By Ashly Moore Sheldon • November 06, 2020
In basic terms, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. But STEM education goes far beyond that, of course. It is about understanding how things work and finding innovative ways to solve problems.
The updated acronym STEAM, offering the addition of Arts, serves as an acknowledgment of the creativity inherent in all of these fields. Here we spotlight fifteen inspiring picture books featuring real-life stories from each of these categories. There is tremendous crossover between all of these disciplines of course, so many of these books could have landed in more than one category.
Buzzing with Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner
Growing up in the late 1800s, Turner faced much prejudice in pursuit of his dreams to study animals, bugs, and crustaceans. Author Janice Harrington captures the extraordinary life of this scientist and educator, highlighting his unstoppable curiosity.
All in a Drop: How Antony Van Leeuwenhoek Discovered an Invisible World
This lively, accessible biography by Lori Alexander celebrates the power of curiosity, ingenuity, and persistence. By building his own microscope, Leeuwenhoek, a self-taught scientist, became the first to observe the microbial life that exists inside and all around us.
Titan and the Wild Boars
With time and oxygen running out, the world watched as an international team of rescuers joined forces to rescue the Wild Boars soccer team from a flooded cave in Thailand. Award-winning author Susan Hood and journalist Pathana Sornhiran based this picture book on Sornhiran's first-hand reporting of the event.
The House that Cleaned Itself: The True Story of Frances Gabe's (Mostly) Marvelous Invention
Frances Gabe found cleaning to be a"nerve-twangling bore." So she invented a contraption to free herself from this tedious task forever: a self-cleaning house. Gabe's wacky, wonderful home included almost seventy new patented inventions. Laura Dershewitz and Susan Romberg share the inventor's story.
Karl's New Beak: 3-D Printing Builds a Bird a Better Life
Lela Nargi shares the story of Karl, an Abyssinian ground hornbill with a special challenge. His lower bill was broken off, making it hard for him to get enough food. His zookeepers at the National Zoo and friends at the Smithsonian Institute found an innovative solution involving an old bird skeleton and a 3-D printer.
Samuel Morse, That's Who!: The Story of the Telegraph and Morse Code
Back in the 1800s, information traveled slowly. Long before the first telephone, who was the man who changed communication forever? From Tracy Nelson Maurer comes a lively picture book biography of Samuel Morse showing how he revolutionized modern technology and communication.
Secret Engineer: How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge
In 1883, women weren't supposed to be engineers. But as the wife of the chief engineer for the Brooklyn Bridge, Emily Roebling insisted on learning everything about the project. When her husband fell ill mid-construction, her knowledge came in handy. From author-illustrator Rachel Dougherty.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
When a terrible drought struck William Kamkwamba's tiny village in Malawi, his family lost all of the season's crops, leaving them starving and destitute. Looking for a solution in the science books in his village library, William came up with an idea that would change his family's life forever.
Born Just Right
When inventor and Project Unicorn founder Jordan Reeves was born without the bottom half of her left arm, the doctor reassured her parents that she was "born just right." And she has been proving that doctor right ever since. Here with the help of her mom, Jen Lee Reeves, Jordan tells her own story.
The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons
This gloriously illustrated picture book biography from Natascha Biebow tells the inspiring story of the inventor of the world's most accessible art supplies. With experimentation, and a special knack for listening, Edwin Binney invited children around the world to dream in color.
Prairie Boy: Frank Lloyd Wright Turns the Heartland into a Home
Author Barb Rosenstock explores the story of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. As a boy, he loved his Wisconsin prairie home, with its wide-open sky and waves of tall grass. But he felt that the style of the buildings often clashed with their environs. So he developed a new architecture style that celebrated the landscape.
From an Idea to Lego: The Building Bricks Behind the World's Largest Toy Company
Get a behind-the-bricks look into the famous toy company. Today, LEGO is one of the biggest toy companies in the world, but many years ago, a Danish carpenter started with a simple idea. Lowey Bundy Sichol shares the story of how LEGO grew from a carpentry shop to a multi-platform toy company.
A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon
From Suzanne Slade comes the inspiring true story of Katherine Johnson (featured in the award-winning film Hidden Figures). The talented mathematician counted and computed her way to NASA, where her calculations helped pioneer the world's first trip to the moon!
Instructions Not Included: How a Team of Women Coded the Future
During World War II, officials hoped newly invented (but little understood) computers could help with the war effort. With little guidance, three women used mathematics and logic to operate a computer as large as a room. This fascinating true story is brought to life by Tami Lewis Brown and Debbie Loren Dunn.
The Girl With a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague
After touring a German submarine in the early 1940s, young Raye set her sights on becoming an engineer. Little did she know sexism and racial inequality would challenge that dream every step of the way, even keeping her greatest career accomplishment a secret for decades. Julia Finley Mosca tells this story.
All of these stories of greatness really just boil down to imagination, innovation, and hard work. These real-life stories show how anyone can change the world if they just follow their dreams.