History and Rhetoric of Science Writing for Children

Books for children, both fiction and non-fiction, can address scientific principles in creative ways in an attempt to educate, inform, and excite young children. Hidden inside many classic children’s texts are broad scientific concepts like climate change (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs), engineering (The Three Little Pigs), life cycles (The Very Hungry Caterpillar), and environmentalism (The Lorax). Other newer texts, like Babies Love Quarks, are designed to help entice even the youngest children to love science, as a response to the STEM “crisis” in American education. In this writing course, students will embrace the rhetorical challenges of addressing complex scientific principles in visually appealing formats and child friendly language through research, annotation, presentation, and creation. Students enrolled in this section should plan to (as Miss Frizzle says in the Magic School Bus series) “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”

As a class, we will explore the historical scope of science writing for children by interacting with digital archives of children’s books from the 1800s. Students will engage in original research on authors of science books for children, focusing on authors who are largely unrecognized or texts that have fallen out of circulation. Students will make their research public through social media (i.e. keeping a research journal on Twitter) and public dissemination of information (i.e. creating or improving public facing biography or encyclopedia page).

Students will use this research, as well as visual analysis and digital annotation, to collaboratively create an online exhibition of historical science texts for children. These exhibitions will require students to place the text into historical, scientific, thematic, and technological contexts; students might add notations about the developments in book publishing apparent in the text, the evolution of the scientific theories advanced in the texts, or changes in the ways in which scientific discourse has shifted over time.

Finally, students will compose, illustrate, and create non-fiction picture books for children. Topics for these books might include a biography of the scientist or author they profiled in Unit 1, a scientific concept important to the students’ field of study (such as mechanical engineering or computer science), or an important scientific discovery or technological concept (such as the landing of the Mars Rover Curiosity).

Course: ENGL 1102
Course Title: The History and Rhetoric of Science Writing for Children
Semesters Taught: Spring 2018 (3 sections), Fall 2018 (1 honors section; 1 regular)
Section Size: 18-25 students

Georgia Tech’s Writing and Communication Program’s Description of English Composition II:

Portfolio Documents:

Syllabus for ENGL 1102, Spring 2018
The History and Rhetoric of Science Writing for Children

Syllabus for ENGL 1102, Fall 2018 (Revised schedule)
The History and Rhetoric of Science Writing for Children


Twitter Assignment Spring 2018
Students are required to create a Twitter account and use it to livetweet readings and their research process. See for more.


Unit 1 Assignment: Possibly Impossible Research Project

For this assignment, students will choose from a list of authors of early children’s picture books supplied by the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature at the University of Florida. These authors are largely unknown and the library has very little information about their lives, publishing history, education, or other work. Each student will engage in original research to locate and record as much biographical information about his or her chosen author as possible, using both digital, physical, and archival methods of research. The ultimate goal will be to create a public facing digital biography of this author to be added to Wikipedia. HOWEVER, it is entirely possible that a student will be unable to find much information at all on the chosen author, making the creation of a complete, detailed Wikipedia biography IMPOSSIBLE! Therefore, the final artifact for this unit will be a portfolio of work; for some students, this artifact may take the more traditional form of a written biography, a bibliography, and supporting documents, while for other students, it make take the form of various process documents, detailing the research work completed, in order to help future researchers build from the work already completed.


Unit 2 Assignment: Baldwin Library Omeka Exhibit (Group Project – Spring 2018)

For this assignment, teams of 3-4 students will work together to create a themed online exhibition for the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature, using materials available from the digital annotated bibliography.

Sample Student Exhibits:


Unit 2 Assignment: Public Facing Class Project (Fall 2018)

Public Facing Artifact on History and Rhetoric of Science Writing for Children (100 points) – As a class, we will work together to compose and launch a public facing artifact that presents the research and work done by the class in the course of Unit 1. This artifact may eventually be displayed by the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature and so should feature a digital component. The goals of the artifact will be to educate and disseminate information in an engaging way.

Class Projects:


Unit 3 Assignment: STEM Themed Picture Books

For this assignment, students worked to write, illustrate, bind and present a picture book on a STEM subject related to their area of study or the research they conducted over the course of the semester.

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Course Blog: Science Writing for Children
Each student writes on class recap blog, modeled on the minutes of a meeting, for general reference in case peers were absent or confused. Also provides a space for instructor announcements and for turning in digital content to be shared with the class, like research progress reports.