As we go through our everyday lives, science is at work all around us, though many of us take little notice. Teacher, author, and presenter Larry Scheckel has made it his mission “to show that science is valuable, a worthy human pursuit, and just plain fun.” And that’s exactly what he does in his latest book I Wondered About That, Too: 111 Questions and Answers About Science and Other Stuff, which is being released on November 1 from Tumblehome Learning, Inc. The sequel to his widely popular book I Always Wondered About That, Larry’s newest book will captivate readers of all ages with answers to questions about things we’ve always pondered. In light of this upcoming release, I am excited to share my interview with Larry Scheckel for Swenson Book Development.
Swenson Book Development: What is different about I Wondered About That, Too compared to your previous book? Can you give us an example of what readers can look forward to in some of the new questions or subject areas?
Larry Scheckel: I Wondered About That Too: 111 Questions and Answers About Science and Other Stuff is the second in a series of three books in the Q & A format that answers questions and queries from kids and adults. Many of the questions come from students in school classrooms and the teachers pass those questions on to me. Other inquiries are sent to me by adults, either by email or contacts in social situations. I Wondered About That Too has 12 chapters that cover the gamut of the scientific field: The Exquisite Human Body, All the Plants and Animals, The Science of Food and Drink, Remarkable People in Science, The Science of Heavens and Earth, Art, Music, Sports and Math, Incredible Technology, At the Fringes of Science, Science Mystery and History, Chemistry and the Atom, and How the World Works.
Numerous questions are very simple but can have quite complex answers or explanations. Examples: Do migrating birds get jet lag? Does drinking milk make kids grow taller? Could we live on Mars? Why are things colorful around us? Can we drill a hole all the way through Earth? Is there any evidence that humans are still evolving? How do airplanes measure their speed through the air? When does a calf become a cow?
SBD: Tell us a little bit about your publisher, Tumblehome Learning, Inc., which specializes in books about STEM subjects.
LS: Tumblehome Learning is located in Boston, Massachusetts, with overseas offices in Taipei, Taiwan. The majority of their books are geared toward upper elementary and middle school students, ages 8-12. Their mission is to make STEM education more fun by embedding scientific content into fun story lines which excite children and help them imagine themselves as future scientists or engineers. They focus on the intersection of science and literacy. Their publications align with the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards.
My main contact with Tumblehome Learning is Pendred (Penny) Noyce. She is an accomplished doctor, educator, and writer. Her father, Robert Noyce, was co-inventor of the integrated circuit and co-founder of Intel. Penny is a joy to work with and extremely helpful in getting the three science books published.
SBD: You do a TV segment called “The Lab” on the local news in Tomah, WI about fun and interesting science concepts. Are any of these TV segments based on information in your books?
LS: Many of the segments we do are based on narratives that are in the book. Some examples: Why does a soda pop explode when you shake the can? How are volcanoes formed? Why does lightning come in different colors? Why do you move you hand back when you catch a hard-thrown baseball? Why do bottles make a sound when you blow over them? What is radioactivity? How is sound created when two things collide? Why do wires spark when you plug something in?
SBD: You mentor a young man named Oakley Moser, who is a high school physics teacher, and he now appears on TV with you. What has this experience in mentoring been like for you?
LS: Oakley Moser was a student in my Physics class in 2006 as a junior and enrolled in my Advanced Placement Physics class in 2007 as a senior. He graduated from UW-Eau Claire, taught two years at Mauston High School and has been teaching for five years in the same classroom that I taught in for 38.5 years. He is an excellent teacher and we do several science programs together for schools, museums, and parenting groups. He wrote the Foreword to I Wondered About That Too.
SBD: What other programs are you involved in that teach or mentor science?
LS: My wife and I do about 30 programs a year for elementary, middle, and high school students. The sessions are science demonstrations with many student volunteers, exciting and fast paced. I attempt to show how science is related and relevant to their everyday life. We also do programs for Boys and Girls Clubs, Boys Scout and Girl Scouts, libraries, and retirement homes.
SBD: Earlier this month as part of the Fox Cities Book Festival, you visited five schools in the Kaukauna school district and reached around 1600 kids in two days with your science programs. What was your favorite part about this experience?
LS: The facial expressions of awe and wonder are fantastic. We always have lots of eager volunteers, such as sitting on a seat of nails, the boy vs. girl center of gravity demo, the roaring lion (sound), Bernoulli’s Principle, and palm pipes.
SBD: What inspires your passion for young people learning science?
LS: I am a big proponent of scientific literacy. Science is the study of logic. It figures things out. Science teaches us how to learn by using the scientific method, experimentation, and research. Science fosters logical and critical thinking. We need more science information from our television programming and from the print and electronic media. We need students to take more science classes in school. Well-informed citizens are able to make sound choices about science, the environment, and our future as a country and as a people.
Order your copy of I Wondered About That, Too today!
Special Note: Not long after interviewing him, I learned the sad news that Larry Scheckel’s son has passed away. Our sympathies to Larry and his family.