Which is Better: AP Courses or Community College Courses?

Which are better when applying to colleges, AP courses or real college courses taken at the local community college?

I described AP courses in this article on AP vs IB here. Basically, AP courses are Advanced Placement courses trademarked by the College Board, the same establishment that produces the SAT and its many subject tests. These courses are taught at the high school by high school teachers, but are assessed with a standardized exam in early May. This standardized exam, graded on a scale from 1 to 5, 5 being the highest, allows colleges to compare your mastery over the material versus other applicants.

The problem with APs however, is that, though they are supposed to provide you with college credit, college credit is solely awarded at the discretion of the admitting college. So oftentimes, though AP courses are highly desirable indicators of potential college success, they do not necessarily guarantee the college credit that they were initially touted to do. Community college credit, on the other hand, is highly transferable and can help you fulfill your undergraduate credit requirements. This does not mean, however, that you are guaranteed to place out of a course because you took it at a community college. Many colleges still expect you to take certain courses under their tutelage, especially in your major field of study.

Which begs the question, why not just take the college-level version of the course at the local community college, rather than leave it to chance whether your credits will be accepted?
There are, in fact, a couple of reasons why taking the high school AP course is still better than the community college equivalent.

One reason is financial. Even though the cost of community college is much less than that of a four-year private college, it still is more expensive to enroll in a community college course than it is to take the AP exam.

Second, commuting between high school and community college can be burdensome, and can preclude you pursuing other extracurricular interests.

Third, high school AP courses tend to attract the most committed students, including the best and the brightest, who will, in a year or two attend the top universities in the nation. Learning together with other bright, committed students raises the bar for everyone. Community colleges, may or may not have the same level of student body, and will probably a less-intense, less-personal experience.

Fourth, the fact that the AP exam is standardized allows colleges to get a truer picture of where you stand among your peer group. Colleges have little to no way to assess the quality of a community college course, and of your mastery of the material, and therefore cannot assess your performance in the context of the rest of the student body.
Therefore, when choosing between AP and community college courses, if you want to ensure you can transfer some credit, take the community college version. If, on the other hand, your priority is to appear in the best light before the admissions committee, stick with the AP.

AP vs IB: Which One is Better for College Admission?

AP vs IB: Which One is Better for College Admission?

First of all, what are AP and IB? AP is a trademark of the College Board, which stands for Advanced Placement. Advanced Placement courses are an American institution in which students may take college-level courses while in high school. Your acquisition of the content matter is assessed in the 3-hour-long AP exam given at the beginning of May that school year. AP courses are vastly important in college admissions, because it gives colleges a glimpse of how you will fare at their schools. Further, colleges want to see that you challenged yourself with the most difficult course load your school offers. If your school offers AP courses, colleges expect you to have taken them. Of course, you never want to take more of them than you can succeed at. Taking 10 AP courses is not impressive if you don’t simultaneously earn good grades and score high on the AP exams.

IB courses stand for the International Baccalaureate Program, developed out of Switzerland. The IB program is far rarer in the United States. In 2014, more than 2 million students took AP exams in 2014, while there were only about 135,000 who took the IB exams.

Both AP and IB coursework may earn you college credit, depending on your scores on their respective exams, and the college in which you enroll.

What’s the Difference between AP and IB?

AP was developed in the United States so that high school students could take college-level courses in high school.

IB was developed in Switzerland as an international diploma that could be recognized anywhere. As such, the IB program is a complete course curriculum, whereas the AP courses are one-off courses in the subject matter of your choice. You can pick and choose AP courses. If you are enrolled in an IB program, you take all the IB courses. Though higher-level, and more focused on writing and critical thinking skills, only advanced IB courses are considered for college credit. Within the context of IB, similar to AP, you may choose which courses you take at the advanced level.

Cost-wise, IB is more expensive for a school to adopt and for individual students to attend. There is a yearly $160 registration fee for IB, plus the test costs, which are slightly higher than the costs for the AP tests.

Which One, AP or IB, Will Offer Me More College Credit?

That depends on the school in which you enroll. Each school has different policies regarding awarding of college credits. Most will accept either AP or higher-level IB, depending on your scores,, whereas most colleges will not accept regular level IB courses for credit. Some will accept more AP courses. Some will accept more IB courses. To find your prospective college’s policies, google the name of your school followed by AP credit policy. Similarly, for IB, google the name of your school followed by IB credit policy.

Which One, AP or IB, Do Colleges View Most Favorably?

In general, colleges do not view either AP or IB more favorably. What colleges look for is that you challenged yourself by taking the most ambitious courses in high school. At the same time, colleges will NOT look favorably upon you taking the most challenging courses and not succeeding at them. So choose your course load wisely. Colleges only evaluate you in the context of your high school offerings, so don’t worry if your school doesn’t offer the same course options as another.

Which One, AP or IB, Should I Take?

That’s up to you, and obviously depends on which programs your high school offers. Do you want to fully commit to the IB program, with its more challenging courseload overall, or do you want more control in which subject areas to challenge yourself?

MIT’s advice: “Overall, you should try to take the most stimulating courses available to you. If your high school doesn't offer courses that challenge you, you may want to explore other options, such as local college extension or summer programs.”

