"A gem!" -
Quill and Quire
Parents, teachers, librarians, even kids themselves, are asking for science activity books. Bursting with hands-on science in areas often left unexplored in other science books for kids, and complemented with jaw-dropping information about the science of our world at large, Science on the Loose offers a unique and fresh perspective guaranteed to be a hit for all parties.  

Infused with Helaine Becker’s trademark wit and irrepressible energy, Science on the Loose encourages young readers to release their inner scientist, and think, do, and learn—in the most entertaining way possible. Each experiment—whether it’s to test density in fruit, determine dominant genes, or make slimy goo—follows accepted scientific procedure. Kids, teachers, and parents alike will delight in this highly original collection of scientific discovery.

Easy-to-follow experiments can be safely performed without special equipment or unusual ingredients, and make for satisfyingly simple adventures in the surprises of science. From fooling our senses, to discovering whether Jello can have brain waves, to creating ice cream by kicking around a can, Science on the Loose breaks free of run-of-the-mill science activity books, and feeds into kids’ natural curiosity and interest in the world around them.

Each experiment features a “What’s Going On?” component that explains the science behind the results in a clear and concise way. So even when an experiment just feels like silly fun, readers are learning about chemistry, climate change, genes, the senses, photosynthesis, scientific method—even Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Along the way they’ll also be discovering intriguing “Scientists on the Loose” and their wacky—but always real—experiments, all done in the name of science. Yes, there are real scientists studying belly button lint, and pickles that glow in the dark. And let’s not forget those that are researching cookie-eating robots, what kinds of cheese may cause nightmares, and whether fear smells.

In addition to a regular subject index at the back, a helpful listing outlines all the scientific principles covered in the book—an indispensable tool for teachers, and a mark of a “serious” science book for parents.

Appealingly cool and delightfully witty, Claudia Dávila’s artwork strikes the perfect note alongside Helaine’s text. A winning combination that has something for everyone, Science on the Loose will convince even the most reluctant young scientist that science is really fun and surprising.

Mapletree Press/Owlkids Books


"This is one of the very best books of science activities for students in upper elementary school and adolescents that I have come across. I suspect that, if teachers taught the way Becker presents science and encourages scientific investigations, there would not be the falling enrolments at the post-secondary level that presently concern many faculties of science and engineering.

     Becker invites readers to find answers to questions that may seem “a little weird” to others but are of interest to them, and she gets them going by guiding them to scientific explorations about themselves. As unremarkable as this may seem, it isn’t. Many of the suggested explorations are new or set in a context that is original, very well-suited to the age of reader for whom the book was written, and, where possible, connected to the results of current or historical research. One example of this is the section on proprioception, a sense that the brain relies upon to determine the position of the body and its extremities in space, or, more specifically, the joint, sight, sound, and touch information that tells the brain that you’re “stretched out on a sofa, remote in left hand.”

     Becker proposes five activities that activate the proprioception sensors, and she sets them up in a way that encourages participants to think about the results. The first of these, “Ring Around Rosie,” requires participants to use their body-size sense and determine the accuracy of their body-size image. All that is needed are two friends and a jump rope. The rope is arranged in a circle on the floor. You watch as your friends gently pull of the two ends of the rope to make a smaller and smaller circle. When you think the circle matches the size of your waist, you shout “Stop!” Your friends stop pulling, you step into the centre of the rope circle and, without changing the circle’s size, lift it to determine if it fits around your waist. According to Becker, we generally shout “Stop!” when the rope’s diameter is greater than the measurement of our waist. In a text box near the margin of the page, she refers to researchers who “think” people have an inner idea of what a body should look like and that the brain has trouble matching this ideal, mental image with one’s real figure, especially when one’s body is changing. Both her presentation and language are carefully selected. Becker wants readers to realize that this is a hypothesis. She prefaces the section with the sentence, “Researchers don’t know exactly why most people have a distorted body-size image,” and, in so doing, she implicitly teaches aspects of the nature of science.

     This format continues as one progresses through the pages of the book, and each new page is as interesting as the previous one. There are investigations that: test the reliability of eyewitness reports; reproduce Pavlov’s theory of conditioning and help to distinguish automatic reflex reactions from responses to sensory receptors; and, finally, determine whether an “innie” or “outie” belly button collects more lint, yawns are contagious, baked beans produce more “farts” in boys than girls, and being right-handed means you are also right-footed and have a dominant right-eye. Readers also learn about a robot at McVitie’s laboratory in England that chops cookies all day to determine baking techniques that result in cookies with the most crumbs, Peter Gabriel’s experiment to teach bonobo apes to play a keyboard, non-Newtonian fluids that stretch, bounce, and flow, wheels that look like they’re spinning backwards, and the list goes on and on.

     Claudia Dávila illustrates the pages of Science on the Loose with colourful, computer generated images, charts, question marks, ant tracks, and dialogue boxes of varied shapes and sizes. This is a design that complements the “amazing real science” presented, and it will likely appeal to Becker’s pre-teen readership.

     I highly recommend Science on the Loose. One hopes, as the publisher Maple Tree Press suggests, it will let loose each reader’s “inner scientist” and, perhaps as an end result, generate an interest in a science discipline that wasn’t previously recognized.

Highly Recommended - 4 out of 4 stars"

- CM Magazine

"Science on the Loose has amazing science activities that will blow your mind!"

- Newsday

"Science on the Loose is a collection of entertaining, interactive activities that can be done with your science classes. It's a great source of "sponge" experiences to fill odd moments or "appetizers" to start a science class in the spirit of inquiry.

The book starts out by asking if you've ever asked yourself a question that others might find a little weird, such as “How many times a day do people blink?” (On average, 15 times a day!) Or, “Could I make a chimpanzee yawn?” (They may be susceptible to contagious yawning.) These and many other serious science concepts are explored, such as chemistry, optics, animal behavior, human senses, and gravity.

There are two indexes in the back of the book; one is a regular subject index, and the other is a listing of all the scientific principles covered. That would help a teacher choose a short challenge based on the long-term content goals of the curriculum.

This is really a fun, interesting book for elementary and middle school teachers. These experiments encourage students to engage in activities and think while learning. Do plants feel fear? Can pickles actually glow? Read this book to find out the answer!"

- NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) Recommends

"Science is all around! And summer is a great time to dip into it - especially when it's presented with such energy...playfully presented and illustrated."

- Reading Rockets

"This author is destined to become an all time favorite, if for no other reason than her sense of humor is spicy and delicious. Science on the Loose is subtitled, Amazing Activities and Science Facts You'll Never Believe. It wouldn't be surprising to find teachers extending read aloud time and parents down on the floor pouring over these pages with their kids. It's fun. Period. Learn about a sulphur-based chemical that smells like dead animals - it's called "Who, me?" Scientists in Taiwan claim to have created pigs that glow in the dark, and Becker explains brain-freeze, the ice cream phenom, at last!

The science is awesome... big kids will want to try every experiment. Little guys will ask to hear the odd facts over and over. Even teens will sneak this one into the bathroom to give it a read in private."

- Suite 101.com

"This book is brimming with fascinating facts and easily conducted experiments trequiring little adult supervision. In fact, most experiments can be performed while lounging on the sofa.

One of the book's strengths is its choice of riveting topics, all drawn from common experience. Becker tackles both ordinary happenings (such as yawning, passing wind, or being bitten by mosquitoes) and scientific issues that dominate the media (black holes, global warming, and genetics). This book is a crash course in scientific literacy. With a warm sense of humour and excellent analogies, Becker effectively explains the captivating oddities of the natural world and our own bodies.

In the morass of tedious non-fiction for children, this is something of a gem. Children will be naturally interested in determining whether they are right or left brainers, from which relative they inherited their double-jointedness, how much their senses depend on context, and how quickly they can condition their pet using a knowledge of Pavlovian reflex."

