What's in Candy Corn?

The variety of sources for some of our favorite food ingredients are amazing...and surprising. We read the names of ingredients but don't always know the source of them. Take confectioner's glaze, for example. Sounds sweet, right? It's used in a lot of candy, but it comes from a surprising source. So what is it?
Confectioner's glaze is a product made from the resin of the lac scale insect. It's not part of the insect itself. Instead, the lac scale insect secretes resin onto the branches. Harvesters scrape the resin from the branches and then boil, filter, and stretch it. After it's stretched it's flaked.

Then the resin of can be used for resin products like shellac or confectioner's glaze. Shellac seals and protects wood and even plastics. Some nail polish manufacturers use it to make the polish hard and shiny. A lot of candy manufacturers use the resin from the lac scale insect to make the candy hard and shiny. Gumballs and sprinkles are perfect examples, along with candy corn. At one time, shoes and hats would be stiffened using the shellac. Some playing cards' plastic coating even comes from shellac.

During my Insects Make WHAT?! program, the question of why people choose to use an insect product in food arises. Businesses must decide what ingredients best meet their needs. If two comparable products do the same job but one is man-made and one is natural (like resin), they can choose the product that better matches their goals. Some companies and people prefer natural products. Others don't. It's up to the consumer to understand the ingredients and decide for themselves-if they even have a preference.
If you want to know about more things we use from insects, you may want to look into my book, Insects as Producers from Rourke Educational Media. If you're in the PA/MD/DE area, consider asking your local school, library, or private group (such as a homeschool or scouting group) to book one of my programs. I love to get children excited about science, history, and writing!

So, what do you think about confectioner's glaze?

Book Signings: More Than Sales

Recently I was invited to be a last-minute vendor at the grand opening event at North Star Orchard. My second and third books had just arrived. My Saturday was free, so I quickly said yes.

I knew I would not sit behind my table and wait to sign books that people wanted to purchase. I wanted to excite those who came by my table about science-or at least teach them something new.
My goal was to engage children and adults. How would I do this? I needed activities and props!

The event was only two days away, so I'm grateful I already had a plan to engage visitors. I only had to purchase a few items to complete my "box of tricks."

For Insects as Producers, I had lots of products (many food items) from my Insects Make WHAT?! program to include as props. I placed the items in buckets. I did leave the honeycomb beeswax at home since it was a warm day. (Wax melts quickly on summer days.) The gumballs were a big hit, too. (I borrowed my son's dollar store gum ball machine for that.)

I had real flowers on hand for examination, as well as a pollination activity, to relate to Flowers. 

Two containers of soil were also included on the table for comparison. Add a magnifying glass and a canister of wipes (because children can't help but touch soil), and the activities were set!

Yes, I sold a nice number of books that day, but more than that, I talked to lots of people-all generations-about science. Some conversations lasted only a minute, but a couple of families stayed for about ten minutes. It was all rewarding. I suspect most of the people who bought books didn't intend to buy one when they saw them on the table. It wasn't until after they spent time with me that they bought them. I also learned that a local city had a silk factory from an older gentleman who stopped by. That conversation was a highlight of my day.

I know some of the books sales that day were because of the way I engaged those who visited my table. Sometimes the best salesmen hook a customer with an experience instead of the product.

If you're an author, can you find ways to engage with your audience without mentioning (or barely mentioning) the book for sale? A couple of bonuses for you if you do: 1) It's rewarding. 2) Folks will remember you. 3) People take a business cards and/or brochures because they like YOU without even reading your book so they can recommend your programs to others. 4) You will get more sales!

Yes, your goal is to sell books, but by engaging with your audience-the potential customers-you will get more sales in the long run. Let it be YOU the audience remembers instead of just a single book. 

How do I know? In addition to the large number of people who told me they planned to tell others about my programs with the brochures and cards, the orchard contacted me after meeting me as a vendor at a local event. Perfect! 

Preschool Writing Workshop

I was the guest teacher on the final day of Fun with Books week at a camp for children who had finished preschool and kindergarten. We wrapped up the week with a special author day.
As I prepared for author day, I knew the children's writing, drawing, and coloring abilities would vary.  We also only had about two hours together. Though I am an author, this day was about these children being authors...not me! With these things in mind, I created a fun workshop for the children.

Writing Workshop Part 1: Mary Wore Her Red Dress

We created a class book about us after reading Mary Wore Her Red Dress. Here are a couple pages the children wrote and illustrated.

The children read and shared their page before it was placed in our book. Every child received a digital copy of the book they contributed to!

Before our snack break we acted out how books are made.

Writing Workshop Part 2: Who Am I?

After a reading of Peek-A-Moo, we created our own books. To keep with our nonfiction writing theme, the children wrote Who Am I? books. They chose one of four topic options: train, flower, shark, pig.
The children traced a key word on each page.
Each book included several clues before announcing the topic of the book.

As you can see, there were optional pre-cut shapes the children could use in their illustrations. They included additional detail, too.

Each book ended with an About the Author page. It included the author's name, age, and a self-portrait.

The children had fun writing, illustrating, and sharing their own books. I had fun encouraging them as authors!