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Created: 27th June, 2022

Tell us a little about The Encyclopedia of STEM Words.

This is a super simple and accessible encyclopedia of one hundred words from the world of science, technology, engineering, maths and art. Each page describes one key term, in language and examples that appeal to primary school children. The design and illustration make it really friendly and engaging, so that a young reader will first connect with the smiling faces on the page and not have to worry whether science topics are for them. Each page links to other topics in the book and explains further ideas, so that the book covers many more words and concepts than just the main hundred.

While the book was created with primary school children in mind, the topics are still very much relevant for children studying science at secondary school, who want a bit of reassurance in remembering all the terms they come across and how they relate to the rest of the world.

While the concepts are explained in child-friendly language, all the facts are accurate and are explained without resorting to storybook metaphors; this is a fact book.


How did you decide which words would make it into the Encyclopedia?

I worked with Sam and Vicky at b small to make sure we had a balance of topics across different areas, from maths, chemistry and physics to palaeontology, astronomy, art and more! We made sure there was at least one word for each letter of the alphabet, so thank goodness for the yangchuanosaurus!


Why did you include terms from the art world?

Putting the A into STEM to make STEAM is really important. Scientists need to ask questions about the world and test their ideas – but they also need to be good communicators. The discipline of art is great for helping people develop their own style of communication and be confident and free in their thinking. Following the herd is not helpful for scientists and engineers and fresh thinking is vital – and art can encourage and develop these skills.


How should teachers work with the book?

The Encyclopedia is arranged alphabetically so it’s easy to look up a term of interest in the contents or through the index. This interest could spring from a class topic or a question that a child is intrigued by – and I hope that the entries will give teachers confidence to answer questions in a helpful way, or know that their pupil will be able to understand answers if they look words up independently.

In the explanations, words that appear elsewhere in the book are in bold, so readers can know that the topic is explained further on other pages. So many of the terms are interconnected, so what starts off as looking up one term could end up being a freewheeling reading session following your interests.

Each page also includes a short paragraph about something more tangentially related to the topic – such as how the Nobel Prize sprang from the invention of dynamite, or after explaining how we smell things, a little bit about why we need to smell things.


What surprised you while writing the book?

For me, the best thing about writing entries for a hundred different, seemingly unrelated topics was how much everything did seem to be connected. For example, understanding electromagnetism, which has its own encyclopedia page, is what enables us to harness electricity, so it is behind so much of our way of life – but it also crops up in pages on other topics, from radiation and X-rays to dynamos and UV light. Understanding our position in the solar system also helps us understand time zones. I found that knowing just these few concepts about the natural world, and pulling them together, gave me a profound sense of connection to the whole universe!

I also love that this information is made accessible to young readers, whereas I had to wait until secondary school for some of these wonders of the world to be explained to me. That was when I started to feel the delicious feeling of beginning to understand some things about how the world works and how everything links together – and I would love to give young children some of that sense.


Do you have a favourite word/page?

I think every page looks glorious! If I have to pick one, it might be the page about the Big Bang. Every child at some point will wonder how the universe began, and this page explains very simply what happened and also what questions we don’t yet know the answers to about the universe.


Discover The Encyclopedia of STEM Words by Jenny Jacoby and Vicky Barker, published by B Small (Published 1st June 2022)...