The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
I’ve long felt that truly great books for middle readers are deceptively simple. The Fourteenth Goldfish is no exception. What at first glance is a well-written, warm, and funny sci-fi story about a girl and her de-aged grandfather also has some serious thought provoking stuff on the wonders and dangers of both science and growing up.
The general awesomeness and the science content of The Fourteenth Goldfish makes it a great candidate for the focus of a library program. You could add these activities to a more traditional book club meeting or do something all on its own. My target age on this program would be 4th-6th grade.
Of course it would be more fun to do this after everyone has read the book, but depending on your audience you could also do this program as an awesome introduction to the book with copies ready to be checked out at the end.
Here are some activity ideas for your program. They could be done as a group but might also work well as stations.
Observation: Melvin teaches Ellie about the the importance of observation in science. Gather up some interesting objects and have the kids share observations about them. A mix of familiar and more unusual objects would be great. It would be even better if you were able to include a living fish, insect, or hamster to observe.
-Biographies of scientists, including those mentioned in the book.
-Books of science experiments that can be done at home.
-Read-a-likes about middle school, changing relationships, and fiction with science content.
Technology: If you are lucky enough to have access to iPads introduce the kids to the VideoScience app. You can also watch the videos online if you have computers available instead of iPads. The Elements app is another great one to explore.
Microscopes: It may be possible to borrow some microscopes and even slides from your local school’s science department. Make your life easier and see if the high school science teacher can recommend a student in need of volunteer hours that can show the children how to use them.
Questions: You can either use these for a verbal discussion or pick some to use as writing prompts.
-Melvin teaches Ellie about the possible. What things would you want to make possible? (You might need to prompt things like saving bees or polar bears, making sure everyone gets clean water etc.)
-Would you want to stay young forever? Would you want to stay one age forever? Why or why not?
-Melvin is passionate about science, Ellie’s parents about drama, and Brianna about volleyball. Have you found your passion? How do you learn more about it? (Great time for some reader’s advisory)
-Ellie learns that not all scientific discoveries are ultimately good, and that Jonas Salk said “Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors.” How can we make sure we are good ancestors?
Booktalks: Take a minute to promote some other great titles for fans of The Fourteenth Goldfish like Kate Messner’s Eye of the Storm or The Evolution of Calpurina Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. Non-report style science non-fiction like A Black Hole is Not a Hole or Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard would be nice tie-ins as well.
Science Activity: This is a great time to include a maker activity that is science based. There are endless options on Pinterest, but often they claim to be science actitivities without explaining the science behind them. I recommend Science Bob instead for a list of neat experiments with everyday items and an explanation with each one.