Reviewed by Jose Rios
One of the most used books in my science teaching collection is Steve Rich’s first publication, Outdoor Science: A Practical Guide. Imagine my elation when I picked up a copy of his follow–up book Bringing Outdoor Science In: Thrifty Classroom Lessons. Rich’s engaging style and pragmatic approach demystifies environmental education and encourages teachers to help students “become better stewards of natural resources."
If you live in a climate that is not conducive to much outdoor exploration during the school year, or find it difficult taking your class outside, this book is for you. Of course, it’s great for outdoor enthusiasts as well! Presented in six chapters, Rich provides upper elementary (grades 3–5) and middle level (grades 6–8) teachers with a variety of learning experiences that are aligned with the current National Science Education Standards.
Each chapter begins with an overview of the focal topic, a rationale for the activities, connections to other disciplines, links to helpful websites, and examples of children’s literature. He also points out important safety issues in the STOP section. Each activity is presented in the same format, which I found very helpful. He states clear objectives up front, followed by a description of how teachers can use the lesson (i.e.: connections to the real world). Then, he provides a list of materials and procedures.
I was happy to see that Rich also discusses grade–level considerations, for those teachers who wish to adapt the activity for younger (K–2) students. Finally, assessment strategies and sample discussions questions are provided. Each activity is accompanied by a reproducible worksheet that contains in–depth questions and data charts related to the focal topic. Unlike typical worksheets, which focus on recall and comprehension, these questions focus on higher cognitive skills like application and analysis.
Bringing Outdoor Science In: Thrifty Classroom Lessons is a wonderful book that provides practical information for K–8 teachers. As stated in the Preface, “If you decide not to take students outdoors, certainly you will encourage them to explore just by bringing some of the outdoors into your own classroom." I agree and recommend it highly.
Review posted on 7/6/2012