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The Big Blog of Seasonal STEM Books

seasonal stem

These seasonal STEM books are a great starting point for STEM learning. Use them to find out more about real-world STEM and perhaps even inspire an activity!

Simply scroll down to the Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter sections to find out more about each book. Click on the image to find the book on Amazon.

SPRING

SUMMER

AUTUMN

WINTER

 

Have we missed a great seasonal book? Comment below and we’ll add it on.

Career-Based Learning: how young is ‘too young’?

 

What did you dream of being when you grew up? A footballer? A vet? A popstar? Ask this question to a class of children today and you may even have ‘vlogger’ or social media influencer thrown into the mix. New research published in January 2020 by the charity Education and Employers found that career aspirations are shaped early, from as young as seven. The report also found a disconnect between the careers children aspire to have and the demand in the UK economy.

Children form their career aspirations from an early age. What we don’t always appreciate is how set these views become while they’re still in primary school. The older children get, the harder their aspirations become to challenge. Crucially, children often aspire to do jobs that they are exposed to. This could be the jobs their parents do or those they’ve seen on the TV and elsewhere in the media. A child could be fascinated by insects but if they’ve never met or heard of a naturalist or an entomologist, how could they possibly aspire to be one?

As educators, we see the passions, talents and skills of the children we educate. However, we can’t expect them to know how to put these to use. A child might have a flair for science but the only careers they might know in science are a doctor, science teacher and a scientist. If they can’t see themselves in one of those jobs then it’s easy to lose engagement with the subject. Career-based learning helps children to make real-world links between what they’re being taught in lessons and the world of work. Through career-based learning we can not only challenge early perceptions and stereotypes, we can also widen career aspirations.

Giving children activities that expose them to the world of work from an early age isn’t daft, it’s helping to give them the best start in preparing for their futures. As soon as children are learning in school, they should be thinking about why they are learning it and where it could be put to use.

Here are a few things you can do to promote career-based learning in your primary school:

Bring in professionals

Invite visitors in to speak to the children about their careers. Putting a note in the school newsletter for interested parents/carers is a great place to start You could also reach out to local businesses, universities, museums or the STEM Ambassador scheme. Where possible, try to challenge children’s stereotypes. For example, meeting a female engineer or a male nurse could go a long way to changing perceptions. If it’s a struggle to fit visitors in to an already fit-to-burst timetable, consider introducing them in the form of a monthly whole-school ‘career assembly’.

Look to the future

While the future is unknowable, there are certain trends and scenarios that give us clues as to what the world of work will look like when the young people we teach enter it. For example, we’re likely to see an increase in applications of artificial intelligence, manufacturing innovation, construction and in improved transportation. We can also predict global challenges in areas including climate change, clean growth, the aging population and the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Keep abreast of new developments and discuss them with your class.

Make real-world links

We can all relate to sitting in a lesson thinking ‘what’s the point in learning about this? How is this ever going to be useful to me?’ Pre-empt this by making learning relevant to the children’s lives and giving it a real-world purpose. This could simply be by having a discussion at the start of a new area of maths learning about how we might use it in everyday life, or it might be by giving the class a problem-solving activity with a real-world context.

Begin with a question

Introduce learning with a real-life problem or question. For example, ‘how can we provide shelter for people after natural disasters?’ Then stand back and let the children explore their own ideas and research the problem further, supporting where needed with additional instructions. Link the learning to conceptually similar careers, which, in the example given could be architect or environmental engineer. Introducing different careers through this kind of enquiry-based approach not only contextualises learning but may well sow the seed for inspiring the future generation into a range of in-demand UK industries.

You can read the full report here: https://www.educationandemployers.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Disconnected-Career-aspirations-and-jobs-in-the-UK-1.pdf

Sweetie STEM

Sweetie STEM - Children Engagement

We all know what a struggle it can be to get children to engage with a concept, particularly when we only have a pencil and paper to help us explain it. The more hands-on we can make it, the better. So…

What better way to get children’s engagement than to use sweets?

Here are a few activity ideas that you can complete with a pack of colourful sweeties. For example, Skittles or Smarties would work well. These activities help to bring learning to life, give the learning a purpose and, perhaps most importantly of all, you get to eat the sweets at the end!

