Get Outside for Some Hands-On Learning

 Photo Credit: Clipart.com.

Photo Credit: Clipart.com.


In many parts of the United States, summer vacation is still going on, and even in those places where school is starting up again, warm weather continues. This is a great time to grab a book and get outside for some hands-on learning.

Here are some appropriate titles from among the winners and finalists in the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books:

  • The Kid's Guide to Exploring Nature by Brooklyn Botanic Educators is a great place to start. The book, organized into activities for seasons, invites readers to explore the complex ecosystems of plants and animals in the woods, at the beach, and in a city park and includes dozens of fun projects.
  • The Amateur Naturalist by Nick Baker includes natural-history information about plants and animals you might choose to observe and then follows it up with detailed information about how to go about doing so.
  • Look Up! Birdwatching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate offers an illustrated introduction to the fun hobby of birdwatching, which can be done from the comfort of your own backyard or local park.
  • Outside: A Guide to Discovering Nature by Maria Ana Peixe Dias and Ines Teixeira do Rosario aims to arouse your curiosity about the natural world. It includes suggestions for activities to get the entire family involved in discovering the nature around us.
  • Treecology: 30 Activities and Observations for Exploring the World of Trees and Forests by Monica Russo and Kevin Byron is filled with simple activities ranging from counting tree rings to determine age to creating “paint” bark to attract moths.  
  • Outdoor Science Lab for Kids: 52 Family-Friendly Experiments for the Yard, Garden, Playground, and Park by Liz Lee Heinecke suggests hands-on activities relating to every topic from physics to ecology and including everything from slime to bugs.
  • If you'd like an unusual pet, chickens can make an unusual, but fun, choice. Melissa Caughey's A Kid's Guide to Keeping Chickens will walk you through everything you need to know about backyard poultry raising.
  • Ricky's Atlas by Judith Li uses a narrative about a boy and his mother traveling through the Cascade Mountains to discuss observing the changes in a landscape, particularly in the aftermath of a wildfire. You don't need access to mountains or an area affected by natural disaster to replicate some of the field observations Ricky and his friend are able to make in the book. You can produce topographical maps of your local area, record examples of local plants and animals by drawing in a field notebook, or develop a timeline of geological or fossil history of your region. If you have access to a private backyard, you might even be able to cordon off a portion to temporarily build a transect to study how the area changes as summer transitions into fall.