This panel session on STEM in Children's Literature was held on the 17th of October at Queensland Writers Centre and hosted by Book Links QLD as part of their AGM.
The Australian Government is investing money in schools to increase student engagement in STEM subjects.
We need to get kids enthused about these subjects again... but what has this to do with fiction?
Book Links (Qld) hosted a panel discussion on STEM in literature, and it was such an inspiration!
Dr Andrew King, author of the Engibear books explained the need to encourage more kids, and especially more girls, into the area of engineering. Through his books he challenges kids to think about the planning and processes behind building grand structures such as bridges. Andrew's books are big hit with primary school kids!
How can engineering fit into children's fiction?
STEM - TECHNOLOGY
Megan Daley, teacher librarian and book reviewer at Children's Books Daily, explained the intention and benefits to 'make-a-space' projects in schools. Even in early years of primary school, children are learning to code, to create working circuits and to design their own apps. Stories focused on ICT (Information and Communication Technology) are not just appealing to teachers and schools, but include a topic children are comfortable and familiar with. You can go a bit further than just including an iPone in your story, you could provide QR codes for them to scan, or secret coding instructions for them to follow.
STEM - SCIENCE
Facts in fiction. Kids love to know how and why things happen. Sheryl Gwyther is passionate about science and this shows in much of her children's fiction. Sheryl talked about the way you can see kids' brains switch on when you engage them with a story filled with scientific facts. Her Pearson publication, Ali Berber and the Forty Grains of Salt explains this compound to children within an entertaining tale. With sciences being a key focus in STEM for schools, it's a good idea to look at ways you could include this in your children's fiction.Hot Topics for Science in Fiction:
STEM - MATHS
Wait a minute. How could you possibly include mathematics in fiction and still make it fun? Associate Professor at QUT, Michael Milford, doesn't just think it can be done, he's produced a great example! Over at MathNovel.com, Michael introduces us to his exciting new series of thrillers that include maths puzzles in each chapter. I've already started reading, and I LOVE this. In chapter two, I actually pulled out a calculator to check the calculations. This sort of fiction will have kids so involved in the story and learning and practicing maths at the same time!
These thrillers are aimed at the older high school kids, but there's no reason books aimed at middle grade or even picture books couldn't include puzzles within the story.
Are you inspired to include STEM elements in your fiction now? Not only will you be turning kids onto important technologies for their future, but you'll also open up your market to possibly include schools. What types of STEM topics appeal to you? I'd love to hear, how about some ideas in the comments?
This story was written by Write Links member and children's author Charmaine Clancy and first featured on her website www.charmaineclancy.com