Wednesday, April 07, 2021

The Outdoor Scientist

Grandin, Temple. The Outdoor Scientist: Observing the Natural World
April 6th 2021 by Philomel Books by Temple Grandin
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Part anecdotal collective biography, part activity guide, The Outdoor Scientist is an idea book for modern children who haven't been given free rein to play outside for hours at a time. Concentrating on several popular outdoor interests such as rocks, the beach, the woods, birds, and the night sky, each chapter is packed with information. Grandin shares anecdotes from her own childhood, and describes things she liked to do, including how some situations and environments were hard for her because of how her autism caused her to interact with them. There are also lots of stories of scientists who got their start in their fields, being interested as children in various outdoor pursuits. Mary Anning, Roger Ballard, and Enrico Fermi are just a very few of the scientists highlighted. There are also a variety of activities, such as making fake fossils, sheet tents, model rockets, and wreaths out of various materials. I especially enjoyed the mention of a woman who runs an electronics detox camp for children in the woods, and the ending is perfect-- a description of Greta Thuberg's work as an explanation of how even children can help change happen, and a call to action concerning climate change. 
Strengths: As someone who spent hours making rock villages in an empty lot, and whose children were frequently sent to play in the creek (with walkie talkies, for security!) and came home smothered in mud and blackberry juice, I whole heartedly support outdoor activities. Really, were you even a child if you never had a pet worm? In one respect, this is a sad book, because it has to teach children how to play outside, but it's also a good one in that it offers a lot of ideas for outdoor play, not only in the activities, but in the anecdotes as well. Not everyone will have a beach or even a wooded area at their disposal, but at least young readers will get a good idea of what is out there in the world, and how understanding the natural world is much better for society. 
Weaknesses: There is a lot of narrative information here, and this format might make this less accessible to readers who are mainly interested in the activities. 
What I really think: A great addition to a collection where books about environmental concern, such as Raatma's Green Living: No Action Too Small or National Geographic Kids Kids Vs. Plastic are popular. It would also make a great gift for an environmentally aware child who isn't quite sure what to do outside. 

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