4-6th Grade Book Discussion: Shine by J.J. & Chris Grabenstein

Shine! by J.J. and Chris Grabenstein is a juvenile fiction novel for 4-6th graders.

Piper Milly has a talent for blending in. She can’t sing or dance, she doesn’t excel at sports or hangs with the popular crowd. She’s smart, she likes astronomy and she’s happy with her small group of friends. So when her dad get’s a new job at a prestigious prep school, Piper is bummed that she has to transfer.

Chumley Prep is definitely a school for the rich and Piper definitely doesn’t fit in. Shortly after she joins the school, she finds out that a mysterious award will be awarded to the “best” student of winter break. Piper shrugs off the contest because she would never win that sort of thing, or would she?

Discussion Questions / Further Reading 

  1. What is this book about? What are the main themes?
  2. What did you like and dislike in this book? What would have made it better?
  3. What STEM themes can you pull out of this book?
  4. Do you think Piper did the right thing when she gave back the money that she and Hannah found at the mall? What would you do? What if you only found a $1? $20? $50?
  5. How important is it for you to get good grades and excel in school, sports, and/or the arts? How does this make you feel?
  6. Depending on the culture and area in the world, people see the moon’s shadow as something different. It makes Piper realize that a lot of things look different depending on your point of view. Can you think of an example in your life or an issue in the world where this applies?
  7. What do you think of Piper’s acts of kindness? Would you do the same?
  8. Let’s think about Mr. Van Deusen’s assignment (p51-52). Who do you want to be? Not when your grown up. Not in the future. Now.
  9. What did you think about the Excelsior competition now that you know what is it? Why do you think Chumley Prep needed this competition?
  10. Why is this book called Shine! What message is this book meant to inspire?

DYI Moon Craters

Supplies: Foils cooking pans, flour, coco powder, various size/weight marbles, balls, step stool, ruler

How to:

  • First, create your moon surfaces by pouring an even layer of flour in the foil pan. Smooth it out and then lightly sprinkle a layer of coco powder on top. You may want to use a tarp or plastic table cloth underneath.
  • Try to select “meteors” of varying size and weight.
    • A small and large marble, a foil ball, maybe a nerf ball or a large bouncy ball.
  • Set up three different heights to drop the objects from. ie standing, on a stool from a table top.
  • Take turns dropping each item. For the first test, try dropping the same marble from each height. Then test your other sized objects.
  • Measure the size and depth of each “crater” made. Keep track on paper.
  • Which marble from which height made the deepest/largest impact? What does this tell you?

The Science:

  • Dropping the marbles at various heights can show us how speed affects the size of the craters. Using different sized objects, shows how the mass of the object also affects the size and shape of the impact crater.
  • Piper found that “The rounder the object hitting the moon, the faster an object is travelling, the farther away an object is from the moon, the larger the crater it creates.” (p104)

Sources:

Brightly’s Book Club for Kids: Shine!


Click to access 9781524717667_6417.pdf

How’d it go:

This was the last one run by my colleauge while I am on maternity leave but I decided to join in because I just loved this book. Overall, this was a fun one and everyone had their supplies ready. I made my coco level a little too thick but other than that everything went great!

That’s all for now!

-M-

4-6th Grade Book Discussion: Masterminds

Masterminds by Gordon Korman

Eli Frieden has never even stepped outside of his hometown Serenity, New Mexico… but when you live in a town that is perfect in every way, why would you want to. At least that is what he’s been raised to believe, until one day he bikes to the edge of town and everything changes.

Now Eli is questioning everything that make Serenity what it is, even his own father might be in on it… but in on what? Together he and his friends work together to uncover what secrets a town without secrets is really hiding. And what they found out, will shift the way they think about their world forever.

Once the truth is out, will anything ever be the same?

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is this book about? What are the main themes?
  2. Eli and his friends live in the “perfect” town. What makes Serenity perfect?
  3. In the beginning of the novel, Hector says that he knows his parents care for him, even if they don’t show it, because he heard them say that he was “valuable.” Think about the difference between value and love. Is to be valued enough?
  4. As Eli and his friends start to realize something is wrong in Serenity, the first thing they discover is that their internet, books and basic information is being censored. What is censorship and how would you feel if your internet was censored?
  5. Once the kids realize that they are test subjects and that the town was build for them, the realize that they are being put under “tests of character.” What is this and how would this make you feel?
  6. The big reveal is that the kids find out they are actually clones of criminal masterminds. How would you feel about being a clone and a clone of a criminal at that?
  7. Each of the kids show strengths in an area that might be connected to their criminal genes? What are some examples of this?
  8. One theme in this book is nature vs nurture—is it our genes that tell us who we will be or is it the way we are raised. Let’s discuss this. What do you think?
  9. Each of the kids feel differently when they find out that their parents are in on Serenity’s secret. Can you understand each of their reactions? How would you feel?
  10. Where do you think the story is heading? Will the kids run or will they seek revenge or to out the whole experiment?

