Getting Kids Out Into Nature

Book Review: Treecology by Monica Russo

Treecology by Monica Russo
Treecology by Monica Russo

The latest book I’ve reviewed for you is Treecology: 30 Activities and Observations for Exploring the World of Trees and Forests by Monica Russo. [Amazon link here.] This thin paperback is accessible for both parents and teachers. It is packed full of the science to understand all parts of trees and the environments they grow in. She goes into detail about parts of a tree, tree families, ecology of forests and woodlands, woodland wildlife, the food that trees make to support wildlife and humans, dead trees and snags, and nuts and seeds. A final section covers conservation and humans’ relationships to trees. There is a solid glossary, lists of additional resources, and a Teacher’s Guide with additional ideas (suitable for homeschoolers and public schoolers alike.) Colorful illustrations and abundant high-quality photos fill the pages to illustrate ideas.

There are many activities in this book to try with your children. Some of them are fine to do indoors, such as examining the undersides of leaves, but many provide a jump start to get outside and explore. You’ll find artistic activities, such as decorating with pressed leaves. Science facts are reinforced with things to try outside. Russo gives many suggestions for observations to make outside, which encourage greater listening and watching skills. She shows how to create a scientific tree log, providing a foundation for good scientific practices as children get older. And she even gives activities requiring imaginary play, such as pretending you are a grouse and finding food and shelter where you are.

My one small complaint about this book is that it seems to be heavily centered on the east coast trees. There are many examples of some trees that happen to grow here in the Pacific Northwest, but I wish it were more balanced. Parents and teachers will find the scientific information, activities, and observations to be applicable anywhere, however, and I enthusiastically recommend it. Many of the activities are geared toward elementary-aged children, but older kids will find things to do, as well. The information is presented in such a way that younger children will be able to navigate it with help, and older kids and adults will find the level of detail to be satisfying. It would lend itself well as an excellent reference in a school setting, as well as a solid spine in a homeschooling unit study.  I think you’ll find it to be a worthy addition to your library.

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