Reviewed by Adah Stock
Master Teacher and a Science Education Consultant
If you want to engage students in interesting and exciting topics talk about natural disasters. These destructive events can mesmerize children. Many of the books available for children about this topic provide lots of information and colorful photos and some even suggest ways to prepare for these events. The field of available books narrows down substantially when your look for a project–based book that teaches and allows further exploration.
This volume describes a list of disasters that includes tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, drought, heat waves, wild fires, blizzards, and avalanches. There is also a chapter devoted to more unique disasters such as limnic eruptions, meteoroids, and mega versions of known disasters. What sets this book apart is that it contains projects which take this volume to a whole new level. You build a small landscape model to test the effectiveness of a fire line. Students create a small model landscape of a flood plain to see how it works in preventing floods. Other projects simulate the flow of lava from different slope heights, create a carbon dioxide lake eruption (limnic event), a tsunami simulator unlike any I have seen before, a shake table to test structures you build that might withstand earthquake forces, and more.
The book’s color scheme is black, white, and shades of gray and on each page there are graphics such as pictures, diagrams, or charts. Each chapter contains a small section called “Word to Know" that introduces vocabulary related to that event. Sporadically placed in the book are “Do You Know" inserts that provide short, interesting facts about what you are reading. The reading print is large and is a guided reading level Q which starts at about 3rd grade even though the interest levels can easily address the middle school grades. Each page is tastefully done to attract the reader to learn more in short reading segments accompanied by interesting graphics. A timeline starting with the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius up to Tropical Storm Irene appears before the first chapter. This is followed by an overview of natural disasters. The following ten chapters address the various natural disasters. The last chapter describes the impact of natural disasters, including a project that helps children put together a pet emergency kit.
The volume ends with a glossary, a short list of books and websites, and an index. This particular volume is part of a series called “Build It Yourself”. There are several aspects of this volume that appeal to me as an educator. The projects, made with simple and easily acquired materials, allow children to build devices that can test a child’s design talents. Children using a fan can test their designs for structures that can withstand the strong winds associated with hurricanes. These small, STEM–like projects encourage children toward critical thinking and engineering design. I also like the idea that this book is printed by a Green Press Initiative that respects the environment.
Review posted on 2/27/2013