Reviewed by Kevin Vidergar
Dig-In! Hands-On Soil Investigations is a book I highly recommend for educators who are eager to get their students involved in meaningful Earth science activities. I particularly liked the tone of the book--the lessons encourage students to ask good questions and don’t always provide the right answer. Excellent teacher support materials for each lesson include a brief description, background information, an estimate on time for each section, student objectives, a list of needed materials, and a clear progression through each element of the learning cycle (perception, exploration, application, evaluation, and extensions).
To assist educators in preparing to use the lessons and activities, concept maps from the Atlas of Scientific Literacy are included. Tracing the ideal construction of knowledge from kindergarten to eighth grade in three main areas; Changes in the Earth’s Surface, Flow of Matter in Ecosystems, and Agricultural Technology, these maps provide a thought-provoking look at the interconnections among the various concepts found in this book as well as the larger body of knowledge of which this book is but a small part.
The book provides information on assessment, interdisciplinary correlations, and correlations with the National Science Education Standards. There are clear directions on how to use sciLINKS, which provide direct connections between the text and high-quality Internet sites students can use to further their understanding of the concepts and activities presented in each lesson. Finally, a glossary and extensive bibliography of related children’s literature books is provided.
The activities in Dig-In! will provide a solid foundation for the study of ecosystems in grades K-5. For example, a worm farm activity will provide younger students with a wonderful yet economical opportunity to learn to care for and maintain an organism’s habitat while learning about the role of decomposers in an ecosystem. An interesting extension of the activities in Dig-In! might be to collect soil samples from around the United States. This would provide a powerful way of integrating geography and language arts as students write letters to request soil samples.
Finally, the use of a variety of pictures of organisms could guide students to learn about the indigenous species in their neighborhoods. For example, a picture of a bird could be used to engage students in identifying the birds commonly seen around their school. Students could record the number and variety of species observed during a given time period, graph the results and engage in some truly meaningful learning.
Early elementary teachers will enjoy Dig In!, and their students will, too. Students will get their hands dirty and their minds energized with these activities.
Review posted on 6/28/2001