- Quill and Quire

Recommended! - Canadian Children's Book News

"From the first page, Helaine Becker makes it clear that she thinks science and fun are natural neighbours. Becker begins by laying out the basic principles of the scientific method (start with a question, form and test a hypothesis, record the results and repeat). She then provides dozens of quirky bits of information, asks plenty of thought-provoking questions, and guides readers through the process of devising and carrying out experiments to test ideas. Though there are plenty of projects to tackle, this is more than a book of experiments. Science on the Loose helps children think about the world through a scientific lens while developing a critical perspective, which ultimately will help them sort out fact from wishful thinking."

                  - Island Parent

"The title says it all. This wonderful book, written for elementary-aged children, lays out dozens of fun, easy, step-by-step experiments that do not need specialized scientific equipment or a lab. Funny facts about smells, genes, chromosomes, dimples, belly-button lint and communication between species – to name a few of the topics covered – disguise the more serious educational intention of this cleverly written book, which makes science fun, interesting and accessible.

Each experiment has a section titled What’s Going On?, which provides a clear explanation of the scientific phenomenon revealed. Graphic elements such as bright colours, bubbles, lines and a variety of fonts are sure to catch students’ interest and keep them reading to find out more. The topics covered – fool your brain for science; food for thought; and sticky, slimy, strong – are designed to engage and satisfy the insatiable curiosity of a young mind and fuel scientific imagination and discovery.

For elementary teachers who are looking for kid-friendly, easy-to-follow science experiments, this book may well be the answer. Some of the science concepts covered are well-aligned with the Ontario science curriculum units in the upper Primary and Junior divisions, topics such as animals, friction, gravity, the human body, the senses, light, plants, space, states of matter and temperature. For all those curious students in your class who incessantly ask weird questions, this wacky book offers a real information punch."

                        - Professionally Speaking, the Magazine of the
                   Ontario Teachers College

"If you like hands-on science, this book is for you...inspire(s) readers with real scientists who do unusual things, such as the scientist who studies what kind of cheese is most likely to cause nightmares. Experiments cover chemistry, climate change, genetics, the senses, physics - you name it. And then do it!

Reading Science on the Loose was AWESOME!...Overall, I think this book is great, with fun experiments, thorough explanations, and kooky science facts."

                                                                                               -  Yes Magazine

"The great thing about Becker's work is its high level of kid appeal. the text is zippy, the language is cool and the easy-to-do experiments are fun, fun, fun."

- The Muskokan

"Young or old, people are always asking questions: How does this happen? Why does this occur? For kids, 1 scientific discovery activities are often at the top of their list - saying "prove it!" or "let's find out!'"

Packed with fascinating experiments and activities, this volume encourages the scientific approach to answering even the craziest questions-for example: Why is yawning contagious? What causes an ice-cream headache? Why does toast always fall butter-side down? Intriguing experiments involving sight, taste, smell and balance are also included.

This inviting text is well organized with each 2-page spread presenting a new scientific theory or experiment. The introductory page lists the four simple steps necessary to follow the 'scientific method". Colourful illustrations abound on each page and bold, highlighted headings direct the reader to the main topics. With each experiment a 'You'll Need' list is included. Effective use of graphics, circles, question marks, etc., emphasize important and pertinent information. For example, a circled section 'What's Going On' discusses real science explanations for each fun activity. Information regarding well-known scientists' work is also found throughout the text, for example, Pavlov's discovery re conditioning, Einstein's Theory of Relativity, etc. A table of contents and an index is included. There is also an index of the Science Concepts covered in the book and a list of the experiments.

To answer all those never-ending question, Science on the Loose should prove an excellent resource for both a classroom collection and an elementary school library. It is also a recommended purchase for that curious student eager to experiment."
- Resource Links

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              - George Bush

"One of the very
best books of
     4 out of 4 stars!"   - CM Magazine
Attention Teachers! For ideas on
how to use
Science on the Loose in the classroom, click here.
2008 Canadian Toy
Testing Council 
"Great Books for Kids!"
2009 OLA
"Best Bet!"
GOLD Award Winner!
National Association of Parenting Publications (NAPPA)
2008 CYBILS, Middle Grade/YA Non-fiction Nominee
Selected as one of the "Best Books for Kids and Teens in 2009!"
Shortlisted for the 2010-2011 Red Cedar Award!