Friday, June 18, 2021

The outdoor scientist by Temple Grandin

 I have many young readers who are interested in Temple Grandin and liked her book about invention, so I automatically purchased this new title when it came out. However, I didn't expect to fall in love with it myself.

In a conversational tone, Grandin wanders through her own childhood and outdoor experiences exploring the discoveries just waiting to be made in the night sky, at the beach, and in studying animals. Although it may appear to some to be rambling, it seemed like a perfectly natural connection of ideas to me and very similar to the way I've observed children explore interests. For example, in talking about the woods Grandin starts with a story from her childhood, explaining how much being able to play outside meant to her as she struggled with both academic and social challenges. She talks about all the things she and the other kids did after school and outdoors, then pauses for a quick tutorial on making your own sheet tent. Her story continues, branching into climbing trees, an adult encounter with a woman who hosts camps for kids to "detox" from electronics, then taking another break for a reminiscence about reading Swiss Family Robinson as a child and watching The Martian as an adult, then a guide to building your own treehouse. This moves naturally to identifying different types of trees, then a craft on making pinecone animals, then back to identifying trees which leads to the composition of leaves, which leads to a discussion of chlorophyll, and then to an outdoor artist, Andy Goldsworthy.

This isn't really a book to be used in research (Kirkus says there are factual errors, although it doesn't say what they are) and it isn't a craft book - it's an homage to the joy of exploring and observing nature, inspiring both children and adults to get outside and appreciate the natural world.

Verdict: I'm glad to have bought this and I know many families, especially our homeschooling and charter school families, who will appreciate it as well as young readers who are tired of screens and want to try something else.

ISBN: 9780593115558; Published April 2021 by Philomel; Purchased for the library

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