High School 4-Year-Plan for Science Majors

Considering that Rocket Girls are expected to take the highest level mathematics and science courses in high school, here’s the Rocket Girl’s ideal math and science schedule for her four years in high school.

Freshman Year
Geometry (or its equivalent)
Biology (or Physics, if you go to a Physics-first school)

Sophomore Year
Algebra 2 (or its equivalent)


Junior Year
Chemistry AP

SAT II Subject Test: Chemistry
SAT II Subject Test: Mathematics Level II

Senior Year
Calculus AP
Physics C AP

SAT II Subject Test: Physics

What if my high school doesn’t offer some of these courses?
Take the equivalent that your high school does offer. You can also take these courses at a local community college or online. Rest assured, though, that you will never be asked by an admissions committee why you didn’t take a course that wasn’t offered at your school. On the other hand, you will always be asked why you didn’t take one of the above courses if it was offered.

What if my math skills are not good enough to take this sequence?
Do everything you can to bring your math skills up to the level they need to be. Read my article, “Does a Rocket Girl Have to be Good at Math?”

What if my school offers IB instead of, or in addition to, AP?
Read my article on AP vs IB here.

What is the difference between SAT II Subject Test: Mathematics I and Mathematics II?
Read my article on the SAT II Mathematics Subject Tests here.

Which High School Courses Should a Science Major Take?

I asked Cornell University’s Dean of Admissions what courses should a potential science or engineering major take in high school to get into a school such as Cornell. He told me flat out that, to be considered for a physical science major in general, and to be admitted to the engineering school in particular, you need to have performed well in these courses or their equivalent, provided that your school offers them:

Calculus AP (preferably BC)
Chemistry AP
Physics AP*

In fact, he told me that the admissions committee will ask you why you didn’t take one of these classes if they were available to you. You don’t want to have to answer that question. When it comes to the engineering and physical science majors, you need to demonstrate mathematics proficiency, first and foremost, and you need to demonstrate it in the context of the most difficult courses high school offers.

Other courses to consider are:

Biology AP
Computer Science AP
Statistics AP

But What if I’m Planning to be a Biology Major?

I still believe strongly in taking the above courses before Biology, even if you intend to major in the latter. Why is that? Both Chemistry and Physics AP courses are traditionally more challenging courses, and required prerequisites for Biology majors anyway. Taking the more difficult courses in high school with smaller classes and teachers more trained in pedgagogy will most likely give you leg up during that first challenging year in college.

*There are actually three AP Physics course offered by the College Board. They are:

AP Physics 1 covers essential physics topics such as Newtonian mechanics, work, energy and power, waves and simple circuits, though it will not count toward your college physics requirements because it is Algebra-based. For physics majors and related science-majors college-level physics is calculus based. This would be a great option for your first-year physics course before you take Calculus.

AP Physics 2 is similarly algebra-based, and covers the topics fluid statics and dynamics, thermodynamics, electrostatics, electrical circuits with capacitors, magnetic fields; electromagnetism, optics and quantum, atomic, and nuclear physics. Again, while Physics 1 is a great first course to take, and Physics 2 a potential second course, those planning on majoring in science at the college level should take calculus-based AP Physics C.

AP Physics C is broken into two sections, Mechanics and Electricity & Magnetism. Though you may take just one of these two — in which case, Physics C: Mechanics is the preferred course — you are encouraged to take both of them, Mechanics first semester and Electricity & Magnetism second. You will be able to sit for both AP Physics C exams in succession during a 180 minute testing period.

From the College Board website:

“The Physics C: Mechanics course is equivalent to a one-semester, calculus-based, college-level physics course. It is especially appropriate for students planning to specialize or major in physical science or engineering. The course explores topics such as kinematics; Newton's laws of motion; work, energy and power; systems of particles and linear momentum; circular motion and rotation; and oscillations and gravitation. Introductory differential and integral calculus is used throughout the course.”

College Board says about its Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism course:

“The Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism course is a one-semester, calculus-based, college-level physics course, especially appropriate for students planning to specialize or major in physical science or engineering. The course explores topics such as electrostatics; conductors, capacitors, and dielectrics; electric circuits; magnetic fields; and electromagnetism. Introductory differential and integral calculus is used throughout the course.”

Physics and Astronomy Books for Kids

There are so many children's books on Physics and Astronomy, it's difficult to know where start. Here's a list of highly acclaimed books, though by no means comprehensive.

You are Stardust by Elin Kelsey and Soyeon Kim. Every tiny atom in our bodies was originally from a star that exploded long before we were born.

Bang! How we came to be. (2011, by Michael Rubino, Random House, $17.00, ages 13-16). A monumentally ambitious book about what’s happened in the last 16 billion years. The science is up-to-date, and once life emerges on Earth, whatever is being discussed (worm, fish or dinosaur) is always charmingly referred to as "we." The book has nice illustrations that aren’t always adequately captioned—parents may need to be prepared to explain astrophysics and paleontology.

“Beyond the Solar System” 
by Mary Kay Carson, 128 pages, ages 10 to 13.
This book takes readers back to the beginnings of space exploration — thousands of years ago, when people began stargazing — and forward to today’s search for planets in distant parts of the

Milky Way galaxy. Find out about superstars — Isaac Newton, for example — and lesser-known but important scientists such as astronomer Annie Jump Cannon. Along with history lessons, readers get 21 activities, such as making a black hole and creating a model of Albert Einstein’s universe using a T-shirt. The activities are perfect “boredom busters” for cold winter days.

