Spark! Your Imagination

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Spark! Your Imagination

DCPL and the National Museum of American History Team Up to Encourage Kids to Invent and Explore their World

The DC Public Library and the National Museum of American History (NMAH) have teamed up to enhance a classic summer experience: visiting a museum. DCPL’s part is getting young readers prepped and ready with inspiring books that celebrate American innovation, exploration, and invention.  Of particular interest to kids ages 6 to 12 at the NMAH is the Spark!Lab where the next generation of innovators can explore, invent and test in a laboratory setting.
 
So, get those brains primed for innovation with some reads about:
  • ancient inventions and their modern partners (think tipis and tents) 
  • what makes a scientist tick, and what are they like at home? 
  • how veterinarians designing artificial limbs, or prosthetics, for animals are helping the development of human prosthetics
  • the surprising number of everyday objects that had their beginnings in mistakes!
A Native American Thought of It:  Amazing Invention and Innovations
by Rocky Landon
Long before 1492 when Europeans landed in North America, native tribes thrived by innovating and adapting to their environments. Most people know that Native Americans built birch bark canoes and tanned buffalo hides, but did you know they created sunscreen and camouflage? Everyday living in North America before the Industrial Age was rough, and this book details the clever solutions Native Americans devised for shelter, communication, transportation and recreation. 
 
Lives of the Scientists: Experiments, Explosions (and What the Neighbors Thought)
by Kathleen Krull
We all know about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity (E=mc²), but did you know that Einstein couldn’t cook or drive, and hated wearing socks? Barbara McClintock, a genetic scientist, earned the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1983, but so hated publicity that she disguised herself as Groucho Marx in public. The noted chimpanzee expert, Jane Goodall, earned money for her first trip to Africa as a waitress who could carry up to 13 dinner plates at once! Learn about humorous tidbits and idiosyncrasies of 20 famous scientists whose great ideas changed the world.  The “Extra Credit” section at the end of each biography and the resources at the back put the finishing touches on this whimsical look at quirky and wonderful inventors. 
 
Unstoppable: True Stories of Amazing Bionic Animals
by Nancy Furstiner
Pioneering innovations in medicine and prosthetic limbs are transforming the lives of humans and animals.  3D printing of bionic body parts, titanium implants that gradually grow into the leg bones, plus custom-designed fins, beaks and flippers have all given rise to technologies that benefit humans who’ve lost limbs as a result of accidents or diseases.  In Unstoppable, read about animals as different as cows and dolphins who get a second chance at an active life through the cutting-edge work and super dedication by veterinarians, animal rescuers and prosthetic professionals (the people who design and test artificial limbs).
 
Accidents May Happen: Fifty Inventions Discovered by Mistake
by Charlotte Foltz Jones
“If you don’t learn from your mistakes, there’s no sense making them.”  Inquisitive people keep trying because they know what you end up with isn’t what you thought you’d discover. Jones’s Accidents May Happen reveals the beginnings of everyday materials, foods, and other items that came about by mistake.  Not only will every budding scientist take heart from these “mistakes” - how could anyone ever call the ice cream sundae a mistake! - but trivia lovers will enjoy the Flabbergasting Facts at the end of each entry.  Did you know the Yo-Yo had its start as a weapon in the ancient Far East?

The Way Things Work Now: From Levers to Lasers, Windmills to Wifi, A Visual Guide to the World of Machines 
by David Macaulay
If anybody needs a primer, or an easy way to understand something complicated, this is the book.  Budding scientists and inventors do need to understand the principles of scientific laws before creating the next electric car, for example, and this book will get them there in spades. Not only are the “nuts and bolts explained,” literally, but Macaulay’s classic drawings and simple text tackle digital technologies too.
 
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers who Changed the World
by Rachel Ignotofsky
What do these 50 women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) all have in common? Smarts, self-confidence, feistiness, and a willingness to break rules, especially rules that say women aren’t as smart as men.  These ladies’ contributions to science, medicine, biology, politics and other careers wouldn’t have been possible if they’d given up on their ideas. Vera Rubin, a native Washingtonian, could not attend Princeton University because it did not allow women in its astronomy program. So she went to Cornell instead, and eventually discovered a new galaxy with parts that rotate in opposite directions! Jane Cooke Wright, born into a family of famous doctors, was one of the youngest African-American women doctors to lead a cancer research center.  A trailblazer from the start, Wright is responsible for targeted cancer treatment techniques. 
 
Engineer It! Tunnel Projects
edited by Carolyn Bernhardt
This book gives easy-to-follow steps with photos for building three types of tunnels and an aqueduct.  What a cool way to engineer projects using everyday craft and recyclable materials!  Other books in the Engineer It! series include projects for roads, dams, canals and bridges.

Picture Book Bonus Read: 
Ada Twist, Scientist
by Andrea Beaty
A highly curious girl uses her smarts and perseverance to find out how everything around her works.  Check out Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer for more endearing stories of spunky kids with a knack for invention and exploration.