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Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Surrounded by Awesome... Shauna's Boom Books!

I’m always of the opinion that not enough is done in schools to make learning enjoyable. Particularly in Secondary School, everything is exam-driven and nobody seems to consider that pupils should like their lessons. Also, whose idea was it that opening a book and saying “learn that” was an effective teaching method?

...But that’s a whole other rant. Someone who’s actually decided to make a difference, rather than moaning like I do, is Shauna Bannon Ward who has created her own series of books for children aged 5-12 (though they look pretty cool from a 17-year-old point of view, too!) aimed at making learning fun.
As I mentioned before, I went to the Tullamore show last month and while I loved the food stalls of course, the stall for “Shauna’s Boom Books” really caught my eye! It must have caught lots of other eyes as well, as when I got in touch with Shauna about this blog post, she told me that she totally sold out of Boom Books on that day!

I should probably explain what they are before I go any further... Boom Books are a series, but before this came The Boom Book.

When Shauna tuned into an episode of Ellen one day, she watched a scientist do some experiments live on the show and it really sparked her interest. I think it was really astute of Shauna to spot her gap in the market here: she realised that in Primary schools, science isn’t as important as the core subjects like English, Irish and Maths, but of course this changes when pupils move up to secondary school, and science is an equal part of the Junior Cert (In my school we were allowed to drop it after first year, but this is a hugely limiting thing to do and I wouldn’t recommend it). Shauna thought that is children became interested in science from primary school age, the transition to secondary school science would be that much easier and they would have a greater interest in the subject.

Thus the Boom Book was born. Shauna compiled some fun science experiments kids can try at home and she’s also included reading sections and fun activities to fill in like crosswords and word searches. She markets the book as fun and educational books that teach children that science can be exciting.” After her initial success in the Offaly Student Enterprise Awards, Shauna created a second volume of “The Science Boom Book” and is currently working on a Geography book! She has also displayed an interest in creating books for autistic children and tells me that she really wants to be an author one day... me too, Shauna!

Boom Books retail at €4.00 and can be purchased via their very own website. Shauna also travels to various primary schools to give presentations about her Boom Books. She demonstrates a range of her experiments to pupils from Junior Infants to 6th Class. I think this is a really good method of marketing!

Something I ask all my “awesomes”, as they shall henceforth be known, is how they feel they’ve developed as a person throughout their experience—in this case, since Shauna started creating the books. Shauna’s gained lots of confidence talking in front of large crowds when she showcases her experiments. She’s also learned all about working under pressure and meeting deadlines... which doesn’t exactly sound fun, but is an important skill all the same.

Something else Shauna said really impressed me—it’s a quote from her website. She feels that “We can create more interest in these subjects by showing children there’s more to learning than sitting down and reading and writing notes but by getting up and exploring the subject first hand.”  I don’t know if she’s interested in becoming a teacher, but I love this refreshing approach. Not only do Shauna’s Boom Books show the hard work and initiative of a girl who’s just 14 years old—yes, that’s all—they also represent a new outlook on education, one that the old-fashioned system here in Ireland seems to neglect.

Best of luck, Shauna, and I really hope schools take a leaf out of your boom books! (If you’ll pardon the pun...)

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