STEM Activity: Erupting Lemon

Supplies:  Lemons (grab a few!); Baking Soda; Food Coloring; Dawn Dish Soap; Plate, Tray, or Bowl;

Craft Sticks

How To:

  1. Cut one of your lemons in half and place it in a bowl or on a plate with a lip to catch any juices.
  2. Juice the other half of the lemon and put the juice to the side.
  3. Take your craft stick and poke holes in the various sections of the lemon half. This will help spur the reaction along.
  4. If you want to have fun visualizing the reaction, put a few drops of different color food coloring on the sections.
  5. Pour a small amount of dawn dish soap over the lemon to add a fun bubble effect. Have a spare lemon? Try the experiment without the soap and see what the difference is.
  6. Now sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda onto the top of the lemon. To help get the reaction going, you can use your craft stick to push the baking soda down into the sections of the lemon. You can also add some of your lemon juice if you want.
  7. Watch what happens. Be patient, the reaction is a slow one.
  8. What other citrus fruit can you use? Do you think the reactions would be the same? Bigger or smaller?

The Science:

Why did the lemon erupt? Because of a chemical reaction between the critic acid from the lemon juice is reacting to the base of the baking soda creating a gas called carbon dioxide. The dawn dish soap is reacting to the fizz of the carbon dioxide to create bubbles and make the reaction a bit more visible.

Sources:

https://littlebinsforlittlehands.com/erupting-lemon-volcano-chemistry/

How’d it go:
I’m actually on maternity leave now, so one of my colleagues is running the book club for me for the next few months. So I am just going to leave this here. I am sure it went great!

That’s all for now!

-M-

4-6th Grade Book Discussion: Eddie Red Undercover

Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile by Marcia Wells is a 4-6th grade juvenile fiction novel about a smart kid who teams up with the police to catch art thieves.

Sixth grader Edmund, aka Eddie Red, has a photographic memory and some really great art skills, which makes him the perfect tool for the NYPD to use to catch a renowned group of art thieves called the Picasso Gang. But not everyone is as thrilled as Eddie is to be working with the police.

As Eddie continues to work the case, he and his genius best friend dig themselves in deeper and may find themselves in a whole lot of trouble.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is this book about? What are the main themes?
  2. Where do you think Edmund got his code name “Eddie Red” from?
  3. Edmund has a photographic memory. What advantages or disadvantages might there be to having such a memory?
  4. It takes three things to solve a police investigation according to Edmund. What are they and how does he use them to solve the Mystery on Museum Mile?
  5. Edmund is a pretty relatable character. What character traits does Edmund have that you might relate to?
  6. What are your personal stakeout must haves?
  7. What do you notice first when you meet someone? What disguise might you use to make yourself unrecognizable.
  8. Detective Bovano isn’t a fan of Edmund working for the police. Why do you think this is so? And how might Edmund try to get on Bovano’s good side?
  9. At the end of the novel, Edmund seems to have gained a new sense of self confidence and helps his friend deal with a bully. How do you deal with bullies?
  10. Is there anything you would change about this novel? Anything too predictable? Any loose ends?

STEM Activity: “Non-Newtonian Fluid” experiment

Supplies: Plastic Tupperware tub big enough to put your two hands in; corn starch; water

How To:

  1. Add corn starch to your plastic container. Keep track of how much you add.
  2. Add 1 part water to 2 parts corn startch. I.e. if you added 2 cups of corn startch, you would add 1 cup of water.
  3. Stir the mixture until it forms a thick mass that is no longer powdery.
  4. Very slowly, stick your hand in the mixture. Notice that your hand comes back wet and powdery. Clean your hand off.
  5. Now quickly hit, slap, knead, the mixture. Your hand should not go through the mass. You could run on it, hit it with a hammer and if you do it quickly enough, you should remain on the surface of the mass and not go under it.

The Science:

“Non-New­to­ni­an liq­uids do not obey the laws of or­di­nary liq­uids. They change their den­si­ty and vis­cos­i­ty un­der the im­pact of phys­i­cal force.” The starch particles bond with the liquid forming “chaotically interlaced molecules.” At a higher “shear” or impact rate, the tight bonds do not let the molecules separate, staying more of a solid. At a lower “shear” or impact rate, the bonds loosen and the molecules act more like a liquid. Non-Newtonian liquids do not obey the normal laws of physics. You can find out more about this experiment at MELS Chemistry.

Sources:

https://melscience.com/US-en/articles/non-newtonian-fluid-experiment/

https://www.marciawellsauthor.com/eddies-art-gallery

How’d it go:

Oh man, what a frazzled book club! Somehow the link to my Zoom meeting was broken and here I am sitting there thinking no one would come and then a colleague tells me the link is broken. So quickly emailed the crew and changed the link and by then I was a mess. We had a very speedy discussion, a small group and a messy, messy experiment. *Sigh* It was bound to happen.