Data Handling

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To begin, take your sweets and sort them by colour. Using a few packets together helps to create a larger sample size for your data handling. Younger children will enjoy ordering them into a simple pictograph, illustrating which colour is represented the most. Older children can instead represent this information in a bar chart. If you’re looking for a further challenge, move on to creating a pie chart, calculating the fractions and percentages of each colour. You could also compare your sweetie data with a partner, considering the following questions:

  • What do you notice about your graph?
  • Was there an even distribution of colours across the packets?
  • Which two colours have the maximum difference between them?

Shape, Space and Measure

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Estimating and Comparing: Before you open the packet, estimate how many sweets you think will be inside it, including how many of each colour. Then open it up and find out if your estimation was correct! It’s interesting to compare packets, exploring whether there is an even distribution of each colour. Older children could calculate the ratios of different colours.

2D Shapes: Younger children could arrange their sweets to create different 2D shapes, as shown in the photo above. They could then count how many sweets fit into each shape. Another activity could be to create symmetrical patterns with the sweeties, or even to create half a symmetrical pattern for a partner to complete. Just be careful your fingers don’t get to warm and melt the coating off the sweets!

Number patterns: This is a really fun way of exploring patterns! Begin a sequence for your child to complete, discussing what the pattern is and how they knew what colours to add next.

Symmetry

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This activity is really easy to resource and the results are always amazing to watch! Arrange your sweets in a symmetrical pattern around a plate, pour warm water into the middle and watch the coating on the sweets diffuse, creating a beautiful pattern in the water.

Share how you got on with these activities in the comments below and add any other sweetie related STEM activity ideas. 

How do you make clear ice cubes?

how do you make clear ice cubes

When it comes to making ice cubes I suspect we all have a similar technique: run the cold tap, fill up the ice cube moulds with cold water, pop in the freezer for a few hours and then remove as needed. In doing this, have you ever stopped to notice that the ice cubes you create are cloudy? In fact, they may well look like these images below:

Which got me thinking….

ice cube questions

The answer is simple and it has a lot to do with both the temperature of the water used to create the ice cubes and the way that the ice is frozen.To demonstrate this I’ve conducted a little experiment.

The Experiment

STEP 1: Take an ice cube tray and fill it with two different temperatures of water. Fill half the tray with water taken directly from the cold tap. Meanwhile the other half of the tray is filled with boiling water, straight from the kettle. Note: recently boiled water rather than water from the hot tap is best for demonstrating this. Adult supervision will be needed when trying this activity with children.

STEP 2: Carefully place your tray on a flat surface in the freezer. Make sure you’ve made a note of which end contains hot water and which contains cold!

STEP 3: Leave for a few hours, then remove and pop the ice cubes out to see the results!

 

What Are We Learning?

Boiling removes air bubbles from the liquid, allowing the water molecules to stick together even harder in the freezer. Removing these air bubbles also reduces the risk of the ice cube cracking or breaking into smaller pieces, meaning your drink stays colder for longer!

When we place the ice cube tray into the freezer, the water in the ice cube tray freezes at the outside of the cube first. This is the first part to cool down in the cold air of your freezer. As the water freezes, it pushes any impurities into the unfrozen part of the water. This means that any cloudiness is pushed to the centre of the ice cube as this is the final area to freeze. One way to counteract this is to use a technique called ‘directional freezing’ where the ice is frozen on one side first so all the cloudiness is pushed in the same direction. For example, if you freeze the ice from the top downwards then the cloudiness is pushed to the bottom, where it can then be chipped off to create a perfectly clear ice cube.

Next time you’re out at a restaurant, take a look at the ice cubes in your drink to see how clear they are!

 

Origami and STEM

origami and stem

There’s something about origami that really seems to capture children’s imagination. In most of the classes that I have taught over the years, there has been at least one child with a real passion for origami. Many a show-and-tell has been dominated by incredible paper-folding creations, from water bombs to paper dragons. Think back to your own school days; which of these origami classics do you remember creating?

Origami is the ancient art of Japanese paper folding and for many, a love of origami stems from childhood. As much as we might marvel at this paper art-form, do we see its potential beyond an interesting pastime? Origami has evolved to be much more than paper folding. Here are some examples, with real-world applications within areas such as engineering, medicine and technology.

origami and maths

At a primary school level, origami is a fantastic way to explore mathematical concepts including geometry, fractions and angles. Turning a simple square of paper into a piece of completed origami involves a lot of mathematical thinking. Origami instructions involve following steps of folds, often referred to as ‘crease patterns’, in order to create different geometric constructions. Children will need to use knowledge of directionality and angles in order to complete these correctly. Throughout the process they will create other shapes starting from a square including equilateral triangles, pentagons and hexagons. Patterns also feature heavily in origami.

