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Rosalind Looked Closer: An Unsung Hero of Molecular Science

Last updated Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Author: Lisa Gerin
Illustrator: Chiara Fedele
Date of Publication: 2022
ISBN: 1506470653
Grade Level: 2nd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Feb. 2024

Synopsis: As a Jewish girl in England, Rosalind Franklin grew up against the backdrop of World War II. Fascinated with the natural world, as well as the invisible world that she could only see through her microscope, Rosalind developed a passion for science during a time when few women were recognized for their contributions to the field.

Despite her father's discouragement, Rosalind studied chemistry at Cambridge University and went on to study the molecular structure of carbons and DNA molecules. As a scientist, she learned a new technique called X-ray diffraction to take photos of molecular structures. With this technique she captured an image of DNA that was unlike any other image that had been seen before. She saw an image of a helix made up of repeating strands of DNA. It was mesmerizing. This was what the DNA double helix looked like up-close - one of the most important findings of the 20th century

Note to readers:
•  This book discusses war, disease, discrimination, gender roles and ethnicity. You may want to have some answers prepared if the kids ask about those sensitive subjects.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Do you have a Valentine?
•  Do you like science? Which is your favorite?
•  Have you ever seen anything under a microscope? What?

•  Molecule: The smallest amount of a substance that has all of its chemical and physical properties.
•  DNA: An acid that holds the information for making new cells and determines traits like height, hair and eye color.
•  Research: The study of materials to establish facts and reach conclusions.
•  Diffraction: A pattern that shows a three-dimensional picture of a molecule.
•  Mesmerizing: To capture attention as if by magic.
•  Virus: An organism that casues illness and disease.
•  Vaccine: A way to create protection from diseases.

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Why did Rosalind's dad think only men could be scientists?
•  What would you study if you were a scientist?
•  What would you like to look at under a microscope?
•  How did Rosalind's work affect the science of studying DNA, RNA and viruses?
•  Has someone ever taken credit for your work?

Craft ideas:
•  Make a Valentine’s Day card for your favorite person. (READERS: Write the word Valentine on the board or on a piece of paper so they have the correct spelling.)
•  Make a magnifying glass: https://www.science-sparks.com/make-your-own-magnifying-glass/
Materials needed: clear plastic bottles, dry marker pens, scissors, water
•  Make a DNA helix: https://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Model-of-DNA-Using-Common-Materials
Materials needed: At least four X 12 in (30 cm) pipe cleaners in 2 colors per DNA strand, and assorted beads in at least 6 colors. Plastic pony beads work best for this project, although you can use any kind of beads that have a hole wide enough to fit over the pipe cleaners.
•  Draw an object the way you think it would look under a microscope.

Special activities:
•  Talk about how scientists help us understand our world.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don't have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!