Reviewed by Jacqueline Pfeiffer
3rd Grade Teacher
Are you a teacher who can be inspired by a spark of an idea and develop it into a great, open-ended inquiry lesson? If so, this is the book for you. Students today spend less and less time outdoors because of the technological age; they are losing touch with nature and their immediate world around them. In response, this book presents 101 activity ideas to inspire teachers to experience nature with their students in areas as convenient as their schoolyards.
There are no canned lessons here—just prompts and ideas to get you started. All suggestions are designed to be used on outdoor sites and for teachers with limited background in scientific nomenclature. They are aligned with the standards and designed to help students develop their observation skills and an appreciation of their environment. Open-ended inquiry is the thrust of all 10 chapters, with 8 to 15 activities per chapter. Some activities may have numerous sub-activities or extensions. Health and safety issues are addressed throughout. Most of the needed materials are inexpensive and easy to obtain. SciLinks and additional information are provided for some of the activities.
Although suggested grade levels are provided, the inquiries can easily be adapted up or down. A great focus is on teamwork to solve challenges for all grade levels, K–12. Teachers can use these ideas as jumping-off points to develop lessons appropriate to their specific classes, location, and curriculums. As the authors state, "The most important objective of this book is to keep teachers and students actively learning and spending time in the natural world.” The suggestions range from very simple ones, such as finding five red plants in the schoolyard, to more complex ones, such as making coffee can traps and examining small critters found in the schoolyard.
The authors, both teachers of biology as well as of science education courses, focus on constructivism and inquiry strategy for learning. They provide an outline of the “5E’s” for grades preK–3 and 4–8. They strongly suggest the use of nature journals or field reports as well as field containers and nature bags. Their goal is to have children experience nature through open-ended science lessons. This book is a great resource for ideas on using the schoolyard as a nature springboard. The creative teacher will develop these ideas into environmental experiences for children of all ages. I recommend this book for those teachers.
Review posted on 10/14/2011