The History and Rhetoric of Science Writing for Children

Fall 2018
Spring 2018
Rebekah Fitzsimmons
ENGL 1102
Books for children, both fiction and non-fiction, can address scientific principles in creative ways in an attempt to educate, inform and excite young children. Hidden inside many classic children’s texts are broad scientific concepts like climate change (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs), engineering (The Three Little Pigs), life cycles (The Very Hungry Caterpillar), and environmentalism (The Lorax). Other newer texts, like Babies Love Quarks, are designed to help entice even the youngest children to love science, as a response to the STEM “crisis” in American education. In this writing course, students will embrace the rhetorical challenges of addressing complex scientific principles in visually appealing formats and child friendly language through research, annotation, presentation, and creation. Students enrolled in this section should plan to (as Miss Frizzle says in the Magic School Bus series) “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!"
 
As a class, we will explore the historical scope of science writing for children by interacting with digital archives of children’s books from the 1800s. Students will engage in original research on authors of science books for children, focusing on authors who are largely unrecognized or texts that have fallen out of circulation. Students will make their research public through social media (i.e. keeping a research journal on Twitter) and public dissemination of information (i.e. creating or editing Wikipedia pages, presenting information to the class orally). 
 
This class will also engage community partners in order to connect students with the primary audience for their final picture book artifacts: young students. For the last project of the class, students will compose, illustrate, and create non-fiction picture books for children. Topics for these books might include a biography of the scientist or author they profiled in Unit 1, a scientific concept important to the students’ field of study (such as mechanical engineering or computer science), or an important scientific discovery or technological concept (such as the landing of the Mars Rover Curiosity). Students will interact with our school partners to help students understand both the science topics and the composition and revision process of writing a picture book. 
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