Arts/Crafts, Homeschool, Science/Math, Education

Constellation Projector

This is a picture of author Kirsten Larson with the finished constellation projector.

Here’s an activity linked to THE FIRE OF STARS (Chronicle Books) perfect for the budding astronomer in your life. This constellation projector is simple to make with common household items. And the results are stellar, which you’ll see at the end!

What you’ll need

You will need: a flashlight, a toilet paper tube, tape, glue, scissors, sharp pencil, popsicle stick for spreading glue (optional) and constellation printable.

You will need:

  • a flashlight (or your phone flashlight)
  • a toilet paper tube
  • tape (washi tape looks really nice if you have it)
  • glue and a popsicle stick for spreading it if you want
  • scissors
  • sharp pencil
  • constellation printable, which you’ll find here at Homeschool 123 Homeschool 4 Me
  • Optional: construction paper or scrapbook paper to cover your toilet paper tube OR markers to color it.

Directions

This is a picture of Kirsten showing the constellations that have been punched and cut out.
  • Print out or copy the constellation printables on your printer, reducing them to 30 to 50% of the full size. You want the constellation to fit within the circle of the toilet paper tube.
  • Using the sharp point of the pencil, punch holes where the stars are on the constellation. Be very careful so you don’t poke yourself!
  • Cut a large circle around the constellation and and make little snips around the circumference so the edges fold more easily over the toilet paper tube.
  • Put glue on the edges where you’ve snipped, and glue the constellation over the toilet paper tube.
  • Cover the paper edges with washi tape or plain old scotch tape if you don’t have it.
  • You can decorate your toilet paper tube with markers or construction paper, and write the name of the constellation on the side.
  • When you are finished, go into a dark room or closet and put your flashlight inside the toilet paper tube to enjoy your constellation.
Kirsten showing how to bend the paper around the tube.

This is an image of the constellation project projecting lyra onto a wall.

For a video of a similar project, see this one from Natskies.

Education, History, Homeschool, Writing

Real Life Wonders Activity

Each month, I’ll spotlight a book-based educational activity teachers and homeschooling parents can use with their students. These activities are pulled from the educators’ guides developed for my books by author and former educator Marcie Colleen. You can download the full A TRUE WONDER educator’s guide here.

This is an image of a female volunteer

Every day we are surrounded by people who quietly fight for the common good or stand up for what they believe is right. These outstanding individuals show what the power one person has to impact our neighborhoods and communities.

Who are the superheroes in your community? Interview and write a report or make a presentation about someone in your own community who you think makes a positive impact. This can be done as a whole class, in groups, or as individuals. Here are some things you can discuss:

  • Why you believe this person to be a hero to the neighborhood and community.
  • Describe the person activity/activities that significantly benefitted their neighborhood.
  • How long has the hero contributed to the neighborhood? What was their most recent activity?
  • Describe the creative and innovative methods used by the hero to benefit their neighborhood.
  • Include any other interesting information relevant to the hero’s activities.
  • What is this hero’s impact to the neighborhood and/or community at large? Include documentation such as pamphlets, articles, presentations, photographs, newsclippings, letters of support, etc. if applicable.

Present these reports to the class. Invite the heroes for a “Real Life Wonder” celebration.

Books, Education, Homeschool

Dear Olivia Sage: Writing a Persuasive Essay

Each month, I’ll spotlight a book-based educational activity teachers and homeschooling parents can use with their students. These activities are pulled from the educators’ guides developed for my books by author and former educator Marcie Colleen. You can download the complete WOOD, WIRE, WINGS educator’s guide here.

Dear Olivia Sage: Writing a Persuasive Essay

As her dream outgrew her apartment and her wallet, Lilian needed to turn to others for help. One such person she turned to was Olivia Sage, one of the richest women in the world. But often people don’t just hand money to anyone who asks. Lilian needed to ask Olivia Sage while providing enough details to inform Olivia what her money would be used for. She needed to persuade Olivia Sage to help her.

Ask your students if they know what “persuade” means. If not, can they make any guesses?

Discuss:

  • What it means to persuade
  • Times you might want to persuade someone (e.g., persuade your parents to letyou stay up late, persuade your teacher to not give a test)Writing to persuade tells the reader what you believe, gives the reader at least three reasons why you believe it, and has a good ending sentence. You want to try and convince the reader to agree with you.
  • Pretending to be Lilian Todd, have students write a persuasive essay to Olivia Sage stating why they need money and why she should give it to you.