The TED talk above, entitled ‘The math and magic of origami‘ explains in more detail about the complex mathematics involved in origami.origami and engineering

Many of the real-world applications for origami can be found within engineering. Take the example of car airbags. Did you know that their compact, quick inflating design was inspired by origami? Engineers took inspiration from origami patterns and folding methods to deploy how the airbag is stored and deployed. Engineers are continuing to draw upon origami techniques when developing new structures and technologies.

origami and medicine

In 2003, a new, origami-inspired heart stent design was created. Designed around an origami water bomb base, the purpose of the stent was to enlarge clogged arteries and veins. The origami design allows the stent to be expanded to different sizes depending on its application. Likewise, origami-inspired forceps are helping to revolutionise robotic surgery, allowing for delicate, precise cuts.

origami and space

There are plenty of examples of origami-inspired space technology. One such is the solar array. The combination of different folds expands into a large, flat circular surface. These solar arrays can then be used to convert solar energy into electrical power. More examples of how NASA engineers use origami to design future spacecraft can be found here:

 

And all this is just the start! I hope this blog has inspired you to find out more about the real-world applications of origami. Do let me know your thoughts and further ideas via social media or in the comments section below.

10 ways to nurture children’s STEM skills this summer

10 ways to nurture children's STEM skills this summer

Here we are, just days into the holidays, a long summer with the family stretching out in front of you. One thought is beginning to weigh heavily on your mind: ‘How on earth am I going to keep my children entertained?’ It’s all very well leaving them to their own devices but it doesn’t take long before the novelty of lie-ins, endless screen time and lack of routine wears off and you hear them utter those dreaded words: ‘I’m bored!’

Keeping children amused in the holidays is a daunting prospect for many parents and keeping the cost down even more so. However, the summer holidays are a golden opportunity for children to explore, learn new skills and put their learning into a real-world context. What’s more, nurturing your child’s natural curiosity and creativity is an excellent way to broaden their horizons and shape their future aspirations.

Recent research by the charity Education and Employers shows that children form their perceptions about careers and jobs at an early age, developing their future ambitions from as young as seven. However, making a connection between primary school lessons and the jobs they might one day pursue is not easy. This research also shows that there is a major disconnect between the careers that primary-aged children are most interested in and those that the economy needs.

STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) related industries are some of the fastest growing and demand for skilled workers is only set to grow. From robotics to caring for our environment, space exploration to the digital revolution, these disciplines have an impact that can already be seen in every aspect of our lives. Preparation for STEM careers is not just a matter of imparting hard knowledge, but nurturing ‘soft skills’ such as teamwork and problem solving. Fortunately, STEM activities and soft skills go hand-in-hand.

Here are ten quick, easy ways to nurture a love of STEM this summer. They won’t break the bank, and might just prevent those dreaded words… ‘I’m bored!’

Go on a nature walk

Nature walks are a fantastic way to unwind and appreciate the natural world outside. Spend time searching for minibeasts like beetles and ants in different habitats, using a magnifying glass to take a closer look. Alternatively, look for naturally occurring patterns, from the symmetry of a butterfly’s wings to the spirals in a snail’s shell or the tessellation in tree bark. The natural world is full of patterns!

blow some bubbles

Have a go at creating a 2D shape bubble wand by cutting straws into quarters and bending pipe cleaners through them to join the straw segments together. For more of a challenge, create a 3D shape bubble wand. Cubes and pyramid shapes work particularly well for this. Then dip your bubble wand into soapy water, take a good look at your bubble and then blow it away!

Enjoy a local adventure

Take a trip to a local museum or zoo. This is a great way to not only bring learning to life but also to meet experts in different fields. What’s more, many museums run free events and workshops for children throughout the summer holidays. Look up locations near you for more information.

Get puzzling

Play puzzles and games. Activities such as Sudoku and chess are great for developing logical thinking, an important skill in STEM subjects. Construction toys such as Lego help to develop spatial awareness. Anything involving dice is great for developing mathematical skills.

Make a stick raft

Challenge your child to create a raft out of natural materials. Sticks, joined together with twine are perfect for this and a leaf can make an excellent flag. Then test your raft in a bowl of water or stream to see if it floats!

