science experiments

The Science Behind a Series.

Kids are naturally curious creatures. They want to discover new things, explore new environments and are intrigued by the inner workings of machines. Give them an opportunity to research through hands on experiments and you will have them hooked on learning. Add to the mix a few other key ingredients and they will be hooked on reading too! I learnt this simple idea a long time ago, both as a mother and as a teacher. When my boys were little I was fortunate to be teaching alongside some brilliantly enthusiastic science teachers at the same schools my boys were also attending. The first was an International School in Thailand where the children were all a buzz with excitement from so much inspirational activity. The second was our local neighbourhood school on the Central Coast of NSW where I was fortunate to be introduced to a Primary school teacher that had previously taught high school science. From our experiences at these two schools I arrived at the conclusion that there were several key ingredients to inspiring kids to want to learn to read.

I then set out to write a series of early independent and reluctant reader chapter books to hook boys and girls 6-8 years old into reading.

Ingredients                                                                project-childrensbook_Page_03 

An inquisitive mind

Kitchen science experiments

Classroom science experiments


Humour                                                                        OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA




Mix all the above ingredients into a series of unimaginable events that have children laughing and guessing all the way to the end.

The first in the Bradberrie Brothers Alien Adventure. Short chapter book for 5-10 yr olds, early and reluctant readers.

Book 1. Gingerbread Aliens - Uses kitchen science mixing gingerbread men, bread making and polymers or in layman's terms, 'Goo!" What could possibly go wrong? Add in a snooping next door neighbour,  a fearful School Principal and top it all off with a Scientific Research Team for Asteroids and Meteorites and you have baked together one hilarious tale.

Follow up Activities -

  1. Kids get to make and learn all about the properties of slime. P1080147
  2. Spend a day in the kitchen cooking gingerbread aliens - yum!
  3. Write up the cooking procedure.
  4. Research and discover properties of the Solar System, galaxies, universe, planets.
  5. Discuss/Write about the possibilities of UFO's and alien life forms.

Alien Shenanigans_cover_FNL_001Book 2. Alien Shenanigans. - Begins with the kids in a year 6 class performing a volcanic eruption experiment that inevitably goes horribly out of control. When I have read the book to classes I have performed the experiment for them. They always applaud with delight. Added also to this in the story are the other science experiments in the classroom science corner, growing crystals, and fungus on bread and oranges, then there is the coke and mentos mint accident! We all know that will not end well. Neither will the accidental spill of washing powder, red food colouring and vinegar. All of these are repeatable outside experiments children can investigate. Top it all off with a mischievous chameleon alien that does not want to be caught and you have a whole lot of shenanigans.

Follow-up Activities

  1. Kids love trying out all of the above mentioned science experiments. Write out the procedures.Erupting a volcano during a reading of Alien Shenanigans with a group of year 2 students at Telopea Park School.hypothesize what they expect to find. Research. Write up the results.
  2.  At some of my readings we have watched videos where the mentos mints and coke experiment is taken to the extreme. It sets their imagination wild! Quite a discussion starter.
  3. Model the Solar System or a space ship. This requires a lot of planning, research, drafting.
  4.  Solar System Word Search or Crossword.
  5.  Creative Writing - Write a story about Outer Space, where did you go/ who did you visit?

Book3_CoverBook 3 Alien Milkshakes - Coming Soon.

More kitchen science mixed with classroom science. A backyard rocket ship, crop circles and disgusting looking milkshakes with the most unusual ingredients that no respectable 7 or 8 year old would ever allow pass their lips. Add to this a massive secret that causes more sibling rivalry and Brussels Sprouts muffins before a girl arrives next door to complicate the mischief! What are three brothers (and a little green alien) going to do now?

Follow-up Activities

  1. Debate the moral issue of keeping a secret no matter the cost.
  2. Write a reflection If you find something, does it mean you can keep it?
  3. Try tasting some of the green smoothies in the story or making your own. What makes a healthy and tasty smoothie?
  4. Build your own backyard water powered rocket ship. Have a class contest, who can make theirs fly the highest, why?
  5. Look at what fuel you need to keep your body working and running efficiently.
  6.  Critical and creative thinking - What could have really made crop circles? Design your own.


While I am writing this series I have also embarked on a picture book series incorporating uniquely Australian animals. These books are aimed for 3-8 year old children, although as an advocate of reading from birth aloud even to independent readers, these can be enjoyed no matter the age of the child.

Embodying my belief in using science to teach reading I have included fun facts about each character at the end of each book. Parents and teachers can use these to springboard discussions and other research into these animals if they choose. The books also provide the opportunity to learn a little bit about the environments within Australia.

Copyright Sandra Bennett and Dianna Budd

Emma the Eager Emu teaches a subtle tale of following ones dreams. To have the tenacity try and try again until you find a way to reach your goal. She also shows us that being different is not only OK, but in fact good and that we are all different and special with our own unique qualities. Emma shares her experiences with several other Australian birds, a Rosella, Galah, Cockatoo and Kookaburra.

