Teaching Process Skills with Children’s Literature: The Kid Who Named Pluto

Planning that science fair project can seem so daunting for a student.  Many students may assume that you have to be much older to solve a scientific mystery or make your mark in the scientific world.  There's one book that proves them wrong.  The Kid Who Named Pluto,written by Marc McCutcheon and illustrated by Jon Cannell, tells several stories of young children who dared to push the envelope and question the world around them in new and exciting ways.  The book is quick to quote famed inventor Thomas Edison in its introduction:  "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."  The moral – develop a plan, give it your best shot, and keep working on it – is the very first step in developing process skills that will take students beyond mere rote learning of the scientific method.  The kids in these real-life stories will doubtless inspire any budding scientific minds and remind all students that science begins with natural intellectual curiosity.

This engaging book tells the story of young innovators like Louis Braille and physicist Robert Goddard, as well as Philo Farnsworth, the teen inventor of television, and Mary Anning, a famed  paleontologist who began finding incredible fossils as a young girl looking for ways to help her family out financially.  They all had several traits in common:  they started with simple ideas, had lots of energy, imagination, and enthusiasm, they found ways to test their ideas using basic scientific methods, and they were persistent in their efforts. 

Curriculum Connections

While this would not be suitable for a read-aloud book for the class, this would be a great book to make available to science students – especially as they prepare for their science fair projects.  It is geared toward older elementary students and requires strong reading skills for independent readers (third through sixth grades). It would be a great addition to a classroom reading center where students could spend time with the book, or it could go home with students if teachers have a book borrowing system in the classroom.  Discouraged young science students might find the inspiration they are looking for in this book as it could encourage them in their experimental endeavors.  There are so many examples of these young role models utilizing the scientific method in their hypotheses, predictions, and experimental tests (3.1, 4.1, 5.1, 6.1).  Having these real-life examples helps students understand the importance of developing reasoning and logic skills, as well as a strong work ethic and life-long love of learning.   

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