Graphic novel from Small Friends Books

The Scale Free Network, as Small Friends Books, has already published two wonderful books for children with gorgeous illustrations and up-to-date science. I bought my son their existing books in 2014 and he often requests them as bedtime stories.SquidVibrioMoon_frontcover_IPPY

The Squid, the Vibrio and the Moon is our favourite, and it describes Vibrio fischeri bacteria travelling up the digestive tract of a baby bobtail squid called Sepio. The bioluminescent bacteria shine from the squid’s belly when the moon is out, confusing potential predators.


Zobi and the Zoox depicts a group of zooxanthellae saving coral from destruction.


The group has moved on to a graphic novel for adults and teenagers. The Invisible War depicts  the microscopic action inside human bodies, and our own symbiosis with bacteriophages (viruses which ‘eat’ bacteria). The large-scale story framing this action is the First World War and the human whose body is carrying the small-scale warriors is a nurse on the Western Front.



This ties in cleverly with Australian commemorations of ANZAC Day on 25th April. The team wants to raise $25,117 before ANZAC Day so they can create hard copy versions of the book.

The digital versions have already been trialed with children in schools in Victoria. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

“A battle on both small and large scales which explores the body as well as the living conditions in WWI.” Eddie, 13.
– “A fun informative graphic comic book, full of easy to read and understand facts about viruses and how they work.” Nelia, 16.

It is wonderful that scientists and artists are working together to create cross-curricular material. Please do support this campaign. They only have 14 days left!

Learn more about The Invisible War and pledge to support it here.

If symbiotic bacteriophages have piqued your interest, you can find out more from this National Geographic article by Carl Zimmer.

Forces and Motion

We had two classes this term on Forces and Motion. These were fun classes, largely outdoors, and we went beyond what is expected in the NSW syllabus or the Australian Curriculum. The classes varied due to the different student groups, and the weather, but we all managed to think about:

Gravity . In one class this included a discussion about acceleration due to gravity being lower on the moon;

Inertia and Newton’s First Law of Motion (the children brought their skateboards and scooters to the playground and thought about how they needed to exert a force in order to start off motion).

Isaac Newton, painted by Godfrey Kneller

Newton’s Second Law of Motion (often expressed as F=ma where F is the force, m the mass and a the acceleration). In one class this worked well. We had a heavy child and a lighter child each on scooters and another child pushed them with roughly the same force each time. The heavier child travelled a shorter distance. Hooray! In the other class this didn’t work out so well and I was left trying to think of a better way to illustrate Newton’s Second Law.

Newton’s Third Law (Action and reaction). The demonstrations of this included using your foot to push off when you ride a scooter, balloon cars, and two toy cars crashing into each other so that they rebound. The balloon cars we used were commercial ones, but you can make some with Lego and everyday objects following the instructions here.

We looked at a BBC worksheet(pdf) about balanced and unbalanced forces, including the forces on a plane while in flight.


In one class the rain was tipping down outside and so we stayed in the sports hall to talk about magnetism and then I asked the children to demonstrate all three of Newton’s Laws using either a marble run or toy cars and a HotWheels track.

In the other class we were outside for some of the time and used playground equipment to demonstrate simple machines. Hauling a heavy bag up a slide is a good example of how an inclined plane can be used to lessen the force needed.