Why I Write STEM Books by Lois Wickstrom
Children discover the world around them when they play.
They discover in nature what they will later learn to call science.
My stories grow from this joyous approach to life.
I was lucky. I grew up in a college town. When I found an interesting rock, there was somebody I could bring it to with my questions. I remember finding a geode – a rock with crystals inside. I took it to the college where a professor told me that my rock comes from a river about 30 miles away. Somebody had brought it to our town and abandoned it. Now, it was my treasure. The college had a rock collection from around the world. I joined a rock hunting club that drove out on weekends to explore wild locations in mountains and at lakes, and learned about rocks form in different kinds of places and look different because of how they form.
One of the rocks I found was called magnetite. Metal things stuck to it. Not all metal things, but some metal things. I became fascinated by magnets. That led to the study of electricity.
Every new discovery led to more ideas, more places to go, experiments to try, things to learn. In college, I studied biology and chemistry. I collected bacteria from everywhere. I discovered that toilet seats have very few bacteria, but the floor in front of the hand drier had the best collection on campus.
I learned to use a microscope. I discovered that colored pictures in magazines are made of tiny dots of ink. I also saw that life – tiny cells – are infinitely enlargeable. The more I increased the magnification, the more new details appeared.
In chemistry class, I learned what happens at the molecular level when we cook. Why do bubbles form when we boil water? The water is changing into steam. Steam is a gas. Gases form bubbles in the water. Why do bubbles form when we add lemon juice and baking soda to cookie dough? That’s a chemical reaction releasing bubbles of carbon dioxide – the same gas that our bodies make from the oxygen we breathe.
In my yard, I watched grasshoppers hop, fireflies light up, butterflies work their way out of cocoons. Adults knew what fascinated me and would show me a new flower that came up in their yard, or the new kittens their cat was nursing.
I was lucky to have adults around who knew how to help me discover the things and ideas that fascinate me. Now, I’m an adult, and I want to pass on this excitement for today’s children. Science is an adventurous way to explore the world.