Use the following TREE structure:

T = Topic sentences

R = Reasons

E = Ending

E = Examine
Share your essays with the class. Which is the most persuasive? Why do you think so?

Speaking and Listening Extension: Create a TV commercial or PowerPoint presentation to encourage people to read Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane. Be sure to incorporate the TREE structure!

Arts/Crafts, Education, Homeschool

What Makes a Hero Lesson Plan

Each month, I’ll spotlight a book-based educational activity teachers and homeschooling parents can use with their students. These activities are pulled from the educators’ guides developed for my books by author and former educator Marcie Colleen. You can download the full A TRUE WONDER educator’s guide here.

The Hero In Me

Brainstorm a list of the qualities and actions that make Wonder Woman a hero. Then undertake the following project:

  • Have each student lay down on a large piece of butcher paper while someone traces their body with a pencil. Alternatively, download a printable worksheet, like this Superhero Cape printable from Nurtured Neurons for students to use.
  • Once the student has the silhouette of their body or cape, they can write the things that make Wonder Woman a hero outside the outline.
  • Inside the outline, they can write some of the qualities they share with Wonder Woman or ways in which she has inspired them.
  • Then students can decorate their silhouette or cape. Photos and other images can be added to create a collage.
  • For extra fun, challenge students to come up with their own superhero name. (For grown ups, you can find a superhero name generator here.)
Homeschool, Writing

Creativity is Messy…

If I could share one thing with young writers of all ages, it’s that creativity is never a linear process. It’s always full of detours, rabbit holes, and dead ends. And that’s frustrating, but it’s also wonderful! There’s magic in that messiness.

For example, I’ve recently become reacquainted with my notebook pages from when I was first noodling around with a new structure for THE FIRE OF STARS (five years ago now!). Below are my messy and illegible notes. Don’t worry. I’ve included captions to help with the translation.

Before I got to this point with THE FIRE OF STARS, I’d been researching and working on various drafts for almost three years, trying to find just the right way to tell the story of astrophysicist Cecilia Payne. But nothing had come together in quite the right way — yet.

Creating these messy scraps in my notebook through scribbling , experimenting with words, and (badly) sketching led to my eventual creative breakthrough with the book.

The process is a lot like star formation. It stars start with tiny “bits” — dust and hydrogen atoms. Soon the tiny pieces start to clump together, slowly growing until they explode in a breathtaking show of light.

This is also the way Cecilia Payne worked. She tried different things, hit obstacles, and needed a lot of patience before everything came together in her final, ground-breaking discovery.

Creativity — whether writing or science — is messy … and that’s a beautiful thing. So grab your notebook and collect scraps of words, snatches of an idea, and all your swirly scribbles.

Education, Homeschool, Writing

ELA Activity: Piloting Lilian’s Plane

Each month, I’ll spotlight a book-based educational activity teachers and homeschooling parents can use with their students. These activities are pulled from the educators’ guides developed for my books by author and former educator Marcie Colleen. You can download the complete WOOD, WIRE, WINGS educator’s guide here.

Piloting Lilian’s Plane ~ creative story

Imagine that you have been chosen to pilot Lilian Todd’s airplane as she observed and took notes. Write about your experience.

  • Who are you? Where do you live?
  • How were you chosen to be the pilot? What experience do you already havewith flight?
  • What was it like when you saw the airplane for the first time?
  • Once aboard, how did you feel? Were you nervous?
  • How did Lilian react? What did she say to you before and after the flight?
  • What was the best part? Would you pilot a plane again? Is there anything youwould do differently? Research photographs from 1910 to aid students in placing themselves in the time period. Photographs can be found through the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum website and the Library of Congress. Have students share their stories of piloting the airplane with the class.
Education, Homeschool, Reading, research

A WONDER-ful ELA Nonfiction Reading and Research Activity

Each month, I’ll spotlight a book-based educational activity teachers and homeschooling parents can use with their students. These activities are pulled from the educators’ guides developed for my books by author and former educator Marcie Colleen. You can download the full A TRUE WONDER educator’s guide here.

Reading Nonfiction

While reading A True Wonder: The Comic Book Hero Who Changed Everything aloud to the class, have students take notes in two columns.

  • Things we learned
  • Questions we have


Pause before each page turn to add notes to the columns. These columns can either be worked on individually or put on the smartboard and worked on as a class.

Once the story is read, discuss the Questions We Have column.

  • Were any of these questions answered as the story went along?
  • If so, ask students to find the answer within the text.
  • Record the answer next to the question in a third column labeled Answers We Found.

For all remaining questions in the Questions We Have column, that have yet to be answered, students will need to take the steps to find answers, either through Internet or book research.

