Episode 61: Helping Our Kids Go Back to School – Focus on Science

This is second in a series “Books that Spark” is doing on Back to School, emphasizing great books for each subject area in school.

In this episode we look at some great picture books and devotional books about science. 

Books Discussed in This Episode:


Welcome to “Books that Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion, leading to teachable moments with our kids.

So today we’re continuing our back to school theme, covering different picture books and resources for parents for teaching the different subjects as we think about the new school year. So last week we talked about math, and this week we’ll talk about science. I have some great picture books, and of course, I’m only scratching the surface. There are so many wonderful picture books out that cover the different levels of science and experiments you can do together with your children. There are some wonderful books out there that are workbooks and have several experiments you can do with even food in your refrigerator. So I’m going to share with you some of my favorite picture books that I’ve found. And one of them I’m happy to say is by Annette Whipple. And she will be a guest on our podcast in about a month or so. So be sure to watch for that.

Annette Whipple writes nonfiction books, and most of them that she’s written recently are science books about different animals. And the one I want to share with you today is called, Whooo Knew: The Truth about Owls. And in this book she covers all the different facts about owls, and the photography is beautiful. And then there’s, of course, the fun little drawing of the owl that kind of narrates through the book. But her books are really, really informative–give us a lot of wonderful information for our children. They remind me of a very beautifully, well done, better quality Zoobook. If you ever saw Zoobooks when you were younger, it has that kind of a feel to it but much sleeker. The little cartoon owls on each page that do the narration and tell little facts and everything are so funny and give us a little bit of humor in the process. The photographs are phenomenal. And so you learn all the nitty gritty, the good, the bad, and the ugly about owls in this book. And it shows the different kinds of owls. It shows their different kinds of eyes and deals with some of the misunderstandings that we have about owls. For instance, one of the more common ones is can owls spin their heads around, and they cannot, but they appear to because they turn their heads so far and then so quickly turn it back that it looks like they’ve turned their head completely around. And it talks about their nests, their diet, owl babies, and then it ends with how we can help conserve owls, especially those that are endangered. It shows the skeleton of an owl and has a glossary to tell us even more, and some websites, if you want to do further study.

And one of the things I love to do with science is not even use a text book, but to start with something like this book and then do research and lessons that just come from finding out what you’ve learned. I did a whole unit on bats when I was doing my student teaching, and it was so fun. We didn’t start with a text book. We started with articles and magazines and online and books, and just did a lot of research. We just spent the whole time that we were covering that unit learning and investigating and having a great time. And then we did one on volcanoes, did the same thing, and it was just so nice not to be held hostage in a sense with the text book, but being able to just explore and investigate and research and find out information on our own, and the students became much more enthusiastic. So I love to do that with science. I think that is a really fun way to make science come alive for children.

Another book I love is Eric Carle’s Animals, Animals, and this is a very unique book. It does have his lovely artwork that shows the different animals. But this book doesn’t tell you about the animals in the usual way. Each animal has a poem or a verse or something. Well, most of them are poems about the animals. And so it’s also kind of a poetry book, and it’s a lot of fun that way because the children can see the pictures, learn some things about the animals through the poems, and then they can research some things because it is a poetic understanding of the animal. Well, then we can research and find out something more concrete scientifically about the different animals. But it’s a great book for jumping off into a unit on animals.

And I love the story of Dr. Temple Grandin. There’s a book called The Girl Who Thought in Pictures, and this is written by Julia Finley Moscow and illustrated by Daniel Riley. This book is a picture book about her life and about her learning about cows and how they operate and how they do things. And it shows a little bit about, you know, the understanding of autism. So there’s many ways you could approach this book and approach science through it. She has been phenomenal for the cattle industry, and she is now a college professor and has written several books. If you’ve never seen the movie about her life, it’s very well done, very interesting. And in this book, it gives you some articles you can read about her or by her and videos and films and other books that you can read mostly written by her. And it tells you quite a bit about her life in the back of the book and a timeline of her life, but she has such an understanding of animals. And that is her thing. If you know anything about autistic children that are verbal, they usually have something that is their specialty and something that they learn a lot about. But this is a really interesting book about a scientist who also had her own struggles.

