Welcome Back, STEM Readers!


Here at STEM Read, we’re all about exploring the STEAM concepts and the collaboration across the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, art, and math through fiction books. If you’re a new friend of the program or just want to see how we spent our summer vacation, read on to find out more about what we do and why we do it.

We’ve had quite an action-packed summer filled with events! Some highlights:

Dr. Melanie Koss helps a teacher and camper prepare for a costume challenge during the STEM Read Summer Institute

Quarantine: The Summer Camp: At our “terrifyingly educational” camp based on the book Quarantine: The Loners by Lex Thomas, students in grades 9-12 explored STEAM ideas through activities and collaboration with STEM experts. The authors themselves, Lex Hrabe and Thomas Voorhies, showed up to participate in a game based on the novel – how cool is that! Lerner Books, publisher of the Quarantine series and other terrific books, provided additional support for the camp.

STEM Read Summer Institute: During this three-day institute, educators learned how to facilitate STEM Read events, such as the Quarantine activities, into their own classroom. Lex Thomas participated in the institute, as did Dr. Melanie Koss, Associate Professor of Literacy Education and Senior Faculty Fellow. Read on to learn more about this “gamified” learning experience for educators.

Tammy Baston and Lex Thomas
at the Future Telling Mini-Con

Future Telling: Science + Storytelling Mini-Conference: Co-hosted by Kate Hannigan, author of such books as The Detective’s Assistant and the Cape series, our mini-conference made a big impact on all of the attendees. Speakers included Kate Hannigan, Lex Thomas, experts from Argonne National Lab, and Dr. Tammy Baston, Undergraduate Director and Instructor, NIU Department of Economics, and co-director of the Center for Economic Instruction. In fact, we were lucky enough to host Dr. Baston at all three of these events! The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and NIU Libraries provided additional support for the conference.

One of our favorite things to do here at STEM Read is, well, read. We’ll continue to shout-out books we love in our blog series: Quick Pick, Staff Picks, Read-Alikes, Retro Reads, and Hot and STEAM-y. The STEM Read Podcast continues our amazing exploration of science and storytelling. Season 3 premieres in September.

We’re excited to once again offer engaging and unique events for educators, including Professional Development events and field trips that explore and “gamefiy” ways to incorporate STEM-y books into your classroom. Visit our Lesson Plan Library for lessons and “idea sparks’ that explore STEAM concepts.

Teen campers share the costumes and characters they created as part of Quarantine: The Summer Camp

Miss one of our past field trips? No worries: It’s not too late to engage with the science behind the fiction with one (or more!) of our Field Trips from the Vault. Click here for more details and to register. Here is the list of terrific tales from which you get to choose:

  • The Toy and the Storytellers (Stuffed Bunny Science books) by Gillian King-Cargile
  • I Survived…series by Lauren Tarshis
  • Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar
  • The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
  • The Detective’s Assistant by Kate Hannigan
  • The Only Ones by Aaron Starmer
  • Ashfall by Mike Mullin
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley paired with The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White

Check our blog weekly for updates and announcements about the events we have planned for the coming year, including our Future Telling Conference set for June 2020.

Follow us at @NIUSTEAM on social media so you don’t miss out on the awesomeness that is STEM Read and the NIU STEAM Team!