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Strands in the Web: 201 Activities for Teaching Environmental Awareness – Book Review

Strands in the Web by Roger Smith

Written by: Roger Smith
Published by: Pippin Publishing Limited

This fascinating text was designed to help teachers of any subject integrate environmental education into their classrooms. Carefully designed to be usable in grades 4-9, this book is an invaluable resource for teachers, parents, homeschoolers, and just concerned individuals alike.

Part I of the book is devoted to “Exploring the Environment and the Universe,” with such lessons as viewing the stars, exploring time, and developing empathy. Part II is dedicated to Change, and projects here include making fossil casts, demonstrating earthquakes, water erosion, and observing metamorphosis in animals. Part III is “Unity: The Wholeness of Nature,” where students look at such lessons as Nature’s interconnections, food chains, biomes, endangered species, adaptations to change, and much more. Part IV is the Finite Planet, and students will learn about such things as forests and how trees modify climate, population and food issues, waste management and junk art, and the touch process of making choices about dealing with the environment. All activity sections come with a “learning objectives” statement and full background notes, and each individual activity is clearly worded and includes suggestions for use. Pages are easily separated from the binding for photocopying, and all hand-outs are copyright free, so that they may be actually used in a classroom situation where you might need 30 copies of a given page.

[ad#longpost]The book also includes a great deal of useful end matter, such as an excellent resource list of both books and periodicals, of interest to kids and teachers alike, a list of useful addresses, such as how to contact the American cetacean Society or the Canadian Museum of Nature. There are also several formats for the indices to help students and teachers find things quickly and follow-up on interesting subjects, indices of activities by skills, by setting and time of year, and short span activities—a monumentally useful and thoughtful addition for people struggling to keep syllabi flexible. There is also an index of blackline masters for photocopy purposes and a word index, for teachers working on comprehension, vocabulary building, and so on.

The activities in this book, unlike those in many classroom aids, will genuinely interest and engage students. They are written to appeal to the real psychologies and personalities of children; the authors neither romanticize nor underestimate children and seem to have a true understanding of modern classroom dynamics and problems. The activities were also chosen with an eye towards being cross-curriculum; for example, an English teacher could use many of these as well as the more obvious biology or social studies teachers.

In short, I cannot recommend this fantastic resource highly enough for literally everyone. I am not easy to impress when it comes to educational materials; as a teacher myself, I am all too often disappointed with sources that are supposedly easy and fun, but are really dull (for students and teachers), pedantic, and out-of-date, but this book is truly exceptional. While designed for teachers, this book would still be invaluable for parents seeking to instill a love for the earth and a genuine understanding of our place in it into their children. It is also a great book for adults who want to learn more about the environment in a very hands-on fashion. Teachers will find a wealth of information and inspiration here, especially when paired with a nature journaling book, such as Keeping a Nature Journal by Leslie and Roth. It would just plain be fun to read and has earned a place on even the casual dilettante’s shelf. Definitely pick this one up today and make learning a lifetime joy!

Click here to buy it from Amazon.