Thursday, July 6, 2017

Enriching Education: STEM Concepts in Kids' Books

Busy on the Farm teaches children about farming and food production while helping them discover how science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are used in modern farming. “The book exposes young children to agriculture and science with the hope of exciting them about both," says author Holly Dufek.
Readers follow entertaining and whimsical cartoon characters Casey the Farmer, Bailey the Baler, Fern the Farmall and Tillus the Worm to learn about daily chores on a farm, including caring and feeding for livestock and the different types of tractors used on the farm.
Colorful photographs and illustrations, fun farm facts and educational sidebars throughout the book keep children engaged and provide engaging learning opportunities. Children learn:
  • The different jobs of various equipment – tractors, hay balers, snow plows, backhoes – and how some do work both on the farm and in the city.
  • How farmers use computers and special technology to help them grow and keep track of their crops.
  • The different types of cattle breeds. Dairy cows produce milk and beef cows produce meat.
  • Farmers must keep track of the crops they grow such as corn, soybeans and hay, so they can plan for the following year.
"Fewer and fewer people either live on a farm or have a direct connection to agriculture. We hope Busy on the Farm and other Casey & Friends books can help pique kids’ interests at an early age, so later they will consider careers in STEM and agriculture,” Dufek adds. 

I had a chance to interview Holly to learn more.

What was the inspiration behind the Casey series?

We really wanted to create a series of educational books that introduce children to modern farming-- with a focus on the equipment used in farming.

That said, I wanted the series to be engaging to a wide range of children -- depending on age and attention span. Younger children love the cartoon characters and colorful photography. And the cartoon captions are perfect for their attention span. As children grow with the books, Casey the Farmer introduces more high-level information at the beginning of each section. And for those children wanting to learn about science and technology in farming, there is "Tillus Talk" featuring a cute and techie earth worm.

Why did you decide to write Busy on the Farm?

Busy on the Farm completes our character focus on equipment, featuring Frankie and Fern -- our utility tractors-- and Bailey the Baler. Since this book centers around hay and forage, we've included a study on cattle, describing the differences between dairy and beef breeds. Everyone loves cows!
How can parents use the Case series to teach their kids STEM concepts?

Science, technology and mathematics are part of everyday farming-- whether it's dealing with equipment, figuring out how much seed to plant, calculating yield potential, etc. The Casey & Friends series naturally teaches these concepts as each book explains how specific pieces of equipment function and why they work the way they do. Children learn STEM concepts simply by reading the books!
How are these books appropriate for rural kids and those that grow up not in a farming community?

My hope is that children who live in a rural community will read these books and feel a sense of pride about what they know and see everyday. And hopefully these readers learn something about science or technology that they didn't know.

For children who don't live in a rural community, I hope Casey & Friends teaches them basic information about modern farming and all of the work, science and technology involved in farming. Also, I hope the series introduces children to the many possible careers in agriculture--from engineering to soil scientist and everything in between. 

And at the end of the day, I hope children have fun and make a connection.
Other Casey & Friends books from Octane Press, include A Year on the Farm: with Casey & FriendsBig Tractors: with Casey & FriendsPlanters & Cultivators: with Casey & FriendsCombines: with Casey & Friendsand Casey’s Bright Red Christmas. Each book highlights the science and technology associated with different farming practices and the equipment used. To learn more about the Casey & Friends books,   

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