Reviewed by Rebecca Bell
Environmental Education Specialist
This volume is one of several titles from the Build It Yourself series. The book integrates geology with geography, taking readers beyond the basics by providing a detailed overview of the geologic history of the desert southwest, a description of the formation of the Great Basin, and a review of the physical processes that act on the landscape.
The first chapters cover the basics of mountain formation, volcanoes, and earthquakes as they relate to plate tectonics in this specific geographic area. Each subsequent chapter introduces basic concepts and vocabulary such as types of volcanoes and forms of lava. Additional sidebars give detail about a specific topic—basalt in the volcano chapter, a profile of Hoover Dam in the rivers and lakes section, and a description of the glacial features found in Yosemite National Park in the chapter on mountains.
Other text features include "Words to Know," "Did You Know?" facts, and a "Think About It" section that poses a question about an environmental or economic issue. Each chapter features activities that teachers and students can do. Some activities are general knowledge activities, such as moving a slinky to illustrate seismic wave motion. Others are unique, such as following directions to create an amazing absorbing cactus in which students discover why cacti have accordion-pleated sides. Students can also make a wave tank and an oil trap, purify water, and create a model of the Great Salt Lake.
Geography is addressed from the standpoint of climate influences, natural resources, and the unique relationship that people have with the southwest desert. The text is very readable, although some of the vocabulary is a bit beyond middle and high school. However, a student with a keen interest in geology or geography will find that it yields refreshing detail that general texts do not cover. The illustrations are in black and white but this does not detract from the interest level. In fact, the graphic novel–like presentation is fun and interesting.
The book concludes with a detailed and complete glossary, an index, and a list of websites for further exploration. The websites are vetted for accuracy, reliability, and staying power. The focus on a specific geologic area lends an intimate view of geology, creating a strong sense of place. If you do not live in the southwest desert, you may want to look for titles in the Build It Yourself series that are made just for your area.
Review posted on 12/12/2011