FrazzleFreyaCoverFrazzled Freya teaches us that we are all a little shy and scared at times and that it is OK to be frightened as long as you are prepared to try to face those fears. Sometime things that frighten us the most are not so frightening after all. Her desert friends that come to her rescue are a pair of twin Velvet Geckos, a Goanna, a Spinifex Hopping Mouse and a Northern Brown Snake.

I invite you to take the science challenge. Read a book today. What scientific fact might you learn or want to research further?


Classroom Science Trouble!

National Science Week this week, National Book Week next week, so no other better time than for a school visit and book reading of my chapter book series for early readers. Both Gingerbread Aliens and Alien Shenanigans incorporate plenty of scientific kitchen and classroom experiments that evolve into enough inevitable disaster and trouble to make young readers and their parents laugh along with the mix-up of mischief, mayhem and mishaps. Tomorrow I head in to do a school reading for a group of year 2 students who are looking forward to not only my reading of a chapter of "Alien Shenanigans" but also watching me erupt a paper mache volcano for them as well.

project-childrensbook_Page_03Alien Shenanigans opens with a classroom full of anticipation as the year 6 students prepare to erupt their volcano experiments.As in all good stories nothing goes to plan and our hero is naturally assumed guilty. My volcano tomorrow will not explode in quite the same astonishing manner, but I hope the students will be suitably impressed!

project-childrensbook_Page_32Later in the story the classroom teacher, Mr Haggardy and the boys next door neighbour, Mrs Witherbottom are inadvertently involved in another somewhat unplanned science experiment. Have you ever seen the reaction when mentos mints are added to a bottle of cola? I'd love to demonstrate this one tomorrow as well, however I don't think I would ever be invited back to the school if I made a terrible mess in the library. Instead I will settle for showing them via a youtube video clip where other scientists not only get to make all the mess but have a whole lot of fun doing so.

What is your favourite classroom science experiment?

Fun, laughter, mischief tied together in my two new books!

As most of my readers know by now, one of my goals in life is to help parents improve the literacy skills of their children by providing uniquely fun and imaginative books for them to read together. As I stood beside my former colleague and dear friend Sue LaFlamme and listened to her present the opening speech for my double book launch I realised two things. She really gets me and understands my dreams. I felt so honoured by her wonderful words of praise for both myself and my books, that I wanted to share her speech with all my readers that could not make it on that memorable morning here in Canberra. So, without any further ado, I give you Sue :-

It is with great pleasure that I introduce a fabulous person and author, Sandra Bennett, to you today. I have known Sandy for more than a decade and I have observed some wonderful things about her: - she is fun - she loves to laugh - she enjoys good mischief - she has a great sense of humour - she understands lots of special things about other people and particularly about kids, (big and small)

Most importantly she knows how good a fabulous well planned, researched, well-written and well-read book can be. So, I'm extremely lucky today because I am able to suggest that you dive into the pages of two new books. These are called "Emma the Eager Emu" and "Alien Shenanigans/" Book_Launch_12_46 Book_Launch_8_01 The two books are completely different, cleverly illustrating that Sandra Bennett is an adaptable author, knowing that her reading audiences love to read a range of genres and books that emphasise different things.

I think that your toughest decision today will be which one to read first, Emma the Eager Emu or Alien Shenanigans? Flip a coin! Heads. So, it's Emma the Eager Emu.

Actually, I'm not going to read it to you, but I'll introduce Emma to you through my eyes. First of all, Emu's are such big birds, that have big dreams. I'll tell you now, Emma is the same. She dreams big - of something I always wanted to do as a child - and that is to fly. Emma is extraordinary. She has intellect, persistence and the strongest of desires to make dreams real. Emma sets about this. as her creator - Sandra Bennett, sets about tasks - she plans, imagines, deliberates, investigates and keeps on going!

In the end I think you'll discover Emma's amazing feat. I can't tell you more, except that you will really enjoy reading this book. I will add that the illustrations are an absolute delight. Gourmet! Emma the Eager Emu will be well loved and recommended.

Now I turn to "Alien Shenanigans." It has a certain unknown mystery about it. Dad da daa! Are there truly such things as aliens? If so, or not (as the case may be) we can imagine that there are! We can also imagine a melody of mishaps around mischievous full of beans kids, especially when they come into contact with an observant, witty, lovable alien.

I wonder what your favourite part of Alien Shenanigans will be? Will it be foods that fly, the giggles, the serious investigations or the extreme science experiments?

My favourite part is the driving force behind the story - the kids. Sandra Bennett knows that without these characters - the kids - books, life and the universe would be somewhere less special, adventurous, creative and imaginative. True!

So, without further so ons, I'll introduce the lovely, clever and fun Sandra Bennett and her two new reads: "Emma the Eager Emu" and "Alien Shenanigans."

Thank you so much Sue for your faith in me and my books. The time you spent reading and preparing your speech was very much appreciated. I hope the kids in your class enjoyed both books.

Hands up, who believes in aliens? Could there really be lovable, mischievous aliens hiding out there somewhere?

For helpful tips and tricks to improve your child's reading come and join in the discussion by joining my facebook group Raising Awesome Readers.