Sunday, February 12, 2012

Teaching Science and Nature Through Literature

Some of you may be subscribers to Barbara McCoy's wonderful blog, The Handbook of Nature Study.  She has undertaken an important project: to gather together reader-recommended literature that can be used to teach about science and nature.

What books do you use?  Here is one that I recommended for her list (the title is linked to a description of the book and a huge lesson guide [for purchase], but I've provided links to places where you can get the book for free or low cost).

The Swiss Family Robinson (Johann David Wyss, 1812) - A Swiss family in the Victorian days becomes shipwrecked on a tropical island in the Pacific on the way to their new home in Australia - a great book for studying island life, or survival, or the tropics. Written by the author to teach children about perseverance in times of trouble, self-reliance and Christian family values.

Also available:
If you need help developing lessons from the book, there are no less than 248,000 Google entries for The Swiss Family Robinson lessons! Many are downloadable by paid subscription, only. Here are some that look particularly well-done and are free (although I haven't used them myself -- our units tend to be free form, and go until they stop!):

  • EasyFunSchool has a unit planner, by chapters, that includes a chapter summary, vocabulary, comprehension questions, and suggested activities. The suggested activities definitely support a study of tropical island geography, flora and fauna, as well as ships and shipbuilding. The questions tend to be "identify" level questions -- I would add some more "Why?" level questions to make kids think more.
  • Sites Alive offers a plan for an "Island Survival" problem-solving lesson/activity that can be used with The Swiss Family Robinson, Robinson Crusoe, Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Cay or any other book about being shipwrecked on a deserted island. This looks like a fun way to bring any of these books to life -- like Survivor, in the classroom.

My comments: My son loved it. We downloaded it with 24 other children's classics, for our Nook Color, (25 Favorite Kid's Books for Middle and Young Adult Readers, $0.99, Barnes and Noble.

If you would like to recommend a book for Barbara's project, go to The Handbook of Nature Study and send her an email. Include the title of the book you love, and a brief (1-2 sentence) summary of the book. If you have written about the book on your blog, send her a link to your blog. What a great resource this will be for all of us!

Peace... and happy (nature) reading!