This other book is older, but it was one of my daughter’s favorites for many years because she loves dinosaurs. And I thought it was such a sweet book. It’s called The Fossil Girl, Mary Anning’s Dinosaur Discovery by Catherine Brighton. This was published in 2000. So it’s 1999, 2000. So it’s been a while. It looks kind of like a graphic novel/ comic book type style; many pages have the boxes with the pictures and everything, but it tells her story about discovering a dinosaur bone. And because she found that dinosaur bone, she became very curious about dinosaurs and wanted to learn more. And she had a lot of opposition. Many people felt threatened by these discoveries and didn’t believe that they were real. It’s a very interesting thing. But she did become famous. She went on to make many more important finds, even though she never went to school and never left Lyme Regis, she made an international reputation as a fossil expert. She died in 1847 at the age of 48. Now this book is very pro-Darwin/evolution/old earth theory. And so you do need to be aware of that. The reason I went ahead and included this is because it was a jumping off point for me to discuss those ideas with my kids and talk about the theory of evolution and to talk about the understanding of an old and a young earth. And so if your kids are at that point, and you’re wanting to open up that conversation, this is a pretty good book for jumping off into that conversation. It shows that some of the Christians were upset by her findings. And that was the beginning of that whole controversy with Darwin and the ideas of Christianity. It’s one of those books that would help spark that conversation. If you’re not ready to have that conversation, then I would not recommend reading this book yet because it will bring that up as you read. And that’s true for many of the books that we have that are biographies of different scientists. They always bring in those issues and speak of it as total fact, even though it’s theory.

So another one is Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles. And this one is by Patricia Valdez and illustrated by Felecita Sala. And this is just a fun book about Joan Proctor, who just loved lizards. She had pet lizards, and the drawings in this book are so cute and so well done. It says, “Each day after school, Joan retreated to her bedroom where she studied lizards, snakes, and turtles. She took careful notes, just like a scientist. And on the days Joan was too sick to attend school, tiny toes and eager eyes cheered her up. The reptiles were quiet and watchful just like Joan. And then for her 16th birthday, Joan received a most curious gift, a baby crocodile. She tied a little ribbon around his waist and took him for a walk. She even brought him to math class one day. The students shrieked! The teacher recoiled. Apparently crocodiles were not welcome at school. When Joan grew older, she skipped the parties and dances with her friends. She sought out the curator of reptiles and fish at the natural history museum. There Joan and the curator talked snake scales, size, shape, texture, patterns, and even evolution. Sometimes Joan smuggled in her crocodile to the delight of the curator. He knew right away that Joan was special.” And so then it talks about all that she learned. And then later on in her career, when she’s the curator at the reptile house at the zoo, and she gets a Komodo dragon Sumbawa and she nurses him to health. He had a sore on his mouth. And she gets to lecture about him and take him places and show him to people. They had not seen this kind of a reptile before. It says at the end, “And just like when she was a little girl, Joan often hosted children’s tea parties at the reptile house with her scaly friends. Simbawa was the guest of honor.” And then the last part of the book gives biographical information about her life and has a bibliography with all kinds of resources where you can do further research.

Now I mentioned quite a few books about science and conservation a few weeks ago when we were talking about Beatrix Potter’s birthday. So you can also refer back to those, if you are interested in some of those, if you’re talking about earth sciences and conservation. If you’re wanting to get books that are written from the Christian worldview and support the idea of creation and follow along with what the Bible says, then I highly recommend you consider looking at the books on either AnswersinGenesis.org or going to christianbook.com. There are some really nice books on these two websites that do come from the Christian perspective. They do have magazines on Answers in Genesis. That’s The Answers Book for Kids, and they have several volumes in a boxed set for that. They have a book about bugs. They have several books about dinosaurs, books about Noah and the flood, and creation in general. And they have this one–there’s this one book called Dragons: Legends and Lore of Dinosaurs. And we saw the video of this or a similar video along the same lines. And it’s just really interesting, and a lot of fun. Especially if your kids love dinosaurs or love dragons, this would be fun for up through adulthood. I mean, we really enjoyed watching it together. But there is a lot of information about dinosaurs and a lot of books about dinosaurs. And they also have a homeschool curriculum that is creation-based and from a biblical worldview.

My personal opinion is that we don’t need to isolate our children completely from the ideas of evolution. Even though I do not believe in evolution, I am a creationist and I believe in a literal six days of creation and that, on the seventh day, God rested. Science supports whichever view you look at because we all have the same evidence. We interpret it differently. I’ve done a lot of research into all of this over the years. So I come from that point of view that Christian worldview, a creationist worldview, but I still think it’s okay to learn the other theory. God really convicted me about what I was teaching to children and that I needed to be true to His word. I share that testimony often when I’m sharing in my workshops, because it was such an amazing and powerful and terrifying encounter with God when I was first teaching. But these are technically theories because we cannot prove them to be fact because you just can’t prove it. You have to accept it by faith. Either evolution or creation has to be accepted by faith.

I mentioned there are some books with experiments that you can use using the things in your kitchen and have some great experiments with your kids. So a couple of books you may want to check out: The Kitchen Pantry, Scientist Chemistry for Children: Science, Experiments, and Activities Inspired by Awesome Chemists Past and Present. And this has 25 experiments. It is written by Liz Lee Heinecke. It’s part of the Kitchen Pantry Scientists books. There’s three of them. So this one is chemistry. And then there is another one called Kitchen Science Lab for Kids: 52 Family-Friendly Experiments from Around the House–Lab for Kids 4. And this one has 33 books and it’s also by Liz Lee Heinecke.

And then there’s one more book that I mentioned in one of my first podcast. And it’s a devotional book based on science. Of course, How Great Is Our God and Indescribable by Louie Giglio offer devotionals and also discuss science. And he also has The Wonder of Creation: 100 More Devotions about God and Science. So there’s those three books. So there is a devotional book called The Very Best Hands-on, Kind of Dangerous, Family Devotionals by Tim Shoemaker. It is a book full of hands-on object lessons, science projects all rolled into one, with different messages for you to open up great discussions with your kids of all ages. The different experiments in this book –some of them they’ll tell you if they’re kind of dangerous, and some that are more geared toward 12-year-olds and older. But some of them, most of them, are geared for all ages within your family. And there are “52 activities your kids will never forget,” it says in this devotional book, and it’s really well done. So I highly recommended it as well.

Since we’re talking about science, for our devotional today I chose again to use one from How Great Is Our God: Indescribable Kids. And this devotional is number 29, “Cycling Around.” In 1 Corinthians 3:9 in the ICB it says, “You are workers together for God.” “You’ve heard of bicycles, motorcycles and even unicycles, but have you heard of the water cycle? No, it’s not a bike made for water, but wouldn’t that be fun? The water cycle is the way water moves around the earth. It’s like gigantic circle without any real beginning or end. Liquid water is stored in oceans, rivers, streams, and even mud puddles. When the sun heats the water surface, the water travels up to the sky as vapor. That’s called evaporation. The vapor cools into tiny water droplets. That is called condensation. Water droplets gather together to make clouds, which then send the water back to earth as rain, snow, sleet, or hail. That’s called precipitation. Precipitation waters plants and gathers in oceans, rivers, and streams. Then the cycle starts all over again. Water in all its forms is so very important. We need liquid water to drink, vapor to form clouds, and ice to keep our planet at just the right temperature. Every form of water has a job to do, kind of like we do. As children of God, we all have important jobs to do for God. Some of those jobs look different, but they’re all so important from 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. And the cool thing is that God will give you everything you need to do the job he has for you. Hebrews 13:20-21. If he wants you to be an encourager, he’ll give you a tender heart and people who need encouraging. If he wants you to help someone, he’ll give you the strength and courage to do it. And if he wants you to be a writer, he’ll give you the words. How great is that?” And then the prayer: “Dear God, thank you for the unique way you made me and the gifts you’ve given me. Help me to use them to show the world who you are.” And then “How Great:” “When you take a sip from the water fountain, do you ever think about how old that water you’re drinking is? Because the water cycle is the ultimate example of recycling, that water could have been sipped by George Washington or even splashed in by a dinosaur. So that’s kind of fun to think about.”

Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark,” a podcast, celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions as we disciple our children and help them to follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you would like to join my mailing list and get notifications when I post a new blog post or a new podcast, you can sign up on my website at TerrieHellardBrown.com. I would love to have you join my mailing list. I promise not to overwhelm your inbox, but I do hope to bless you. That is my goal. With all that I do on this podcast, my goal is that you would be blessed and inspired and encouraged. And when you sign up, you also have access to some free items that only people on the mailing list have access to. One of the main items is a phoneme book for your children. And it’s a coloring book, so you can print it out, and they can color and then you can bind it and laminate it or whatever you want to do to make it last for your family for years. It covers all the basic phonemes in the English language. Be sure to share this podcast with your friends, especially if they’re new parents and are wanting to disciple their children and help them to know more about what it means to live the Christian life. As you know, we share a lot of books about discipleship and parenting along with wonderful picture books and board books that you can share with your children. We appreciate the share, and hopefully your friends will appreciate you sharing with them.

Your Host:

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.

For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *