Ideas from STEM Learning Website – Teaching Science through Stories Resources

Below is an overview of the books recommended on the STEM Learning website for teaching science through stories with some accompanying resources.

There are a number of resources already organised in folders (from the STEM learning website –

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Ages 5-7

Book Title and Author

Sypnosis (from STEM Learning Website)

Link to Story Read Aloud


One Year with Kipper – Mick Inkpen


One Year with Kipper – Seasons, Weather

This book looks at the seasons and weather through the eyes of Kipper the dog. This provides a nice link into work on seasonal change as children work to observe changes across the four seasons and observe and describe the weather associated with the seasons and how day length varies. It is worth mentioning that although we think of the summer as being hot and sunny, there are still rainy cold days and there may also be sunny days in the winter!

Tadpole’s Promise –  Jeanne Willis


Tadpole’s Promise- Life cycles 5-7

Be prepared for a surprise when you get to the end of this story which portrays the blossoming love between a caterpillar and a tadpole and what happens when tadpole inevitably breaks his promise to the caterpillar to ‘never change’.  However, although adults who read this book are often very shocked and declare it unsuitable for children, children generally take it in their stride and relish the macabre outcome to the story ….

It’s a great story to use when exploring life cycles and helping children to describe the difference in the life cycle of a mammal, an amphibian, an insect and a bird.   It will also help children to begin to describe the process of reproduction in some plants and animals.



The Gruffalo – Julia Donaldson


The Gruffalo-Identifying and naming animals

A selection of activities and resources linked to The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.  Teachers can use this story as a starting point to help younger primary  children (age 5 to 7)  identify and name a variety of common animals including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals as prominent characters include an example of a reptile (snake), a bird (owl) and a mammal (fox).  An amphibian (frog) and various invertebrates are also included in the illustrations.  Children may have fun trying to classify the Gruffalo; what type of animal is he and how do they know?

The snake, owl and fox are all predators who want to eat the mouse so this story also makes an interesting starting point to help children describe how animals obtain their food from plants and other animals, using the idea of a simple food chain, and  to identify and name different sources of food.

This story would also support children to learn more about habitats and  to identify and name a variety of plants and animals in different habitats, including micro-habitats.


The Three Little Pigs – Various


The Three Little Pigs-Materials and their uses

The topic of the Three Little Pigs who each choose a different material (straw, sticks and bricks)  with which to build their house makes a great starting point for work on materials.  Also including the story of The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivisas would give even more examples of different materials and how they are made. The three little wolves use bricks, concrete, reinforced steel and, finally in desperation, flowers, to make their home.

These activities would support children to think about identifying different materials and considering what properties they have and how this suits them for different purposes.


Ages 7-9

Book Title and Author

Sypnosis (from STEM Learning Website)

Link to Story Read Aloud


Horrid Henry Rocks – Francesca Simon

Horrid Henry Rocks by Francesca Simon is a great book to start teaching about sound. The story involves the antics of Horrid Henry, Moody Margaret and their peers. Henry  wants to go to the see his favourite band, The Killerboy Rats in concert while his family want to go to the Daffy and her Dancing Daisies concert. Children could use this book to help them explore:

  • how sounds are made, associating some of them with something vibrating
  • that vibrations from sounds travel through a medium to the ear
  • patterns between the pitch of a sound and features of the object that produced it

Key scientific vocabulary: sound, sound source​, noise, vibrate/vibration, travel​, matter, pitch​, tune, high/low, volume​, loud/quiet, fainter​, muffle, strength of vibrations, insulation, instrument, percussion, strings, brass, woodwind, tuned / untuned instruments.


The Firework Maker’s Daughter – Philip Pullman

The Firework Maker’s Daughter by Philip Pullman is a good starting point for teaching about light. It follows Lila who wants to be  a Firework-Maker! She finds out that every Firework-Maker must make a perilous journey to face the terrifying Fire-Fiend. Not knowing that she needs special protection to survive the Fire-Fiend’s flames, Lila sets off alone. Her friends, Chulak and Hamlet – the King’s white elephant – race after her. This tale of fireworks and friendship ​is a great setting for exploring the following ideas:

  • we need light in order to see things
  • dark is the absence of light ·
  • light is reflected from surfaces
  • light from the sun can be dangerous and that there are ways to protect their eyes
  • shadows are formed when the light from a light source is blocked by an opaque object

Key scientific vocabulary: Light / Dark / Sources of light /shadows / path of light / beam of light


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Chapter 2 –

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Chapter 6 –

Chapter 7a –

Chapter 7b –


The Iron Man – Ted Hughes

The Iron Man by Ted Hughes is a well known children’s story. It follows the arrival of an Iron Man appears, who feeds on local farm equipment. When the farm hands discover their destroyed tractors and diggers, a trap is set consisting of a covered pit on which a red lorry is set as bait. Hogarth, a local boy, lures the Iron Man to the trap. The plan succeeds, and the Iron Man is buried alive. The next spring, the Iron Man digs himself free of the pit. To keep him out of the way, the boy Hogarth takes charge and brings the Iron Man to a metal scrap-heap. The Iron Man promises not to cause further trouble for the locals, as long as no one troubles him. Later on, an enormous space-being, resembling a dragon, moving from orbit to land on Earth. The creature crashes heavily on Australia and demands that humans provide him with food. The Iron Man hears of the fearsome creature and challenges him to a duel.  If the Iron Man can withstand the heat of burning petrol for longer than the space being can withstand the heat of the Sun, the creature must obey the Iron Man’s commands forevermore; if the Iron Man melts or is afraid of melting before the space being undergoes or fears pain in the Sun, the creature has permission to devour the whole Earth.  The alien creature admits defeat.

This book is a good setting through which children could:

  • investigate how things move on different surfaces
  • observe how magnets attract or repel each other and attract some materials and not others
  • compare and group together a variety of everyday materials on the basis of whether they are attracted to a magnet, and identify some magnetic materials


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The Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business – Werner Holzwarth


The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew it was None of His Business by Werner Holzwarth follows the quest of a mole as he tries to find out who did their business on his head. This is a difficult mission for a short-sighted mole! As he asks his neighbours, mole learns that poo comes in many shapes and sizes. He asks a horse, hare, cow and pig if the business on top of his head was their business – it wasn’t. Eventually the experts in this business, the flies, explain that it was the work of the dog. Mole gets his revenge and carries on with his day. ​This funny tale creates a great setting through which children can explore:

  • simple functions of the basic parts of the digestive system in humans
  • the different types of teeth in humans and their simple functions
  • a  variety of food chains, identifying producers, predators and prey

Key scientific vocabulary: digestive system, nutrition​, nutrients, mouth, teeth​, canines, incisor, molar, pre-molar, saliva, tongue​, rip, tear, chew, grind, cut, oesophagus (gullet), stomach, small intestine, large intestine​, rectum, anus


The Pebble in My Pocket – Meredith Hooper


Pebble In My Pocket by Meredith Hooper  is a picture book  aimed at older primary children. It tells the dynamic story of rock formation; showing  the reader the  processes that the pebble goes through from its beginnings in a fiery volcano 480 million years ago – how it is moulded by fire, then shaped by erosion. The reader follows this journey right through to the moment it is picked up and placed into someone’s pocket. The beautiful illustrations give us not only the story of the pebble but of evolution too – giving the reader an indication of both time passing and setting the pebble into a much wider context. The story provides the perfect setting for :

  • comparing and grouping together different kinds of rocks on the basis of their appearance and simple physical properties
  • describe in simple terms how fossils are formed when things that have lived are trapped within rock
  • recognise that soils are made from rocks and organic matter

As a parallel to the book, as the pebble is shaped over time, the pupils could explore how water shapes the landscape through erosion. There are lots of mathematical opportunities exploring the passing of time over the millenia. At the back of the book is a fantastic timeline linking the geological periods with periods of evolution.

Scientific Vocabulary: Rock, stone, pebble, boulder, soil, fossils, grains, crystals, hard/soft, texture, absorb, permeable, marble, chalk, granite, sandstone, slate, sandy, soil, clay, peat


The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone – Timothy Basil Ering


The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering involves around a boy, living in the grim and depressing Cementland, who searches amongst the heaping piles of junk for some treasure, something beautiful. Eventually he finds a box and with an instruction to plant it into the earth. This was a most unpromising instruction and nothing happens. The next day he returns to the spot and the thing he planted into the earth has been dug up. So the boy creates a guard monster to prevent anything else happening to his treasure. This is Frog Belly Rat Bone who springs into life and gets to work protecting the treasure from three robbers – a rat, a rabbit and a fruitfly. Slowly but surely transformation happens in Cementland. The robbers join with Frog Belly Rat Bone and the boy to tend to the treasures as they grow. Cementland is now full of colour.

The story of Frog Belly RatBone provides a good setting for investigating plants and their benefits to our environment. Children could :

  • identify and describe the functions of different parts of flowering plants: roots, stem/trunk, leaves and flowers
  • explore the requirements of plants for life and growth (air, light, water, nutrients from soil, and room to grow) and how they vary from plant to plant 
  • investigate the way in which water is transported within plants
  • explore the part that flowers play in the life cycle of flowering plants, including pollination, seed formation and seed dispersal.

Key scientific vocabulary: air, nutrients, soil, fertiliser, transported​, life cycle, pollination, seed formation, seed dispersal

The Vanishing Rainforest – Richard Platt

The Vanishing Rainforest by Richard Platt is  a good book for looking at the human impact on the environment, in particular deforestation. The Amazon rainforest is the largest tropical rainforest in the world, covering over five and a half a million square kilometres. 10% of the world’s known species live in the Amazon rainforest. It is home to around 2 and a half million different insect species as well as over 40000 plant species. Yet the Amazon rainforests are under constant threat from developers. In the story a child called Remaema, describes how the way of life of her people, the Yanomami tribe, are affected as plants and animals vanish before them.  Working together with scientists, they seek a solution that will protect the forest and allow the tribe to continue living as they always have done, while benefiting from limited development.

It provides a starting to learn about the following:

  • recognise that living things can be grouped in a variety of ways
  • explore and use classification keys to help group, identify and name a variety of living things in their local and wider environment
  • recognise that environments can change and that this can sometimes pose dangers to living things.

Key scientific vocab / ideas: classification, keys, environment, fish, amphibians

Wolves – Emily Gravett

Rabbit borrows a book about wolves from the library. He can’t put it down! Rabbit soon learns the truth about the sinister wolf – their sharp claws, bushy tails and 42 teeth! Rabbit soon learns about all the creatures that wolves may eat….a brilliantly funny book and a must read for all rabbits.

This book is a brilliant setting for :

  • constructing  and interpreting a variety of food chains,
  • identifying producers, predators and prey

Key scientific vocabulary: carnivore, herbivore, omnivore, producer, consumer, predator, prey, food chain,


Ages 9-11

Book Title and Author

Sypnosis (from STEM Learning Website)

Link to Story Read Aloud


Beetle Boy – M.G. Leonard




The story of Beetle Boyby M G Leonard is about a boy called Darkus who is miserable. His dad has disappeared, and his neighbours are disgusting.  He joins forces with  Baxter, a giant beetle and the two of them try to find out why his father has disappeared.  This book provides a nice way to link to work on classification of invertebrates, through which children can explore:

  • describe how living things are classified into broad groups according to common observable characteristics and based on similarities and differences, including micro-organisms, plants and animals
  • give reasons for classifying plants and animals based on specific characteristics

Key scientific vocabulary: sort, classify, invertebrate, exoskeleton, insect, classsificaton key, identify


Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White


Charlotte’s Webby E.B. White  is the story of a little girl named Fern who loved a little pig named Wilbur and of Wilbur’s dear friend Charlotte, a beautiful large grey spider. With the unlikely help of Templeton the rat, and a wonderfully clever plan of her own, Charlotte saves the life of Wilbur, who by this time has grown up to be quite a pig. This book is suitable for children aged 9-11 years old.


Charlotte’s Web can be used as a setting through which you could:


  • Compare the lifecycles of different creatures  – goose, spider, pig and of plants.
  • Research the gestation periods of other animals and compare them with humans
  • Explore death and bereavement within a story context.
  • Construct a timeline to indicate stages of growth in development of humans and other animals.

The children should investigate  the  different sexual reproductive process for different groups of animals. Comparing our similarities and differences with other animals. Through comparing the lifecycle of spiders and geese, the children will see that both birds and invertebrates lay eggs.  However they are laid in different numbers and have different coverings to protect them. Spiders lay hundreds of eggs, protected by a silk egg sac. A goose lays 12-15 eggs in a clutch. Ask the children to consider why might think about why some animals, such as spiders, have large numbers of young.

Key scientific vocabulary: life cycle, reproduction, sexual reproduction, mammal, amphibian, insect, bird, fish, reptile, eggs, live young

Full Audio Book –

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Itch – Simon Mayo


Itch by Simon Mayo is a lovely book to introduce changes of state to children. The story centres around Itchingham Lofte,  an element hunter who collects all the elements in the periodic table. Elements are chemicals in their simplest form and as Itch finds some  are easy to get hold of (chlorine in household bleach, his brother’s titanium tongue stud), but others are much harder to find.  He acquires a brand new element, which puts him  in great danger.  This new element can potentially be used as an ultra-clean power source that could change the world. Lots of people including his chemistry teacher and a multinational corporation want to get their hands on it. This makes for  a thrilling action packed adventure story. and a huge that will do anything to get their hands on it, our ‘eye brow scorched’ hero and his family are propelled into an action packed terrifying adventure. ​Itch uses his knowledge of chemistry to help him on his adventure and provides a setting in which  children can explore:

  • investigating dissolving, mixing and changes of state
  • identifying and comparing reversible and irreversible changes

Key scientific vocabulary: solubility, dissolve, solution, soluble, insoluble, solute, solvent, particle, new material, burning, gas, element,

Kensuke’s Kingdom – Michael Murpurgo


Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo is full of opportunities to explore properties of materials, you can even use the context of survival scenarios linked to the book. In the story 12 year old Michael and his family set off on an adventure of a life time, but a storm causes him to be washed off his boat . He finds himself on an island in the Pacific, struggling to survive on his own. With no food and no water, he curls up to die, but on waking  there is a plate beside him of fish, of fruit, and a bowl of fresh water. He is not alone, Kensuke, a Japanese war veteran, lives on the island with the orang utans. Threatened by Michael’s arrival, Kensuke keeps himself to himself until one fateful day when Michael is paralysed by jelly fish stings.  ​Everything that Kensuke and Michael need must be found on the island or made from the resources they have before them. Their survival depends on it. This book is the perfect setting for  exploring survival scenarios and is full of opportunities for :

  • exploring solids, liquids and gases
  • investigating how mixtures might be separated, including through filtering, sieving and evaporating
  • the particular uses of everyday materials, including metals, wood and plastic
  • investigating dissolving, mixing and changes of state

Key scientific vocab: solubility, dissolve, solution​, soluble, insoluble​, solute, solvent, particle, mix/mixture, filtering, sieving, reversible changes, new material,  burning

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One Smart Fish – Christopher Wormell


One Smart Fish by Christopher Wormell provides a meaningful context for learning about adaptations and evolution. The story focuses on ‘one smart fish’, who even though he wasn’t the biggest and boldest was the cleverest.  What this fish wanted more than anything else was to walk upon the land, so  invented something amazing – feet! This idea didn’t catch on immediately but after a few hundred million years it did  and other creatures evolved until you and I got here.  This story can help to support learning about the following:

  • ​explore how living things have changed over time and that fossils provide information about living things that inhabited the Earth millions of years ago
  • recognise that living things produce offspring of the same kind, but normally offspring vary and are not identical to their parents
  • identify how animals and plants are adapted to suit their environment in different ways and that adaptation may lead to evolution.

The rich images are equally as useful as the concepts within the story. The story begins by showing us the breadth of diversity within the fish world.  From the smallest fish to the largest shark. Very clearly the author introduces the reader to the idea that life on land evolved from the oceans, an enormous concept simply communicated. Meaning that this book is a great starting point from which children might begin to explore evolutionary change over time.

Key scientific vocab: evolution, adapted/adaptation, characteristics, vary/variation, inherit/inheritance




Pig Heart Boy – Malorie Blackman


Pig-Heart Boyby Malorie Blackman is about a young boy who needs a heart transplant, but the only chance for him is an experimental and controversial transplant. Before reading this story in class be aware of children’s sensibilities and different cultural beliefs as it does deal with a topic that some children may be sensitive to. The story does provide a good setting for learning about the heart and circulation including:

  • identify and name the main parts of the human circulatory system, and describe the functions of the heart, blood vessels and blood
  • recognise the impact of diet, exercise, drugs and lifestyle on the way their bodies function

Key scientific vocabulary: heart, circulation, lungs, organs, oxygen, carbon dioxide, nutrients, cells


The Tin Snail – Cameron McAllister


The Tin Snailby Cameron McAllister provides a context for learning about forces, in particular friction and air resistance. This story is set in France in 1938 and follows Angelo who needs to invent a new car in order to save his dad’s job.  The car  needs to carry: a farmer, his wife, two chickens, a flagon of wine and a dozen eggs across a bumpy field without breaking a single egg. All of this without the enemy discovering his top-secret design. Angelo struggles to make his ideas work, showing how resilience, resourcefulness and creativity can result in amazing things. This book provides a great backdrop for discussing the process that inventors and engineers work through when they are making something new. It is also a great setting for exploring:

  • the effects of air resistance  and friction
  •  mechanisms, including levers, pulleys and gears

Key scientific vocabulary: Earth, gravity, air resistance, friction, moving surface, mechanisms, springs, levers, pulleys, gears, energy transfer, aerodynamic