Amusement Park Science. Dan Greenberg. Newbridge (2002). Learn the role science plays in rides such as the bumper cars, carousels, roller coasters, and more.
And Everyone Shouted “Pull!”: A First Look at Forces and Motion. Claire Llewellyn. Picture Window Books (2004). Hop on the cart and join the farm animals as they find out how to take their heavy load on the hilly journey to market.

Day Light, Night Light. Franklyn M. Branley. Scott Foresman (Revised 1998). Branley offers an elementary explanation of properties of light: reflective light, speed of light, and what happens inside an electric light bulb. Sunlight, candlelight, flashlight, campfire, lanterns, and stars are discussed. Simple experiments, such as placing a white plate in a dark room, provide hands-on opportunities for young learners.

Electrical Circuits. Lewis Parker. Perfection Learning (2005). This overview of electricity includes electricity in nature, current electricity, battery power, and how various types of electric circuits work.

Electricity. Karen Bryant-Mole. Heinemann (1998). This non-fiction chapter book explains the basic principles of electricity by using everyday experiences. Includes simple, hands-on activities that children can do themselves.

Energy: Heat, Light, and Fuel. Darlene Stille. Picture Window Books (2004). This nonfiction chapter book is a delightful introduction to energy resources – how energy gets things done, where energy comes from, and how to conserve energy. The cartoonish illustrations and “fun facts” sections enhance the simple, straightforward text.

Essential Energy Series. Robert Snedden. Heinemann Library (2001). Through photographs, charts, captions, and fact boxes, this series looks at renewable and nonrenewable energy resources, how they are used, and how they impact the environment. Titles include: Energy Alternatives, Energy from Fossil Fuels, and Energy Transfer.

Forces (Science All Around Me). Karen Bryant-Mole. Rigby Interactive Library (1997). Vivid photographs, clear text, and a variety of simple experiments help readers explore forces in the world around them. Includes table of contents, glossary, and index.

Forces and Motion. Lisa Trumbauer. Newbridge Educational Publishing (1998). Through full-color photographs and examples from everyday life, this nonfiction book introduces basic concepts of motion. Available in big book format.

Forces and Motion: My World of Science. Angela Royston. Heinemann (2003). Color photographs and simple text provide an explanation of forces and motion and examples from everyday life.

I Fall Down. Vicki Cobb. HarperCollins (2004). Simple experiments introduce the concept of gravity and its relationship to weight.

I See Myself. Vicki Cobb. Harpercollins Juvenile Books (2002). A little girl finds out about vision, light, and reflection by playing with a mirror, a flashlight, and a bouncing ball. This book encourages children to experiment and provides well-written explanations even very young children will understand.

Investigations series: Floating, Pulling, Pushing, Rolling, Sliding. Patricia Whitehouse. Heinemann (2003). This series for primary students takes an inquiry-based approach to helping them make observations about force and motion. Each book consists of five separate experiments related to the titles and includes photographs and headings in the form of questions.

Kids’ Paper Airplane Book. Ken Blackburn and Jeff Lammers. Workman (1996). This activity book provides information on the principles of aerodynamics, suggestions for designing airplanes, and instructions for folding paper planes and doing stunts.

Let’s Try it Out in the Water. Seymour Simon. Aladdin Paperbacks (2001). Presents simple activities and experiments that demonstrate buoyancy by observing why some things sink and others float in water. Helps students learn to classify objects by their physical properties.

The Magic School Bus in the Haunted Museum: A Book about Sound. Linda Beech (1995). From an episode of the TV series The Magic School Bus, Ms. Frizzle’s class visits a haunted museum where they learn about the science of sound.

The Magic School Bus Plays Ball: A Book about Forces. Joanna Cole. Scholastic (1998). On a field trip inside a physics book, Ms. Frizzle’s class plays baseball in a world without friction and learns all about friction and forces.

The Magic School Bus Taking Flight: A Book about Flight. Gail Herman. Scholastic (1997). Ms. Frizzle and her class shrink to fit inside a model airplane and learn about how wings and moving air affect flight.

Magnetic and Nonmagnetic. Angela Royston. Heinemann (2003). This Heinemann First Library series introduces magnetism by way of everyday situations and objects. It contains colorful photos, as well as activities and questions to encourage further exploration.

Magnets. Karen Bryant-Mole. Heinemann (1998). This non-fiction chapter book explains the basic principles of magnetism by using every day experiences. Includes simple, hands-on activities that children can do themselves.

Motion: Push and Pull, Fast and Slow. Darlene Stille. Picture Window Books (2004). This engaging nonfiction chapter book explores how things move, inertia, gravity, and friction. Cartoonish illustrations and fun facts accompany the simple, straightforward text.

Roller Coaster! Motion and Acceleration. Paul Mason. Raintree (2007). This exciting book puts the reader in the shoes of a roller coaster designer. Full-color photographs, bold print words, and insets reveal the forces that affect roller coaster motion.

Sound and Light. Karen Bryant-Mole. Heinemann (1998). This engaging non-fiction chapter book explains the basic principles of sound and light by using everyday experiences. Includes simple, hands-on activities that children can do themselves.

