Meet a local science author this weekend!

April 8, 2016

Annette Dunn is a local author who has recently published a series of science books for young children.  The series, Jumbo Minds’ Science ABCs, introduces the language of science to young children in ABC form.  There are 4 books in the series: ABCs of Biology, ABCs of Chemistry, ABCs of Earth Science, and ABCs of Physics.

Annette Dunn

Each book, written and reviewed by scientists and teachers, highlights 26 words from each subject, introducing the vocabulary and concepts in the very simplest and gentlest way. A dyslexic-friendly font was used to aid readability. The books target children ages 0-6, but include detail that can apply to older students and adults.

From the home setting to the school setting, there are many applications for incorporating this series to fit many needs.  The authors have also created a matrix for educators that align the content of the books with the Next Generation Science Standards.

Jumbo Minds, the publishing company behind the series, started with a passion to share the love of science with children, especially during the explosive brain growth period when languages are most easily learned.  Co-founded by Annette with her sister Corrine Knight, they were later joined by sister Valeri Sewald, making Jumbo Minds a true family affair to bring the language of science to our community’s youngest learners.

We asked Annette where the inspiration for their company came from:

There were two main factors that led to the creation of Jumbo Minds:

The first was the awareness of the knowledge gap in the American scientific educational system. We learn language from birth in order to communicate. We’re taught to count as babies and begin to understand numeracy. However, our children are not introduced to science concepts or science language until brain connection growth subsides. We feel that this is an opportunity missed. 

The second factor – there weren’t enough books that allowed us to share science with our young children.  So we decided to create what we were looking for but hadn’t found.  Studies have shown that the best time for children to learn additional languages is birth through age five. Exposure to language during that time period of explosive brain growth leads to improved language fluency and understanding later in life. We feel science is a language, and that by introducing the terminology and concepts to young children, they will have a strong foundation on which to build their knowledge of science and the world around them. 


Tomorrow, April 9th,  you can meet Annette at Lift Bridge Book Shop in Brockport!  She will be there from 2:00-4:00 pm.  There will be a book signing as well as a hands-on activity for kids that will introduce them to a few physics words and concepts.

For full details, please visit the Lift Bridge Book Shop event page.

Annette Dunn is CEO of Jumbo Minds, Inc. JumboMinds_RGB-300x191

~Sharing the Love of Science~


Unlearning Scientific Misconceptions

January 8, 2012

In an eye-opening video clip available  though Annenberg Learner, we see Harvard graduates unable to complete to complete a simple experiment taught in third-grade: how to light a lightbulb with a wire.  A one-hour video from the same series (“From Thin Air”)  shows the Harvard graduates unable to explain basic concepts about plant growth, and then goes on to investigate the sources of common misconceptions that prevent learning from elementary school on.

Misconceptions arise when students are confronted with scientific concepts that are counterintuitive. For example, many students never truly grasp the idea that the weight of a tree is mostly carbon absorbed from CO2. They have heard teachers explain photosynthesis but since they don’t believe that air has weight, they consistently assume the weight in a tree trunk must come from the water, or soil or minerals…something that has weight. Show them dry ice; a form of CO2 that clearly has weight and they are very surprised! This is an example of a discrepant event.

According to Binghamton University Professor Thomas O’Brien, experiencing a discrepant event, with its surprising, counterintuitive outcome “creates cognitive disequilibrium that temporarily throws learners mentally off-balance”. In his book, Brain-Powered Science: Teaching and Learning with Discrepant Events” (NSTA Press, 2010), O’Brien describes 33 hands-on activities that can lead students and teachers to question their implicit assumptions.

Effective inquiry teaching begins by finding out what students already know, including their misconceptions, and then guiding them to questions their assumptions and discover new knowledge for themselves.

As we all know too well, what typically happens in the classroom is that teachers “cover material” and students try to memorize as much as they can. Even hands-on labs often do not challenge students to solve problems and question assumptions. Some students are very good at memorizing and repeating information (the Harvard graduates in the video clip, for example) and others fail miserably, but neither is really developing a deep understanding of concepts, or learning science. Research shows that more is not better, when it comes to exposing students volumes of detailed information through lectures or textbooks.  The brain learns through making connections to prior knowledge, so dispelling misconception is an essential prerequisite for new learning.

See Dr. O’Brian’s keynote address: Misconceptions Matter: Where Do They Come From? Where Do They Go? at the Central Western Section STANYS Winter Workshop at Nazareth College, Feb. 9, 2012