Make Your Book Club STEM-sational!
Written by: Jen Stewart
Occasionally my school will do something crazy like ask the STEM teacher to lead an after school book club. Occasionally I do something crazy, like agree to lead said book club. This year’s book was Restart by Gordon Korman, and instead of taking the traditional book club approach, I decided to put my own STEM-esque spin on club time with my young readers.
If you are unfamiliar with the book, Restart is about a boy who falls off the roof of his house and gets amnesia. As he gains his memory back, he learns he isn’t quite the person he thought he was. Great coming of age topics like bullying, friendships, and family relationships are addressed. There is a wealth of material for classroom or book club study. Restart also lends itself to some great STEM activities. One session we focused on the brain. We researched how the brain controls the body, how memory works, and what happens when a person has amnesia. The students were fascinated (and a little grossed out) by their new knowledge. One student recorded on our message board they discovered the brain was “weird and wonderful.” Another student said their brain was “squishy and smart.” While a third said they “had no idea their brain worked like that.” In another session, instead of just focussing on bullying, we looked at the specific problem of the role of technology and bullying. There is a great interactive Nearpod presentation that is ready-made that walks students through dealing with cyberbullying. You can also have students share what they think cyberbullying looks like to them. (Where do they see it? Who is involved?) When they recognize cyberbullying, what should they do? Help students brainstorm ways to report cyberbullying to a trusted adult. The Stop Bullying website is a great resource for information on cyberbullying and prevention. For our last session, readers made new book covers and recorded book reviews using green screens, remove.bg, and iMovie. Flipgrid, Clips, and DoInk are other apps that also work well for recording and editing book reviews. Readers were able to express their feelings in a less traditional way than a written book report. Throughout our Restart journey, we used other tools like hyperdocs and community message boards to keep track of what we were learning and our discoveries. These were always accessible to the students in our online learning platform so they could ask each other questions or record thoughts outside of club time. Some quick ideas for using STEM activities in your book club or book study:
Space & Science
Any books that have a space, time travel, or sci-fi themes can easily be made into STEM reading club books. Elementary and intermediate students have a great curiosity about the universe and the whys and hows of the world around them.
Other easy adaptations are books that involve wizards or magic. The Harry Potter series lends itself to so many activities from learning about circuits and making light-up wands to growing your own Mandrake plants!
Incorporating STEM activities into a book club or integrating them into your regular classroom literature studies is a fun and engaging way to make interdisciplinary connections, bring some new ideas into your classroom, and quite possibly hook a non-reader along the way.
Books with sports teams or athletes as main characters can become starting points for lessons and activities about the physics, kinesiology, nutrition, and science of sports.
Mysteries and suspense
Older intermediate students who are starting to read mysteries and suspense might enjoy a visit from a local police detective or a forensic scientist. Young detectives can learn about fingerprinting, and maybe even try their hand at solving a classroom “crime.” As with all lessons, the books chosen and activities should be set up with the age and maturity of your students in mind.
I am a planner, so I like having all of the sessions planned out ahead of time. Some books might lend themselves more to the inquiry process where students ask questions about what they are reading and as they go and that can guide how your book club is set up. Incorporating STEM activities into a book club or integrating them into your regular classroom literature studies is a fun and engaging way to make interdisciplinary connections, bring some new ideas into your classroom, and quite possibly hook a non-reader along the way.