Sound (Energy Works! Series) Jenny Karpelenia. Perfection Learning (2004). Explains that vibrations create sound, how high and low pitches are made, how the ear works, and how musical instruments make sound.

Sounds All Around. Wendy Pfeffer. HarperCollins (1999). This book provides a simple explanation of sounds and hearing. It describes how sound waves vibrate through the air, and how tiny bones in the ear vibrate. It also explains how animals hear, and notes that sound waves travel through the solid ground as well as through air and water.

Switch On, Switch Off. Melvin Berger. Thomas Crowell (1989). This book gives a clear introduction to electricity-what it is, what it does, and how it is made. The author explains circuits and generators, light bulbs, and plugs. He also shows how to make electricity using a magnet, a compass, and a piece of wire.

Temperature: Heating Up and Cooling Down. Darlene Stille. Picture Window Books (2004). A blanket isn’t hot. So how does a blanket keep you warm? Find the answer to this and other hot facts in this simple introduction to temperature and thermal energy.

What Makes a Magnet? (Let’s-Read-And-Find-Out Science series, Stage 2). Franklyn M. Branley. HarperCollins (1996). Branley explains how magnets work and includes instructions for making a magnet using a magnet and a compass.

What Makes a Shadow? Clyde Robert Bulla. HarperCollins (1994). With simple words and charming illustrations, this book explains how shadows are produced. Young readers will discover what makes the shadows they see and will be introduced to the fun of making shadows of their own.

Energy: Heat, Light, and Fuel. Darlene Stille. Picture Window Books (2004). This nonfiction chapter book is a delightful introduction to energy resources – how energy gets things done, where energy comes from, and how to conserve energy. The cartoonish illustrations and “fun facts” sections enhance the simple, straightforward text.

The Moon Book. Gail Gibbons. Holiday House (1998). The concise text describes lunar phases, eclipses, tides, and a brief history of lunar exploration. The illustrations offer effective and accessible depictions of the phases of the moon and eclipses.

The Moon Seems to Change. Franklyn Branley. HarperTrophy (1987). Because the moon revolves around the Earth, it seems to grow and shrink. Children can read this Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science book about the phenomena of the moon’s phases and can model with an orange, a pencil, and a flashlight how the moon looks different at different times of the month.

My Place in Space. Robin Hirst. Orchard Books (1992). When a bus driver asks Henry and his sister if they know where they live, Henry responds with a detailed description, locating their house by street, town, country, planet, solar system, galaxy, and universe.

Postcards From Pluto: A Tour of the Solar System. Loreen Leedy. Holiday House (1993). A group of young students is given a guided tour of the solar system by a robot. After each stop, the explorers write postcards back home that contain information about each planet. The text is accompanied by paintings that portray realistic images of each planet.

Spots of Light: A Book About Stars. Dana Meachen Rau. Picture Window Books (2006). Simple text and digitally generated illustrations explains the “birth” of stars, star colors, constellations, and galaxies.

Stars. Steve Tomecek. National Geographic (2003). Offers basic concepts about stars are carefully explained – why they seem to rise and set, what one actually looks like, distance from the sun, etc. Vivid artwork and clearly labeled diagrams help to extend the text.

Sun. Steve Tomecek. National Geographic (2001). This fun, fact-filled book answers many questions about the sun. Colorful artwork and engaging hosts – two kids and a purple cat - help children learn about our nearest star.

The Sun is My Favorite Star. Frank Asch. Harcourt (2000). This book for very young children uses colorful computer-enhanced watercolor illustrations and simple text to teach about our sun. Children learn that the sun is a star that illuminates the moon, dries up the morning dew, and causes shadows and rainbows.

Sun Up, Sun Down: The Story of Day and Night. Jacqui Bailey. Picture Window Books (2004). This amusing title guides readers through a day on Earth, clearly explaining the effect of Earth’s rotation and orbit. Colorful cartoons and insets keep the book lively and engaging. End matter includes “More Great Stuff to Know,” “Try It and See,” a “Fact Hound” website, and a small trivia section.

Stargazers. Gail Gibbons. Holiday House (1992). Simple text and illustrations tell what stars are, why they twinkle, how constellations were named, and how telescopes are used to study stars.

Sun. Steve Tomecek. National Geographic (2001). This fun, fact-filled book answers many questions about the sun. Colorful artwork and engaging hosts – two kids and a purple cat - help children learn about our nearest star.

There’s No Place Like Space (Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library). Tish Rabe. Random House (1999). The perfect first space book for early readers, There's No Place Like Space takes young children on a whirlwind tour of the solar system, with a few constellations thrown in for good measure. Cat in the Hat straps on his space suit and rhymes his way among the nine planets, presenting important information along the way. Even older children will be engaged by the abundance of space facts presented in entertaining, Dr. Seuss-style rhymes.

When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer. Walt Whitman and Loren Long. Walt Whitman's poem "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" is an enduring celebration of the imagination. Here, Whitman's wise words are beautifully recast by New York Times #1 best-selling illustrator Loren Long to tell the story of a boy's fascination with the heavens. A thought-provoking and imaginative introduction to a unit on astronomy.

When the Moon is Full: A Lunar Year. Penny Pollack. Little, Brown, and Company (2001). Hand-colored woodcuts and lyrical poems portray the twelve full moons of the year. Traditional Native American names, from the Wolf Moon in January to the Long Night Moon in December, follow the monthly path of the moon throughout the year. A question-and-answer section at the end provides information about the moon’s surface, lunar eclipses, the true meaning of a blue moon, etc.

How Do You Lift a Lion? Robert E. Wells. Albert Whitman and Co. (1996). Have you ever tried to lift a lion? Gravity makes it difficult, but you could do it with a lever. Lively text and watercolors engage readers while they learn the function of levers, wheels, and pulleys.

Using Electricity. Angela Royston. Heinemann Library (2003). This Heinemann First Library series introduces electricity by way of everyday situations and objects. It contains colorful photos, as well as activities and questions to encourage further exploration.

Starry Messenger. Peter Sis. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (1996). Help students understand how science and technology have advanced through the contributions of many different people, cultures and times in history with this lushly-illustrated Caldecott Award-winner. Galileo Galilei courageously broke with tradition to explore new ideas and challenge accepted truths. He offered objective evidence that the earth was not the fixed center of the universe but that it and all the other planets revolved around the sun. Galileo kept careful notes and made beautiful drawings of all that he observed. This book tells the story of his discoveries, rise to prominence and final days as a prisoner of the Church.

Paleontology Books for Kids

Paleontology Books for Kids

Here is a short list of paleontology books to help kids develop their interest in science.

How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum by Jessie Hartland (ages 6 to 9)
By following a Diplodocus from its discovery to its eventual display in the Smithsonian Institution, Hartland has created a lovely tribute to all of the people who help to make a museum’s dinosaur exhibit possible.

“Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled” by Catherine Thimmesh, 58 pages, 
ages 9 to 12.
When you see a drawing or a model of a dinosaur, or watch one running around in the movies, do you wonder how anybody knows what they look like? After all, no one has seen a living dinosaur.

This book explains how paleo-scientists and paleo-artists (“paleo” means “ancient”) work together to re-create dinosaurs. For 100 years, they have used fossils to help figure out muscles, skin and even expressions. As scientific discoveries have been made, the models have changed. (Deinonychus replicas once were scaly; now they have feathers.) Scientific tests may one day reveal what a dinosaur’s coloring was, but for now artists have to use their imagination to determine how these Jurassic giants looked.

Dinosaur Valley. Mitsushiro Kurokawa. Chronicle Books (1997). Recreates the behavior and life cycles of several different kinds of dinosaurs. Uses a terrific fold-out of a dinosaur excavation that gives children an accurate idea of the work of paleontologists.

Fossils Tell of Long Ago. Aliki. HarperTrophy (1990). The imprint of an ancient leaf in a rock, the skeleton of a stegosaurus, or any object that has been preserved can tell us about life on Earth millions of years ago – every one is a fossil. Aliki discusses fossils that can be seen by children in museums.

Earth Science and Meteorology Books for Kids

Earth Science and Meteorology Books for Kids

Here is a list of great books for kids on Earth Science and Meteorology. Start with one. Or two. You can't go wrong.

The Cloud Book. Tomie de Paola. Holiday House (1985). Introduces the ten most common types of clouds, the myths that have been inspired by their shapes, and what they can tell about coming weather changes.

Cloud Dance. Thomas Locker. Silver Whistle (2000). This masterful blending of art and science takes readers on a journey up to the heavens, through thick cumulous clouds that bring snow, wispy cirrus clouds that flutter in the wind, and wide stratus clouds that blanket the sky. Basic scientific information sheds light on the altitude, shape, and color of clouds, and Thomas Locker's luminous paintings and poetic text create an inspiring and enlightening book for everyone to enjoy.

A Cool Drink of Water. Barbara Kerley. National Geographic (2002). This striking picture book combines National Geographic photographs with poetic text to show that people all around the world are unified by their common need to use and conserve water.

Dirt. Steve Tomecek. National Geographic (2002). Informative text and playful illustrations explain how soil is made, how soil changes if you dig deep enough, what each layer of soil is called and its importance as a natural resource that living things need to survive.

Down Comes the Rain. Franklyn M. Branley. HarperTrophy (1997). How do raindrops get inside clouds? What is water vapor? What does the inside of a hailstone look like? These questions about

Earth's water cycle are answered in this title from the Let's-Read-And-Find-Out -Science series. Included are hands-on activities that children can do themselves in the classroom or at home.
Down the Drain: Conserving Water. Anita Ganeri and Chris Oxlade. Heinemann-Raintree (2005). Explains why we need water, how much water we use, where water comes from, how we can save water, and why clean water is so important.

Drip! Drop! How Water Gets to Your Tap. Barbara Seuling. Holiday House (2000). JoJo and her zany dog, Willy, explain the water cycle and the water treatment process. In the back of the book there are simple experiments about filtration, evaporation, and condensation.

A Drop Around the World. Barbara Shaw McKinney. Dawn Publications (1998). A clever poem follows a drop of water on the “Jet Stream Express” from a cloud near Maine. Symbols appearing throughout the book illustrate the different phases and transformations that the drop goes through on its journey. Also available is the teacher’s guide by Bruce and Carol Malnor.

Earth: Our Planet in Space. Seymour Simon. Simon and Schuster (2003). Stunning color photographs of Earth in space highlight the text which details how Earth’s unique position in relation to the sun makes it hospitable to life.

Earthquakes. Ellen Prager. National Geographic (2002). From the Jump into Science series, this colorful book provides basic information about earthquakes: what they are, why and where they occur, how they affect buildings, and what children should do when they feel the earth shake. The scientific facts are well focused and simply explained. The last double-page spread presents a simple activity simulating an earthquake with a pan of sand and a brick or rock.

Earthquakes. Franklyn M. Branley. HarperTrophy (1994). This Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science book includes information about how earthquakes occur, what happens during an earthquake, how it feels to be in an earthquake, and what safety measures to take.

Everybody Needs a Rock. Byrd Baylor. Aladdin Paperbacks (1985). Everybody needs a rock -- at least that's the way this particular rock hound feels about it in presenting her own highly individualistic rules for finding just the right rock for you. Not just any rock, Baylor is careful to note, but “a special rock that you find yourself and keep as long as you can--maybe forever.” Follow the reading by asking students to find their own rocks and then observe, describe, measure, sort, and classify the rocks.

Feel the Wind. Arthur Dorros. HarperCollins (1989). This Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out book explains what causes wind and how it affects our environment. It also includes instructions for making a weather vane.

Flash, Crash, Rumble and Roll. Franklyn M. Branley. HarperTrophy (1999). This Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science book (Stage 2) explains how and why a thunderstorm occurs and gives safety steps to follow when lightning is flashing.

Fossil. Claire Ewart. Walker and Company (2004). Claire Ewart’s inviting text and dramatic artwork transport readers back to the age of the dinosaurs to take flight with a majestic pterosaur that once soared through North American skies. The rich, rhyming text lyrically describes a typical day for the female pterosaur, following it from sunup to sunup. And when the pterosaur finally lives out its natural life, layers of Earth and layers of time work to transform this creature into a fossil-an amazing transformation that happens over millions of years.

*Grand Canyon: A Trail Through Time. Linda Vieira. Walker and Company (1997). The wonders of the Grand Canyon are depicted in detailed illustrations by Christopher Canyon that feature fluorescent shades of pink, orange, and purple. The text reveals the history in each boulder and butte and how numerous species thrive in this harsh terrain. The author makes it clear that the canyon continues to change, day by day and over millions of years. Endpapers give names and dates of rock layers and a timeline provides an additional frame of reference. A good general introduction to the subject.

I Face the Wind. Vicki Cobb. HarperCollins (2003). From the Science Play series, this engaging book encourages children to observe, experiment, and learn about wind and air. The illustrations are eye-catching, and the combination of information and experimentation is appealing. This book from the Let’s-Read-and-Find- Out Science series explains how and why a thunderstorm occurs and gives safety steps to follow when lightning is flashing.

I Have a Friend. Keiko Narahashi. Aladdin (1998). A small boy tells about his friend who lives with him, who follows him, who sometimes is very tall, but who disappears when the sun goes down – his shadow.

If You Find a Rock. Peggy Christian. Harcourt Brace (2000). Poetic text and thoughtfully composed, hand- tinted photographs combine to explore the variety and purposes of rocks. A good selection for introducing primary geology units or setting the mood for creative writing.

Let’s Go Rock Collecting. Roma Gans. Harper Collins (1997). Children collect rocks and learn about the formation and characteristics of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks in this Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science book.

Me and My Place in Space. Joan Sweeney. Dragonfly (1999). Where is the earth? Where is the sun? Where are the stars? This book takes on the simplest questions about the universe and gives answers that young children can easily understand. Using clear language, drawings, and diagrams, space unfolds before a child's eyes. With our world as the starting point, we are taken on a tour past each planet and on to the stars--all through the eyes of a young girl. A glossary, included for further information, helps to provide an enjoyable, easy-to-read, and easy-to-use introduction to the universe.

Ohio Thunder. Denise Dowling Mortensen. Clarion Books (2006). Lyrical verse and stunning illustrations vividly bring to life the speed and drama of a summer storm on a midwestern farm. This remarkable pairing of word and pictures conveys a sense of wonder about the natural world and makes for a picture book any child who has ever been frightened by a storm will respond to.

On the Day You Were Born. Debra Frasier. Harcourt Brace (1997). This book celebrates the cycle of birth and the human connection to the earth. In the final pages, each illustration and theme in the book (migrating animals, gravity, glowing moon, rising tide, etc.) is explained in simple and direct language tat can be used to teach older children how nature works on our planet, and how Earth works in the universe.

Planet Earth, Inside Out. Gail Gibbons. Morrow Junior Books (1998). From its red-hot core to the highest mountain peak, come see Earth as you’ve never seen it before in a colorful introduction to the powerful forces shaping our home.

Rain. Manya Stojic. Crown Books for Young Readers (2000). When rain comes to the parched African savanna, the animals use all their senses to track the storm. The porcupine smells rain in the air. The zebras see lightning. The baboons hear thunder. The rhino feels the first drops. And the lion tastes the cool water. For a time, the grasslands abound with new green leaves, juicy fruits, and fresh pools of water. But soon the hot sun dries out the land, and the animals must again wait for the next big rain.

