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  • Writer's pictureSuzie Olsen

Interview with a STEM Author: Kristen Nordstrom

Hello STEM Sparkers! How are you doing this week? Jack and I are marching on with online school (he does it and I facilitate) all while I work at my engineering job. But I think we can be like 51% optimistic that he'll be back in person for school soon.

And speaking of positive things in life, I'm excited to introduce you to Kristen Nordstrom! Kristen is a second grade teacher who is introducing title one and bilingual children to STEAM. Plus she's written this really cool book Mimic Makers: Biomimicry Inventors Inspired by Nature, so STEM Sparks please join me in giving Kristen a big welcome to the blog!

I'm excited for your new book Mimic Makers: Biomimicry Inventors Inspired by Nature, could you please tell us more about the book and what biomimicry is?

MIMIC MAKERS tells the stories of ten inventors from different parts of the world whose questions and investigations about nature lead to amazing inventions that help people.

These innovators come from different areas of expertise in the STEAM world - biologist, chemical engineer, material science engineer, microbiologist to name a few, but all work in the scientific field of biomimicry.

What’s biomimicry? Bio means life, and mimicry means copying. When you put the two words together, you get biomimicry, the process of copying life to solve problems. It is a word that was brought into the mainstream by Janine Benyus who is a science writer and biologist; she wrote an adult book on the subject and is the founder of the Biomimicry Institute.

What inspired you to write STEM for kids?

I’m a full-time teacher at a STEAM Academy, so I try to write the books that will help me engage, inspire, and teach my students. The world of STEM and I like to call it STEAM to include art and design, has been a part of my life as an educator for over twenty years. My wonderful first principal, loved hands-on science and gave all the teachers support, materials, and encouragement to pursue this marvelous, messy way of learning about the world.

I fell in love with the first exploration thanks to a dear science-loving colleague, and now after hundreds of classroom experiences and years of training with the Lawrence Hall of Science, NSTA, and the annual STEMposium in our area, I am a founding teacher at a Title One, public school that serves a diverse group of students that includes foster youth, second-language learners, and children on the autism spectrum.

Do you have any fun or favorite STEM facts from your books?

Sharks are fish but they’re not covered with regular scales. Shark skin is embedded with structures called denticles. These denticles are V-shaped which helps sharks move faster through the water and repel algae and germs.

Many people might know that a geckos’ incredible sticking power, which enables these reptiles to climb up walls and saunter across ceilings, is due to the super-tiny bristles called setae on the base of a gecko’s foot. What a lot of people don’t know is that these setae work with the tendons, tissues in the gecko’s foot and leg, to help the gecko’s foot stick and unstick to a surface.

Any parting words of wisdom about STEM for our readers?

Keep on writing, reading, and remember... Educational research supports the idea that the students, who are underrepresented in STEAM majors in high school and college and STEAM careers, have a higher likelihood to pursue their STEAM studies in middle school, high school, and college if they are exposed to STEAM subjects and hands-on science early on in their educational career.

Thanks Kristen for the insight! I also appreciate you mentioning STEAM, as I tend to go back and forth between STEM and STEAM. Readers, if you'd like to learn more about Kristen and perhaps pre-order her awesome book MIMIC MAKERS, check out her website here. And of course happy STEM-ing (or STEAM-ing)!

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