National STEM Day is celebrated every year on November 8th to encourage children to explore their interests in the fields of science, technology, engineering, art, and math. In honor of the day, we’ve teamed up with children’s author Dee Romito who wrote the Fort Builders, Inc. series to encourage a love of learning and problem solving using STEM skills. (Head over to our Instagram page between November 8-10, 2022 to see how you can win a set of the series for you and a friend!)
Dee Romito lives in Buffalo (our PLS Classes hometown) and is the author of fiction and nonfiction books for young readers. Her books for middle school aged students include The BFF Bucket List, No Place Like Home, and Postcards from Venice. Her debut picture book, Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott (Little Bee Books) received a starred review from Booklist and a Crystal Kite Award.
In the Fort Builders, Inc. series, a group of friends use teamwork, creativity, and construction know-how to start their own fort building company, a pet palace, a tree fort and more. These books are fun to read and each book comes with a teacher guide.
We recently sat down with Dee and asked her about this particular series, STEM, and a few other topics.
Q: What inspired you to write the Fort Builders, Inc. series?
A: I was trying to come up with ideas for a chapter book series and asked myself, “What do kids like to do these days?” Well, the answer was right in front of me—there was a box fort in my living room that my kids had built! I thought it would be fun to write a story about a group of kids who decide to start a fort building business.
Q: How can teachers use your series in the classroom?
A: Each book is focused on certain character traits and can also be used with the Leader in Me model. These can be found in the teacher guides on my website at deeromito.com, but the books themselves contain some great extras. They all have a cast of characters, word list, discussion questions, and a STEM activity. (One of them involves pancakes!)
Q: What message do you have for young women or girls interested in a STEM career path?
A: The really great thing about STEM is that there are so many interesting topics to learn about. You can explore the things that interest you and follow your passions. Even if it’s a field that women haven’t traditionally been prominent in, there’s no reason at all that they can’t be now!
Q: Who is your favorite character in Fort Builders and why?
A: While I love them all, I’d have to go with Kiara on this one because of her confidence and determination. She knows her skills are important and there is never any question in her mind that she shouldn’t be just as much a part of that group as the boys.
Q: What do you hope young readers gain from this series?
A: I think it’s so important for kids to dream and plan and go after their goals. But it’s also important to understand the steps that might be involved. The Fort Builders team starts a business, which is great, but they have to be ready to face the challenges that brings.
Most of all I hope each reader sees that everyone brings something special to the table and that we need all kinds of talents and skills to get things done.
Q: What can teachers do to incorporate more STEM-based learning in their classroom or district?
A: There are so many opportunities to bring STEM/STEAM learning into the classroom, but I can at least speak to all the wonderful literature! From picture books to young adults, there is a big focus on STEM books right now—whether it’s characters who are interested in the environment, biographies of overlooked scientists and inventors, or nonfiction that focuses on a specific area of STEM. One of my favorite resources is amightygirl.com where you can find books on all different topics. Another is nsta.org where you can do a search for “book awards” and find a lot of great titles.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Happy National STEM Day!
From all of us at PLS Classes, we are so grateful to Dee for sharing her thoughts with us. You can visit her website at DeeRomito.com.
About Dee Romito
Dee Romito is an author of books for young readers and a former elementary school teacher. Her middle grade books include The BFF Bucket List, No Place Like Home, Postcards from Venice, and co-authored Best.Night.Ever (Aladdin/S&S). Her debut picture book, Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott (Little Bee Books) received a starred review from Booklist and a Crystal Kite Award. Her newest release is a chapter book series titled Fort Builders, Inc. (Aladdin/S&S). Dee blogs about writing at WriteforApples.com and is a Co-Founder of Buffalo-Niagara Children’s Writers and Illustrators. While she does her best to be a grown-up most of the time, giggling with her BFFs is still one of her all-time favorite things. You can visit her website at DeeRomito.com.