Appreciate the night sky

Try your hand at a spot of stargazing on a clear evening. There are lots of free apps available for download to help you navigate the sky above you. For a closer look at the stars, locate a free star gazing event near you. The ‘Go Stargazing’ website is a great place to start.

Create a junk modelling masterpiece

It’s amazing what can be constructed out of the contents of a recycle bin. Cardboard tubes such as those found on kitchen and toilet roll can be taped to a wall to create a marble run. Vary the angles of the tubes to create different speeds of travel. Another idea could be to create a moving vehicle or boat out of junk modelling materials.

Fix something

Find out how things work. For example, try taking a simple mechanical toy apart and reassembling it again (steering clear of electrical items). As you do so, discuss the function of all the different parts.

Construct a newspaper tower

Challenge your child to create the tallest freestanding tower that they can out of newspaper. Sticky tape works best for joining the structure together. You could make this competitive by setting a timer to see who can build the tallest tower in the allotted time: you or your child?

Set off on a scavenger hunt

Give your child a list of ten things to find in the natural world. Ideas that work well are a list of colours, textures, shapes or smells. They can tick items off the list once found or even take a photo of them as evidence.

 

For each of these activities, you can discuss their relations to different sorts of jobs. For example, a newspaper tower could be connected to the role of a civil engineer or architect; the nature walk to the job of a biologist or forester; the junk modelling to the job of a design engineer. Plan these activities into your summer holidays and perhaps you might just plant some seeds for future ambitions in the process.

For more STEM activities and ideas, order your copy of 15-Minute STEM here.

15-minute STEM

8 ways to teach robotics

 

robotics

“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”

– Malcolm X

In the fast paced digital world in which we live, barely a week goes by without the release of a new device or app. The children of today have grown up with this digital revolution and rely heavily on technology for entertainment, communication and information. As we look ahead it would be foolish to underestimate the impact that technology, automation and artificial intelligence will have on the future workplace. From driverless cars to robotics, the world is changing fast. The question is:

Are we teaching children the the skills they need to prepare them for the technological advances of the future?

Plus, with school budgets stretched to the limit, how can we provide forward-thinking technology education on a budget? We’ve put together a few ideas linked to the world of robotics…

Bee-Bots

These colourful programmable floor robots are a great way to teach directionality, programming and sequencing and are perfect for the 5-11 age range. A great way to begin is by marking out simple routes for the Bee-Bot to follow. For example, try sticking masking tape onto carpet to create a maze. Once children have got to grips with this, challenge them to devise and program and debug their own more complex routes. Currently retailing for £57.94 here on Amazon.co.uk

Lego Mindstorms

Lego Mindstorms

This educational program helps children to design, program and control robotic creatures, vehicles, machines and inventions. Lego is combined with programmable brick, motors and sensors, so you can make your creations walk, talk, grab, think, shoot and do almost anything you can imagine! These kits are on the pricier side at around £270 here but once purchased can be used again and again.

Lego WeDo

This resource is developed for primary aged children as an introduction to control technology and programming using robotics. The software is clear and intuitive for young children and comes in the form of an app. Click on their website here to find out more and download sample software and curriculum packs for free.

Raspberry Pi

This is a small, affordable computer that you can use for programming. Use it to learn to program with Scratch. You can kit yourself out with a Raspberry Pi here for around £36. Then head to their website to learn how to use this device in the classroom and take advantage of their free online training.

Sphero

These ping pong ball sized robotic balls can be controlled by an app and can even use facial recognition technology to drive the ball. They contain LED lights to allow them to glow many colours. The app is quick and intuitive for children to use. They’ll love navigating their Sphero around mazes and obstacles. Currently retailing for £49.99 here on Amazon.co.uk

Vex Robotics

Each kit comes with step-by-step instructions to build and program your robot. Kits include robotic arms, catapults and zip flyers. Each kits varies in price with the hydraulic robotic arm (pictured) currently retailing for £33.49 here on Amazon.co.uk

Scratch

Scratch allows the user to program their own interactive stories, games and animations. These programming skills are likely to come in hand in the future as the ‘language of robotics’. What’s more, you can connect and program hardware such as Raspberry Pi and Lego Mindstorms through Scratch. If you’re not already familiar with this fab free software then click here to find out.

nasa robotics

Nasa Robotics

The Nasa Robotics website is full of fantastic free resources for educators and children. This includes lesson plans and examples of how robots such as the Mars Exploration Rover have been used in space. Check it out here.

