Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Kids' Book of Simple Machines


I was excited to get a review copy of The Kids' Book of Simple Machines by Kelly Doudna. We are starting a Makerspace at our school and I want to extend Genius Hour and #EdCampKids to include more Makerspace type challenges.  The Educator Collaborative MakerSpace Camp was a great experience and really helped me think about revamping. (If you missed it, the keynotes by Laura Fleming and Troy Hicks are available on The Educator Collaborative Youtube Channel. Our school is implementing a schoolwide Makerspace and I am thinking how to incorporate much of the Maker thinking into the classroom.  I think one challenge for me has always been keeping the exploration  fresh while still making sure the students own the inquiry and thinking.  So I am looking for books and resources that might invite students to try something new or to think about new things.

The Kids' Book of Simple Machines is packed with information, projects and activities. I am not usually a fan of "activity" books as the activities often do the thinking instead of letting the child do the thinking but this book is a good combination of things.  The book starts out sharing information about simple machines, giving basic information about the 6 simple machines.   There is lots of text so I am thinking this book works for grades 3-6.   There are lots of great photos so it is inviting and accessible.

One of my favorite sections is the 4 pages on "What You Need". There is a visual list of the items you need to do the activities in the book but the items can be used for so much more. It is a great list of everyday items that can be used to create and explore.

The rest of the book is divided into chapters--each about one simple machine. Each chapter explains the basics of the machine, shows lots of places we see it in everyday life and then give readers projects to try. The projects give kids a way to explore the machine but the part I like best follows the project.  Following each activity or project, there are sections called "Think About It!" or "That's Notable!" or "Push It Further!" These little sections give readers challenges that push thinking and lead kids into new explorations.  I think they can invite good thinking and they are a good model for exploration.

Overall, I am thrilled with this book. I don't see it as one that kids will read cover to cover but it is one that is packed with lots of opportunities for kids to learn by reading, doing and creating.  The content-specific vocabulary is woven into the text in a way that makes it very accessible to kids and the photos are used in a variety of ways so that readers can make sense of the content.

Overall, a great book that I am excited to add to our classroom library!

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