Why Teach Science Students to Write and Publish Books?


Science Students in ProgramsAs a science and engineering teacher, promoting STEM education, why would I want to teach students how to write and publish a book? Don’t I have enough to do in mentoring them in STEM activities? Well, yes, and in the photo here are some of the groups I have mentored in the past several years. Nevertheless, I am a firm believer in the whole person concept – students are not just interested in STEM, or in literature, or in art, but most are interested in all these subjects to some degree.

Our education system is also getting away from strict specialization and moving more toward a holistic education. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) promote literacy in science, combining the concepts of scientific knowledge with the ability to communicate. One of my sons is going to attend Boston University’s engineering school this fall, and they have trademarked the idea of the “Societal Engineer,” advocating that engineers have a wider focus than just the technical problem at hand. For all these reasons, teaching science students to clearly communicate their science research through a book seemed very appropriate. Given my recent experience in self publishing a book, I knew I could mentor them through the process.

How did the students react when I approached them with the idea for this project? They were excited and eager to begin! I asked them to focus on a target audience as one of the first steps, and they came up with a very diverse set – one is appealing to children, another to cancer patients and their friends and families, another to school administrators, and a couple of them to fellow students, but each with a different message. We will work together so that the students can mutually share ideas and get feedback. I will be writing along with them to document our experience and provide a comprehensive guide to other teachers who would like to do the same type of project.

Next month, I will be blogging about the realities and challenges of publishing a book and what I am doing to shepherd my students through the process so that they can get right to work without wasting time figuring out which of the myriad of options to choose. For the general schedule we are following, go to https://bryanholmesstem.wordpress.com/project-schedule/.

Subscribe to this blog at https://bryanholmesstem.wordpress.com to get email updates of my posts with tips you can use in your classroom as I describe how I am mentoring six high school science students to become published authors by April 2015. Also, please share blog posts with other teachers or anyone who may benefit.


Recruiting Science Students to Become Published Authors


digital-self-publishingWhat was I thinking? Summer vacation was only a few weeks away, and I had decided to dedicate much of my summer to mentoring a group of science students to write their own books. Why? Well, I had just self published my own book that I had co-authored with a former student. The experience was rejuvenating for me. Not only did I rediscover my love of writing, but I also discovered a whole new world in today’s self publishing arena. The book we wrote, however, was an essay on spirituality, so we had to work on it outside of school. We wrote the first draft and did our own first edits over last summer, then we got friends to beta edit and review over the fall, then we hired a copy editor to get a finished book by January, and published it this spring. We also did our own marketing, though I realize now that we started late. We made many mistakes, but we learned the entire self publishing process with many of its facets.

Now what could I do with this newfound knowledge and interest in writing and publishing, given that I teach Physics and Engineering in a public high school? I have always required my students to write short essays about science, as I have believed that the ability to clearly communicate scientific concepts helps students learn those concepts while honing their communication skills. Mentoring students to write their own books about science would take this idea to a new level. Yet, it is right in line with the Next Generation Science Standards which seek to link science with literacy.

Then, one day in late May, it hit me as I talked to a couple outstanding science students – they were doing incredible science research projects this summer. I realized I knew other students doing similar projects. I find that mentoring students in special projects is one of the highlights of being a teacher – I have mentored many different groups as shown in the photo. Therefore, I chose three high school students that I knew and asked if they would be interested in publishing a book by next spring about their science research experience. Their response was enthusiastically positive! In fact, by the next week, they had recruited three more students. I set up two after school meetings to go over my idea with them and to see if they were all truly committed.

My first step was to have a short meeting after school to explain to all of them what I had in mind and what I believed the project would require of them – I asked them to think everything over and commit to the project by the next meeting. I also asked them to give me their parents’ contact information, so their parents could understand what I was doing. I called all the parents over the next few days, and they were universally positive and thankful for the opportunity. At the second meeting, I laid out a tentative schedule of events from initial drafting of a book through marketing and selling. I also had asked the students to produce a draft book proposal with an outline of their ideas and their target audience. The students were excited and eager to get started, and they all had great proposals. Finally, I provided them some resources to get started. Now I have six outstanding rising junior high school students who have dedicated themselves to writing and publishing a book by April 2015 with the goal of selling 500 copies by the end of the school year in June 2015 – an ambitious objective, but motivational! 

Subscribe to this blog at https://bryanholmesstem.wordpress.com and get email updates on the first and third Mondays of each month as I continue to describe this project and our journey to publish our books. Also, please share it with other teachers or anyone who may benefit.