 Have you used a good robotics resource that we haven’t included? If so then comment below.

Teaching Soft Skills Through STEM

teaching soft skills through stem education

The Prince’s Trust recently surveyed teachers, parents and pupils to ask them about the place of soft skills in education. Their Results for Life report (see here) was published in September, and found that:

  • 43% of young people don’t feel prepared to enter the workforce, with 43% of those who feel this way believing their soft skills are not good enough
  • More than a quarter of teachers (27%) think that their students don’t yet have all the soft skills required to do well after school
  • 72% of workers felt they didn’t have all the soft skills to do well in their role when they started working

These findings are nothing new. For years we’ve seen reports telling us how employers value soft skills over technical knowledge in graduates and how soft skills are the main deficit in new graduates’ capabilities.

So what are soft skills and why are they so important?

Hard skills are the teachable abilities that we measure in schools such as reading, writing and mathematics. By contrast, soft skills are harder to quantify and tend to be self-developed. Examples are communication, teamwork, time management, resilience and problem solving. The Results For Life report concludes that such skills are considered to be as important to achieving success in life as good grades, by young people, teachers and workers alike. Whilst hard skills are indispensable, it is soft skills that help candidates stand out from the crowd and succeed in both the workplace and in life. Some employers claim to value them even more than professional experience. These soft skills often carry greater weight when applying for positions of leadership; I’m sure we can all think of a person in a position of leadership who has achieved this more for their exceptional soft skills than their technical abilities.

What can schools do to develop soft skills?

In his foreword to the ‘I CAN’ ‘Skills for Work, Skills for Life’ report (see here) Bob Reitemeier wrote that

despite recent attention from business and education sectors recognising the role soft skills play in work-readiness, the skills gap continues – with young people being overlooked because they lack this core skill set’.

With an education system focused on quantifiable academic success it’s no surprise that soft skills are pushed aside. Young people in the UK are under great pressure to succeed in exams, and spend an increasing amount of time working independently, often with a fear of criticism and failure. As a result, development of soft skills like team working and spoken communication can take a back seat; yet such associated qualities such as humility and self-confidence can improve the overall academic performance that we care so much about. It’s clearly time for schools to integrate the development of soft skills into the curriculum. One way of doing this is through science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

Boosting soft skills through STEM Education

STEM-related careers are one of the fastest growing areas of employment and STEM graduates are in a position to earn some of the highest starting salaries. Soft skills are increasingly required in these industries, in particular communication, teamwork, self-organisation and critical thinking. Done well, STEM activities can also be a way of developing soft skills.

Take a recent primary school STEM project. The year six children arrived at school to a crime scene: their school trophy had been stolen and the culprit had left a trail of destruction in their wake. Over the course of the week, the children collaborated together to solve the crime, classifying fingerprints, predicting the height of the criminal from their footprints, using paper chromatography to analyse written evidence and building up a profile of the criminal. They were visited by a policeman and a forensic scientist, found out about their roles in solving crimes, and ended the week by interviewing the suspects and successfully identifying the culprit.

The example above uses an interdisciplinary, project-based learning approach to teaching, based on solving real-world problems. It ticks a lot of boxes in terms of developing the soft skills our young people need. As with many STEM activities, it also involves a certain level of trial and error. However, these setbacks also teach important soft skills, helping children to develop the resilience and perseverance needed in life. One criticism from employees against our education system is that graduates are not adept at problem-solving, expecting to be told what to do rather than figuring it out themselves. STEM education is one way to combat this. When participating in STEM projects, children must learn to work in a team, listen to each other and communicate their ideas to others.

Young people recognise they need better soft skills, employers expect them, and teachers want to deliver them: better STEM education has been on the agenda for a long time, and by focusing on a real-world, problem-based approach, we can get enhanced soft skills into the bargain too.

Our top 10 space books for 7-11yrs

top 10 space books 7-11yrs

If you’re preparing to blast off into space, you’ll probably want to take a good book. The same can be said if you’re about to embark on a space topic. Luckily for you we’ve got plenty of books to recommend. The books in this list are suitable for 7-11yr olds. To see our recommendations for 4-7yr olds click here.

Ready… steady…. blast off!

10. The Astronauts Handbook

Astronaut's Handbook

SUGGESTED AGE: 7+ years

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: Discover how you become an astronaut, the training you must undertake, how you travel into space and what you do when you’re up there. With a foreword from ESA astronaut Tim Peake, the first British astronaut to embark on a mission to the International Space Station. Published in association with the UK Space Agency.

