Mining for Heart: “Making Learning Real in Traditional Expository Nonfiction” by Julie Danneberg

Writing expository nonfiction has its own challenges, and finding “heart” may be one of them. Julie Danneberg shares her approach to this genre and how she brings it home to middle grade readers. Her post might send you directly to your closet!

Don’t miss Julie’s GIVEAWAY! Leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy of THE SCIENCE OF FASHION.

Congratulations to Lindsay Metcalf , the winner of last week’s giveaway AIN’T GONNA LET NOBODY TURN ME ‘ROUND, from Kathlyn Kirkwood.

Making Learning Real in Traditional Expository Nonfiction by Julie DannebergJulie Author photo

My book, The Science of Fashion (Nomad Press, 2021) was written for the educational market and is a traditional expository text for readers 12 and up.

When you think of a piece of writing having “heart,” you probably associate it with a narrative story line, either fiction or nonfiction. But what about traditional expository nonfiction?

I believe that even traditional expository nonfiction must be written with heart.  From a place of deep caring about the importance of the information that you are sharing. If I, as the writer, don’t care deeply about the subject, how can I expect my middle school readers to care?

As I began the research for Science of Fashion, I soon learned that the fashion business is completely dependent on and intertwined with science and engineering. The computer technology used in fashion design, the science behind dyes and special treatments such as waterproofing, the engineering innovations in manufacturing of fast fashion are just a few of the ways the fashion world and the science and engineering world meet. My emotional connection to the subject kicked in as I learned how the creation of the clothes in my closet not only influences global economies, but also deeply impacts the earth’s environment and the health and wealth of all of its people. I saw that the world is dependent on the creativity and problem solving skills of scientists and engineers to produce cleaner and healthier materials and manufacturing.

ScienceOfFashion_LowRez (Page 24)Researching this subject didn’t only open me up to new understandings it impacted my behavior, including how and where I shop for clothes.

As I started writing, I needed to figure out how to help my readers connect to and care about the subject as much as I did.

Luckily, I was given a huge assist in the writing-with-heart department by the format of the book itself.

As a middle school reading teacher for many years, I know that students learn best when they are invested in what they are learning. And one of the best ways to get them invested is to have them take their book learning and use it in the real world. The Science of Fashion, is part of the Inquire and Investigate series for Nomad Press, where a wide variety of STEAM activities, investigations and projects allows them to do just that.

Science of Fashion readers don’t just read about how textiles are dyed, they create and use their own natural dyes. When they learn that many sneakers are not biodegradable, they are challenged to look at their own collection of sneakers and calculate how much room they will take up in a landfill. One Inquire and Investigate activity has them create a visual flow chart of the journey of a piece of clothing from raw material to finished product, adding the significant science or engineering knowledge required for each step, while another has them compare the engineering process to the design process, finding ways they are the same and different.ScienceOfFashion_Color

As I created and tested out the different activities for the book, my caring and connection for the subject grew, and I believe, that as readers are given concrete and interesting avenues to make their learning real, their caring and concern for the subject will grow as well.

Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of THE SCIENCE OF FASHION! (US addresses only, please)


14 thoughts on “Mining for Heart: “Making Learning Real in Traditional Expository Nonfiction” by Julie Danneberg

  1. Beth, thank you for this post and Julie, thank you for writing this book! What an interesting way to present STEM concepts! Everyone wears clothes and most of us want to reduce the strain on our landfills. If I were still in a media center I would definitely buy this book. I can see it inspiring students to investigate careers in the fashion industry. I’ve just ordered it through my local library and I’m looking forward to reading it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the conversation about writing nonfiction with heart. There are many teens very interested in the fashion world and this will be a perfect book for school libraries. My sister designs clothing for fun, but I think she’d love this book. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This looks like a great book for just about anyone. Everyone wears clothes so finding out how they are designed and made and then where they go when we are done with them is interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your nice comment! Learning about the afterlife of clothing has totally changed the way I shop and how and where I buy clothing!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I know I always learn best when I have real-world applications to use the new knowledge. I know I will learn so much from reading this exciting book. Thank you for the insightful interview.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I had never even thought about sneakers not degrading. Just imagining the space in landfills makes me want to rethink my clothes buying choices. Thanks so much, both Beth for the interview and Julie for this important book!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Beth, thank you for featuring another great writer. Julie, thank you for sharing about your new book, The Science of Fashion. Since most teenagers care about their clothing, your book will provide an entry point for them to really think about the impact their purchases of clothing have on the environment. I love that your book contains activities for the kids to try out and engage with this topic. I look forward to reading it. I am an elementary school teacher, but in the past, I have taught a project-based-learning unit on Clothing, and the background information in your book is relevant to kids of all ages. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

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