A student at Oliver McCracken Middle School enjoys The Octopus Scientists, Exploring the Mind of a Mollusk, donated by Evanston Subaru in 2016.
As we gear up for this year’s Subaru Loves Learning event, we can’t help but reminisce about the schools and retailers we’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years. The Subaru Loves Learning (SLL) initiative has become an annual partnership in which the Science Books & Films (SB&F) project of AAAS works with Subaru to donate the winners and finalists of the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books to K-12 schools. Not only do we believe in its mission to engage young learners in the world of science, but we also relish in the stories and feedback that remind us that our partnership with Subaru has a real impact.
The Subaru Loves Learning program strives to supplement schools’ existing science curricula. In Skokie, Illinois, Oliver McCracken Middle School—a SLL partner for three years and counting—has made the most of its donated books, and in creative fashion, no less. Tori Gammeri, McCracken Middle School’s Librarian, explained how books donated over the years have contributed to particular lessons and projects. For example, teachers have capitalized on the opportunity to incorporate A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens, winner in the Hands-On category for the 2016 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize, into their interdisciplinary classroom unit on food, which explores a wide range of topics, from food production to culture. McCracken students have also used The Octopus Scientists: Exploring the Mind of a Mollusk, winner in the Middle Grades category for the 2016 prize, as a resource for a project that asks students to describe how an animal of their choice is vital to its native ecosystem. Gammeri emphasized that “the beautiful photography and graphic layout made this book fun to read, and students liked that it reads like a ‘regular story’ while being packed with great scientific detail and vocabulary.”
When we hear that the students read these science books with as much interest and engagement as they would when reading a fictional storybook, we are reminded that our job of satisfying students’ hunger for science literature is just beginning. And as we work towards this goal, the teachers at schools like McCracken Middle School are the people who truly make our goals a reality.
To further demonstrate the diversity of ways science trade books can be put to use in schools, Marple-Newtown School District in Pennsylvania also made exemplary use of A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens. Third grade students from Culbertson Elementary and Worrall Elementary are using this book as a resource to learn about chick development in their embryology unit. Other third grade students in the district’s gifted seminar program will read Mission: Mars, winner in the Middle Grades category for the 2015 prize, during their space exploration unit. Learning of the unique ways that these books are applied to their fullest potential and inspiring students to engage with science makes AAAS staff cheer—because for us, making science accessible to students truly matters.
Finally, we had the chance to hear from Principal Crystal Nicola at Orchard View Elementary School in Winchester, Virginia, that teachers have used the books donated through SLL to support and extend the science curriculum through shared reading experiences. Students have often gravitated towards these books during their independent reading time because of the books’ captivating illustrations and photographs and their engaging writing styles. Nicola also noted that the books contain rich vocabulary and enable students to expand their word choice in their own writing assignments. In the end, she summed up her experience with SLL: the books “allow us to make real-life, relevant connections between literature and science for our students.”
This year, nearly 500 Subaru retailers are participating in the nation-wide event to donate outstanding, prize-winning science books to schools. Hundreds of schools will receive Subaru/AAAS SB&F Prize-winning and finalist books for the very first time. Schools have never failed to impress us with the creative ways they incorporate science literature books into classroom learning, and we cannot wait to learn how this year’s batch of schools will make use of the 19 titles we are offering! Please visit our Science NetLinks website to see some of the great lessons and blog posts we have developed to enable teachers to bring these prize-winning books into the classroom.