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

Masterminds

Masterminds by Gordon Korman is the first book in a juvenile fiction series probably good for 4-7th graders.

Eli Frieden has never even stepped outside of his hometown Serenity, New Mexico… but when you live in a town that is perfect in every way, why would you want to. At least that is what he’s been raised to believe, until one day he bikes to the edge of town and everything changes.

Now Eli is questioning everything that make Serenity what it is, even his own father might be in on it… but in on what? Together he and his friends work together to uncover what secrets a town without secrets is really hiding. And what they found out, will shift the way they think about their world forever.

Once the truth is out, will anything ever be the same?

This is actually an older title and I think the entire series may actually be out, which will be a plus to my book club crew because I tend to pick titles that they have to wait for the sequels for.

I sort of love this idea of these kids finding out that they are clones of criminal masterminds and now they are wondering if they are good, bad or something in between. And it was so much fun seeing the little hints of inherited talent that may or may not have come from their DNA.

There’s also a lot of great discussion questions that can be pulled out of this book, while it still being entertaining to the kids. Questions about living in a “perfect” town, living without secrets, value vs love, censorship and more. The discussion we can have over nature vs nurture is going to be really interesting.

Overall, this was a fun book with a lot of good potential for a book club. I’d probably recommend this one for 5-6th graders. This one gets 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

4-6th Grade Book Club: COG

COG by Greg Van Eekhout is a juvenile fiction book probably best for grades 3-5.

What do you get when a trashbot, a robot dog, and two extremely lifelike automatons steal a smart car? Five allies on a mission with very little real world experiences.

Cog looks like your everyday twelve-year-old, except that his name stands for “Cognitive Development” and he’s a robot built to learn. When a “bad experience” leaves him injured and unconscious, Cog wakes up separated from the only human he has ever known. Now the scientists at UNImind want to take out his brain and study him and Cog thinks this is a very bad idea.

Along with some unusual allies, Cog breaks out of UNImind in search of his creator, Gina. But little does he know, that he is the cog that keeps the wheels turning and the hunt is on for him and his friends.

Will Cog find Gina? And will he escape UNImind’s nefarious clutches?

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is this book about? What are the main themes?
  2. COG stands for Cognitive Development. What does this mean and how does this make Cog different from other robots?
  3. Cog learns during his trip to the supermarket that sometimes the best way to increase his cognitive development is to learn from his mistakes. Why is this a good/bad technique for learning? Have you ever had to learn from a big mistake?
  4. Why do you think Gina created Cog and Ada to be twelve-years-old instead of adults?
  5. If you had to pick one of the robots to be, which would you be and why?
  6. Gina creates Cog with a special X-Module embedded in his programming. What is the X-Module and how does Cog use it to get out of trouble throughout the book?
  7. UNImind wants to control the worlds technology, how does Cog use his experiences to overtake UNImind’s primary directive?
  8. One of the main themes of this novel is the ability to choose—to have a choice. Why is this such an important theme and how does the author portray it in the novel?
  9. The world this book takes place in, seems both similar and more advanced then our current society. Would you rather live in a high tech or low tech society? Why?
  10. What did you think of the ending? Is there anything you would change?

STEM Activity: DIY Robotic Hand

Supplies: Construction Paper or Cardstock; drinking straws; Yarn or heavy string; Tape; Scissors. Optional: large knitting needle. 

IMG-0848How to:

-Trace your hand on the cardstock. If you have a tiny hand, you may want to trace an adults hand so you have more to work with. Cut out your hand.
-Put your hand back on and make marks where your finger joints are on the paper. Fold at the joint marks.
-Cut the straws to the length of your finger segments. (Hint: four of your fingers have three segments and your thumb has two.) In total you should have 14 straw pieces for your fingers.
-Cut 6 more straws about an inch and a half in length.  And a few extra about half an inch in length.
-Starting with the fingers, tape your straws to the hand with just a small space between each straw. Your paper hand should look like it’s starting to get a skeleton. You may need to play around with how they are laid and the length of the straws, depending on the size of the hand you are using.
-Once taped, you are going to take your yarn and make a big knot at the end of it. Start threading your yarn or string through the straws, starting at the tip of the finger. The knot should be at the tip of the finger, keeping the yarn from pulling out of the straw. Repeat this for each finger until all five strings are come out through the single “wrist bone” straw. Do not pull the strings tight. Keep them loose for now.
-Now, when you are ready, you can slowly pull the strings. The fingers of your hand should move. You can pull all the strings at once or one string at a time.

What’s happening:

This activity gets kids thinking about how the various parts of the human body functions. We’re using the activity as an engineering experiment but it can also be used to talk about the human skeleton and how joints and bones work together to move our bodies.

Source:
https://www.kaplanco.com/ii/diy-robot-hand?CategoryID=28

How’d it go:

This was maybe too complicated of an activity for the virtual world but we had fun and we had a few new faces too!

That’s all for now!

-M-