Yes, we like our own book, but there are others out there to consider! Here are a few that have come onto my radar lately…
My Mommy is an Engineer
Kerrine Bryan published her children’s book after she got fed up wth gender stereo types in careers portrayed to kids. She commented that she fell into engineering by chance, but now is an ambassador and speaks to students about it:
I found that there was a negative perception, particularly by women, of what engineering involved, which often changed once I spoke to them.
I felt that if we could change the perception of certain careers from a young age then this could have an impact on study / career choices later in life. Gender bias also starts at a young age. Many existing children’s books only cover a small range of careers such as doctors, nurses, firemen or train drivers, and sadly often with gender bias. By exposing them to a wider range of options with our books, I felt that this could help with future skills gap and gender bias issues.
The Story of Space
The Guardian highlights a book about space:
From the oceans to the cosmos: The Story of Space (Frances Lincoln) by Catherine Barr and Steve Williams is boosted into orbit by Amy Husband’s illustrations, ably straddling the divide between humour and wonder.
The Baby Biochemist: DNA
Meanwhile Margot Alesund earned her PhD in biochemistry and worked as a bench scientist in industry, but after her daughter was born she took a career break. She realized many basic models in her field were easily illustrated and explained to kids, so “The Baby Biochemist” series was born!
Yes, you read that right. There’s a new Barbie in town. Barbie STEM kit (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math) offers a mini-skirt wearing technician—flagging up the first problem—who only fixes or builds domestic appliances.
Professional women have argued that the domestic context of the new Barbie reinforces the idea that a woman’s focus is and should be the home. The toy’s maker, Thames & Kosmos, counters that children at that age mostly know about things they find in their own houses, so the domestic focus is age-appropriate. However this argument doesn’t seem to hold when considering toys for boys, routinely featuring racing cars, farm tractors, and jets or spaceships.
Tereza Pultarova, reporting on the Barbie for The Institute for Engineering and Technology, notes that in the UK only 9% of engineers are women, the lowest proportion in Europe. If Engineer Barbie can encourage more girls to take an engineer’s path, does it matter that she wears a mini skirt? Should engineering necessarily take away a woman or girl’s femininity? Perhaps one thing we can all agree on – we need more diverse and creative toys to encourage STEM skills among girls.
Following on our post about digital games for the outdoors, we wanted to mention that a favorite local maker group has a great new mover kit. Technology Will Save Us makes a number of kits, plus hosts great workshops for families around London. (We trialled electronic play dough and little bits, an electrical lego-like toy, at one of their workshops a while back).
The mover kit is particularly interesting because it first engages kids in making a wearable (digital tech that you wear), then by the nature of its function, it motivates kids to get out and move around. Movement triggers light displays from the ‘mover.’ You can order the kit online from their website.
I saw a great article over on Forbes by Chad Orzel, a physics professor and author. He reported on the idea of not just talking about science with kids, but actually doing science with your kids. He gives the example of his daughter who read that a person is about 1% taller in the morning than in the evening…so they experimented and measured Chad a.m. and p.m. And guess what! It’s true! They were able to determine a 0.73% difference. He comments,
I mention this not because it’s a particularly impressive experimental achievement, but precisely because it’s not a particularly impressive experimental achievement. It needed a tape measure, a stepstool, and remembering to re-measure my height the next morning. But both of the kids were really excited by the whole idea.
It’s just one example of taking opportunities to measure and experiment with simple things. Noted–a “weird science facts” book for 7 year olds can be helpful. See the full article.