icpl.org and click on the event date. Registrations can also be made by calling the Library at 319-356-5200.

Watch monarch caterpillars live at Iowa City Public Library

by Bond Drager on August 27th, 2015

photocaterpillarDo you like butterflies? Have you ever wanted to watch a caterpillar as it goes through metamorphoses? Iowa City Public Library has two monarch caterpillars on a live stream so you can check in and see what’s happening. We also have three caterpillars already in the chrysalis stage that we will put on camera from time to time. Check out our live feed here:

MonarchCam 2015 – Iowa City Public Library

Can you spot the caterpillar hidden in the milkweed?

And as always, you can come down to the library and check out some of our great books about monarchs.

Enjoy!

The 2015 Perseid Meteor shower has begun.

by Beth Fisher on July 30th, 2015

perseid showerThis annual celestial event occurs each year in late Summer, with peak viewing near the 2nd week of August.  In 2015, the peak will be August 9-13 when up to 60 meteors an hour should be visible in the night sky, especially in the hours between midnight and dawn.

The Perseid Meteor shower is what we see when the Earth passes through the orbital path of the Swift-Tuttle comet.   Swift Tuttle orbits the Sun every 133 years, and each time it gets close to the Sun, small pieces break off and join the cloud of debris in the comet’s orbit.  Each year when the Earth passes through the Swift-Tuttle’s debris field,  the debris bounces off the Earth’s atmosphere creating the Perseid Meteor Shower.

Perseid_Vic_radiantsThe Perseids appear to originate from the top of the constellation Perseus. During August, Perseus will be found in the Northeastern part of the sky, left of the Big Dipper.   The point in space where the shower seems to originate is called a “Radiant”.   The map to the left, from Sky & Telescope, the radiant is shown in yellow text.   All the Perseid meteors will appear fly outwards from that point in the sky.

There are many great Astronomy websites with information about the Perseids.

stardateUniversity of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory’s web site “StarDate” has a lot of information for people new to star gazing and astronomy.  Clicking on the “Stargazing” tab on their homepage will give you a list of the things visible in the night sky this week.  This is also where you’ll find a link to their Meteor Shower page.

earth sky The Earth Sky website managed by Deborah Byrd, the host of the long running public radio series EarthSky: A Clear Voice for Science, is a great science web site for non-scientists.  The information about the Perseids   section of their website is easy to read and has lots of information about the origins of the Perseids as well as how and when to find them and general tips on viewing.

NASATo learn more about Comets, Meteors and meteor showers, the NASA website is a great place to start.   Plantes, asteroids, meteors, and comets – there are all sorts of neat things at NASA.

 

 

2015 meteor showers

There are many other regular meteor showers throughout the year if you can’t make the Perseids.   Some of the most common can be found on this table, from the University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory’s  StarDate website mentioned above.

Of course, the Iowa City Public Library has lots of material about Astronomy and Stargazing and the staff at any of the public service desks in the Library can help you find more information.