Implementing interactive activities while reading Atherosclerosis Attack.

By Kathleen Coughlan

All books have lessons to be learned. This could be conflict resolution, how to deal with a bully, or even how-to problem solve.  Many ask me how I would classify our book; my response is that it is not a science textbook but nor is it a Harry Potter novel.  Our book is unique in that it allows kids to really take a hands-on approach to learning while using a fun action filled book. In these uncertain times, continuing to raise children in a hands-on world while fostering creativity is tough. Our book allows students to enhance their reading skills and to engage in the book with science-based activities we as educators deem curriculum.  As the child engages in the material from the book, they are challenged to reflect on their eating habits and activity levels. This allows the child to take control of their life by promoting healthy choices and the reason behind these choices.

Cate and I are collaborating with educators from the public schools to develop a curriculum for our book. More recently we had the opportunity to develop and submit curriculum to an online summer camp (CAMP SCBWI) which focuses on food and nutrition. This curriculum is posted on our website ( as downloadable files for all to use alongside the book. For this curriculum we focused on Chapters 12-17 of the book as these are the chapters that emphasize nutritional value.   

So, what would you expect from this curriculum?

In the book, the scientific sleuths talk about the defenders and villains of the body with regards to factors leading to atherosclerosis. They include discussions on salt, carbohydrates, and fats in this process, breaking down each as a defender, villain or in some cases both.

In one activity, the child uses the book to research whether a molecule is a villain or defender of the body.  The child digs deeper by providing an example of a food source that has that molecule in it.

For example on page 115 of the book it states “Fiber, the soluble one, like fiber in oatmeal. It’s the one we need to reduce absorption of cholesterol. Scientists say it holds on to water and makes a very thick mix in the intestines, which makes it hard for absorption.”  This provides the child with information about soluble fiber and allows them to make a connection that fiber is a defender as it prevents cholesterol from being absorbed into the blood stream.  The child can then investigate foods that are high in soluble fiber such as oatmeal. The child uses the table below to fill out the villains and defenders and lists some examples of foods that may contain these molecules.

As the curriculum builds, it allows the child to apply these concepts to real world applications. For example, the students have a lesson focused on reading a food label and calculating total caloric intake, a lesson that will serve them well for a healthier life.  In addition, the child can reflect on their own eating habits by filling out a food journal which is presented in the curriculum as a formatted table to guide the child to not only write down the food eaten but also think about the foods they selected (see abbreviated table provided below).

The activity book is filled with critical thinking type questions that force the child to engage in the book and in the activities without being too challenging that the child feels overwhelmed.  Moreover, if needed, an answer key is provided for the parent to assist in managing the child’s progress.

Our book, Atherosclerosis Attack, uses a story to help children see how what they choose to eat, like sugar, affects a real disease while the curriculum challenges the child to apply this concept to their own life. Although the book is fiction, the science behind it is based on fact which has been validated using the scientific method. Hence, using the curriculum along with the book is a wonderful teaching tool!  If you have not yet obtained a copy for your younger loved one, we encourage you to obtain one from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Also check out the curriculum at, scroll down to facilitator’s guide.

Check back with us soon as a full set of curricula with fun hands on learning will be available soon!

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