Primarily Critters
by AIMS Education Foundation

Price at time of review: $24.95
256 pp.
AIMS Education Foundation
Fresno, CA
ISBN: 9781605190761

Grade Level: K-2

Reviewed by David Tumbarello
Project Manger in the Department of Family Medicine

An ideal science unit for the K–2 classroom would contain a combination of singing, speaking, manipulating, and problem solving activities, as well as a solid structure that helps the student connect concepts to the real world. The AIMS volume on Primary Critters is constructed with lessons that feature a variety of handouts including songs, easy fold books, ready to construct dioramas, connect the dots, and dozens of other activities which are designed to engage students’ hands as well as their minds. Lessons are created around these engaging projects, so that an hour will speed by with a mini lesson, a creative activity, and then a whole group discussion which is designed to help connect the concept to the students’ lives.

The lesson on animal life cycles provides a typical example of the type of lessons contained in this book. The teacher prepares by cutting and arranging a series of small pictures showing developmental stages of a chicken. The teacher is encouraged to arrange the pictures in multiple ways, which will demonstrate to students how the life cycle can start at any of the stages. After a discussion, students will work with mixed up pictures and try to order them like the teacher’s model. The lesson describes how the teacher can add a wrinkle to this activity by leaving one or two gaps in the development sequence so that students can draw their own missing pictures, allowing them to use their imagination and drawing skills. So instead of a passive introduction to the life cycle, students are required to be actively engaged with their hands and in minds.

Finally, each contains a standard lesson planning template, including the Key Question, Learning Goals, AAAS benchmarks, NRC Standards, list of materials, and procedure for teaching the self–contained lesson. After the description of the activity, teachers are provided classroom discussion points which can be used to help students think and connect concepts to their own lives. Copies of the handouts are provided on a resource CD, ready for printing. With very little outside material, teachers are given practically everything they need to make integrated science and math learning a hands–on process that can be discussed in the classroom and applied in the natural world and their own lives.

Review posted on 8/14/2013

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