Thursday, April 5, 2012

Handbook of Nature Study

80140100925610MHandbook of Nature Study
Written by Anna Botsford Comstock
Published at Cornell University Press

About the book

A matchless handbook for decades, this classic work has been the natural history bible for countless teachers and others who seek information about their environment. Written originally for those elementary school teachers who knew little of common plants and animals, and even less about the earth beneath their feet and the skies overhead, this book is for the most part as valid and helpful today as it was when first written in 1911—and revised in the spirit of its authors by a group of naturalists in 1939. After all, dandelions, toads, robins, and constellations have changed little since then! And modern society's concern with the quality of life and the impact of people on soil, water, and wildlife makes this book even more relevant. Nature-study, as used in this handbook, encompasses all living things except humans, as well as all nonliving things such as rocks and minerals, the heavens, and weather. Of the living things described, most are common in the northeastern states, and many, such as the dandelion, milkweed, and mullein, and the house mouse, muskrat, and red fox, are so widespread that people living outside the United States will recognize them easily.

Anna Botsford Comstock very appropriately took the view that we should know first and best the things closest to us. Only then, when we have an intimate knowledge of our neighbors, should we, journey farther afield to learn about more distant things. Teachers and children will find the material in this book invaluable in that regard. Details of the most common, but in some ways the most interesting, things are brought out, first by careful, nontechnical descriptions of the things themselves and later by thoughtful questions and study units. Because the most common things are treated in greatest detail, materials for study are easy to find. Whether the reader lives in the inner city or in the rural outback, the handbook is a treasure trove of information. A teacher does not need to know much about nature to use this handbook. The information is there for the novice and the expert alike. All that is needed is an inquiring mind, senses to observe, and a willingness to think about nature on a personal level. To enter this book in search of information about any common organism, stone, or object in the sky is to open the door to a fresh and lively acquaintance with one's environment.

Our Thoughts

Have you ever taken the time to learn more about the nature that surrounds us?    From a tender age, I always loved discovering the outdoors.   Okay, I will admit I am not a huge outdoor fan but I like walking in the woods, observing the birds and seeing the chipmunks scurrying around.    And I want my kids to discover more about the nature at camping or just in our city.    I try as much as I can to guide them in the observation of life and the creatures living in the woods or even in the backyard (we have two rabbits there!).

I will admit that I had found a free copy of this Handbook of Nature Study on the internet but I had mixed feelings about carrying the iPad in the woods.    So I decided to see if I could get a copy of the book through Cornell University Press.    I had not heard back from them and I was debating between purchasing it as a hardcopy from    Imagine my surprise one day when I received a package and I had no clue whatsoever what was in it.   I opened the envelop and right then and there I realized that it was my copy of the Handbook of Nature Study.     Since it’s arrival, I am devouring the chapter called “The Teaching of Nature-Study” and I love it. 

The book is quite thick – more than 887 pages.   But it is packed with information about everything you can find in nature; birds, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, insects,plants, rocks and minerals, soil, climate and weather, skies and more.    There is something for everyone in this marvelous jewel – hum I mean book.    For me this book is indeed a jewel in itself as it is opening numerous opportunities to our family.   You see we love to camp and we do explore our campground but having this book will help to go on a scavenger hunt and discover the woods a bit more.  

Recently, as we were sitting in the living room, I took the liberty of reading out loud about the robin a bird that was just starting to arrive as Spring was there.   I thought I knew everything about the robin – Ah!    I was wrong.  While reading the pages about this common bird in our area, I learned that the male robins arrive first and do not sing until their mates arrive.    I honestly never realized that.    As I write this, I know that robins are working hard to find material to build their nest.    We had the privilege to see such a nest last year in the tree of our neighbor.  Two eggs were laid.   Though I didn’t disturb them when the babies were born, I was able to catch a few pictures with my camera.    A couple of years before that, we had seen a robin nest with babies in it while camping in the Syracuse area.  The nest was tucked in the playground structure and when we came back 10 days later on our way back home, we saw the difference in the birds.   It was one of the highlights of our trip.

The Handbook of Nature Study will not only inform you on what you can find in nature.   At the end of each lesson, you will find ideas of things you could do as well as questions for the pupils to answer on what you have read.    For example some of the questions would be “What does it find to eat when it first comes in the spring? How does this differ from its ordinary food?” or “Does the robin begin to sing as soon as it comes north?”.  (If you are this far in my review of the book then you should be able to answer that question…  *grin*)

I seriously think that every homeschool home should have a copy of this book and that it should be used every month of the year through the seasons.     It is a gem in itself and contains so much information that you can easily use it as the years go by.     As the kids gets older they can decide to drawmore what they observe in a nature journal.     What a great way to explore art via nature-study!

The Handbook of Nature Study is available everywhere, even

Disclaimer: Thanks to Cornell University Press for sending me the above mentioned product for review purposes. I was not monetarily compensated for this review. Please note that the review was not influenced by the Sponsor in any way. All opinions expressed here are only my own.

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