Tag Archives: science

GLOBAL BOOK REVIEWS

Picture Books About Science

Here are some fabulous new, and not so new, titles to use as tools in the classroom with students while studying science. 

When Elephants Listen With Their Feet by Emmanuelle Grundmann is a brand new title that looks at animals’ senses. A 40 page picture book, it has attractive art and lots of text boxes to encourage curious, budding biologists. From fish that pass gas to communicate to the taste buds of pigs and everything in between, this book is full of fascinating facts about senses. ISBN 978-1-77278-123-6

It’s About Time, Pascale Estellon.From one second to one century, this book teaches young children about time. Combining information with activities, it touches on clocks, how to tell time, on calendars and seasons. 

ISBN 978-1-77147-006-3

Putting a whole different slant on telling time is the new release Once Upon An Hour byAnn Yu-Kyung Choi and Soyeon Kim. This bedtime picture book is based on the tradtional Korean practise of timekeeping with the 12 animals of the zodiac assigned to a section each of the 24 hour clock. 

ISBN 978-4598-2127-9

50 Climate Questions, Peter Christie, with fun art by Ross Kinnaird, poses an, often funny, question on each page with the answer chockful of information from ice ages to today, including temperatures, weather, greenhouse gasses and global warming. Besides questions, the book also has answers on how we can change our ways.

ISBN 978-1-55451-374-1

In a similar vein, but for older readers, Paul Fleischmann looks – in his book Eyes Wide Open – at the politics and psychology behind environmental headlines. Besides opening eyes to issues such as reducing carbon emissions, the book brings awareness of differences in media coverage of the issues. Great for (highschool) classroom discussions.

ISBN 978-0-7636-7545-5

Design Like Nature, Kim Woolcock and Megan Clendenan is another brand new, fabulous title in the important Orca Footprints series. Its subtitle is ‘Biomimicry for a Healthy Planet’. This book explains that humans design buildings and cities that change the environment. But what if we designed like nature, learning to design stronger, better, brighter and more sustainable by using nature’s examples? From solar power to natural dyes, from bullet trains to medicine this book looks at reducing our footprint and making the impossible, possible by learning from nature.

ISBN 978-1-4598-2464-5

For budding marine scientists, the book Orcas Everywhere by Mark Leiren-Young is a valuable resource. Exploring the ‘Mystery and History of Killer Whales’ this book has great photos and facts on all aspects of orcas: a look at aquariums, hunting skills, communication as well as what we can do to protect these valuable mammals of the sea.

ISBN 978-1-4598-1998-6

Science as a Political Statement

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I had the honour of meeting with a group of scientists from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this summer, and I can tell you that it’s no secret within the organization that using the term ‘transgender’ in your budget proposal this year doesn’t fare well for funding prospects. This isn’t necessarily a brand new barrier; deciding what gets studied (and published) has always been a matter of politics, often favouring the dominant narrative and priorities of those in power (not typically transgender people).

Harvard palaeontologist, Stephen J. Gould, writes in his thought-provoking book, The Mismeasure of Man[1], about a history of “scientists” using the platform of their profession to further political agendas. For example, 19th century Europeans conducted “studies” attempting to prove the fallacy that certain races are genetically superiour. Gould explains the ways that bias and falsification can turn “biological evidence” into dangerously misleading “facts”, and how readily these distortions may become justification for discrimination. While we like to think of science as apolitical, it isn’t. What we decide to study/fund/publish is driven by the values of those in charge of bringing research to light[2]. Gould makes a case that power maintains itself through science.

The Washington Post this week reported that the Trump administration is prohibiting CDC officials from including some specific words on budget proposals: vulnerable, entitlement, diversity, transgender, fetus, evidence-based, and science-based. There was no explanation accompanying the announcement, so the CDC and the rest of us are left guessing why. The mission of the CDC is to, “Protect America from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and in the U.S.” The organization covers all things health-related from general well-being to very specific, urgent zika virus research, and pretty much everything in between. (They also host an extensive resource on traveler’s health.)

According to the Washington Post article, in lieu of the terms ‘evidence-based’ or ‘science-based’, CDC analysts have been told to use the phrase: “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes”. Which community does this refer to, I wonder? Probably not the transgender community – just a guess. While I understand that a political administration has some leverage within U.S. public organizations, I would also hope that the professionals in charge of carrying out their mission to protect the health and safety of a nation are encouraged to do so in a way that is both evidence-based and science-based, not discriminatory or politically-motivated.

May educators everywhere continue to teach their students about the scientific method, about the pitfalls of biases, about the critical importance of reliable and valid results, and about the inclusion of underrepresented populations. Perhaps the CDC of today is being dissuaded from working on such projects, but I hope that our current students, when they are professionals in their fields around the world, will gain attention and funding for their studies about populations that are vulnerable, issues of diversity, transgender people, and other under-researched topics, and that they may do so openly using evidence-based and science-based methods.

[1] Gould, S. J. (1981). The Mismeasure of man. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.

[2] Suhay, E. & Druckman, J. N. (2015). The Politics of science. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 658(1), 6-15.