This week’s word is “STEAM.”
After a light-hearted look at underpants last week, Word Wednesday returns to science, with new DK book Science Squad. Subtitled “An Introduction to STEAM,” the book offers a child-friendly introduction to the important concepts that govern the world around us.
The book’s consultant author is DK favorite Professor Robert Winston. In his foreword, Professor Winston has this to say, getting to the heart of the book in a far more erudite fashion than I could manage:
This book is about science and how it’s used. Science is about trying to understand our surroundings – the world and Universe around us and all the things and creatures in it, from atoms to huge mountains, from tiny bacteria to large whales… Properly used, the knowledge that science brings helps us to be healthier and to live better lives.
Science Squad is 80 pages long and is priced around $15 in the US, and is available (at the time of writing) at the bargain price of £7.60 in the UK. At that price, the book is an absolute steal. Buy two copies. One for you, and another for your school library!
What is the “Science Squad”?
The book, as well as being called Science Squad, also includes the Science Squad, a group of anthropomorphized objects that relate to science, art, and technology. We have “Science,” a bubbling purple conical flask – He’s all about asking questions. Orange smartphone “Technology” uses science to create new machines and more effective ways of doing things. With gears for head and body, “Engineering” is all about finding and designing solutions to problems. “Art,” a red crayon, is about using your imagination to create brilliant new things, and finally, “Maths,” a green set-square, is about numbers, patterns, and problem-solving.
Slightly peculiarly, in the text of the book, other icons sometimes represent each STEAM subject, so sometimes Maths [sic] is a ruler instead of a set square, and Art might be a fountain pen or a paintbrush, not a crayon. The color of the squad member does at least remain consistent.
These characters turn up on most of the pages of the book with little bits of extra information, which pertain loosely to the discipline they speak for. So Maths mentions axial tilt, whilst Science talks about the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. They’re a funky engaging way of delivering DK’s trademark sidebar text.
What’s in the Science Squad book?
Beyond the squad themselves, there is, unsurprisingly, a large amount of scientific information inside the book’s covers. The vibrant pages are filled with a mix of colorful illustrations and photographs. Science Squad is designed for children aged 6+. There’s lots of bold block text and brightly colored flow charts to pull them in. There is quite a lot of text, so younger readers will probably need an adult on hand to access all of the information.
Unlike a lot of the DK books I’ve reviewed, the book doesn’t have distinct sections. Instead, each double page spread is devoted to a specific subject, such as “The Universe,” “Inside a rainforest,” or “Robots.” Despite there being no distinct sections, there is usually an affiliation between the subjects of adjoining pages, so the Universe moves into the Solar System, on to the Earth, and then the atmosphere and water cycle.
At the end of the book there is a comprehensive index and a two page glossary.
Why Read Science Squad?
Because it’s a fabulous introduction to a host of STEAM subjects. Chemistry, physics, astronomy, biology, maths, and engineering are all covered. Each page takes a basic STEAM concept and introduces it to its audience in an accessible fashion. It’s pitch perfect for its intended age of around 6-11.
If the book has a flaw, it’s that the page focus is very much STEM. Poor old ‘A’ doesn’t get much of a look in on the subject headings. It is present, but more as an aside than a focus. That said, where you do find an art icon, it’s usually exhorting your children to do something creative, so “Art” makes its presence felt in that way. I think properly including ‘A’ as a focus of the book may have made its remit too wide. The book is sharply focused on science with the art-based asides being an acceptable compromise.
Science Squad does exactly what it sets out to do. It brings key scientific concepts to a young audience. Its bright pages make it immediately engaging, and it covers a host of different subjects, meaning that most children will find something to draw them in. Whether your child wants to know about the solar system, earthquakes, the animal kingdom, the brain, or electricity, it can all be found and accessed with the help of the Science Squad. All that and a whole lot more.
Where Might I Want to Go From Here?
Start with my general Word Wednesday posts, or, if you want to take your science to the next level, check out DK’s Do You Know About Science? For a more historical approach to science, check out 100 Scientists Who Made History.
Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of this book to write this review.