For Amazon.co.uk click here             For Amazon.com click here

9. Older Than The Stars

SUGGESTED AGE: 7+ years

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: How old are you? Older than you think. In a way, we are all as old as the universe itself. In fact, every bit of every one of us was created in the Big Bang, billions of years ago. Stunning illustrations and lively verse tell the story of the cosmic connections that tie human beings to the beginning of the universe. Simple, informative prose provides additional facts.

For Amazon.co.uk click here               For Amazon.com click here

8. Margaret and the Moon

Margaret and the Moon

SUGGESTED AGE: 6-9 years

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: Margaret Hamilton loved numbers as a young girl. She knew how many miles it was to the moon (and how many back). She loved studying algebra and geometry and calculus and using math to solve problems in the outside world. Soon math led her to MIT and then to helping NASA put a man on the moon! She handwrote code that would allow the spacecraft’s computer to solve any problems it might encounter. Apollo 8. Apollo 9. Apollo 10. Apollo 11. Without her code, none of those missions could have been completed.

For Amazon.co.uk click here              For Amazon.com click here

7. Pluto’s Secret

Pluto's Secret

SUGGESTED AGE: 6-10 years

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: People, children especially, have been baffled, bewildered, and even outraged by the fact that Pluto is no longer called a planet. Through whimsical artwork and an entertaining dialogue format, Pluto’s Secret explains the true story of this distant world. Providing a history of the small, icy world from its discovery and naming to its recent reclassification, this book presents a fascinating look at how scientists organise and classify our solar system as they gain new insights into how it works and what types of things exist within it. The book includes a glossary and bibliography.

For Amazon.co.uk click here              For Amazon.com click here

6. Cool Astronomy

Cool Astronomy

SUGGESTED AGE: 7+ years

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: 50 fun, simple and entertaining ways to improve your understanding of astronomy for kids of all ages! Discover how telescopes are made, learn about invisible light and study the scale of the universe in a way you’ll never forget! The follow-up to the popular Cool Science and Cool Maths, also by Portico. Inside this mega-jam-packed book are fifty fact-tastic ways to advance and improve your astronomy skills so you’ll never feel alone in the universe again! Learn amazing space-related tricks such as how to watch a solar eclipse safely and mapping stars from your own back garden, right down to expertly simplifying the supermassive numbers and distances involved in the space between space so you’ll never forget them! With Cool Astronomy, you’ll discover everything you need to know about the universe, from Asteroids to Zubenelgenubi… and almost everything in between!

For Amazon.co.uk click here               For Amazon.com click here

5. Women In Space

Women In Space

SUGGESTED AGE: 7+ years

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: Women in Space profiles 23 pioneers, including Eileen Collins, the first woman to command the space shuttle; Peggy Whitson, who logged more than a year in orbit aboard the International Space Station; and Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space; as well as astronauts from Japan, Canada, Italy, South Korea, France, and more. Readers will also learn about the Mercury 13, American women selected by NASA in the late 1950s to train for spaceflight. Though they matched and sometimes surpassed their male counterparts in performance, they were ultimately denied the opportunity to head out to the launching pad. Their story, and the stories of the pilots, physicists, and doctors who followed them, demonstrate the vital role women have played in the quest for scientific understanding.

IDEAS FOR USE: Read this book and then check out our profiles of some of the women featured, using them as a basis for further research.

For Amazon.co.uk click here                For Amazon.com click here

4. A Users Guide to the Universe

A User's Guide to the Universe

SUGGESTED AGE: 10+ years

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: Answers to science’s most enduring questions from “Can I break the light-speed barrier like on Star Trek?” and “Is there life on other planets?” to “What is empty space made of?” This is an indispensable guide to physics that offers readers an overview of the most popular physics topics written in an accessible, irreverent, and engaging manner while still maintaining a tone of wry skepticism. Even the novice will be able to follow along, as the topics are addressed using plain English and (almost) no equations. Veterans of popular physics will also find their nagging questions addressed, like whether the universe can expand faster than light, and for that matter, what the universe is expanding into anyway. Gives a one-stop tour of all the big questions that capture the public imagination including string theory, quantum mechanics, parallel universes, and the beginning of time Explains serious science in an entertaining, conversational, and easy-to-understand way Includes dozens of delightfully groan-worthy cartoons that explain everything from special relativity to Dark Matter Filled with fascinating information and insights, this book will both deepen and transform your understanding of the universe.

