Biology / Life Science General Resource

Handbook of Nature Study

Book cover: 'Handbook of Nature Study'
Author(s): 
Anna Botsford Comstock
Copyright: 
1939
Publisher: 
Comstock Publishing Associates
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
887 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

This is a very informative handbook on a large portion of nature, originally written for elementary school teachers. It covers wildlife, insects, farm animals, birds, fish, trees, flowers, weeds, vegetables, rocks, minerals, soil, climate, weather, magnets, the sun, moon, planets of our solar system and much more. According to the 1986 foreword, most of the living things described are common in the northeastern states of the U.S. but it covers a lot of material that would be helpful in other parts of the country as well. I've hardly begun to use this resource, but it looks like an excellent reference for all of those questions children want to know about the world around them. It can also be used as a teaching tool and studied more systematically as there are simple lessons designed to be used with children included with each subject. As the lessons are designed to work with real observation of the plants, they are particularly appropriate for a home school. The book is profusely illustrated with black and white photos. I would guess that there's an average of two photos per page. The language is a little archaic and some of the words would be a little difficult for younger children.

Additional notes: 

Copyrights 1911/1939

Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

Lyrical Life Science

Book cover: 'Lyrical Life Science'
Author(s): 
Doug and Dorry Eldon
Illustrator(s): 
Eric Altendorf
Copyright: 
1995
Publisher: 
Lyrical Learning
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
136 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

"A Singing Science Text for Understanding the Concepts of Life Science Using Traditional, Patriotic and Camp Tunes of Long Ago"

This clever learning set teaches basic concepts in Life Science through cleverly written songs (to tunes like Battle Hymn of the Republic and Dixie). There are eleven songs in all, with a chapter in the text and three pages in the workbook corresponding to each song. These are the song titles:

  • "The Scientific Method" (to the tune of "Dixie")
  • "All Living Things" (to the tune of "I Love the Mountains")
  • "Invertebrates" (to the tune of "Clementine")
  • "Coldblooded Vertebrates" (to the tune of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home")
  • "Birds" (to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It")
  • "Algae, Fungi and Nonvascular Plants" (to the tune of "Go Tell Aunt Rhodie")
  • "Vascular Plants" (to the tune of "Battle Hymn of the Republic")
  • "Protozoa" (to the tune of "Listen to the Mockingbird")
  • "Genetics" (to the tune of "Shortnin' Bread")
  • "Viruses" (to the tune of "Yankee Doodle")
  • "Oh Bacteria" (to the tune of "Oh Susanna")

The song lyrics are very creative and are loaded with worthwhile content. For example, here is the first verse and refrain to the first song, "The Scientific Method" (to the tune of "Dixie"):

Oh, what do you think a scientist does to solve a problem found because many scientists are scientists 'cause they're great problem solvers. There is a systematic way they go about 'most every day. It's methodical and it's logical, The scientific method.

[Chorus:] A way to solve a problem, a way, a way. The scientific method is a way to solve a problem. A way, a way, a way to solve a problem. A way, a way, a way to solve a problem.

Subsequent verses go on to explain the method in detail. My children and I really enjoy singing along with the CD in the car. The songs are performed with a silly tone (imitating the appropriate styles for each song), but by real musicians and with real instruments (no synthesizer - hurray!).

The text, in addition to the lyrics and music (including guitar chords) for each song, contains three to nine pages of information that further explores each topic. Children will memorize the basics (particularly terminology and basic facts) in the songs and then fill in the details by using the text. One could easily introduce the songs to quite young children and use the text a little later on or use the whole set together in upper grade school.

As an example, the segment on "All Living Things" covers (in seven pages) characteristics of living things (reproduce, move, grow, resond to a stimulus, carry on metabolic activities and have a precise structure); needs of living things (energy, water, oxygen, food, living space and proper temperature); the cell as the "building block" of living things; classification of living things and levels of organization. The text is simple and easy to follow and highlighted by pen and ink drawings and charts.

The workbook (reproducible for use in one classroom) includes three pages for each song. A fill-in-the-blanks lyrics page (with a list of words to choose from); an "objective" page (workbook-style review - true or false, matching, questions with short answers, etc.) and a page with a number of short essay-type questions. An answer key is included in the back of the workbook.

I am very impressed with the depth of content, creative presentation and reasonable cost (the workbook may be photocopied for use by your own family, but an additional workbook is only $6!).

A note in the beginning of the text gives some detailed info on how this resource can be used:

This book and CD and tape set can be used by students of many ages. Younger elementary students can benefit by becoming familiar with scientific terms through casual listening, yet may not fully understand the information until later. Middle school students often study life science in six grade; the text and musical arrangements are geared for this age and older students. The information covered in the songs and text should be very familiar to high school students before they study biology in greater depth.

...Ideally, these resources should be in addition to hands-on activities where observations and applications can be made. In this way the knowledge learned through reading and singing can become known through experience as well.

You can listen to some sample songs from the CD by clicking here.

Additional notes: 

Music Performed by Bobby Horton

91 pg. softcover text, 45 pg. softcover workbook and 30 minute audio CD

Review Date: 
8-5-05
Reviewed by: