Physics is fun!

posted in: Thomas Flintham, Tom Adams | 17

Last November I had so much fun reviewing the books shortlisted for the Royal Society’s Young People’s Book Prize that I promised myself I would seek out more great science books for kids.

Super Science: Feel the Force! by Tom Adams and Thomas Flintham is one such book. A physically robust pop-up book, illustrated in comic book style with bold colours, Feel the Force! explores gravity, friction, floating, pressure, sounds, light, electricity and magnetism in a super child-friendly manner.

Each double page spread is dedicated to one topic, presented a little like a memo board with short notes on interesting phenomena and their explanations, mini biographies of famous scientists (such as Archimedes and Robert Boyle), and experiments to try at home. There are flaps to flip, tabs to pull and and fun paper engineering bringing the topic under discussion to 3-D life (my favourite bit of paper engineering is the bed of nails, though the water pistol elicits most giggles from my girls :-)).

Templar, whose book How the World Works, was the ultimate winner of last year’s Royal Society’s Young People’s Book Prize (my review is here) have produced another book that will definitely get children and their grownups excited by science. Let’s hope more such books are being planned by Templar as they certainly know how to put together a team of great writers, illustrators and pop-up magicians!

Seeing as Feel the Force! includes experiment ideas we decide to try some of them out. First up was the floating/sinking experiment.

M and J took a lump of plasticine (modelling clay), and dropped it gently into a bowl of water.

It sank. They weighed it and then squished it into a bowl shape. They weighed it again. Of course the bowl weighed the same as the lump.

But this time the plasticine floated when place on the water.

How come something that weighed the same sank first time but floated second time? (Of course Feel the Force! has the answer :-))

Next up we investigated friction. The girls placed a hardback book (and no ordinary hardback book if you look closely!) on the table and put a tin of beans (ie something heavy) on top. We lined the book up with the edge of the table and then the girls gave the book a push. We measured how far across the table the book scooted (about 10cm on repeated attempts).

Then we placed the book with the tin on top onto a bed of maltesers (you could use marbles, but why use glass when you can use chocolate?).

Again we lined the book up with the edge of the table and gave it a push. This time the book scooted on average about 35 cm across the table.

So we learned how shapes that roll are easier to move than those that have to be dragged and we talked about ball bearings inside joints, like the pedals on the girls’ bikes.

Then we ate all the chocolate.

It’s a tough life being a scientist but someone’s gotta do it.

I have to add we tried two more experiments from the book (one to do with jumping coins and air pressure, and the other to do with making mini electrical currents using silver foil and coins) which did not work for us. It might have been useful if the book had had a little section at the back on troubleshooting. It’s a shame not all the experiments were foolproof, but I would still highly recommend this book if you want to pique your children’s curiosity and get them excited about science.

Whilst we investigated forces we listened to:

  • Gravity by Jetta and the Jellybeans (also on YouTube, although the quality isn’t great)
  • The theme music to Star Wars – you know, may the FORCE be with you?
  • Under Pressure by Queen with David Bowie πŸ™‚

  • Whilst looking for songs to enjoy listening to I came across this listing of physics songs hosted by Haverford University and this meta list of science and maths songs hosted by Washington University.

    Other activities which would go well with reading Feel the Force include:

  • Making your own hovercraft with the kids, as in this recent post from Science Sparks
  • This round-up of pre-school science ideas from Nurture Store
  • Reading and being inspired by Steve Spangler’s blog – essential reading for parents interested in the science education of their kids

  • So that was the week that featured edible books, cream cakes and chocolate treats… just as well none of my New Year’s Resolutions were about food!

    Thanks go to @MalRostan, @Lancs and @wildelycreative for their spherical sweetie advice.

    Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review, however, remains my own and honest opinion.

    17 Responses

    1. Elli

      Fantastic post! My third child is a complete science nerd, so he’d love these books. He also enjoys the ‘See Inside’ series by Usborne – again, lots of flaps and short snippets of information to keep him amused.
      Elli recently posted..Cloud Lou and her Loud Oud

      • Zoe

        Oh yes Elli, the usborne flap books are great. I’d say this one from templar has a more “grown up” feeling to it – the colour scheme and the style of drawings might appeal to kids who think the usborne books look a little young for them.

    2. Zoe

      Hey Emma, would you let me know about any good sounding science books for kids you find πŸ™‚

    3. Stacey

      I’m so glad you reviewed this. I never gravitate to science books for my kids and this post makes me feel like I am missing out! Off to the library!
      Stacey recently posted..The Reading Pile

    4. Zoe

      Stacey, I never gravitated towards science books either, but then last year, as a challenge to myself I reviewed all the books shortlisted for a children’s science book award, and I was blow away by how good the books were, how interesting they were. It made me want to read more. So perhaps you could look for a similar upcoming award in the US? I can’t think of one off the top of my head, but I’ll do some rooting around and see what I can come up with.
      Zoe recently posted..Physics is fun!

    5. Myra from GatheringBooks

      Oh wow, Zoe, this is another fantabulous post you have here! I often share your blogposts in my FB page and tag my science-geek friends (one is a neurobiologist teaching in Yale, another is an archeologist who’s now teaching in the University of Guam, the other is an anthropologist who is teaching in the University of the Philippines) – the archeologist has a young boy who’s deeply into Science -I have a feeling this is another book that he’d enjoy!

      And as you and Stacey mentioned, I also don’t gravitate towards science books – but these books that you’re sharing (and the few that I discovered which provides a unique marriage between science and verse) is challenging my stereotypical notions. Thanks for sharing this!
      Myra from GatheringBooks recently posted..AWB 2012 Database

    6. Zoe

      Thanks Myra – it’s always so nice, isn’t it, when you read a review of a book and you can think of someone for whom the book would be just right.

    7. Jim Randolph

      Great sciency goodness. I love doing that kind of stuff with my daughter. We got a book over the holidays called something like “Totally Irresponsible Science Experiments”!

    8. JenFW

      I can’t wait to get my hands on this book! It’s fascinating to see what young kids grasp and retain when taught basic ideas of rather complex issues.

      Your pictures and the chocolate ball bearings are brilliant!

      • Zoe

        jen – chocolate ball bearings are brilliant for both science and eating! A double winner πŸ™‚

    9. BongMom

      Bought this book based on your review. Did not know about your aStore. next time I buy any on your review will go there. Promise.

      This book is really fun and very easy to understand. The popup coin did not work for us either. I think the problem also lied in our cooling and warming. The air has to be warm enough to exert that pressure.

      BTW mentioned your blog on mine. I am totally awed by the activities you do with your girls.

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