For Amazon.co.uk click here            For Amazon.com click here

3. The Night Sky

The Night Sky

SUGGESTED AGE: 8+ years

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: Children eight and up will enjoy this conversational but information-packed introduction to astronomy and stargazing, which includes the achievements of the great scientists, the history of space exploration, the story of our solar system, the myths behind the constellations, and how to navigate the night sky. Whimsical color illustrations on every page and handy definitions and sidebars help engage younger readers and develop their interest. The special star wheel helps locate stars and planets from any location at any time of year. This is the third in Black Dog & Leventhal’s successful series including The Story of the Orchestra and A Child’s Introduction to Poetry.

For Amazon.co.uk click here              For Amazon.com click here

2. Astronomy & Space

Astronomy & Space

SUGGESTED AGE: 5-11yrs

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: A comprehensive guide to the solar system accompanied by mesmerising photography and intricate illustrations. Children can learn about star groups, explore space and follow the Usborne Quicklinks to find out more. A great book to dip in and out of, for homework and for pleasure.

For Amazon.co.uk click here              For Amazon.com click here

1. The Astronaut Instruction Manual

SUGGESTED AGE: 7+ years

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: Endorsed by authors, teachers, and congressman alike, Mike Mongo’s Astronaut Instruction Manual excites a new generation of space explorers. The book, designed for children between the ages of 6 and 13, is a functioning, interactive instruction manual. Using mad-lib-style fill-in-the-blanks, Mongo encourages his readers to articulate and illustrate their own vision of next-generation space travel. The Astronaut Instruction Manual captures a new era of enthusiasm for space exploration, driven in part by new space celebrities (Commander Chris Hadfield, Elon Musk), and in part by a shift in popular interest in space (SpaceX rockets, The Mars Colonial Transporter, Kerbal).”

IDEAS FOR USE: Read this book and then link it to our profiles of inspiring astronauts, using them as a basis for further research.

For Amazon.co.uk click here              For Amazon.com click here

See our space books & apps page for other great books for this age range such as ‘Phoenix’ , ‘George’s Secret Key to the Universe‘, ‘The War of the Worlds‘ and ‘Cosmic‘.

Our top 10 space books for 4-7yrs

top 10 space books 4-7yrs

If you’re preparing to blast off into space, you’ll probably want to take a good book. The same can be said if you’re about to embark on a space topic. Luckily for you we’ve got plenty of books to recommend. The books in this list are suitable for 4-7 year olds. To see our recommendations for 7-11 year olds click here.

Ready… steady…. blast off!

10. The Way Back Home

The Way Back Home

SUGGESTED AGE: 4-8 years

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: When a boy discovers a single-propeller airplane in his closet, he does what any young adventurer would do: He flies it into outer space! Millions of miles from Earth, the plane begins to sputter and quake, its fuel tank on empty. The boy executes a daring landing on the moon… but there’s no telling what kind of slimy, slithering, tentacled, fang-toothed monsters lurk in the darkness! (Plus, it’s dark and lonely out there.) Coincidentally, engine trouble has stranded a young Martian on the other side of the moon, and he’s just as frightened and alone. Martian, Earthling—it’s all the same when you’re in need of a friend.

For Amazon.co.uk click here                  For Amazon.com click here

9. On The Moon

On The Moon

RECOMMENDED AGE: 2-5yrs

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: This is an artist-led picture book, which introduces young children to the vastness of the universe, how far away the moon is, what gravity is and the concept of space travel through a gentle and captivating story about an imaginative little girl. Combining full colour illustrations with NASA photographs from the surface of the moon, this beautifully illustrated picture book takes young children on an amazing journey into outer space. The story’s use of rhythmic text generates an evocative and friendly tale, taking children on a magical and informative journey.

For Amazon.co.uk click here                  For Amazon.com click here

8. There’s No Place Like Space

There's No Place Like Space

SUGGESTED AGE: 5-8 years

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: Au revoir, Pluto! In this newly revised, bestselling backlist title, beginning readers and budding astronomers are launched on a wild trip to visit the now eight planets in our solar system (per the International Astronomical Union’s 2006 decision to downgrade Pluto from a planet to a dwarf planet), along with the Cat in the Hat, Thing One, Thing Two, Dick, and Sally. It’s a reading adventure that’s out of this world!

