Reviewed by Ann Rubino
Adjunct, Lewis University College of Education
This is the third edition of Chameleon Condos, presenting to a new generation of teacher the clever uses of recycled two–liter bottles. These assembled habitats are “furnished” with soil, sand, wood chips, branches, and the like to provide for long–term observation and experimentation.
Details about how to set up this habitat for ants, crickets, anoles and other “critters” are spelled out in the book. The up–front work needs to be done by adults, who will be able to safely melt and cut the needed openings between the bottles, and handle the silicon adhesive that binds them together. Once some have been built and demonstrated, some older students could plan for more and assist the adult in the safer aspects of assembly. There are numerous diagrams giving specific instructions, but the most helpful illustrations are the photos of the habitats in use by students.
There is a chapter on the proper care of the animals. Then follows the most helpful part in my opinion—a good, clear discussion of the way the experiments can be devised and used to stimulate critical thinking. The model here is very clear and helpful to anyone not experienced in managing this sort of long–term biological work. Sections are provided for "Designing and Improving Research Plans" and "Analyzing Data, Graphing Data, and Sharing Data with Other Classrooms." The information on sharing details ways to integrate computer technology and internet, possibly new to this edition. A good site is listed that can be used for this.
"Critical and Creative Thinking" are discussed in the next section, using a number of strategies stemming from the teaching of gifted. A short chapter deals with curriculum integration, and the book ends with a number of excellent sheets to be photocopied and used to structure the projects. There is a short list of good resources.
Chameleon Condos is a fine “how–to” for any teacher contemplating long–term observation of small wildlife. It will provide for many exciting observations of spiders, mealworms, or crickets in action, leading their small lives in a transparent world.
Review posted on 4/25/2012