Vicki Cobb is the well-known author of more than eighty-five highly entertaining nonfiction books for children. Ever since 1972, when HarperCollins first published Science Experiments You Can Eat, Cobb’s lighthearted approach to hands-on science has become her trademark for getting kids involved in experiences that create real learning. Currently, she is becoming increasingly popular as a speaker to children and adults as educators search out sources for materials and activities that promote learning. Today’s popular buzz words in education–“whole language,” “hands-on-science,” “experimental learning,” “out-come based,” “multi-disciplinary” and “critical thinking” are embodied in Vicki Cobb’s work.
Vicki Cobb credits her outlook on education to her mother’s forward-looking thinking. From kindergarten to sixth grade she attended The Little Red School House in Greenwich Village. Her early education was a joyful experience of hands-on activities, field trips, reading children’s literature (not textbooks), creative projects, and a kind of portfolio evaluation that today’s educators realize are the most powerful tools for producing individuals who have a lifetime love of learning. According to Cobb her books “allow me to recreate the joy of learning I experienced in elementary school for myself, forever.”
Vicki Cobb graduated from Barnard College with a major in zoology and went on to get a Master’s degree in Secondary Science Education. After early careers as a laboratory researcher and science teacher, she became a full-time writer of science books for children. Light Action! Amazing Experiments in Optics represents her life as both author and parent. Her coauthor is her son Josh, an optical engineer and the illustrator is her son, Theo, an artist and art director.
I Face the Wind
Illustrated by Julia Gorton
The “Vicki Cobb Science Play” series helps the youngest children understand scientific principles. An adult will want to help with these activities. A list of supplies to have handy is provided in a note to the reader on the first page. The supplies needed are a wire coat hanger, a pencil, a large plastic bag, two identical balloons or zip-lock bags, tape and a ball. This is an interactive text. Have you ever felt a strong wind? What did it feel like? Can you name things wind does? What is wind made of? To answer this question, collect wind in the large plastic bag. Twist the top tightly closed and you can feel the air inside. Using a hanger as a scale, weigh two empty balloons. The scale will be slightly tilted when one of the two balloons is filled with air. Air is made up of molecules. Rolling a ball against a leg can give you an idea of what it feels like to have a molecule hit. Roll it harder and you feel it more. Can you make molecules move? Try waving this book up and down. You can even make wind by blowing air out of our mouth. This is one of the best science experiment books I have seen for very young children. It focuses on a small number of concepts about wind and air that can easily be demonstrated. All of the materials required are readily available and familiar to kids. The illustrations support the text, providing additional clarification of the concepts discussed. 2003, HarperCollins, $15.99. Ages 3 to 5. Reviewer: Kristin Harris (Children’s Literature).
Feeling Your Way : Discover Your Sense of Touch
Illustrated by Cynthia C. Lewis
Many kids are intrigued by their sense of touch and wonder how this amazing sense really works. This informative book uses a fun mix of artwork, facts and hands-on activities to introduce readers to different aspects of this fascinating sense. The author discusses the importance of touch and describes how this sense informs people about the world, warns them about danger, helps them connect with their friends and family, and allows them to feel different sensations such as pleasure and pain. Some of the quirky activities invite youngsters to test their skin’s sensitivity levels, trick their sense of touch by sending mixed messages to the brain, and check their endurance for pain by sticking their tongues in a drinking glass filled with soda. Colorful, eye-catching layouts with humorous cartoon illustrations and clever collages perfectly complement the lively, well-written text. This wonderful volume not only teaches important concepts, but it also contains a variety of challenging tricks that readers can in turn share with their friends. Kids will enjoy this delightful and educational resource. 2001, The Millbrook Press, $22.90. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Debra Briatico (Children’s Literature).
Junk food. You may or may not love it, but chances are you have eaten it at one time or another, or quite possibly are eating it now. Children of all ages (including adults) will benefit from reading this unusual examination of the part of the food pyramid that occupies the tiniest spot. Popcorn, corn chips, chocolate, candy, potato chips, and soda are all discussed in individual chapters. The evolution of the particular foods and beverages is presented, as are simple yet mind-bogglingly effective, scientific experiments pertaining to each one that can be performed at home. Some examples of these experiments include making rock candy to see the development of slow-grown sugar crystals, melting candy bars with a hair dryer to see the bloom of cocoa butter crystals, and dissecting a bag of microwave popcorn, to name a few. Another chapter in the book is solely devoted to deciphering the nutrition labels on packaged food. Colorful photographs throughout add immensely to the subject matter. The author has written numerous books for children that are both scientific and fun. She states at the conclusion of the book, “the best thing about knowing more about junk food is that you have the power to choose for yourself.” Wise words for all of us. This title is part of the “Where’s the Science Here?” series that also includes the titles Fireworks, Sneakers, and On Stage. Highly recommended. 2006, Millbrook Press, $23.93. Ages 9 to 12. Reviewer: Cindy L. Carolan (Children’s Literature).
Science surprise is a highly entertaining fast-paced, one-woman show that is guaranteed to captivate kids and their teachers. Vicki sets the stage with poetry and a short video of her trip to East Africa when she researched her book This Place is Wild. Then she answers the question, “Why science, anyhow?” by showing how our senses and experiences limit how much we can learn of the universe and that science is a way of getting past our limitations. Instead of showing the audience the world of science, Vicki invites the audience to discover the science in their world. Everyone in the audience experiences illusions and individuals participate in doing irresistible challenges from her best selling books Bet You Can! and Bet You Can’t! Most importantly, Vicki’s program gets kids excited and enthusiastic about science, reading and poetry and she gives teachers a list of suggestions for follow-up activities.
FUN & GAMES & CHILDREN & SCIENCE & LITERATURE & EDUCATION
Vicki Cobb’s keynote adress, “Fun & games & children & science & literature & education” is a thoughtful and inspiring look at each of the topics in the title and how they relate to each other. PowerPoint slides punctuate her message.
SCIENCE THAT’S FUN TO TEACH
A one-day workshop for teacher of grades K-8 with lots of hands-on activities. Vicki can handle between 60-80 teachers. At the end of the day teachers will have gained the following:
- Direct experience with fun-filled, science related “quickies” guaranteed to grab kids’ attention.
- Practice in designing experiments with ordinary things that can be immediately applied to classroom use.
- Hands-on experience with a science experiment that demonstrates how to use empiricism to answer questions.
- An introduction to Vicki Cobb’s books as a classroom resource.
Vicki’s fees for school visits begin at $1500 per day.. She is willing to address 3 groups in a day. She can handle large groups.
Vicki’s fees for conferences is $2000 per day.
Travel and lodging – Travel and lodging costs to be covered by booking organization..
To learn more about Vicki and her publications please visit www.VickiCobb.com.