Recycle! A Handbook for Kids. Gail Gibbons. Little, Brown, and Company (1992). This NSTA-CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children selection illustrates the contents of a landfill and how to recycle various products to cut down on the need for landfills--for which space is already in short supply. Describes how to recycle, why it's necessary, and its benefits. The plea is to make our planet a safer and healthier place to live with a habit that is fun and easy--recycling.

Rocks: Hard, Soft, Smooth, and Rough. Natalie Rosinsky. Picture Window Books (2003). Simple text and cartoonish illustrations provide information on igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks.

Rocks and Minerals Series. Melissa Stewart. Heinemann Library (2002). This seven book series includes rock types, mineral composition, and fossil fuels. Includes titles such as: Igneous Rocks, Metamorphic Rocks, Sedimentary Rocks, and Minerals.

Seasons series: Fall, Spring, Summer, Winter, Seasons 123, Seasons ABC. Patricia Whitehouse. Heinemann (2003). This series examines seasonal changes from a child-centered point of view. Each book focuses on things that children notice in their environment, including the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of each season.

Snow. Manya Stojic. Crown Books for Young Readers (2002). As autumn blends into winter, and then snow begins to fall, Moose, Bear, Fox, and other forest creatures prepare for the long winter ahead. A gentle story describing how animals adapt to changing seasons.

Soil. Chris Oxlade. Heinemann (2002). A simple presentation of information about soil, including its composition, properties, and some of its uses. It includes fascinating photographs and a helpful glossary.

Soil: A True Book. Christin Ditchfield. Children’s Press (2002). Labeled pictures, clear text, and full-color photographs describe properties, soil types, uses, conservation, and fun facts. Includes a glossary, additional resources, index, and meet the author.

Somewhere in the World Right Now. Stacey Schuett. Dragonfly (1997). Maps, paintings, and text chronicle simultaneous activities around the world as one child goes to bed in Boston. The book makes a charming introduction to the concepts of day/night, time zones, and rotation of the earth.

Thundercake. Patricia Polacco. The Putnam and Grossett Group (1990). When the air get heavy and dark clouds drift low over the fields of Grandma’s farm, her frightened granddaughter hides under the bed. But Grandma insists that this is Thunder Cake baking weather and the two are soon scrambling to gather the ingredients to bake a cake – and get it into the oven before the storm arrives. Includes the formula for determining the distance of a storm.

Volcanoes. Ellen Prager. National Geographic (2001). A fire-breathing dragon takes children on a grand adventure to learn more about volcanoes in this colorful book from the Jump into Science series. Venturing into an active volcano, kids discover how magma inside the Earth begins to bubble and push its way upward, causing steam to escape through cracks overhead. Young readers will travel to active volcano sites around the world to discover the different characteristics and behavior of various volcanoes.

Water. Frank Asch. Voyager Books (2000). This books points out to very young students that water is everywhere on earth from high in the sky to deep in the ground.

Water Dance. Thomas Locker. Harcourt Brace & Company (1997). This poetic, artistic, and unusual introduction to the water cycle features a free-verse narrative illustrated by landscape and seascape paintings that show water in various forms referred to in the text: "I am the waterfall," "I am the clouds," or "I am the thunderhead." At the end of the book each picture appears in miniature accompanied by a paragraph explaining that particular phase of the water cycle.

We Use Water. Robin Nelson. Lerner Publications (2003). This non-fiction book for very young readers shows the many ways people use water. Children will see themselves making ice cubes, washing their hands, fighting fires, and running on the beach.

Weather series: A Cloudy Day, A Rainy Day, A Snowy Day, A Sunny Day, A Windy Day. Robin Nelson. Lerner Classroom. Focusing on five different kinds of weather, this engaging series show emergent readers the basics of weather using short, simple, repetitive sentences.

Weather Words and What They Mean. Gail Gibbons. Scholastic (1990). This book offers simple explanations and colorful illustrations that teach children key words involved in weather forecasting.

What the Animals Were Waiting For. Jonathan London. Scholastic Press (2001). In simple, stirring verse, this stunningly illustrated picture book tells the story of how important rainfall is to the cycle of life on the African savannah.

What Makes Day and Night? Franklyn M. Branley. HarperCollins (1986). Branley offers a simple explanation of how the rotation of the earth causes day and night in this Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science book.

What Shapes the Land? Bobbie Kalman. Crabtree (2009). Presents various landforms and the processes that shape them, some rapid like volcanic eruptions, and some slow, like erosion and weathering. Includes labeled photographs, glossary, table of contents, and index.

What Will the Weather Be? Lynda Dewitt. Scott Foresman (1993).Clear prose and brightly-colored, cartoonish illustrations explain how forecasters predict the weather. Includes many vocabulary terms such as meteorology, barometer, anemometer, wind vane, and hygrometer. A good introduction to a complex topic.

Where Does the Garbage Go? Paul Showers. HarperCollins (1994). Explains how people create too much waste, and how waste is recycled or put into landfills.

Garbage. Robert Maass. Henry Holt and Company (2000). An informative photo-essay about the ways in which we dispose of garbage, and about the benefits of recycling. The last two pages contain a longer text, which discusses disposal of hazardous waste and creating compost heaps. An attractive book that will be useful for introductory units on garbage and recycling.

