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Bottone's Book for Kids Hits Smithsonian List

By Colleen Chandler

As a child, NIEHS's Frank Bottone was forever asking that infamous childhood question, "Why?"

The answers he compiled over the years formed the basis of his science book for children that just hit the "2001 Smithsonian's Notable Books for Children" list. The Science of Life: Projects and Principles for Beginning Biologists is an activity book designed to hook kids' interest in science and show them how to find their own answers to those "why" questions. The book's title reflects Webster's definition of biology, but Bottone describes it as a book on the science of everyday life.

Frank Bottone

Written for kids age 9 and up, the book uses practical knowledge to provide a solid foundation in science and nurture a life-long interest in the topic. It is organized into chapters based on the five kingdoms of life, and it explains the scientific method. Using "stealth learning," where kids are too busy having fun to realize they are learning, the book walks kids through a series of exercises using items commonly found in the home and at school.

Originally, the book was intended for preschoolers, but evolved to fit an older audience. Bottone said he wanted to develop a book that did not speak down to kids. The 32-year-old biologist said it took 3 ½ years of weekends and evenings to complete the book. He wrote it while he was working at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, prior to coming to NIEHS's Laboratory of Molecular Carcinogenesis.

The book was published in July by Chicago Review Press, an international publisher of academic and trade books. It shows kids how to make their own culture media, which they use in the experiments. They learn things like how bread molds form and how insects communicate. In one such experiment, children grow bacteria and determine the most effective way to inhibit the growth: using an antiseptic, a disinfectant or plain soap and water. Another experiment shows youngsters how to collect and compare night-flying versus day-flying insects and shows how to clone a mushroom from a piece of its own tissue.

The book features an easy-to-understand glossary, an index and a list of web and other resources kids can use to further pursue science.

Bottone's choice of reading material when he has free time? Non-fiction science, microbiology and biological terror.

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