Assign students to specific questions to help them focus. Record all answers in the Answers We Found column.

After the answers have been shared with the class, engage in a discussion on research practices.

  • What was the most difficult part about finding answers?
  • Was it easier to find answers on the Internet or in a book?
  • Which source is more reliable, the Internet or a printed book? Why? 
  • How can you determine whether to trust a source?
  • What tips would you give someone who is about to do research?

Read the Author’s Note (The Origin Story…of This Book) and The Women of Wonder Woman at the back of the book.

  • Create an additional chart to document what information in the back matter was included in the story and what information was not included.
  • Why do you think Kirsten Larson chose to include certain information in the main text and leave other information to the back matter?
  • Choose three facts from the back matter and explain why you think each was not included in the story.

Extension: Design and illustrate posters representing each Fact, Question, and researched Answer based on A True Wonder: The Comic Book Hero Who Changed Everything and display them within the classroom.

Books, Cultivating curiosity, Homeschool, Science/Math

Happy birthday STEM Book Giveaway

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WOOD, WIRE, WINGS has been out in the world for nearly three whole months. In celebration, I’m giving away an autographed copy of WOOD, WIRE, WINGS, along with a copy of Vicky Fang’s HAPPY PAWS. To enter, sign up for my monthly newsletter here. That’s it! Giveaway ends 5/25 at midnight PDT. Sorry, US entries only.

Books, Homeschool, News

Activities for curious kids, where to read books, and more 😷

Taking action in the time of COVID-19

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Hi friends,

Was it just over a month ago that WOOD, WIRE, WINGS finally took flight? It seems like an eternity after four weeks at home. With many of my book events postponed or canceled over the coming months, I’m focused on what I can do right now, both physically and emotionally.

  • Continuing to create – I’m revising a graphic novel and researching a new STEM picture book. For me, creating is an anchor in turbulent times.
  • Reading books for inspiration (and reviewing them) – I was lucky enough to pick up a stack of print books two hours before my library closed its doors. I’ve read and reviewed most of them already, so I’m also reading ebooks/audiobooks via Amazon Prime Reading and Libby/Overdrive linked to my library account. (I love listening to audiobooks on Libby while working jigsaw puzzles or baking). Audible is another source for free children’s audiobooks, and countless creators are offering readings and book clubs online. I review as many books as I can on Amazon, B&N, and Goodreads. Since book creators can no longer host in-person events, book reviews are more important than ever for helping readers discover new books. If you’ve read WOOD, WIRE, WINGS, I would be deeply grateful if you would leave an honest review on the book platform of your choice.
  • Boosting booksellers – Local bookstores are suffering terribly right now, though many remain open for online and phone orders, often with curbside pickup or inexpensive delivery. You can contact your bookseller directly or shop your local indie at Bookshop.org. Don’t need books for yourself? Consider placing an order to stock a local Little Free Library or buying a gift certificate for later use. Audiobook-lovers can support indies by buying through Libro.fm. Finally, if you are an Amazon fan, the good news is physical books have been reclassified as “essential” with faster ship times and deep discounts (WOOD, WIRE, WINGS is currently discounted to $14.34).
  • Connecting with readers online – I’ve created a YouTube version of my engineering design workshop, and have done a few Zoom/Skypes with classes who have read my book. It’s always a delight to connect with young readers, especially when the opportunities are scarce. If you are trying to keep kids busy at home, the number of resources available is overwhelming, but you can find many wonderful ideas from my debut picture book group, The Soaring 20s, on our website.

Here’s hoping you are able to stay safe at home, while your dreams soar in books.



Oh, the places I’ve been (virtually)

It’s been a busy couple of months with lots of podcasts, guest blog posts, and media appearances. Here are a few of the places I’ve been.

Coming soon: appearances on Jedlie’s Reading With Your Kids podcast (4/21), Matthew Winner’s Children’s Book Podcast (week of 4/27), Chris Wood’s STEM Everday Podcast (TBD), and much more. Follow me on Twitter @kirstenwlarson or follow my Facebook page so you don’t miss my upcoming appearances.


Books I’m Over the Moon About












Arts/Crafts, Cultivating curiosity, Education, Homeschool, Parenting, Reading

Tools and Activities for Keeping At-Home Kids Busy

For those who have students home from school due to COVID-19, children’s book creators are putting together a number of resources to keep your students occupied and engaged. Aside from creator content, I am also sharing some of my favorite sites for kid-friendly activities and content. My goal is to keep this site updated as I find out about more.