STEM Bookclub: Song for a Whale

For this months STEM Bookclub, I wanted to challenge my readers a bit and go with a book that is more realistic fiction.

Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly is a standalone juvenile fiction book for 4-6 graders.

Twelve-year-old Iris loves fixing things. She’s a genius at taking apart and putting old radios together and she has a eye for fixing just about anything else. Iris is also deaf. She is the only deaf student at her school, everyone in her family is hearing, except her grandmother and recently deceased grandfather, and she often feels like no one is listening to her.

So when she hears about Blue 55, a whale who is unable to communicate with other whales, she knows exactly how he feels. Iris is determined to let Blue 55 know that she hears his song, so she crafts a plan to play a song for him.

A meaningful journey, full of interesting facts and a lot of heart–will Iris find her own song while searching for Blue’s?

Discussion Questions / Further Reading

  1. What is this book about? What are the main themes?
  2. Let’s talk science! What is Acoustic Biology? Frequency? Oceanography?
  3. We learned a lot about whales in this book. Tell me a couple of the facts that you learned? 
  4. What makes Blue 55 different from other whales? Any guesses about why Blue 55 sings differently? 
  5. Why do you think Iris is so determined to have Blue 55 hear the song she wrote?
  6. What did you think about the part of the book where Iris asks the music class for help? Do you think this could have been a turning point for Iris? 
  7. Iris is the only deaf student at her school. She would rather go to Bridgewood Junior High, where there is a larger deaf community. Why doesn’t her mother want her to switch schools? 
  8. (Pg 117-118) – “I wanted to tell Dad that I could hear the whales, just not in the same way he did... I hadn’t thought that reaching out to Blue 55 would help me reach out to Dad, too.” Iris goes on a journey, not only to find Blue 55 but a journey of self-discovery too. How does she change by the end of the book? 
  9. Iris’ grandmother understands that Iris needs this trip, but why does she need the trip too? 
  10. Several chapters in this book were narrated by Blue 55. What do you think of the author’s choice to include the Blue’s narrative? 

Sound Experiment

Supplies: 2 different sized Metal Spoon, Wooden Ruler, Yarn

In this experiment we are going to investigate one of the invisible sides of science by looking at how sound travels. When a ‘noise’ is made, it creates sound waves and travel through the air to our ears.

The Experiment:

  1. Make a loop in the middle of the yarn so that you can tighten around the handle of the spoon. Pull tightly. The spoon should hang in the center of the yarn with two long pieces on either side.
  1. Take each string and wrap them around both your pointer fingers.
  1. Then push the string against each ear (not into the ear but just outside). The spoon should hang just below the waist.
  1. Once the string in pushed against the ears, have someone GENTLY hit the ruler against the round part of the spoon.
  1. As you do the experiment, change how high or low the spoon hangs to see if it changes the sound. You can also test to see if hitting the spoon harder or softer changes the sound.

“When the ruler hits the spoon, it creates vibrations which make sound waves.  These sound waves travel up the yarn/string and to the ear instead of just spreading out into the air around you. The yarn acts as a conductor — an object that allows sound waves to travel. Depending on the size of the spoon and the length of yarn, the sound will appear higher (like a church bell) or deeper (like a gong). And because the yarn allows the sound waves to continue to travel, the sound of the spoon will resonate or reverberate — meaning they will continue for a while after you have hit the spoon.”

Thank you for the experiment:
https://www.kcedventures.com/blog/the-science-of-sound-waves-an-awesome-experiment-for-kids

We are also going to play with a free frequency app to show the kids how sound, sounds at different frequencies. I’m using Tone Gen on my android device.

How’d it go:

I think some of the kids took a while to get into this book, but that being said we had a ton of discussion about it. Our experiment was quick but that way OK because we were starting to get a little rambunctious toward the end. All in all, a good STEM club.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Author: MarandaLee

Children's Librarian. Connoisseur of all things bookish.

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