For Amazon.co.uk click here                  For Amazon.com click here

7. Looking Down

SUGGESTED AGE: 4-8yrs

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: If you were an astronaut traveling far out in space and you looked at the earth, what would you see? A small ball in the huge black universe. That’s where these pictures begin. Then they move closer and closer to the earth, each view revealing new details. Until finally… See for yourself. In this wordless picture book with stunning cut-paper illustrations, Steve Jenkins masterfully depicts the many levels of the universe, from the farthest reaches of space to the most familiar corner of your backyard.

For Amazon.co.uk click here               For Amazon.com click here

6. Goodnight Spaceman

Goodnight Spaceman

SUGGESTED AGE: 3-6yrs

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: Inspired by ESA astronaut Tim Peake and his sons, and featuring an introduction from Tim, this is the perfect bedtime book! Two space-mad little boys get ready for bed and say goodnight to their toy rockets, launch pads and planet mobiles, before being whisked away into space on an adventure beyond their wildest dreams… Tim Peake is the first official British ESA astronaut. He left Earth on 15th December 2015 to begin a six month long mission aboard the International Space Station. His time in space has been watched by millions and he is inspiring a new generation of explorers, adventurers and questioners.

For Amazon.co.uk click here                   For Amazon.com click here

5. Gravity

Gravity

SUGGESTED AGE: 3-7yrs

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: What keeps objects from floating out of your hand? What if your feet drifted away from the ground? What stops everything from rising up into space? Gravity. In this unusual, innovative, and beautiful book, Jason Chin introduces young readers to this fundamental force, taking a complex subject and making it understandable. The perfect book for all young scientists.

For Amazon.co.uk click here                    For Amazon.com click here

4. The Man on the Moon

Man on the Moon

SUGGESTED AGE: 5-8yrs

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: 6:00 a.m. Wake up. Have two eggs for breakfast.
8:00 a.m. Arrive at launchpad. Change into special man-on-the-moon suit.
8:45 a.m. Blast off.
8:58 a.m. Arrive on Moon.
9:00 a.m. Start work.

This is how Bob, the Man on the Moon, begins his day. It’s Bob’s job to entertain the tourists (handstands and high moon jumps are a hit), conduct Moon seminars (how long does it take to walk around the Moon on stilts?), sell souvenirs (pens, postcards – the usual), and keep the Moon clean and neat. Some people say that aliens are the ones who leave all the trash, but Bob tells them aliens don’t exist, and he would know . . . wouldn’t he?

For Amazon.co.uk click here               For Amazon.com click here

3. One Giant Leap

One Giant Leap

SUGGESTED AGE: 4-8 years

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: As a young boy, Neil Armstrong had a recurring dream in which he held his breath and floated high above the people, houses, and cars. He spent his free time reading stacks of flying magazines, building model airplanes, and staring through the homemade telescope mounted on the roof of his neighbour’s garage. As a teenager, Neil became obsessed with the idea of flight, working odd jobs to pay for flying lessons at a nearby airport. He earned his student pilot’s license on his sixteenth birthday. But who was to know that this shy boy, who also loved books and music, would become the first person to set foot on the moon, on July 20, 1969. Here is the inspiring story of one boy’s dream – a dream of flying that landed him more than 200,000 miles away in space, gazing upon the awesome sight of a tiny earth hanging suspended in a perfectly black sky. On the thirtieth anniversary of the moon landing, Don Brown’s expressive story reveals the achievement of this American legend, Neil Armstrong

For Amazon.co.uk click here                  For Amazon.com click here

2. The Darkest Dark

The Darkest Hour

SUGGESTED AGE: 4-7yrs

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: The Darkest Dark is the debut picture book by Commander Chris Hadfield, international bestselling author of An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth and You Are Here, with spectacular illustrations by illustration team The Fan Brothers. Inspired by Chris’s decision to become an astronaut after watching the Apollo 11 moon landing at age nine, The Darkest Dark is an inspiring story about facing your fears and following your dreams.

For Amazon.co.uk click here               For Amazon.com click here

1. See Inside Space

See Inside Space

SUGGESTED AGE: 5-11 years

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: A flap book of astronomical proportions, packed with facts and information about the stars, planets and the universe. Fabulous double-page topics show our solar system, the Milky Way, how scientists think the universe was created and the latest space travel technology.

For Amazon.co.uk click here              For Amazon.com click here