Just a Dream. Chris Van Allsburg. Houghton Mifflin (1990). Young Walter is a litterbug who believes sorting trash is a big waste of time. What’s more, he thinks his friend’s birthday present, a tree, is the most ridiculous gift he’s ever seen. When he has a dream about a future Earth devastated by pollution, Walter begins to understand the importance of taking care of the environment.

The Lorax. Dr. Seuss. Random House (1971). Published in 1971, The Lorax is an ecological warning that still rings true today amidst the dangers of clear-cutting, pollution, and disregard for the earth's environment. Seuss’ brilliantly whimsical rhymes and delightfully original creatures tell the cautionary tale of the Once-ler’s greedy harvesting of Truffula Trees against the warnings of the Lorax (who speaks for the trees “for the trees have no tongues”).

A River Ran Wild. Lynne Cherry. Houghton Mifflin (1992). This book follows the story of the polluting of the Nashua River to its cleanup, brought about by the determination of a local woman. Each double spread examines one period or topic in the life of the river and includes a brief, informative text, attractively bordered with miniature illustrations of significant wildlife, artifacts, and events. This book can inspire children to take part in environmental stewardship- they really can make a difference.

Biology Books for Kids (Ages 10 and Up)

Biology Books for Kids Ages 10 and Up

Here are some biology books for your pre-teen to help foster her love of the biological sciences.

Extreme Biology: It's Life but Not as We Know It (2013) by Simon Basher (ages 10-15). The smallest, the toughest, the ickiest microbes. Kids won’t notice they’re learning things because of the cartoony illustrations and gross-out facts.

The Snake Scientist (1999) by Sy Montgomery (ages 10 and up). The book discusses the communal -hibernation of garter snakes in Canada, with many startling photographs of tangles of hundreds of snakes. The snake pictures will excite any child, but the book is uniquely good at explaining how scientists do their job and why.

10 Plants that Shook the World. (2013) by Gillian Richardson (ages 10 and up). This book discusses 10 economically or historically important plants in a chatty episodic format. It covers a lot of information in an edgy style (with edgy illustrations) that sarcastic children will enjoy, and mentions many important plant pathogens along the way.

Biology Books for Kids (Ages 9 and Up)

Biology Books for Kids Ages 9 and Up

Cells and Systems. Holly Wallace. (Ages 9 and Up) Heinemann Library (2001). Cells and Systems looks at how every living thing, no matter how big or how small, is made up of cells. It explains how the specialized cells make up the important tissues and organs like skin and bone, and how the heart and lungs keep us alive.

Far from Shore: Chronicles of an Open Ocean Voyage by Sophie Webb (ages 9 to 12)
Webb, a naturalist and artist, documents a four-month research voyage in the Pacific on the NOAA ship McArthur II with fascinating diary entries (marked by latitude and longitude so readers can map out her journey for themselves) and beautiful illustrations of the creatures she saw along the way.

Micro Mania: A Really Close-up Look at Bacteria, Bedbugs & the Zillions of Other Gross Little Creatures That Live In, On & All Around you! (revised 2011) by Jordan D. Brown (ages 9 and up). This a good inexpensive book on general (or even “random”) biology in an encyclopedia format good for continued perusal. It has a high gross factor for kids who like that, but also discusses molecular biology techniques.

Journey Into the Invisible by Christine Schlitt (ages 9 to 12). If you have used a magnifying glass, you know that a speck of dust or a leaf looks a lot different when it’s magnified. The author of this book explains what microscopes do and then shows what happens to things around the house when looked at with this amazing scientific tool. A salt crystal magnified 30 times looks like a super-modern apartment building. The bacteria that live in your mouth, when magnified 20,000 times, look a bit like swimming pool noodles. Fascinating photos are paired with suggestions about how you can learn a lot about the world around you, just by looking a little closer.

Biology Books for Kids (Ages 8 and Up)

Biology Books for Kids Ages 8 and Up

Check out these titles to support your Rocket Girl's interest in biology.

Aliens from Earth: When Animals and Plants Invade Other Ecosystems (2003) by Mary Batten (ages 8 and up). Explores how and why plants and animals enter ecosystems to which they are not native, as well as the consequences of these invasions for other animals, plants, and humans.
Cells Are Us. Fran Balkwill. (Ages 8 and Up) Carolrhoda Books (1990). Amusing, fact-filled text and clever cartoons explain the functions of the cells in the human body.

Crawdad Creek. Scott Russell Sanders. (8-12 Years) National Geographic (1999). Exquisitely detailed paintings capture the beauty of the wild, natural world waiting to be discovered. The book encourages readers to go outside; find moving water; and open their eyes, ears, and hearts to the wilderness everywhere. A wonderful book to encourage young readers to observe all the details of the world around them.

Great Migrations. Elizabeth Carney. (8-12 Years) National Geographic (2010). Based on the National Geographic t Channel’s special, this book follows the migrations of 8 different animals, this book is filled with stunning photographs, migration maps, and interesting facts.

The Secret World of Whales by Charles Siebert, illustrated by Molly Baker (ages 8 to 12)
A comprehensive look at the whale world, including whales in literature, the history of whaling and highlights of current whale science. For example, one page mentions the work of Hal Whitehead, who was featured in the recent Smithsonian story about sperm whales.