Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Backyard and Beyond: Hands on Exploration of the Ecosystem

Here are some books I'm using with SugarPlum (5) as we study our biome, the deciduous forest, and ecology right in our own backyard.

IF YOU CAN ONLY PICK ONE: Janice VanCleave's Ecology for Every Kid: Easy Activities that Make Learning Science Fun is my core book for our ecology unit. It covers the basics and several biomes.
BackyardA beautifully illustrated book which examines a single square foot in an average backyard. Great to get kids thinking about what they might actually find outside. Contains practical hints and experiments.
The Young Naturalist (Hobby Guides (Usborne Paperback))One of my favorite books as a child. SugarPlum loves it too. Not as practical as some of the other books but definitely one to get kids dreaming big. Contains information which is helpful if you get inspired by One Small Square: Backyard and decide to cordon off part of your yard and examine the habitat and it's critters in depth.
Backyard Pets: Activities for Exploring Wildlife Close to Home Don't add this book to your curriculum unless you are actually considering allowing your child to temporarily adopt a toad, turtle, worms, or other readily available backyard resident.
Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard explains food webs and chains using a habitat that most kids who've had a garden will at least be able to relate to even if they haven't observed it in real life.
Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard isn't a field guide. It is a hilarious cartoon style look at the what, when, where, how, and why of watching birds.
Your Backyard (Discovering Nature) each two page spread focuses on one aspect of nature in the backyard: soil, seeds, plants, birds, creepy crawlies. It contains step-by-step instructions for experiments and projects that are easy to follow, doable, and not overly ambitious. It's not comprehensive by any means but provides a great hands-on introduction that gets little people excited and thinking about scientific concepts.
I'm using Nature In Your Backyard to add to our list of nature based experiments. There is some overlap with Your Backyard from the discovering nature series.
You could probably do a lot of the activities and experiments in Woods And Meadows (Discovering Nature) in a suburban backyard, but I think it's a great resource to use to talk about adventures you've had in local parks and forests.
WoodsWalk: Peepers, Porcupines, and Exploding Puff Balls! Explores the forest and what you might find there season by season.
TOP PICK: If you have an early reader, Forest Explorer: A Life-sized Field Guide is a book you simply must check out. Two page spreads contain a collage of life size images from the forest and are followed by two page spreads which contain information about the organism. The best part about this book is its picture index which allows pre-readers and children just beginning to read to look up animals on their own.
I'm pretty sure that kids and brooks go together even better than peanut butter and jelly. The Brook Bookis a great text to accompany your kids' next excursion to their preferred summer habitat. It  isn't comprehensive, but it's a great introduction to the variety of life one can find in even the smallest streams.
Addition In The Forest (Math All Around) isn't an ecology book per se, but it's a great way to tie in math to our study of our local biome, the deciduous forest.
Don't let the simple kid-friendly illustrations of Pond Walk deceive you. This slender paperback contains far more than the story of a little bear's walk with his mom. It's a great book to get your kids excited about sketching nature.
FOR THE LITTLEST PEOPLE: Trout Are Made of Trees is a picture book that tells the story of the life cycle of trout and how we fit into it. Proof that science isn't (and needn't be) inaccessible for even the youngest children.
Chipmunk at Hollow Tree Lane - a Smithsonian's Backyard Book transforms the life of a chipmunk into an exciting story that I've read again and again. Check out all of the books in this series. They're wonderful.
Woodchuck at Blackberry Road - a Smithsonian's Backyard Book
is another great title in the series. Beautiful and accurately illustrated, this series turns each animal's life into a riveting story that your kids will want to read again and again.


  1. Do you have all these books? Or are you getting them from the libray? I hear you will be telling our nursery children about bugs next week!! Yay! :)

  2. I believe all of these books are available through the Roanoke Valley Library system (