STEM Tuesday Spin Off: The Science of Social Studies

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Today we continue the STEM Tuesday Spin-Off guest blogger addition to the MG Book Village blog. As you will recall, members of the STEM Tuesday group at From the Mixed-Up Files…of Middle Grade Authors will share a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) post that ties middle grade STEM books, resources, and the STEM Tuesday weekly posts to the familiar, everyday things in the life of middle graders.

We’ll look at the things in life we often take for granted. We’ll peek behind the curtain and search underneath the hood for the STEM principles involved and suggest books and/or links to help build an understanding of the world around us. The common, everyday thing will be the hub of the post and the “spin-offs” will be the spokes making up our wheel of discovery.

The STEM Tuesday team has brought you lunchroom science and recess science, so continuing in our schoolyard science theme, I present–The science of Social Studies!


That’s right, we often talk about integrating science and math or science and technology. But there’s a lot of science in social studies. Let’s take a tour of some fun ways to look at STEM–social studies connections.

Maps and Map-making

Map-making is a STEM bonanza. Latitude and Longitude? Pure geometry. Mountains and Oceans and deserts? Geology. And making the maps themselves? Technology and engineering.

Check out National Geographic Education’s fun simulation of mapping Mars.

Read Soundings: The remarkable woman who mapped the ocean floor by Hali Felt  (Henry Holt, 2012).

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OR Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor 
by Robert Burleigh and Illustrated by Raúl Colón (Paula Wiseman Books)

Watch The Science of Everything Podcast to see how map projections alter our understanding of the world.




Scientific discoveries have impacted the trajectory of historical events, and historical realities affect how and when science is done. Several STEM Tuesday reading lists have looked at the history of science and technology.

Try the Women in Science History List or this botany list on #STEMTuesday  (you may be surprised how interwoven botany and world exploration are).

Want to learn about the importance of seeds and plants and how that relates to feeding the world’s population? Check out The Story of Seeds by Nancy Castaldo (HMH BFYR) Or take a look at The Plant Hunters: True Stories of Their Daring Adventures to the Far Corners of the Earth by Anita Silvey ( Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR)

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In  Castaldo’s book, learn how something as small as a seed can have a worldwide impact. Did you know there are top-secret seed vaults hidden throughout the world? And once a seed disappears, that’s it—it’s gone forever? This important book sheds a light on the impact one seed can have on the world.

Silvey’s book takes us on a great adventure as early plant hunters traveled around the world, facing challenges at every turn: tropical illnesses, extreme terrain, and dangerous animals to find and collect new and unusual specimens, no matter what the cost.


Geography is essentially geology with people on top. For a technology twist, try this National Geographic lesson on the geography of a pencil.


Check out Geology Lab for Kids by Garrett Romaine (Quarry Books)  for fun hands-on activities. Or The Rock and Gem Book: And Other Treasures of the Natural World by the Smithsonian.

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See how people’s water use can lead to sinkholes and check out satellite imagery of Florida on Google Maps–all of those circular lakes are old sinkholes!




Of course, conservation is deeply tied to government and laws. This STEM Tuesday list will give students a whole host of ideas for conservation, and what better way to engage them in the political process than with cool science?

Try Jennifer Swanson’s Geoengineering Earth’s Climate (21st Century Books) or Whale Quest: Working Together to Save Endangered Species by Karen Romano Young to see how decisions we make in our world affect the species that live within it.

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Finally, with the out sized role of the electoral college in the last few elections and the age of gerrymandering, apportionment has been a big civics issue. I have long been fascinated by the mathematics that shows that it is mathematically impossible to perfectly apportion representation. This activity illustrates why (it’s for a high school math or higher, but still, this topic is so cool!).

So check out these resources and go wild with the science of social studies!



download  Jodi Wheeler-Toppen is a STEM Tuesday blogger, science author, and educator with 10+ books for children and teachers from National Geographic Kids, Capstone, and NSTA Press. Recent children’s books include Dog Science Unleashed: fun activities to do with your canine companion (a finalist for the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize), Edible Science: Experiments you Can Eat (a Junior Library Guild Selection) and, as a co-author, Recycled Science (a finalist for the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize).…

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