This needed and valuable contribution to elementary science teaching uses easily accessible paperback children's trade books as the stuff of curriculum. Nine sections of such chunks of science as animals, plants, environment, earth, oceans, space, and others feature curriculum designs for about 3 or 4 titles. Questions for each title assume the child has read the text, rather than simply serving as discussion questions for guided reading. Each book guide inspires a major project suitable for individuals or teams to tackle that investigates aspects of the topic. In some instances, adults are needed but many projects can be carried out entirely by 7 to 12-year-olds. Related but separate activities involve children in writing, exploring, experimenting, and creative activities. A helpful introduction reminds teachers of science teaching objectives in general (such as observing, classifying, measuring, inferring, communicating, predicting and experiment) and suggests ways to call children's attention to these ways of thinking. The author has done his homework: each guide also notes related titles from recent excellent children's books. In addition, activities are thoughtful, fun, unique, and varied. They are also well within what current theory would agree are good practices: active learning, intelligent inquiry, collaborative work, and respectful of various learning styles. This needs to be on the elementary school staff development shelf (and in the middle school resource room, as well).
School Library Journal
According to Fredericks, children learn science best through discovery, with teachers and parents facilitating the learning rather than teaching scientific concepts and facts. Intended for use with grades K-6, From Butterflies to Thunderbolts encourages such an approach by suggesting science trade books and activities to build on children's natural curiosity. The book consists of nine parts, covering subjects such as animals, plants, the environment, dinosaurs, and space. There are three or four chapters on a subject, with each chapter focusing on a single book. The format includes a bibliographic entry, a brief summary of the book, several open-ended questions for use with students, suggested activities, "incredible facts," and a bibliography of related literature. Though this book will aid in efforts to use literature in the science curriculum, it has a few problems. One is that it does not indicate the appropriate grade or reading level for each book. Another is the age of some of the books featured: almost half are at least five years old, with some published before 1990. Finally, it lacks a comprehensive list of the works citedan important aid in collection development. Despite these drawbacks, teachers or librarians could use this title to come up with ideas for science activities.Jessica Foster, Fairfax County (VA) Public Schools
Anthony D. Fredericks has written more than 30 teacher resource books in the areas of science, social studies, and language arts, plus six children's books on animals, nature, and environmental studies. He and his family live on a mountainside in south-central Pennsylvania.