From Parasites and Bad Weather to the Big Bang – Writing Science Books That Pique Kids’ Imagination
“Writing about science for kids gives me an excuse to follow my own curiosity about all sorts of fascinating subjects,” says science author and educator Paul Fleisher. “It gives me permission to ask people questions I might otherwise not ask, and to visit places near and far that I might otherwise not see.”
Paul has spent his working life as both an educator and writer. His books for young people cover a wide range of science topics, including food webs, ecosystems, evolution, the Big Bang, weather, and even parasites. His highly-regarded book exploring the laws of physics, Secrets of the Universe, has been in print since the mid-1980s. Paul has also written several widely-used classroom activity books on thinking games, social activism and creative writing, including Brainfood and Tanglers.
His primary career has been in education. Paul spent 27 years teaching gifted elementary and middle school students in the Richmond, Virginia public schools. The inspiration for a number of his writings came directly from his classroom, as did their first audience.
Paul has collaborated in the develop numerous interdisciplinary instructional units on topics including humor, justice, engineering and design and the art and science of music. Paul was in the vanguard of educational technology in Richmond, teaching computer programming and web design to his students. He has offered workshops on team-building, thinking games, the teaching of writing and other topics at educational conferences for many years.
For the past five years, Paul has taught pre-service teachers as adjunct professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. His course—Teaching Elementary School Science—offers practical guidance in how to bring “hands on—minds on” science activities into elementary school classrooms. “In too many elementary schools, science often gets left until the end of the day, if it gets taught at all,” Paul observes.
“I want teachers to become more comfortable investigating science with their students; to help children tap into their own curiosity about how the world works; and to integrate stimulating science instruction with the reading, mathematics and other instruction that takes up the majority of the school day.”
Paul has spent much of his adult life as an activist for peace and social justice. In addition to his teaching and writing, he works part time on the staff of the Richmond Peace Education Center. He has served terms on the Virginia Education Association’s Fitz Turner Commission for Human Relations and Civil Rights, and the Virginia Chapter of the ACLU.
In 1988 Paul received the Virginia Education Association Award for Peace and International Relations, and in 1999 he was awarded the Thomas Jefferson Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Natural Science Education. He currently serves on the boards of the Virginia Forum and the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Two of his books, Parasites and The Big Bang, have been listed as Best Science Trade Books by the National Science Teachers Association.
It is Paul’s great good fortune to be married to fellow educator Debra Sims Fleisher, who has taught him much of what he knows about how to work in a classroom, as well as how to live as a more decent human being. In his spare time Paul is an avid gardener, cook, and reader.