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Story 05: Memoirs of a Bubble Blower

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Trade Books

Written by Bernie Zubrowski

Working with afterschool programs in the community and in the special extended field trip programs at the museum was a personal research, development, and design effort. To some degree I approached these programs with this function in mind, and the museum supported me in my pursuits. While involved with the African Primary Science Program, I also had tried out activities with school children so that I could write or co-write several curriculum guides. While blowing bubbles or doing other activities with children in afterschool programs, I was always thinking about writing them up and publishing them either as curriculum guides or trade books. Putting them into some kind of curriculum seemed out of the question during the '70s and '80s. One of the few sources of funding for such an undertaking at that time was the National Science Foundation, and its priorities did not include curriculum. In fact, educational funding at the foundation was cut way back during the late '70s and '80s.

But an alternative to curriculum guides existed in children's trade books. Museum staff person Jim Zien knew an editor from the well-known and locally based publisher Little, Brown and Company. After some discussions with one of the editors, an agreement was reached where they would publish six science trade books. These first six titles were: Bubbles, Drinking Straw Structures, Ball Point Pens, Milk Carton Blocks, Cake Chemistry, Water Pumps, and Siphons. Some of the activities were carry-overs from the African Primary Science Program while others came out of new work in afterschool programs.

Little Brown decided to stop the series at six titles and although I continued to develop and refine content in my 'live lab," it appeared that I wouldn't be able to put more of it into print. Fortunately, I ran into David Reuther, managing editor of William Morrow (WM), at a meeting in New York. Reuther liked the books that had been published and expressed interest in doing a similar series. He preferred to publish one book a year. So, over the next ten years I worked with WM editors to produce ten more books: Balloons, Blinkers and Buzzers, Clocks, Mirrors, Shadows, Raceways, Tops, Wheels at Work, Mobiles, and Making Waves.

Next: Slow-Cooked Curricula