Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Inspiring STEM through Picture Books


This week we welcome NSW Teacher Librarian, Catherine Cattermole. Catherine combines two passions in her FaceBook site: Picture Book STEM. Providing students with a chance to explore Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and using picture books as a springboard provides the ideas that fuel Catherine’s FB posts. This is National Science Week – here are some terrific ideas to delve into science through literature - including some CBCA shortlisted titles.


I believe picture books are one of the most beautiful tools in teaching. The connections that students can make with characters, the ability to visit new places, to see things from other perspectives and the lessons in understanding new concepts are invaluable. When students connect with characters, and develop some feeling of empathy or sympathy for them, they are so much more involved in the story. Most good picture books have at least one problem within them. And when students have a relationship with these characters, they also have a desire to help.

Picture Book Stem logo  ©
Over the past few years I have developed a procedure for using picture books to inspire STEM activities. Just like a STEM design, it has been tested, evaluated, rebuilt and tested all over again. These lessons became such a positive part of my teaching day, that, at my next District Library Committee meeting, I offered to host a picture book inspired STEM afternoon at my school.  The wonderfully supportive PMBW committee was happy to share the fun. During this afternoon, I provided a variety of resources and realised how enthusiastic other teacher-librarians were about the whole process. I then wondered if other teachers may find my resources useful, and decided to share this information through a page on Facebook.

This is when Picture Book STEM really began. So what is the purpose of my page? The purpose is to share free, tested, hopefully valuable, resources with teachers. Teachers already commit so much to their students, that to lessen their load with a free resource is essential. I hope to help make it easier for teachers to give students incredible opportunities, while supporting them with structure.

I began by reading about STEM activities and finding books where characters could be assisted through an activity to assist in solving their problem. Now when I read a picture book, all of those problems become inspiration to find a solution. And it is so wonderful to see students making decisions to help others. The invaluable communication, collaboration and creative development in these lessons is invaluable. This is also evident in the students’ renewed love of picture books.
I always do two copies of a challenge - one is for students to recognise problems and come up with their own designs. The second has the activities written on them for teachers to use as a guide if they wish. I have had people tell me they need ideas, and then others tell me I shouldn’t be giving ideas! So now I do both :)

Catherine Cattermole
Catherine works at James Erskine Public School in Western Sydney where she has worked as the teacher librarian since 2009. Previously, Catherine was a classroom teacher for 19 years before retraining as a teacher librarian.FB: Picture Book STEM

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